In a male-dominated industry, Shyami Mahendra aka DJ KC GREY has made herself a force to be reckoned with on the music scene in Sri Lanka. This hip female DJ - who is not only drop-dead gorgeous but also sings and plays the violin - is fast-becoming a role model for young woman all over the country.
After enrolling in a DJ academy in 2009, where she was inspired and mentored by DJ Tariq (TQ) and DJ TGK (Thanujika), Shyami has gone on to achieve remarkable success becoming a prominent presence at clubs and events. She has built up a loyal fan base over the years whilst increasing representation and female empowerment.
Here, Shyami puts down her headphones and talks about her spinning career and the challenges women face in a predominantly man's world.
Well, I realised that I wanted to be a DJ once I realised how much music could move people. I saw that women hardly got any exposure and wanted to change that. My first professional event was back in 2011 for an 'Anti-Valentine' party.
They were and still are the pillar of the DJ academy and highly respected by everyone there. I was taught everything from setting up equipment (turntables, mixes and speakers etc.), about basic music structure and how to mix seamlessly between different scales and genres of music, to beat matching effects and creating playlists. They taught me all the skills to become a successful DJ and offered me constant support and motivation to go out there and realise my dream.
From an early age, I was influenced by my family, and from my school. I constantly listened to music no matter where I was and I used to take part in singing and dancing competitions too. I've always had a passion for music; it’s soothing and you can express emotions through music. Like they say, it’s the universal language!
I perform both at clubs and commercial events that includes corporate events as well. I was the resident DJ for R&B at Clancy's and in Mojo's (both in Colombo). However, playing at private events is a whole different thing.
As for my performance style and selection of music, it all depends on the crowd. I want everyone to have a good time, not just a few people. I think I can spin and keep each person happy whatever event I'm playing at.
Even though breaking into DJing can seem overwhelming, if you're committed, you can develop your way up to get there. Respect is earned not given, so you need to be the best version of yourself and let your performance and music speak for yourself. DJing is my passion so I respect what I do and I brand myself.
Regarding opportunities, let me put it this way, no one will hand it over to you, you've got to market yourself so that people are aware of you.
What I see as a barrier is not the fact of being a DJ in a male domain but that we as females limit ourselves and our abilities because we are women and we need to get over that. Unfortunately, the perception of female DJs here in Sri Lanka hasn't changed yet and neither has our culture and mindset concerning female artists. I see Sri Lanka welcomes women performers from other countries with open arms when we should be encouraging more local talent to the same platform.
Love what you do, no matter what others say about you and don’t stop achieving your goals. When you feel the vibe and get goosebumps when you play and the crowd is cheering for you, you know you have won them over and their energy is fascinating.
Like I mentioned early, I play for the crowd. I prepare myself for every event like it’s my very first, I feel nervous before I get out there because I want to play a good set. So, my choice of tracks depends on the crowd. I can sometimes change my whole set when I go behind deck after seeing who is in the house.
Right now the trend is Trance and Deep House and I respect all the local artists who make it right for everyone.
Yes, I'm working as a manager in a leading advertising company during the day too but I always manage to be my best at both. When I want to relax, I sometimes shut out the whole world around me and travel and that’s my zen.
I listen to R&B, classic and of course House music.
How a crowd reacts to a certain track. That’s what’s going on in my head when I mix.
Being behind the deck, watching everyone dance the night away.
You got to go out there and make it happen since no one will make it easy for you. As women, we need to empower each other and show what we are capable of. We need more female DJ’s behind the deck!
DJ KC GREY, we wish you all the best! Thank you for sharing your time with us.