Columnists,Lorraine Cattell,Main Slider,Top Story l by Lorraine Cattell l 23 Aug 2019     - 1063

GIRL POWER! - Shyami Mahendra aka DJ KC GREY


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.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a DJ and when was your first professional gig?

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.

I understand that you went to the DJ academy in Maharagama and were mentored by DJ Tariq (TQ) from Marrakesh and Morocco, and DJ TGK (Thanujika), the CEO of the academy. What was that like?

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.

Tell me about some of your earliest musical influences.

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!

Mostly you work at events rather than in clubs. What kind of events do you prefer? How is your performance style different when DJing in clubs or at events?

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.

Shyami, I suppose you have been asked this several times, but how does it feel being a woman DJ in Sri Lanka, and do female DJ's have the same opportunities?

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.

As one of the most prominent female DJs in Sri Lanka, you've certainly paved the way for fellow females in the industry. What tips/advice can you give to girls who want to get behind the decks?

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.

What's the latest music trend in Sri Lanka and what are some of the songs you play during a set to get the crowd going?

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.

ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE:

What artists/and or genres do you think are the most exciting right now?

Right now the trend is Trance and Deep House and I respect all the local artists who make it right for everyone.

I understand that you also work full-time at a day job. How do you manage to relax away from your two jobs?

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.

When you're at home, what style of music do you listen to?

I listen to R&B, classic and of course House music.

What are your biggest sources of inspiration when you are mixing or producing music?

How a crowd reacts to a certain track. That’s what’s going on in my head when I mix.

Can you tell our readers what the most enjoyable part of your job is?

Being behind the deck, watching everyone dance the night away.

Finally, what do you think the future holds for yourself and other female DJ’s?

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lorraine Cattell

Lorraine Cattell (Eyre) is a renowned international British Fashion Journalist. Her articles & interviews appear regularly in magazines & online across the globe.

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