Updated: Sep 26, 2019
By Prasanta Phukon
Duncan Kharmalki had to go through fire and water before DJ Knack became a success story. The 28-year-old disk jockey and producer, who was born and brought up in Laitumkhrah’s Nongrimbah, he released his first single Track on YouTube and the opening gig was performed at Urban Mantra in Guwahati on April 6 2019. He also did a home gig on April 27 2019 at Tango.
Kharmalki’s journey so far has been overwhelming. He was never a bright student academically and had to change school several times. After completing his 10+2 from St Peter’s, he joined St Anthony’s College but dropped out of graduation because "music is what I wanted to make".
However, it was not easy convincing his family. He was also mocked for his choice of career but Kharmalki was determined to follow his heart. He started humbly by playing on special occasions at the invitation of friends and relatives. He would also play at birthdays, weddings and in clubs in and outside Meghalaya. As his talent got recognised, he started getting invitations for gigs in other countries like Qatar and Nepal.
Kharmalki grew with his music and could finally win over his family’s trust. After five years of making music, Kharmalki says he wants to “leave everything on God” and continue to work hard.
“I decided to take up DJ music as a career right after my 10+2,” says Kharmalki, who is among the few in India who have amazing scratching skills, or moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable.
His list of invitations to perform started swelling and he had to drop out of college.
DJ was initially used to describe radio announcers who played gramophone records or discs. In 1955, an 18-year-old German, Klaus Quirini, produced one of the first music pieces using electronics. No known instruments were involved, just coded information was punched into an electronic device (which later came to be known as electronic music sensitiser) and the output was an ordered sound (music). Hence, DJ music was born.
Kharmalki started learning DJing with 'big room house', a subgenre of electro house. When he first started, he would often drop a hip-hop track in between the sets. The young DJ says he always felt more connected to hip-hop because he started as a dancer at an early age and later he performed in many live events. He was also into b-boying and krumping. He learned more about the hip-hop culture and later got acquainted with Trap and Bass.
According to the DJ, hip-hop is not just a genre but it is a culture and “it is not what we see on TV or music videos where singers flash money, cars and women”.
“There are four elements in hip-hop, which are DJing, b-bboying, Graffiti and MC’ing. People who follow the culture live by it so that they can express it in different forms,” explains Kharmalki.
He says Lamonte Pakyntein of Khasibloodz guided him. He also did extensive research on the Net.
Shillong is a place for rock music and being part of the city, did Kharmalki ever think of making rock music?
"I would not say I have been directly associated with rock. But I am involved with Nu metal-a genre that is derived from rock. I do collaborations with Ambush, which is a band from Karbi Anglong, as well as with electronic punk band fused with traditional sounds known as Tarik from Shillong,” he elucidates.
Working on his track was not easy as Kharmalki did not have the right equipment, neither could he afford them. So he had to work with whatever he had at home and then he took it to a studio that belonged to his friend Max Tariang aka Xxezy, who was a great support and helped the young musician finish his Track.
Kharmalki says he is also grateful to Vasutue Rabra from Germany for helping him in ‘mix mastering’.
Kharmalki had hosted club gigs and various events. As a dancer, he had performed in several shows like Boogie Woogie East zone, Nach Baliye and Autumn Festival 2006-2007. He loves riding and was part of a few biking groups like Xbhp during 2009-13. Later, he continued to go for solo rides.
Kharmalki says he spends more on procuring equipment than he earns. This makes it imperative to have another source of income. So the DJ takes up a different role when he is not making music and meets his needs from his earnings from a departmental store in Nongthymmai. Every morning, he hops onto his bike and delivers local and 'Imphal' pickles to a number of stores in Shillong.
Quitting was never Kharmalki’s way and this is what he wants to tell young and aspiring musicians. “Keep practising, be true to yourself and do not yield under pressure,” says Kharmalki, adding that he will soon upload more tracks on Instagram and Facebook and his well-wishers should keep a track on social media.