When did the obsession with music begin? It may have been when, as teenagers, Pathaan’s cousin introduced him to Ziggy Stardust. Or perhaps during his time at Leeds University in the early 90s; the dawn of the thumping and heady raveolution, where Pathaan was a regular at The Hacienda, the Warehouse and the northern raves. Or even when he returned to London, going to all the right clubs, spending all his money on music and noodling away on decks at home. Whenever and however it began, sometime between childhood and being spat out from education into the real world, the obsession matured and became a love, a passion.
“I was the classic bedroom DJ,” he remembers. “Then one day I went to Talvin Singh’s Anohka at the Blue Note and I realised that what I was doing with electronica and soundscapes in my bedroom was the same as they were doing there with liquid drum and bass.”
Pathaan gave Talvin a cassette tape. It was a move that in hindsight also chartered his destiny. Talvin loved it and asked Pathaan to play.
“I made trips to Southall and bought stacks of Indian classical music and CDs by Zakir Hussain, Bill Laswell as well as spoken word like Alan Watts which I was mixing over everything. I was definitely different from everyone else because I had the dance music background. I brought the house 4x4 and even eclectic big beat vibe, but I knew I wanted to slow it down and mix in the classical.”
His move out of the bedroom into the dancefloor was complete. Things were bubbling along nicely. Life was good.
Then one day in 1997, in walked David Bowie.
It was another Talvin Singh night in another venue. The star DJ had not turned up. Pathaan was on the decks, Bowie listened, and he liked it.
“His agent came up to me after the set and said that Bowie wanted to talk to me,” remembers Pathaan. “I panicked, laughed, said I needed a pee. I ran to the loo where I let out a few screams. I then collected myself and returned.”
Bowie told him he loved his set and said that if he was interested he may get in touch to play some private gigs.
“That was in February and I had to wait until May to get the phone call – an invitation to Hannover Grand Earthling album launch. After the gig Bowie asked to see me, and I and my two brothers I was with went down to talk to him.”
(Pathaan’s two friends were Imran Khan who was then at the start of an auspicious career as a journalist and editor of Second Generation magazine, and Bobby Friction, who at the time was selling mobile phones but who, two years later would be co-hosting his first show on Radio 1.)
The friends spent three unforgettable hours with David Bowie and as they hugged goodbye Bowie asked Pathaan to be his warm-up DJ for a 16 date tour in the UK and Italy.
“I went from playing in front of 250 people to 1800 on a beach in Sardinia, 2500 in Shepherds Bush Empire, 5000 in Scotland Barrowlands,” remembers Pathaan. “In Sardinia Bowie postponed his set for a few minutes and asked me to play during the sunset.”
After the Bowie tour, Pathaan’s name was understandably everywhere and he was getting serious hype. However, though he was now a respected DJ, he was peddling what was still a very niche musical proposition which UK promoters found hard to place. Ibizan clubs such as Cafe Del Mar, however, seemed to be made for him.
“The Sardinia set with Bowie was my first ever sunset set and also my inspiration to go to Ibiza. It wasn’t that long before people started talking about what I was doing. In the supermarket, I heard someone say that I was like Jose Padilla but with Indian beats.”
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Looking back with a broad perspective Pathaan knows his journey has been full of fortunate turns.
“The sound came easily to me because I was determined to succeed and also because people were sending me killer tunes, not to mention the number of records I was buying,” he explains. “But also, I was very lucky. Right moments, right times.”
On his return to London Pathaan set up his own label, Stoned Asia through Kickin’ Music and started writing for DJ magazine. He released compilations for the Supper Club in Amsterdam and his Indian Summer album was lauded by Pete Tong which took him to Ibiza all over again.
The BBC Asian network gig came just as CDs were starting to become obsolete and DJing was a bandwagon the world was jumping on.
“It was 2006 and my show Musical Rickshaw ran until 2010. I was hoping to go to 6Music but it was not to be.”
“But I’ve also been really lucky,” he repeats again. “Today I’m still on loads of promo lists and that’s what makes me good at my job as Music Director for Hakkasan, because musically I’m on it, I’m on my game.“
Words Kary Stewart @karyignite