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Interview with DJ SZNäina



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So glad we have the chance to interview you for Overachiever Magazine. Here, we are really all about empowering and voicing all Asian women along with their experiences. We are so proud to have you with us as a DJ and entrepreneur in your own right. Can you tell us about one of the defining events in your journey as a musician?

Thank you for this opportunity! Love the mission of empowering Asian women voices. One of the most defining events in my journey as a musician was the first time I played at a club. It was my first gig where people were actually coming to dance. I had about one week notice. It was also my first Bollywood gig. I stayed up all week trying to figure out how I could remix my recent sundowner EDM mixes with Bollywood music. But folks had fun—there was so much energy! It gave me the confidence in myself that I had a unique style for folks to enjoy and dance to.


How did your taste in music, and the genres you choose, evolve to where they are now?

Anything that makes you say ‘LFG Dance!’. Growing up, I was dancing to all sorts of South Asian music… all the way from Bollywood to Bharatanatyam. I just loved dancing to fast beats (especially >125 BPM). I loved Bollywood / South Asian music, not only because I grew up with it, but also because they [have] such vibrant tunes and beats. I was also on a Bollywood dance team in college. The dance style was both modern and classical so that was super fun. Over the years, I explored an eclectic set of genres, including Daft Punk style (Funk House), Reggae, Afrobeats, and electronic, all of them have fun dancing beats. I came across Avicii’s music.He was such a brilliant artist. I loved his music,he was my gateway to all the other Electronic Dance Music (EDM) out there.  Essentially, I love dancing and each of these genres have fast dancing beats, combining (or mixing) them is just such a blast as they exude so many energetic vibes! Makes me want to dance and get others to dance. 

How did Bollywood/South Asian music affect your life as a youth and child growing up? How much of your current passion for high BPM beats and music come from this influence?

So much! Growing up, we were surrounded by Bollywood movies (which are basically top-notch musicals!), or South Asian cultural events. All of them had some dancing aspect to it, such as dance performances, etc. It is just such a big part of how South Asian folks carry out their life. And the dance moves are so expressive!  Dancing is just an integral part of your social life. For example, Dhol Baaje was the typical Navratri/Diwali song with Raas/Garba moves. Or, Rang Barse was the Holi song, DDLJ was the typical wedding song, and the list carries on. These are such celebratory hype events, where people Naach to celebrate!

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What’s your most memorable gig as a DJ?

When I started DJing in clubs, I began in a small underground clubroom that fit a max of 150 people. It was a great starting point. My most memorable gig is when the venue moved me to the bigger room that fit more than 500 people. I was their first female DJ. I was so nervous. But that day the energy was unforgettable. It was a Diwali-themed Event, and everyone there was extra lively with positive vibes!! I had such a blast having so many people dance and just get so hype to my music. It’s magnetic! However, I can’t forget New Years Eve—it was the largest Bollywood NYE event on the West Coast (USA)—with more than 800 people. I had so much fun DJing and counting down to 2020.

Do you think Bollywood events are more fun to play at than ‘regular’ parties? 😉

Personally, I’ve had the most fun when the venue is max on positive and energetic vibes from a lot of people regardless of genre. If you have a group of people who LOVE dancing, it will just be a fantastic time. It just so happens that most of the events I’ve DJed at happen to be Bollywood events, PLUS super hype South Asian folks. so it’s been super fun. However, I can’t forget my first Sundowner Event at my rooftop, which was on the 41st floor overseeing all of Seattle and the lakes. I played EDM as the sun went down. Everyone was going nuts and mad dancing. Check out my Sundowner set on my Soundcloud!

What would you say been the biggest challenge in the industry for you personally?

I would say my biggest challenge is now: not being able to play to a physical mass audience crowd, and feed off the energy. While we are in an intense yet important period of our lives, the norm right now is to avoid crowds. It’s tough because I personally feed off of the hype and  symbiosis of energy from the crowd. However, the great thing is that we are living in a virtual era, where we can go live on Instagram (@SZNaina), Facebook, or Twitch. It’s great to see folks engaging by commenting and liking when you play. So I’d like to further challenge myself to find different avenues on this front. 

What was your parents reaction when you decided to venture into the music industry, and has being South Asian played any part in the way you chose to enter the industry?

My parents were not surprised! Growing up, I turned up the music loud in the car, my room, when I was doing homework… Which resulted in my parents banning music until I finished my school work. And yes, being South Asian did play a part.I grew up with Bollywood music, so I had all this knowledge about which songs were gems back in the day. 

What’s one thing people misunderstand about you, or about your love for the genres you play? (If you never feel misunderstood, feel free to tell us about the best part of being in the industry from your perspective).

Best part of being in the industry is having such creative minds everywhere; everyone is also down to jam to whatever genre!

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How has 2020 looked for you so far?

2020 is undoubtedly a year to really focus on reflection, understand perspectives, and make monumental changes. What is great is that we are living in a virtual era where DJs can express themselves through live streams, or even ‘virtual festivals.’ I find myself further learning about different music out there with powerful messages, given you can be at home and can watch a festival at any time. 

Any plans for the future that you can reveal?

Let’s see how 2020 shapes! But for sure more SZN mixes will be out. Checkout my Soundcloud under SZNaina and follow me on Insta (@SZNaina) or Facebook (DJSZNaina)

Is there a story you would like to share with us? Something formative to either how you became a performer, or how you view yourself as a person today?

I had never DJed, so after I got my controller, I started to practice on my apartment rooftop and mix songs. One day, a random group of people came up to the rooftop and started dancing to the music. They asked me to DJ their party the following day, and that is how my career got started! 

Lastly, would you like to share your thoughts about Overachiever Magazine, and what this mainly contributor-driven platform means to you as an Asian woman?

Representation and recognition is so important. It is awesome that Overachiever Magazine provides a platform for us to learn about the baller Asian women out there!

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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