Rajeev Dharmasena, better known as DJ RD, brought rock and roll hall of fame to Sri Lanka, with DJ Yella of NWA, last week.
Speaking about his visit to Sri Lanka, he said, “I am promoting NWA being inducted into the hall of fame and the movie ‘straight outta compton’ which is based on them. As a DJ I have done a lot of shows with them. So I thought of bringing them to my own country. I also want to promote hip hop in Sri Lanka coz it is sort of dying here.”
RD has been a professional DJ since he was 16. “When I was in Sri Lanka I used to work for radio stations, sun FM and gold FM. I used to be a mobile DJ before that,” he says. Since he was a little kid, he used to listen to music, especially western music. This made him want to become a DJ. “I was always interested in things like turn tables. I was always like, wow, what is this thing? And I wanted to know what’s behind it. I wanted to be a DJ one day and be behind the DJ console. I chased that dream and here we are.” Right now he is the only DJ from the whole of Asia, the only brown man working with the biggest labels such as Sony Records, Universal and Rocnation.
He has worked with Rihanna and many big names in the music industry. “I was passionate about being a DJ and just getting to where I wanted to be. If I stayed in Sri Lanka I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I would just have been a radio DJ,” he confides.
After moving to UK, pathways gradually opened up for him. But it took time and patience. “It was really hard, being a brown man from Sri Lanka, to become a hip hop DJ. When I first moved to Kent, it was pretty racist out there. The white community was under the impressions that people the likes of me were taking their jobs, that they should DJ in that box right now in that club instead of me. This is their town, this is their country. I come from nowhere and they didn’t want me there. The black community considered hip hop as their culture. It was like ‘how does this guy DJ our music instead of us. When they approached me and said that they also wanna DJ, I just told them that I don’t mind, but recommended that they talk to the club management about it. The fact is that they were just doing things to annoy me in the beginning but I knew that was anyway going to happen and I was mentally ready. I didn’t even look at them as I worked.”
With time, they gradually began to accept him. “Now I am with their favourite artistes. If it’s a white man his favourite artistes are the likes of Nas and I tell them that, I am the only Asian to tour with Nas. Working with these high profile artistes make it official and professional. It gives the signal that this guy is really carrying the torch.”
A DJ can work in a club do corporate events or festivals. “That’s about it. There is nothing else you can do about it. You can’t be a DJ forever, you are going to get old. You can’t pass your skill or leave something behind. Only your legacy survives. That’s why I opened an agency called Allstar Agents,” he said. Through his company he turns his everyday life into a business.
“Everybody I meet in my studio, in concerts, everybody I worked with here, have been giving me work. Labels have been calling me,” he says. “It’s all about finding new things to do.” Although he wanted to be a DJ first he realized later that there are bigger things than being a DJ in the music industry. “When you have a company like all star agents, you have big clients. That helps me in my DJ work. Sometimes my company helps my DJ career and my DJ career helps my company. I do production work for music, artiset management, tour management, organizing events and booking artistes for other tour management,” he elaborated.
A good DJ needs to know his music. He needs to know how to play his cards.”You need to have a good time first. If you don’t you can’t expect the people on dance floor to have a good time. I just enjoy myself. If I can vibe, I know everybody on the dance floor is on a good vibe. Everybody can DJ if they know their music. They only need to know how to mix, where to drop a track, what to play and what not to play,” he opined.
For him DJing is an art and he considers himself a musician. “My passport says so,” he says with a laugh. “Back in the day, if there were no DJs none of these songs would have been famous. DJs take it to the club, to the park and to parties. Without DJs there is no music industry. Things are bit different now coz there is social media,” says RD.