Neel Shah: On DJing

Sunetra Senior Thursday 24th August 2023 03:46 EDT

Neel works fulltime as a development chef, has run his own premium food delivery service during the time of lockdown, and is now breaking through on the DJing scene, locally in London as the collective desire to enjoy freedom continues to pulse. He embodies the very idea of going with the flow, adapting to the changing contemporary environment and exploring the innovative options available to hone inherently intuitive craft. “I didn’t do my first DJ set until I had the correct up-to-date equipment,” he shared. “I wanted to make sure I was giving the crowd an entertaining prime experience.”


There is a definite creative overlap between Neel’s main vocation of cookery and his aptitude for energizingly assorting tunes, summed up by the dexterous dynamo himself as conceptual “fusion at the heart. The cooking is centred on Asian fusion, experimenting with South Asian and alternative cuisines and it is the same with my interests beyond.” Indeed, expanding into music seems a consummate celebration of this. Neel’s signature sound is a mix of British, Punjabi and Bollywood music that results in uniquely joyful sets that also carry a down-to-earth, mellow mood. “I’m happiest when I can make people feel good whether it’s through movement or food: it’s about skilfully appealing to a diverse palate that the most amount of people can enjoy.”

Indeed, Neel tends to play soulful, slick and upbeat tracks where his “anthem was Master KG’s, Jerusalema, feat. Burna Boy for quite some time. It was played to everyone: at parties and to friends and family as well as myself as part of my own playlist!” Neel’s personal laidback attitude complements the functional but sensory nature of his work which can be seen in his approach to the decks: “balancing EQs (Equalisation) has been fun. You can play in so many different venues and the speakers and sound systems are always different. It’s important to have every musical component perfectly in sync.” This even checks the age-old assumption that a strong bass is superior!“What is important is the vibe,” Neel emphasised. “You’ve got to be able to perform according to the tone of the evening. Sometimes it’s more chilled as opposed to lively and vice versa, and you’ve got to be able to tease people through the transition from one track to the next. You can therefore play a good set in any venue!” Similarly to successful dining then atmosphere is just as important as serving people quality: DJing seriously since April, Neel has been authentically booking gigs this way, buoyed by enthusiastic word-of-mouth. “Social media is important but you’ve got to use it in moderation. Mostly, I concentrate on what I do and how well I’m doing it! For me, being the best is being able to read the crowd and playing the right songs at the right time with a little Desi flavour.”

Seamlessly merging lifestyle and professionalism, Neel reassuringly shows us how being simply straightforward can pave the winning way: focusing purely on your passion means working hard without overcomplication.

What is one misconception about DJs that simply isn’t true?
That we just stand there and press play: you must be intentional throughout. You’ve got to understand the crowd and deal with many requests which could disrupt your set for example: you must navigate mixing genres and not get two different demographics confused. DJs have got this bad reputation of being lazy but we do work so hard to please our guests and make sure the night goes well.
Do you have a favourite musical artist?
DJ Simz who you can find on TikTok. I had the pleasure of playing before her one night and that was amazing.
Music in general seems a very feeling domain. It doesn’t seem sensible to be overly technical about it?
Yes, that’s mostly true. I’ve definitely always had music in my ears and that’s shaped who I am and what I then play.
Would you want to play bigger venues and internationally?
Yes. I’d love to be able to DJ in Australia!
Finally, what has been a highlight moment?
Playing before DJ Simz came on and recently when I played my first wedding. I’ve been booked consistently since and find that my schedule is promisingly booked up.


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