Tikki Masala is a unique artist originally from Belgium, the music he makes is like a leafy tree where stems from ancient traditions meet contemporary electronic leaves. With a strong classical Indian music foundation, he has released during the last years a good bunch of records, touching musical sources from all over the world, and keeping rhythms within a hypnotic and celebrating attitude. He is constantly releasing records unfolding African, American, Indian and Asian classical songs, making the listener aware of the roots of every kind of music.
While writing these words I’m enjoying one of his latest releases, a remix of an inspiring song in Swahili language ’Sisitizo La Amani Duniani – Hukwe Zawose’, which is pure beauty for the ears.
The most ambient and meditative side from Tikki falls into his ’Darshan Atmosphere’ project, also well-fed from spiritual heritages, almost beat less and filled with endless synths. Perfect to close the eyes, listen actively and have a deep, meaningful and transcendental journey.
Besides producing, he is a very active DJ and organizer of Ecstatic Dance events around the planet, delivering conscious music journeys with all these traditional touches. It’s a bliss to talk with him today.
Interview by Santiago on 02/05/2021.
Hi Tikki, how are you? Thank you for spending some time chatting with us.
Hi … I’m good, thanks for the invitation for the interview. Happy to share the musical life journey.
Are you currently in Arambol? How has the vibe been over there during this unusual season?
Yes, I’ve been in Arambol for 1.5 years now, the longest season ever. It has been a whole journey being here, with the beginning of thenews and first lockdown a bit unclear what will come, but after all it was and still is an amazing gift to go through the journey here. Quite some people chose to stay here in India, Arambol whatever would happen, hot season, rainy season, lockdown, curfew…
Being in Arambol (Arambubble) in this time feels like being in another dimension, far away from the big cities and far away from the news and drama. In a way it’s a big gift for many of us who stayed and did not need to leave to renew the visa or think about where to go. Always felt the freedom of being here to go to the beach, or in nature, even in the strict lockdown first weeks there was always a good sense of community here, and events kept going on, at first in hidden places anonymous, secretly, and after places started to open again.
No matter what we kept the spirit high, now soon the 2nd monsoon is coming and it’s an amazing experience. All Goa transforms into a green lush jungle with water, everywhere a lot of green, cleaning the land, giving water to the trees, nature is fully blooming. Being here made me discover parts around Arambol that I’ve never been before. In a way this 1.5 years was super relaxing, cuz Arambol high season was a bit too busy last years, now a break from this craziness feels really good.
Still I kept on doing the EcstaticDances every week, keeping the dances going was a great way to keep the spirit of the dance alive, and keep doing my life mission. Arambol is like a bubble outside the rest of the world, a retreat from the crazy world story.
Connected to the lifestyle in Goa, it looks like the root of your projects is classical Indian music, even your artist name is having an Indian source. Could you tell us about the origin of this strong inspiration from Indian music?
When I first came to India in 2005 and went to some Indian classical concerts, and hearing the pujas in the temples, and seeing and hearing the pure raw street musicians, and learning to know many new instruments like tabla santoor, bansuri, sarangi, sitar, tanpura…
I was so inspired by the scales they use and the way it is been played, the feeling that Indian music has, feels so deeply inspiring and touched me, it is very deep, relaxing, psychedelic, hypnotic… My first journey to India I didn’t bring a laptop and microphone and sound card, and i knew that next visit I will bring a portable mini studio with recording gear and travel around India to record all the sounds, street musicians, concerts, jam sessions, temple sounds, nature, pujas, mantras and travelers who play instruments. So from then on my nextjourneys I equipped myself with microphones, a sound card, controllers, cables and synthesizers.
What made you think about mixing Indian traditional music with electronics? What drove you to extend the scope including more rhythms from all over the world?
Since many years as a young boy I was playing techno and house music, and after also started to make music exploring all different genres of music, in the beginning techno and house and later experiment with lounge, drum and bass, ambient, making all sorts of music without a direction, just free flow creations, without a specific genre, theme or direction.
When I came to India I immediately felt to keep on being very divers in genres and always put some Indian influences in it, it was like a new world with endless possibilities opening up. Still keep on making electronic music whether it is chillout, trance, ambient, breakbeat, lounge, now I found a way to take direction with the music, and still be free to explore genres and not make different projects for every genre. I always liked to mix different things together, that’s where the name masala came from. A blend of tastes, genres, feelings, a masala of sounds and music. That’s how Tikki Masala was born.
One ingredient from the masala is ambient. Could we know a bit more about the Darshan Atmosphere project and this navigation into the transcendental approach of music?
When my life took a different direction and I dropped party’s and went more deeper into a self exploration, meditation, yoga,… also the music production evolved into a full relaxing direction. I was asked to do some performance in a meditation concert and I needed some smooth backgrounds, so I started to make it specially for that events, and started to like the process of working with the deep ambient soundscapes, so I started to experiment with it.
In a short time a lot of creations were coming out of it, it was like a meditation, a therapy to create the soundscapes, not knowing what I will do with it yet. I started to organize small meditation gatherings where people lay down and I would play live journeys and record all of them. This is how the first album came to life. After that I started to focus on producing more abstract soundscapes. At that time I discovered all the information about 432 hz and made all the music in 432 hz that fitted perfectly for the concept of relaxation, sound healing, meditation, hypnosis, shamanism, yoga… I started to use the music in sound healings and concerts and play over the soundscapes with instruments.
I was enjoying the process of making the atmospheres a lot and got good responses from all around and for a year was very focused only on the Darshan atmosphere project, it was like a self healing to work with it, a therapy. The name Darshan Atmosphere was what came to me for that project. Darshan means receiving visions, blessings or glimpses of a divine form or image, a Guru, God, or perception of ultimate truth… in this case the atmospheres are supporting the being to receive the visions , glimpses, blessings, quieting the mind down and dive deep into oneself.
You have mentioned that you were into the electronic music world before starting to produce? Could you tell us a bit more about how you discovered electronic music listening through different styles?
As a young boy in the 90’s I discovered the first house music, now called retro house, and had some cheap turntables and I bought vinyls at the time. After that some years later it evolved to more techno and spent a lot of time in music shop , listening to a lot of records buying only few pieces every timewith a low budget as a youngster, selecting just the ones i liked the most and play at small underground techno party s in basements and cafes.
After that when I went to clubs I also discovered tech house and house. My cousin (Gowax) was a well known Goa trance DJ in the Belgium Goa trance scene, so I started to go to those parties and learnt to appreciate the Goa trance and psychedelic music. Through older friends I started also to discover the beginning of the electronic music, all made with analog synths and effects, bands like Tangerine Dream, Claus Schutlze, Jean Michel Jarre, Aphex Twin… that was very inspiring to hear the old sounds, as at that time all I knew was the first software plugins.
In relation to software/hardware for production and live performance, do you have any standard? How do you usually work mixing the ancestral sounds with the electronic ones?
When i just started I discovered the virtual plugins to make music very excited cuz the analog was very expensive, I thought why buy expensive if u can have cheap in software and have all the software version clones.
I got introduced to analog synths and a friend told me take this Oberheim (analog synth) home and try it out for some time, I got to understand that the sounds out of analog synths are so much more rich, deep and sensitive, so I started to buy different outboard synthesizers, drum computers and effects and a mixer, and started to have a personalised sound and a new way of making music unfolded from in the box to outboard, which I found much more fun to work and play with. I started to buy vintage synths and drum computers, there is a lot of power and strength also in software plugins so I started to use both of them together and with the inspiration of the Indian journeys also use the recordings and samples of India.
While traveling I have no access to all the hardware so I use software and recycle old recordings from the synths and drum machines. My preference is in analog synths but of course there is also great software these days.
Plenty of novice musicians are nowadays visioning to produce a mixture melting traditions with slow electronic vibes. Do you have any tips for them?
I’m happy to hear and see that there is more and more people interested to start making world fusion music, when i started there were not so many to be inspired from so I started to just make whatever came without much inspiration. At that time the bands who inspired me were Prem Joshua, Cheb I Sabbah, Talvin Singh, Shpongle, Tabla Beat Science, Karsh Kale, Asian Underground… It is great to be inspired by others but good is to follow your feeling and just make what comes, if it’s a remix or own production just start and add layers and something is evolving and coming out, sometimes unexpectedly there is a vision of what exactly you want to create.
Sometimes by chance things evolve unexpectedly in the process, it can be great to experiment also instead of just copying similar things, and explore and fuse different inspirations from life. Even without a big budget you can get amazing outboard synths these days and I would definitely suggest investing in a decent instrument (synth) to have a specific sound. It’s a big step to learn the software and the synths but very soon you make progress and find fun in the process, and it’s fun to listen to what you have created, along the way it will become better and the music can start to evolve into different directions.
It is amazing to get responses from people who enjoyed listening to it and send they appreciation. Making music is like therapy and meditation. It is always good to have something in life that is creative instead of destructive, anything you make will stay forever, your music will be like a diary, and others can enjoy the creations, dance on it, fly, dream, play, heal… keep on expressing yourself!
Let’s talk now about the DJ side. How did you land into the Ecstatic Dance world? It seems that the movement is getting bigger worldwide. Could we know a bit more about what you do regarding DJing and organizing events?
Somewhere 9 years ago I had a big transformation in life, and became very sensitive and unable to be around clubs, parties and drugs… I was missing to dance and danced alone in the garden, at that time the dance was healing and I really felt the need to dance it all out. Then I discovered that in Antwerp (Belgium) they were starting to organize Ecstatic dance, I once had an Ecstatic Dance experience in India. I went and could now learn to slowly share the experience to come out of the shell and share the dance, the space was amazingly created and held by the organizers and I felt like in a safe space without any drugs, all people sharing a similar experience, very beautiful and healing, I started to go every week and help them out with setting up the space, sound system and lights. I felt connected to a dance family with the intention to heal and be free, share, open up.
After 1.5 years of not going to India anymore cuz of the psychological breakdown I felt recovered enough to travel again. When I came to Arambol there was at the time no Ecstatic Dance and somehow I wanted to dance, so something guided me to start organizing it, sharing what was for me such a opening and discovery into freedom. I was playing tracks and go to dance all the time myself, month after month, year after year it started to grow, more and more people started to discover the benefits and the healing through the dance and it became so popular that after few years there were like 600 people coming to dance under the Banyan tree in Arambol, and there were like 5 dances a week happening.
Over the last years Ecstatic dance became more and more know and popular and accepted by many who allowed them self to discover this beautiful practice, meditation, conscious party, in Holland all over there are now many cities organizing the dance. Holland was a bit like a pioneer country for Ecstatic dance in Europe, also in Bali it was very popular and later on in Arambol and Koh Phangan , and of course people from all over the came to dance and wanted to share this experience and started to organize it in their hometowns. I started to create music specific for the Ecstatic dance floor so it evolved from psychedelic music into world beat, tribal, ethno… and opened up a’ ot of my musical perception and discovered different genres that before I was not really interested in, and understand that to dance on different emotions it awakens different feelings and invites different movements .
Before finishing, let’s ask a simple question. Who is Tikki as a human being?
I like the word you use “Human Being”, part is the human wish we all are, and the other part is the being, to me the being is the spirit, the consciousness, the higher self, so I feel a big importance to grow and take care of both the aspects, being human and being spirit. My aim and direction in life is to grow both the human experience and consciousness, so I could define Tikki as a Human Being who is always wanting to grow and become a greater version, going through life as a journey, a gift to grow, never regretting anything that happened, and see all experiences as a tool to grow. My life aim is being honest, truthful, with myself and the world, and all existence. Expressing life through creativity, music, art, dance and sharing the gift.
Would you like to share a short message with the psybient.org community?
There was a moment when I was making a lot of psychedelic chillout music, psybient, trance, ambient… I once discovered that my music was mentioned on the psybient platform and felt really amazing to see that there is a big community of people sharing their music, as well listeners as producers who have this amazing platform to navigate all this music genres, all releases every month are mentioned, all labels and artists are bundled in one place.
I don’t know any other site that has such a big collection of information and music libraries and links to all the artists and labels. If you look for new music psybient.org is definitely the place to look for new and old releases. I want to say great job, keep up the good work, and big thanks for announcing the Tikki Masala and Darshan atmosphere releases there, happy to be part of the Psybient community.
Thanks a lot for your kind words, we continue this joyful journey with the intention of your music. Greetings and see you soon at the dancefloor!
Yes, I wish all of you all the best, and we will meet somewhere at some point. Stay positive, healthy, happy and creative!