Conquering the Clubs, featured in Masala Lite Magazine in December 2012, Thailand
[For original click on the link below]
DJ and music producer Sunju Hargun traces his somewhat rough-and-tumble life, from a high-school dropout to working half-heartedly in the export business to finally making it where his heart has always been. By Reena Karim
If you are in tune with the Bangkok party circuit, then you may have bumped into Sunju Hargun— wearing black clothes, sporting a French beard, and always in high spirits. You have probably heard him play, too, at different nightclubs around Bangkok. Unlike the scores of wannabe DJs churning out Top 10 hits, Sunju’s music, which he describes as underground, is a far cry from bhangra beats. His boyhood interest, influenced by his musician father and bands like The Eagles and The Doors, was cut short as he was made to join the family business. But the persistence of his passion pushed him to break out from the mould and go after what he wanted. After 10 years, Sunju is now a known artist in the Bangkok music community, with a residency at Q Bar and noted gigs that include music festivals around Thailand and warm-ups for Tiesto. Sunju shares his journey from the family business to the music business and everything in between.
What was your childhood like?
I never went to college and dropped out of high school in the ninth grade when I was in India due to our financial situation. It was between me and my brother, and one of us had to stay in school while the other had to work. So I chose to work.
Were you always interested in music?
My dad had a studio at home, where he had drum sets and guitars. He was a guitarist and also owned a few music stores on Soi 39. He got me into music and a lot of my school time was spent learning to play different types of instruments, like drums and guitar.
When did you get started in the music business?
I was into rock music and wanted to start my own band, playing in small bars, but it never came down to it. Once I saw the art of DJ’ing, I decided I wanted to do something new. So I started practising at home with an online software called Atomix mp3. DJ’ing is a competitive career.
What was it like when you were starting out?
When I started off, I didn’t know what I was doing. My first gig was at an Italian restaurant. Half-way through, the lights went off, and I didn’t get to finish my set. DJ’ing is not just playing two songs together. It is about being able to entertain people through the music that you like; it is an art. You have to be original.
How did you end up in the Philippines and China?
After I dropped out from high school in India, I went to Manila to my uncle, who trained me in business, so that was the direction I thought I was going to go in. But my heart was never there. Even when I was working or typing invoices or writing a contract, I was always tapping my feet. Afterwards, I moved to Shanghai for about seven years and then Guangzhou for about three years. On my uncle’s recommendation, I joined a Sindhi company that exports garments, but I started DJ’ing part time and played at many clubs. My hobbies did not reflect my career choices.
Tell us about the music scene in China.
I am always open for networking, so I would go out, meet club owners, and put myself out there. They saw I was passionate about it, and they gave me a shot. People there didn’t really understand the music, so I had to adapt. I was a resident of Buddha Bar for about four years. I was also the resident of a night club called Cellar. The owner really trusted me and gave me freedom, so I put my own nights where I would include live instruments in my sets.
What made you come back to Bangkok?
When I moved back in 2007, that was when I left my business and said music is where I want to be. It was not easy for me to just quit my business; my family was not too happy. I started working as a promoter, doing events, trying to put my name out there again, even though I had worked hard in China. I did a lot of small gigs and many of them free, too. This led to a lot of exposure and gave me an edge in the Thai market as well, which was not easy to break into. Then in 2009, it all took off when I warmed up for DJ Tiesto in front of a Bangkok crowd of more than 5,000 people at CentralWorld. Getting this gig three years in a row put my name out there, more so because I was the first Indian to do that.
What does your family think about DJ’ing?
My mom is starting to support it now. She never did before and kept telling me to go back to the export business, but I have turned this hobby into a business.
How did you transition from DJ’ing to producing music?
When I moved back to Bangkok, I thought, after eight years of experience, How can I take this forward? I picked up a keyboard and started taking piano and vocal lessons.
Who is Moodwax?
Not until two years ago, I started working under my alter ego called Moodwax, which is soulful, deep, and experimental. It is something that you would listen to when you are at home, working or painting, in a creative state of mind. It is different from Sunju Hargun. When I play under Moodwax, I use live instruments. Now I am able to turn Moodwax into a brand. My music is directed towards Europe and is being played in clubs in Germany and Amsterdam, along with many places in India.
What is next for you?
I visited Amsterdam last year for a music conference to meet record labels and sign myself to a management. I want to take myself out of Bangkok for a bit. So I am moving to Spain next year for about three months to work and collaborate with other artists.
Catch Moodwax on Tuesdays and Saturdays and Sunju Hargun on Thursdays at Q Bar.
Dépêche Mode, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Carl Cox
Most memorable gig
I played in Ibiza last June, at Space Club, where I did a 45-minute set.
Metallica’s Black Album, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, and Bob Marley’s Legend
Currently on my playlist
Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place”
Club Blow in Phuket
Panorama Bar in Berlin, Germany
In the works
My first album will be out next August. My music can be bought from beatport.com.