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Ravana Tenheads: the ridiculous DJ with ten SoundCloud accounts
BHANUJ KAPPAL  10th May 2014

One of Ravana’s Tenheads

here's a new game I play on the Internet these days, and I like to call it bandcamp diving. It's a bit like dumpster diving except the dumpster is a bandcamp tag search; what you're foraging for is music. In both cases, the vast majority of what you find is awful rubbish, but there's also the occasional jackpot. Like the brilliant dub/ambient album Ghalib by Shravan Chellapa, aka Ravana Tenheads, a Delhi-based DJ and producer who has been flying under the indie media radar despite putting out an incredible amount of music in the last few months. Released under 10 different monikers (Tenheads, get it?), his music is diverse, ranging from techno and dub music to jungle remixes of Odia revolutionary songs. It also varies in quality, but there are enough moments of brilliance to keep you engaged.

"It's like an accident...everything I do is pure accident," Chellapa says when I ask him why he calls himself Ravana. "In 2002, when I left my corporate job with Indiatimes, I was hanging out with friends. One of my friends suggested that we should become DJs and he said "Shravan won't work as a DJ name.' So we dropped the S and H, and it became Ravana."

But once he had the name, Chellapa ran with the concept and started creating different SoundCloud profiles for his different monikers. "All these heads, they just evolved as I made the music," he says. "So, for example, the Shoorpanova SoundCloud page is really dedicated to women. I didn't mean to do it, but as I went along it evolved into that. MaaReach is, like, an underground character who works in hiding. So the songs reflect that. Kumbhakarna is based on the character as well; the idea was to go there every four to six months, put up a song and then vanish."

Surprisingly, Chellapa's primary musical influence isn't an electronica artist, but thrash metal icons Metallica. He first started thinking of making music when he was introduced to Enter Sandman in 1991. "That completely changed my mentality about music and slowly, I started to think that this was what I wanted to do," he says. "But I wasn't serious at all, just kept thinking about forming a band, doing thrash metal and the idea stayed in my head."

Metallica completely changed my mentality. I started to think that this was what I wanted to do. But I wasn’t serious at all, just kept thinking about forming a band, doing thrash metal and the idea stayed in my head. — Ravana Tenheads

By 2002, he was also into electronica and drum and bass, and started DJing in Delhi, but it was Metallica again that led him to start making music seriously. "I went to the Metallica concert in Delhi with friends, and the show got cancelled. So we went to Gurgaon instead to drink, and my friend said he had a good computer he wanted to sell. This was back in October 2011, and I had absolutely no money. But he sold it to me for just Rs 3,000 and I just started making music like crazy."

One of his more interesting projects is the aforementioned Ghalib series, in which he takes vocal samples from Gulzar's 1988 television serial on the poet and situates them in dark and sinister bass-heavy soundscapes. "Anyone born in the '70s remembers the Mirza Ghalib Doordarshan TV serial," he says. "So that was just lost in my subconscious; it was just there. I don't read books at all, but my friends are all readers. At one of their houses, I started reading Ghalib's poetry and slowly got involved. I also had the Ghalib serial on my hard disk, so one thing led to another and I started making the songs."

Songs of protest and revolution also form a big chunk of his repertoire, including the extremely dark Sick Riots ("I think I made it too dark," he says) and the Nursery Rhymes for the Politically Uninitiated EP. The latter is a collaboration with filmmaker and producer Surya Shankar Dash aka Banbassi aka Viva Revolucinema, who first got Chellapa into politics. "He was in Delhi making a film called Psychedelhi, which is about the mining in Orissa," he says. "Before then I had no idea what was happening in the world basically. He gave me a role in the film and while working on the film I realised that there's this sort of s**t happening in India and I'm totally unaware of it. Then I found some songs of the Dongria Kondh and that's where it started. And I'd left my corporate job. I was doing nothing, and there was this anger within me also, and all this got me to focus on politics."

Chellapa continues to produce music and put it up online at an alarming pace, but he still has no plans of taking it live or even putting too many of his songs in his DJ sets. "I occasionally put in a couple of songs but I need a different space for my music," he says. "I went to the Bring Your Own Film Festival at Puri Beach, and there I did play these songs. But playing revolutionary songs to the Delhi club scene is just pointless, you know."

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