On Saturday night, 23-year-old producer Jai Wolf brought a combination of uplifting originals and cross-genre spins on popular singles to a sold-out show at the Blind Pig. Jai Wolf, born Sajeeb Saha, took energy to an entirely new level in the dense venue, playing to a primarily college crowd animated by it being the first weekend of spring.
Ann Arbor marked Jai Wolf’s second stop on his Somewhere in a Forest spring tour. Sticking to no singular sound or branch of electronic music, Jai Wolf’s set marked several surprises through his 90-minute show that included innovative remixes of everything from Odessa and Skrillex to The Weeknd and Justin Bieber.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily before the show, Saha said his goal was to break away from the trend set by other electronic acts of playing hour-long sets of similar sounding music.
“You’re not going to come and see me and just see an hour of the same thing; it’s definitely going to be a lot of variety,” Saha said. “I like to make sure that my sets are a little something for everybody.”
Saha’s vast musical background showed in his set. It was clear that his diverse musical background of playing classical music in orchestras and band, and exploring several forms of electronic music including electronic rock, dubstep and house, influenced the way in which he elevated popular music through his remixes.
Through elementary and middle school, Saha said he played in classroom orchestras. However, in high school, he taught himself guitar. Saha began writing guitar-based music when he was 17, and began exploring how elements of synth-rock and synth-pop could play a role in his own songwriting.
While Saha said his early music was in no means high-quality, it paved a way for him to begin exploring his flavor of electronic music just as artists such as Alesso and Avicii were gaining more widespread recognition.
What began as a dubstep project called No Pets Allowed in 2010 transitioned into the Jai Wolf brand of music in 2014. Saha said his original work with dubstep did not feel satisfying.
“You have to keeping topping yourself from a technical standpoint (with dubstep) and that, to me, didn’t feel right,” he said. “So I wanted to reevaluate what I really liked about music and understand where my strengths were as a musician.”
“What really solidified the direction I wanted to go in was putting out ‘Indian Summer’ last year,” Saha added, saying it was a reflection of the grandiose Indian classical music his father had him listen to growing up.
The Somewhere in a Forest tour runs until May 16, after which Saha said fans could expect a single and EP release.
“I am currently working on my next single which could come out in the next month or two,” Saha said. “I am really excited because if people like ‘Indian Summer’ they are really going to like the next single and the EP as well.”
As an Indian American who would love nothing more than to work in the arts, I always wonder what it means for my community if I pursue a career that’s not proportionally saturated in mainstream culture with Indian talent. I was curious how Saha’s identity as a Bangladeshi immigrant, who split his lift between his early years in Bangladesh and later years in New York, influenced his art.
Saha described how in the EDM scene, he found that the focus was less on the artist’s identity than on the music being made, different from the importance of representation for artists in other mainstream genres.
“If you’re a pop star or a rapper there’s definitely a standard, and race is definitely a factor,” he explained. “I think the cool thing about electronic music is the listeners are some of the most open-minded people. For Jai Wolf, my face is not the most important thing because it’s music first.”
“My goal is if someone is Indian and they want to make music, I hope I am someone they can look up to,” Saha continued. “I myself look up to other entertainers like Aziz Ansari or Mindy Kaling because they can make successful careers in the entertainment industry and break traditional stereotypes.”
Translated into English from Hindi, the lyrics to “Indian Summer” read: “Let us take the moon, and stay there.” It’s empowering, and so was Saha.