At the age of 13, Shahzain received his first pair of turntables for Eid. And like most artists, he taught himself the art of DJ-ing.
“At the time my family and I were living in Delaware and this is the time before digital mixing existed,” he explains. “When I got the turntables I had no idea what to do with them or how to use them and there were no DJ’s in Delaware who could teach me, so I started teaching myself.”
|Shah pictured at New York Coffee for a meet and greet|
"My parents, especially my father's eclectic taste in music has had a very huge influence on me when it comes to my music. From a young age, I was introduced to all kinds of genres."
Shahzain Munir, businessman by profession and DJ Shah Munir by passion talks to Dawn.com about his journey and how he landed his latest gig.
Road to the top
At the age of 13, Munir would travel to New York City on his father’s business trips and listen to the radio and record cassettes of music and mixes he liked.
"I would listen to Funk Master Flex and record his work and bring it back with me, I learned by trying to emulate his style and over a period of time I got the hang of it.”
Two years later, a 15-year-old Munir landed his very first gig at an upscale restaurant and lounge called Venus On The Half Shell in Dewy Beach.
“My father knew the owner of the restaurant and asked her to give me a shot, after hearing me play for 30 minutes, she offered me a summer job and the rest is history,” says Munir.
"It was challenging since I was only 15 and could not even drive at the time so my mother would pick and drop me from the venue every Sunday.”
|Not only is Munir a good DJ, he's also quite fashion savvy!|
Munir’s musical adventure doesn’t end there; it was while he was doing his undergrad at George Washington University in D.C. that he started getting traction.
“I love Hip Hop and Deep/Tech House; that is what I love to play and within the year I was playing at the top clubs in the city and it was a feeling I cannot even explain. With school work I could not do as much but by the end of my college years, I was DJ-ing almost two nights a week.”
By the time he graduated from college, his family had already moved to New York City and his real hustle began.
Empire state of mind
“New York City is no joke when it comes to Dj-ing,” impresses Munir.
“With some of the best clubs in the world and celebrities rolling in and out it is not easy getting to play there and I had to hustle to get a spot to play, sometimes I would play for free just to get my word out there and one day it happened and I landed an opening set at 1 Oak, one of the best clubs in the City. It was the moment for me, I knew I had made it.”
Soon he became a resident at 1 Oak and things really started to happen as the word about his talent got out and he started playing at Provocateur. Those who have visited New York would know these are some of the hardest clubs to get into.
Munir shares some of his most exciting experiences playing around New York.
“My favourite has to be when I played at Kanye West’s Halloween Party at The Darby. It was so exciting because Kanye was dressed as Michael Jackson and was dancing like him,” shares Munir.
|Clearly Munir's made some famous friends in the process|
His corporate client list is impressive; Armani hired him to be their window display for an entire day at their flagship on 5th Ave: "Now that was an experience I can never forget, even though it was not a party but DJ-ing in the window of Armani was really something else.”
|Shah mixes tunes in the store window of Armani|
In 2013, Munir moved back to Karachi to get involved with his family business and now takes up international gigs selectively.
Red Bull gives you wings?
It is no surprise that he has been selected by Red Bull to represent Pakistan at the Thre3style competition.
Thre3style is like the Grand Prix DJ-ing competitions, hosted in a different country every year. The event congregates the best DJ’s from different countries and gives them a platform to compete with each other for the coveted title.
For the first time, Red Bull chooses a Pakistani DJ to attend and make ties with the competition; Shahzain Munir, popularly known as DJ Shah Munir will travel to Tokyo, Japan later this week to create a relationship between Pakistan and the competition.
“Red Bull had been looking at getting Pakistan involved with the competition for a while but could not find a suitable candidate to become the face of it but then a friend of mine suggested me to them and they sent my portfolio to their headquarters in Austria,” reveals Munir.
“I have been invited as Red Bull’s guest this year to come and see what the competition is all about and meet with the judges. I will not be a part of the actual competition but will be playing an exhibition set at one of the top clubs in Tokyo.”
The entire idea behind selecting an Ambassador like DJ Shah is to not only create ties with the competition but to start a wing in Pakistan that will select DJ’s from here to enter the competition from next year.
“Red Bull will be making a documentary of my journey and then the next step is that we can send someone out here to compete. I am super excited about the trip and playing in Tokyo as I’ve heard the vibe of the city is amazing and very unexpected.”
In Pakistan, the concept of DJ’s is elusive at best — many consider someone who can make a fun playlist and play it for people to be a DJ, but like all forms of music, being a good DJ is like being an artist: one has to not only find their sound but strive to constantly evolve that sound. And it is fairly evident that Munir has nurtured his talent, just as he should have.