Vishal Malik, aka Oma, is an acclaimed DJ and music producer who has made a name for himself in India and around the world. His music is known for fresh tunes and being eclectic. With an experience of 20 years, Malik is credited with popularising the house music scene in India. In Delhi, he has achieved the feat of performing frequent gigs at niche bars and posh clubs for years.
Malik’s passion for music developed with his interest shifting from one genre to another. He said, “No one in my family hails from a musical background but I was obsessed with music since I was in fourth standard in school. I used to collect and treasure cassettes back in those days. I had an intense musical journey genre wise, from pop, rock, hard rock, hip-hop and finally electronic music (in that specific order) when I got introduced by a friend to house music and I got hitched for life.”
But even after developing an interest in music, Malik wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue it professionally. DJing was a calling that he realised after dabbling in some other professions. He said, “I never gave a thought to what I wanted to be or followed any specific direction. Maybe I was following the rat race of making money, but no matter what profession I took up, I always craved for music. Finally, I saved money and dived into learning the art of DJing. It was then I made my passion my profession. I started producing music in 2010 to express my musical inclination and mindset. I am grateful for being blessed with the most posh clubs, bars, restaurants and lounges as my residencies.”
But Malik’s DJing journey hasn’t been smooth. Getting an audience for electronic music when he started out was a big challenge. “It came down to what I wanted to make my audience hear, rather than the other way around. And that was challenging,” he said.
Moreover, spending long hours in the studio to create something new to release, without any financial rewards, was frustrating for Malik. Things only got better when he got to host gigs.
The talented DJ was also initially discouraged by many for getting into this unconventional profession. What kept him going? “I had a staunch belief that I was built to do this,” he said.
Since then, the Indian music industry has changed and so have the listeners. Electronic music has become popular and DJing is considered a lucrative career option. Malik is well placed to comment on this evolution from the vantage point of having been a part this scene for two decades. He said, “To a large extent, the barriers and borders between Indian electronic DJs and music producers is eroding and bridges have emerged because of a handful of DJs travelling to various festivals and gigs abroad. Even if it’s a handful, it’s still happening. Many Indian homegrown record labels have released some well-received work. The overall following has increased because of the youth’s exposure to festivals abroad and foreign DJs performing here in India almost every weekend. The Internet revolution and access to various digital music platforms and applications are also responsible for this change.”
The striking element in Malik’s music is its uplifting vibe. He has consciously refrained from the dark tunes that dominate electronic music. He admitted to being old-school when it comes to his inspirations in the world of music. His music is influenced by the ’80s era, with Sting, Phil Collins, George Michael, Tupac Shakur, Prodigy, Kraftwerk etc. serving as his inspirations. From the electronica realm, he is a fan of Lane 8 and Butterflies, Monolink, Modd, Eli Brown, Luca Debonaire, Rufus Du Sol, Lee Burridge among others.
Today, Malik is a signed artiste with 20 record labels from around the world. Apart from India, he has performed at prestigious venues in Russia, Canada, Brazil, UAE, UK, Germany, and the United States etc. He also hosts a weekly radio show in Ibiza. Talking about establishing himself as a prominent DJ in Ibiza, Malik said, “I can’t put into words how the overall feel of being in Ibiza is, and how it colours you in no time. The city had been on my bucket list for a long time. Dropping a DJ set at the Ibiza radio headquarters was a joyful ride. It was a dream-come-true, and so inspiring and motivating simultaneously.”
Malik’s stage name, Oma, is derived from the German term meaning grandmother. Elaborating on the story behind this name, he said, “Over my journey through 20 years, I feel like a grandmother whose musical taste has evolved over the years, and I weave stories for the dance floor to make sure it feels like a journey to my audience. I want them to achieve a state of euphoria.”
By way of some advice for aspiring DJs, he said, “Don’t rush, experience cannot be replaced by anything else. Stop doing free gigs for exposure, which is deteriorating the industry in every aspect. Be open to learning every single day. Dig deep into your own music style and refrain from copying someone you look up to. There is a hairline difference in copying and getting inspired.”