TEXT BY SOPHIA JENNINGS ('16), CREATIVE DIRECTOR
IMAGES BY RICK MANAYAN ('17), STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Saarim Zaman doesn’t like to dance. In fact, two years ago at International Orientation it was him who refused to join the rest of us in “Call Me Maybe." Instead he sat alone in khakis and a shaggy haircut that fell over his glasses. Laughing. Yes, the Queens-born, Dhaka-raised, English citizen DJ Saarim Zaman (‘16) refused to dance at International Orientation and for the most part, he refuses to dance today. Even with a better haircut and a new pair of Adidas sweats.
What he does do is make music that makes everyone else dance. In the two years since I've known him, no one has made a better date than Saarim and his laptop. Even if he likes to tell cute boys the embarrassing things I did freshman year. Which aren’t true. Well, which aren’t all true.
And, as much as I deny it, Saarim is kinda cool these days. Not just cause he’s the type of friend that asks about my mother and tells me when I'm kissing a "total herb.” But because on your average Friday night, his room is filled with every campus fixture: from the varsity track star to the Earth House poet. Yes, Saarim's music is the type that brings people together. Which, to be honest, is exactly what we need these days.
Today, Saarim puts out his first single via Method. Listen to it here:
Die hard Methheads may recognize the track from Saarim’s Method set last month. Which you can find here:
And, you can even spend October Break with his Method playlist for this week:
To get an interview with my oldest campus friend, I woke the junior up at noon on a Wednesday. Over our hour outside Usdan, we were only interrupted three times. Once so he could smoke a cigarette because I was “stressing him out,” once for a text suggesting he “squad out” to bar night, and once, because, of course, he was craving a Usdan Jamba Juice.
When it comes to his music, Saarim does have a routine. He works between the hours of 3 and 7 am because in his words, its that or "trolling Facebook." When he hears a song he likes, he'll listen to it about 50 times before deciding if he wants to work on it. Sometimes he'll listen to it for months. When he gets to Ableton (the software he uses), he likes to focus on dynamics and leave percussion for last. Percussion is the one area of production he’s weakest at. Or so he says.
In high school, surrounded by trash metal fanatics and 90s hard rock fans, Saarim found himself playing guitar in a number of cover bands (message me for photos). But then something changed. First, he heard Crystal Castles' “Crimewave” single. Then, a childhood friend encouraged him to invest in Ableton software. “I went through a metal phase, a classic rock phase, a vapor wave phase,” he smiles. “My music was all over the place. [Today] I’m just trying to consolidate.”
When he talks about the Dhaka music scene he smiles. “Its small. People are really into metal and sporting mullets,” he explains. “It’s hard to find a group of people you can make music with when they’re still paying $100 for Bryan Adams tickets.”
Freshman year, our hall was full of musicians; there was the kid with the bun head practicing deep throat singing in the bathroom, the drummer from Berkeley’s “Best New Rock Band." There was even a kid on the tablas. Arriving freshman year, Saarim didn't feel he could match with everyone's technical prowess. “I didn’t think I’d be able to perform as much,” He admits. “But electronic music has been a way to overcome my lack of instrumental ability.”
Returning to Wesleyan sophomore year, Saarim’s focus switched. He moved into Eclectic, a community that encouraged him to both DJ and to listen to more hip hop. He blames DJing on Sam Lyons, the Eclectic-alum formally known as Cybergiga. Mainstream hip hop, he blames on his friends. I think he mentioned Tink three times in our interview.
Today, most of his sophomore year Soundcloud is gone. The only song up is “Fret,” a track he made to score the first ever Bangladeshi Suicide Prevention Campaign Project. “I didn’t feel like (the rest of my tracks] were complete enough,” he explains. “With every song I learn something new.”
In the past year, he’s spent most of his time playing with two artists from Psi U down the street, senior Jaime De Venecia, (JDV+) and junior Keenan Burgess, (DRXNES). Last weekend, he played back to back at the frat house with DRXNES, a concert he thinks might have been one of his best yet. “You’re technically allowed to play more bangers at Psi U,” he admits. “And I love having people on stage.”
Looking forward, Saarim has plans. One is an ILoveMakonnen remix. Besides that he'll put some tracks out with Mindset Collective, a group of artists from Dhaka, Kuala Lampur and Vassar College. The group was founded by Enayet Kabir, or Williamsburg based Creature Comforts, the friend that introduced him to producing in high school. Last spring, Enayet came to campus to do visuals for Lapalux's show at Eclectic, one that Saarim opened for.
In December he’ll go back to Dhaka for the first time in over a year. “I wanna try out some new stuff that I can’t get to over here,” he describes. “It’s a nice platform to break away and put your stuff out for people who aren’t exposed to it already.”
When I ask Saarim where he sees himself in five years, he laughs. After a summer working for Social Accountability International, the junior dropped his Math major and enrolled in the Government major. He wants to work for nonprofits, preferably in Bangkok. “South Asia is where I’m the most attached to,” he says, taking another drag of his cigarette, “and I definitely wanna bring my music there.”
For now though, he’s more than happy with Wesleyan. Concerts might be overcrowded and people might unplug his speakers, but, as he describes, he’s just trying to learn as much as he can. Check out our 20 Questions with Saarim below.
19 QUESTIONS w SAARIM
1. MOST POPULAR SONG: Wanna Party by Tink and Future Brown. People seem to be really in to it and respond really well. I wish I'd produced it.
2. FAVORITE SONG TO MAKE OUT TO: Shut up. (shakes head).
3. TOP FIVE MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSICIANS/PRODUCERS:
- Ethan Kath and Crystal Castles.
- Joe Goddard.
- Juicy J.
- I used to hate Lana del Ray but now I love her.
4. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED: Let’s be Cops. I paid 10 dollars to watch it in a theater.
5. BEST MOMENT OF THIS SUMMER: Le Bain, duh. Obviously.
6. WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO ON THE WAY TO CLASS: Party Girls. And Wanna Party.
7. TOP FIVE FAVORITE MUSICIANS ON CAMPUS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER):
8. WHATS YOUR PRESHOW REGIME: Put on my Adidas tracksuit. My Carhartt beanie. And then I down a forty.
9. LAST THING YOU ATE: Grilled cheese with the grilled chicken in it.
10. FAVORITE CLASS: None.
11. WHAT’S THE MOST OVERRATED SONG ON CAMPUS: Levels. NOBODY PLAYS LEVELS. Oh I still play Levels. I’m just tryna think. I dunno I haven’t been to enough parties this semester to know what’s good. But like fuck Ariana Grande. She sucks.
12. WHAT’S WESLEYAN TAUGHT YOU THE MOST ABOUT: How to be less of a herb.
13. LAST BOOK YOU READ: "Imagined Communities" by Benedict Anderson
14. WHATS THE LAST SONG YOU PLAYED ON YOUR PHONE: Air and Lack There Of by James Blake.
15. ARE YOU CRYING: No. Are you?
16. FAVORITE VOCALISTS: I honestly don’t know. I like Jonsi from Sigur Ros. I saw them live my freshman year in Madison Square Garden and he was definitely one of the best vocalists I’ve heard. I also like Bjork so... And Thom Yorke and his new album. I’ve been playing it on repeat.. I can't tell.
17. BIGGEST SHOCK OF YOUR SEMESTER: Gone to the library a lot. I’ve been going like every day. I’m like actually doing work.
18. DO YOUR PARENTS LISTEN: I don’t think they know what Soundcloud is.
19. WHAT ABOUT YOUR BROTHER: I’m not sure. He’ll never like actually admit it if he does. But we’ll see.