Jai Wolf: First Bangladeshi Artist to Headline Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Jai Wolf
Jai Wolf

From creating mashups in his bedroom to headlining iconic music venues in the world, Jai Wolf pushes his artistry to express himself. His track “Indian Summer” currently has over 100,000,000 plays on Spotify. Jai Wolf is currently headlining and touring across the United States. Continue reading to get an inside look on this incredible artist’s journey!

Firstly, Jai Wolf started his career making mashups and bootlegs under the stage name No Pets Allowed. He transitioned to the stage name Jai Wolf years later. Jai Wolf let me in on the meaning behind his stage name Jai Wolf.

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The purpose was to write original music and to be taken seriously as an artist. For instance, No pets Allowed was a fun college project for my DJ mashup stuff. I made the change to Jai Wolf in 2014.

I also wanted a name to be proud of at age 30. Above all, it was important that it reflected my identity as a South Asian person. In addition, having a searchable name on Google for SEO was also important.

Originally, I wanted to be direwolf. This is an animal from “Game of Thrones.” In other words, Jai was phonetically similar to direwolf. You got Frank Ocean and John Legend. However, I wanted a name with a South Asian feel.

I picked Jai because we already have Jay Z, Jay Sean, and J. Cole. Phonetically, you have the J sound. I wanted to be Jai to be different.

None of my friends are named J. Phonetically it’s Jai. If anyone says J wolf, it doesn’t matter to me. In conclusion, I think it’s great that people resonate with the music and the name at the end of the day.

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Secondly, his first E.P. called “Kindred Spirits” released in 2016. Jai Wolf walked me through the headspace he was in during the creation of this project.

Yeah, it was really funny because I had put out “Indian Summer.” The expectation was to create a body of work around it. However, I pivoted and called it synth wave pop.

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Thirdly, Jai Wolf’s first album was called “The Cure To Loneliness,” which came out in 2019. He walked me through the process of finding his sound.

This was yet another step forward in the right direction. Moreover, what was the best way to blend elements of Indie Music and Electronic Music together?

I moved on to looking into live guitars and bass with a bunch of different styles. I was also mixing dance energy with different tempos and BPMs for consistent sound.

Tony Hoffer was a great engineer and producer. He’s worked with bands like M83, Air and Phoenix. Tony helped bring together the live feeling of “The Cure to Loneliness.” In other words, if you listen to tracks “Lose My Mind” and “Telepathy,” that’s what I’ve been working towards. I was really proud of that kind of sound.

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Fourthly, we moved on to talking about Jai Wolf’s track “Indian Summer.” The first words from the sample “Chand” were mesmerizing to hear at a Hard Summer Festival. Jai Wolf let me in on how the track came about.

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You’re the first person to accurately identify “Chand” in an interview setting. It’s a very obscure sample I found. I chopped it up and sampled it. My friend Nabeel is also a Bangladeshi like me. He had the idea of sampling an Indian beat. I finished the track and submitted it to Foreign Family ODESZA’s record label. I thought to myself, this is a weird song. I don’t know if anyone’s gonna like it.

In conclusion, it ended up taking on a life of its own and being interpreted in its own way. I started seeing it used in commercials, vlogs, and more. Lot’s of skydiving, adventure, yoga, dancing and digital shorts.

I personally remembered seeing “Indian Summer” featured in a GoPro commercial, “How to Get Away with Murder” and a WongFu Productions digital short.

Fifthly, we moved on to talking about South Asian musical influences across cultures. Jai Wolf opened up about his musical influences and his thoughts on individuals making music in the diaspora.

Bangladesh has a strong emphasis on music and the arts. If you grew up Bengali, there was music in your household. Basically, there was at least one musical family member who was singing Rabindra Sangeet. This is a form of Bengali poetry in song form.

I also feel like when someone from the diaspora starts to make music that’s not influenced by South Asian music, it doesn’t garner much attention. The South Asian cosign and their consumer behavior usually doesn’t come unless you reach a certain level of success.

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In other words, I want to see people across the diaspora making music that’s not necessarily influenced by South Asian culture. The hope is for greater support and acknowledgement. Cool South Asian people doing cool things across a spectrum of artistry.

For instance, we come from such a beautiful culture. It has a lot of artistry and music and thoughtfulness behind it. Above all, we should be able to express ourselves even through a Western lens.

Sixthly, Jai Wolf hopes people realize that there are incredible South Asian individuals making music all over America and the world. They all deserve a fair and equal shot as anyone else.

Seventhly, “Telepathy” is a magical track that keeps listeners grooving and bobbing their heads. Jai Wolf dropped the meaning behind the track in his own words.

My favorite instrumental tracks are the ones you get really lost in. In other words, where you want to live in the world that’s been created for you.

For instance, some of my favorite pop songs have influenced the creation of “Telepathy” through arena drums. Sia’s “Chandelier” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” have big drum elements to them.

It’s this nice marriage of big arena pop mixed with more niche and electronic sounds that I’m into.

Eighthly, we moved on to talking about the creation of music videos. Fans in the comments sections are interpreting Jai Wolf’s music from the visuals. Jai Wolf was kind enough to elaborate on his feelings on his music videos.

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I put a lot of emphasis in the storytelling and our music videos. It’s funny because it is almost like a lost art. Usually, I blow my marketing budget on music videos from growing up on MTV and Fuse.

With “Lose my mind” it was all about the metaphors in the music video. You have this girl on a spaceship in space, and she’s completely alone. She’s about to make human contact. In the last second, the spaceship explodes, and she’s stuck in space by herself.

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In the “your way” music video, which I shot with my friend Chet Porter, I envisioned this imaginary scenario. Chet Porter plays a super celebrity version of himself. And then he is actually really alone. I thought it would be fun. If you follow us on Instagram you know Chet is a close friend of mine. A lot of my fans listen to Chet.

It’s just funny to shoot a video with your friend and have him drive a Lamborghini. Just the concept was really fun to shoot. I wanted to show an intense example of a super successful person. I also wanted to showcase a very human feeling of loneliness at the end of the day.

Ninthly, we talked about how Jai Wolf is headlining the upcoming show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. He will be the first artist of Bangladeshi descent to headline this show. Jai Wolf let me in how it feels to be performing again in larger venues.

We’ve been anticipating this show for a long time. We have had this date since 2019. It got pushed back twice because of the pandemic.

We did some guinea pig tours last year to see the reactions. I think it’s totally possible to throw a show both indoors and outdoors. I’m so excited to be performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s such a gorgeous venue and headlining is a big honor.

We concluded the interview with a lightning round of questions.

Do you feel that the beat drop in electronic music is equivalent to the guitar solo in the 70s? Something the crowd is craving?

Definitely! You used to have choruses to sing to at the peak of a song. Now your choruses will lead into something even bigger. This is an instrumental section. However, I do think that it is dangerous if your entire show or DJ set is just drop after drop. Sometimes it’s nice to mix it up or change the arrangement or have something surprising happen.

Who is your dream collaboration?

I would love to work with Lorde. Even to just give her a beat or something that maybe does not sound like my usual sound. Some other dream collaborations include Two Doors Cinema Club and Foster The People.

Have you faced adversity in the music industry?

I think adversity for me at the end of the day, is yourself. You yourself can really be the thing that holds you back. Your ego, work ethic or the way you approach your art. At the end of the day, you’re really just trying to compete with yourself. You should not be competing with other people.

I have somewhat of a bias being in the electronic world. Our brands aren’t super reliant on our face or anything. If the music is performing well, and people are listening and coming out to the shows you’re doing something right.

If you look at the landscape as a whole however, it holds a lot of people back, unfortunately. The South Asian community has a hard time coming out to support South Asian artists. I think this stems from the childhood idea of there can only be one.

That being said, I see a lot of community building in the new generations of South Asian artists.

In conclusion, Jai Wolf left me with these last thoughts.

I want to see more South Asian people come together to uplift the next generation of artists. More community building in the next ten to twenty years. I want to see us coming together and having our own moment. Something that’s not super reliant on South Asian culture.

Photo courtesy of John Liwag

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›

Moving on After Breaking up With Your Cat

“Take what you want//Take everything” reflects on a time with my partner and our cat, Layla. It’s a retelling of the chaotic night I adopted her. I didn’t know why Layla hid from me. When I chased her around, it scared her more. “Take what you want//Take everything” juxtaposes our first night, filled with misunderstanding, with the rest of the time we spent together. My fond memories call back to the loving moments Layla and I shared.

Such memories defined us; they reverberated in my partnership. I wonder if my partner, like Layla, only remembers her fear of me, over our shared moments of love. The title, a Kanye West lyric, is an acknowledgment that their happiness together–without me–destroyed my sense of self. When I see their photos, I wonder if I can see myself reflected in their eyes. I wonder if they still keep kind moments of our time together.

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Take what you want//Take everything

I remember when she would look at me from behind a laundry basket.

A small simple cat with green owl eyes. She was afraid of her new home and its owner. Shit, I remember the night I got her, she hid under my bed, in the middle just out of my reach for maybe 6 hours, watching me. She didn’t eat anything the entire day. When the night fell I was afraid she’d starve or come out and attack me. I was just scared. I didn’t have a childhood pet, I’m not white, I didn’t know what to do. I picked up the whole bed and yelled that she needed to move. I chased her into the closet with a vacuum cleaner. When she ran in, I called my lover and yelled to her that she wasn’t helping enough, she needed to be there to help me. That was our first day together, me and that cat. No one will ever have that memory but me and maybe her.

It was during Ramadan, my first year fasting.

Our problems had already begun by then. Enough so that I decided to fast and show retribution. I’d try to change into a more patient and understanding self. Like the Prophet (SAW) I guess. To become someone that my lover could feel safe around. Somehow, getting a cat felt like it fit into that picture. I’d be a cat dad, you know, gentle. We’d raise her. I’d fast and become New Again. Maybe I’d wrap an inked tasbih around myself and show I’m a man of God.

I don’t know how a cat remembers fear any more than I know how a lover does.

I know her body stored it. My cat’s must have stored it too. That first night, I wish I could tell her that I was afraid too. It doesn’t make sense that I was afraid really — I’m bigger, more threatening. We don’t speak the same language anyway, so how could I ever tell her? She learned to trust me though, in her own way. Her small bean paws would press on my chest in the mornings. She’d meow to berate me for locking her out some nights, or when I was away from home too long.

She lives with my lover now. They share photos with me, they’re happy together.

I saw my lover once, it was on 55th and 7th, Broadway shined blue performance lights over us. She wore a red sacral dress. She said her mental health has never been better. I think she was trying to tell me that she’s doing well, because she knows I care for her. I don’t think she was trying to say she’s happier without me. We don’t speak the same language. I actually think they are happier with just each other. And I loved them both, so it hurts. Sometimes, not all the time. And it doesn’t always hurt that bad. Other times it does get pretty bad, though. I probably owe it to myself to say that.

I look back at the photos, the ones of our life together, and the ones of their new life.

Two green owl eyes, and two brown moonlit eyes. I look for myself in them.

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By Umrao Shaan

Umrao Shaan is a short storyist, poet, and ghazals singer. You can find his songs on his Instagram. His other … Read more ›

Reflection Comes From Within, not From Others

“Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a meditation on the new moon and guilt. I wrote it when I was living in Dallas and was driving back from a dusk prayer. The new moon terrified me on that drive. I was diseased by the knowledge that my partner, at the time, had seen the worst parts of me. There’s immense shame in this piece—it seized my self-image. If the moon could become brand new, then I could start over.

I often ponder on the moon’s reflective nature and pairs of eyes. I’m hyper-fixated on how I am seen by others. Unfortunately, the brilliance of seeing your reflection in another person leads to negativity. After all, those who are too keen on their own reflection are the same people who suffer from it. It is possible to use shame to fuel one’s retribution and personal growth, without becoming consumed by it.

We can look to Shah Rukh Khan succumbing to alcoholism in his own sorrow and then later imbibing his sadness in Chandramukhi. “Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a lesson for us: Don’t be Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas, instead embody pre-incarnation Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om!

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Confessions to a Moonless Sky

Sometimes when the moon abandons the sky, I wonder if I drove her away.

If she comes back, will she be the same? How I wish she would come back new, truly new! That way she’d have no memory of the sin I’ve confessed to her. You noxious insect. Sin-loving, ego-imbibing pest. You are no monster, for at least a monster has ideology, it sins with purpose. You sin just to chase ignominy.

But the moon won’t say that, she never does. She’ll just leave the sky and return days later, slowly. And I’ll wonder if she’s new, perhaps she won’t remember my past confessions. What does it matter? Were the moon replaced with one from a different god, I’d drive her away, too.

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By Umrao Shaan

Umrao Shaan is a short storyist, poet, and ghazals singer. You can find his songs on his Instagram. His other … Read more ›

Pyar is Pyar: A Celebration of Queer Brown Love

An exclusive standing-room-only crowd, dressed in dazzling colors and shimmer, packed SONA — an upscale South Asian restaurant in Manhattan — in February to celebrate queer love and allyship in the desi community.

The event, ‘Pyar is Pyar’ (which translates to “Love is Love”), recognized the landmark bipartisan legislation that President Biden signed into law in December: the Respect for Marriage Act. The event raised $168,000 to support Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies, an international nonprofit that provides peer support and resources to LGBTQ+ South Asians and their families.

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Maneesh Goyal, founder and partner of SONA, organized the event with Shamina Singh, the founder and president of Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth. Both Goyal and Singh are openly queer South Asian leaders and thanked the crowd that evening for their support of other LGBTQ+ desis.


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Opal Vadhan and Gautam Raghavan from the Biden/Harris Administration read a letter from President Biden to commemorate the event.

“Jill and I — and Kamala and Doug — hope you have a wonderful night celebrating our nation at our best,” Biden wrote. “May we all carry forth that American promise of freedom together. May we also know that love is love — and pyar is pyar.”

“The work that you do to become visible and powerful, to form narratives, to change minds, and to make people feel something about a cause for equality — that is incredibly important,” Raghavan added, before introducing Vaibhav Jain and Parag Mehta, a same-sex Indian couple that got married in 2019 in Texas.

Jain and Mehta are leading a legal effort to bring marriage equality to India, taking them to the country’s Supreme Court. The couple was denied recognition of their marriage in 2020, despite the country’s Foreign Marriage Act that allows the marriage of Indian citizens abroad to be recognized.

“They denied us because we are a same-sex couple,” said Jain, who grew up in New Delhi. “This is a violation of the Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; so we filed suit.”

“Parag and I are hopeful for a positive verdict. If our case wins, it would bring marriage equality to nearly 1.4 billion people across India,” he continued. “Just to put that in perspective, the total number of people today who live in a country with marriage equality is about 1.4 billion. That means our cases together could double the global population of places who live in a place with marriage equality.”

“We need a mechanism to help build allies in our community and to help provide the support that LGBTQ people need,” Mehta added, encouraging people to donate to Desi Rainbow.

Rayman Kaur Mathoda, Desi Rainbow’s board chair, challenged allies to put their dollars behind their vocal support. Her family announced a $50,000 donation to the organization’s ongoing work.

Founded and led by Aruna Rao, a straight cisgender mother of a transgender adult, the nonprofit has served more than 2,000 LGBTQ+ South Asians and their families since 2020. The goal is to serve 10,000 in three years; a million in the next 10 years.

Mathoda, a wife and mother of four, recalled how painful the lack of family and community support can be.

“For most of us who come out in the desi community…coming out is still a negative experience,” she said. “It is not a moment of pride. It is a moment of shame.”

Mathoda thanked all allies in particular for making the road easier for queer South Asians. To find the love and acceptance they want and need. 

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“Your coming out in support of us is the pivotal shift that we need to change attitudes in our community,” she said.

Among the South Asian queer leaders and allies in attendance were actors Kal Penn and Sarita Choudhury, activist Alok Vaid-Menon, and the legendary DJ Rekha.

To learn more about Desi Rainbow, visit their website

Photo Courtesy of Lara Tedesco-Barker

By Stephen Jiwanmall

Born in Philadelphia, Stephen has family roots in India and Pakistan. He lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with his husband and … Read more ›