Discovery Project Releases is a regular series featuring exclusive music downloads from our Discovery Project alumni.
Sheni Doko’s music forms a symbiotic relationship between complex traditional Balkan rhythms, ass-shaking Jersey club beats, and the organized chaos of his wild toplines. Industry heavyweights have picked up on this unique marriage of sounds early on, when the Brooklyn Fire crew snatched up one of his early releases, “Makenna,” produced alongside fellow Jersey homie Gianka in 2014. He soon followed up with his first solo release, “Hands Up,” on the Laidback Luke–led imprint, Ones to Watch, and quickly earned a spot as a recurring resident in the adjacent Mixmash family. In the three short years since his debut release, Sheni has not only earned the respect of one of dance music’s most respected artists, but also heavy support from the likes of Dada Life, Galantis, and Tommy Trash.
This kind of success is par for the course for Sheni, who, even at his young age, has been a longtime entrepreneur. He started working for himself at the ripe age of 13 and really hasn’t looked back since. And while he’s had a broad range of ventures, music has always been a constant in his life—and seems to be the thing he has decided to pursue with the most passion and perseverance. From throwing his own warehouse parties as an up-and-coming DJ to scoring a residency at the now-defunct Pacha NYC, by the time he was named one of two Discovery Project inductees for Electric Forest 2016, Sheni was already a seasoned pro.
We’ve scored a Sheni Doko double-header for this month’s Discovery Project Release. “That Sound” works you into a frenzy with its maniacally descending synthline and wall-pounding drums. On the other side, “That Bass” takes a slightly deeper approach (only slightly, since this is still a certified banger) with a low-slung 808 groove, Sheni’s patented shuffling beats, and yet another dastardly synth job.
We also had the chance to catch up with him and chat about his many entrepreneurial enterprises, his obsession with ‘90s music, and Celine Dion.
You’ve always been a self-starter, having been an entrepreneur since the age of 13. Can you talk about some of the other things you did before finding your passion in music?
I just like trying new things. When I find something I like, I get super into it. I was a huge computer nerd back in the day. When I was 15, I started my own company called SR Designs, where I [got paid to] design and code websites for people. I learned so much doing that. I had a few other projects I ran as well, like a big forum for the graphics designers’ community and a site for flash games and funny content. I even built my own drag racing simulator game called Street Revolution. But if I wasn’t on the computer, I was just out riding bikes with my friends.
How does your Balkan background influence your music?
It played a big role! I grew up listening to a lot of Albanian music, so that’s where my love for big drums comes into play. There are a lot of similarities in Albanian music and house/EDM. I try to implement some rhythms and stuff into my tracks. I’d love to do a fusion track if I could find the right vocalist!
As far as family ties go, you seem to have a very close relationship with your Nana.
Nana is a straight-up legend! She gets mad at me when I put her on social media, but she has no idea how much of an internet sensation she is, haha.
You have an obsession with ‘90s music, as evidenced by some of your ubiquitous bootlegs. Did these songs play a big role in your life? What else were you listening to as a youngster?
‘90s and early 2000s stuff will always be my favorite. I’m always trying to bring some of those tracks back to life with a modern twist. But I feel bad touching them sometimes, because they’re just way too good, haha.
Other than that, I was OBSESSED with rap—nothing really these days, though, mainly older stuff. I was a huge Dipset fan, Eminem, Tupac, Biggie, 50 Cent and the Game; they all ran my life at the time. Rap played the biggest role for me in music, though. I had a lot of friends that would rap and do poetry. I would make beats for them to rap on. That’s where I really started learning how to produce.
How does it feel to hear your tune rise up out of “My Heart Will Go On”?
Me and Gianka still laugh about it, haha. Steve Aoki is crazy for that. If I heard that live, I would freak out—such a wild mashup.
You have a deep love for traveling. What have been some of your favorite destinations?
I spent almost three months backpacking all over Southeast Asia. Thailand was hands-down my favorite, though. It was my first real trip, and I just kinda dove in head-first with nothing but a backpack. It’s funny, ‘cause originally, my ticket was only for two weeks, and when I got there, I was like, “Whoa—mind blown!” So, I called the airline and extended my ticket to six weeks. It ended up being the best decision I ever made in life. Total culture shock. It really opened my eyes to how much there is to see out there. Plus, I love Asian food, so I was in heaven, haha. I would really love to go back soon and hopefully play!