Under 25 DJs and producers, Martin Garrix and Kygo, are changing the way the world sees EDM. The key is experimentation, and not giving a d***, they say from Goa’s shores
Kygo: The King of Tropical House
When I take up a song to do a mix, I look for melody, and what I can add to it. But it’s all about melody
It's Goa. And it's festival season. Almost 1,00,000 revellers have gathered on hilly terrain at Vagator Beach for international dance music festival, Sunburn, which turned 10 this year. Near the venue at a popular Greek restaurant, we sip wine and wait for Kygo, the 24-year-old Norwegian DJ and producer, who is down to play. We bump into two 20-year-olds and their father. The Delhi businessman, who runs a CCTV camera business is down for only a day to watch Kygo.
"Will you ask him a question for us? Will he play at my son's wedding?" he says, as the son blushes. "I am ready to pay $1,00,000."
Soaking in our new role as fixer, we finally meet Kygo, repeat the request, hear him laugh. "That's so funny. Maybe, maybe." We can understand why he is so wanted though. His cover of Ed Sheeran's I See Fire (2013) has been played 33 million times on SoundCloud and 50 million times on YouTube. His single, Firestone (2014) has 40 million views on YouTube with an
additional 330 million plays on music streaming service Spotify, as of September 2015.
Together, he has accumulated over 200 million views on his music.
His aggressive management team had told us we are lucky to have time with him, but he seems sorted, sometimes,
shy, in fact.
"I came by on the scene at a time when all electronic music was sounding the same. And there was this sound, neither really electronic nor pop." It's called Tropical House and Kygo could be considered a pioneer, or at least a revolutionary, taking the genre where it hasn't been before.
Often described as a sub-genre of House music, which is actually light and uplifting, it sees a tempo slower than House and never builds up to a crescendo before going to a breakdown.
It's more reggae, less synth-sounding, like most House music. His version of Sheeran's I See Fire, is easily more popular than the original song itself. When we say that, he grins again. "I haven't really spoken to him [Sheeran] ever. But I did read an interview in a Norwegian magazine where he said he preferred my version to his."
The 24-year-old started to play the piano at six, and so, naturally believes in the power of melody. As you watch him on stage in Goa, raising his hands up to play an imaginary piano with thousands swaying, you start to believe in it too.
"That's the most important thing. When I take up a song to do a mix, I look for melody, and what I can add to it. But it's all about melody. And experimentation. I just keep trying, and trying different," says the DJ, who grew up on music by the The Rolling Stones and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, which his father would play around the house.
Right now, he is busy gearing up for the release of a new album, Cloud 9, which releases in the next few months. "It's going to be more of the same that I am known for, but there are a few surprises. There could be a few slow songs as well."
When we ask the mandatory, do you like Indian music, he smiles. "I haven't heard any. But today, outside my hotel, I could hear strains of some Indian music playing on a boat. I quite liked that."
It's time to go on stage, but he says, "I will be back soon. My sister backpacked in India last year, and she told me amazing things."
What has he heard most about? "The Taj Mahal." The venue of his next gig, maybe?
Martin Garrix: The Prodigy
When I am in the studio, I am not thinking about who will listen to this song. I am thinking about what I want to hear, what I like
The first time Martin Garrix saw DJ Tiesto perform, he was in Athens, at the Olympic Games, and all of eight. If he didn’t understand the medium then, he did in 2014, when 17. This is when he released his first solo single, Animals, after learning production at a school in Utrecht, Netherlands. The Dutch musician became the youngest DJ ever to reach No. 1 spot on Beatport. Then DJ Hardwell played it, and suddenly everyone knew who he was, overnight.
As he took stage in Goa last week at Sunburn 2015, it was obvious that 1,00,000 Indians knew who he was too. For an hour-and-a half, he made the most discerning EDM lover dance, scream, shout, jump, turn their phone lights on and sway.
At the end of it, he said, "Shukriya," and everyone was in love.
Before the show, when we met him backstage, he was in power on mode.
He looks younger than 19, if that’s possible, and talks fast, but it all makes sense. "Animals was minimalist. Who says EDM is not minimalist? That sound was so different and weird, right? But it sounded good. It’s not about a lot of sounds; it’s about that one sound."
He says he has been writing music the last few days since India has proved inspiring. "I love the people. I can’t explain it but it’s forcing me to write music. I have been noting down ideas on my phone, and listening to Indian music. But I can’t tell you what, I forgot!" he says pointing to his iPhone with a cracked screen, "Oh, I fell down the stairs and it fell with me."
The producer, who has collaborated with Usher and David Guetta, is as they say, the EDM artist for the new generation. His sound is pop inspired, and happy, with grooves that are meant for dancing. "I was a Spanish guitar player when I heard Tiesto perform, and I was hooked. I was like I need to do that! I could relate to this music," he says, maybe talking for all 20-year-olds who have hailed EDM as being on top of the music pile. But he doesn’t really think about his songs as being hits when he makes them. "I don’t really care. When I am in the studio, I am not thinking about who will listen to this song. I am thinking about what I want to hear, what I like," he says.
Right now, he is in the midst of launching his recording label, and is looking for all kinds of music to showcase. "Hip hop, rap, pop... oh, rock bands, give me bands! I want all of it. All it has to be is really good music."
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