Monday, 17 June 2013

Balearic DJing

I love all kinds of dance music in rhythm, style and tempo. The problem is that most clubs, understandably work under something of a beats per minute (bpm) tyranny. In order for people to be able to join the dancing throng there needs to be an element of predictability. Generally this means that a bmp of around 130 which is often maintain throughout the evening as DJ's mix seamlessly from one track to another. The objective of clubs is to get people dancing and keep them on the dance floor. That's what clubs are for. 

Maybe my problem is that I have a short attention span. I first noticed this some years ago playing in a small but rammed bar in Camden Market, London. the dance floor was bouncing when I began to notice that after about 5 house tunes many of the dancers were starting to use the same movements. I thought they might get bored if they carried on much longer (though it might have been me that was getting bored with their repetitive movements) so I decided that I was going to radically change style and tempo. There's no gentle way to move from House music to Reggae so I waited for the break in a track where the beat was less obvious and with a quick zip on the EQ and slid into reggae. There was a moments confusion on the dance floor but then a whoop went up as everyone immediately adapted and started to enjoy the different movements which the music encouraged. From that moment the spirit of Eclectika Sessions was born and I've continued to embrace diversity in my sets. Obviously that rules me out for most mainstream clubs but fortunately I have found my flavour and favour playing private parties, cocktail bars and daytime sun drenched venues.

For cocktail bars or private parties the criteria of engagement are quite different to clubs. If it's a private party I understand that the first couple of hours are going to be taken up with conversation and canap├ęs. That doesn't mean you can't engage people. During the canapes and conversation stage of a party I have even had people approach me to apologise for not dancing, as if that is the only way they can show their approval. I reassure them. My objective is to stimulate and entertain and as I look across a crowded room I can see the head nodders and compulsive feet tapping unseen under the tables. I know when people are engaged. Of course as the evening progresses so do the beats and before they know it the food will have been cleared away and the dance floor fills up according to my party plan.

Daytime on beaches is a whole different arena. If I start playing round lunch time it will be breakfast for many of those who have dragged themselves to the beach after a hard nights clubbing. Some will have fragile heads and the cool beer they are clutching will be the hair of the dog. So for me Balearic lush beats are usually the order of the day, at least for starters. I think I first learned from my mate and fellow dj, Jon Sa Trinxa, that what some people might regard as chilled music can take you head off when played at volume. I would hate to be regarded as a chilled DJ as for me that often translates as bland and I certainly don't do bland. Some people refer to it as Downbeat but then again while I love a lot of downbeat stuff I would hate to feel confined and so regularly take off uptempo. For me it's about light and shade. Downbeat offsets uptempo just as a haunting melody in a minor key highlights the exuberance of an uplifting major key track to follow. What I would term Balearic beats are usually between 100 and 110 bpm with the kick of the beat softened by the lush overlays of the track. Even thought the music appears pretty chilled the volition of the music is still progressive. Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about.

Escape from New York by Filippson & Ulysses

Violet Morning Moon by Bubble Club

By a wonderful coicidence this same this same bpm is also the defining tempo of the Nu Disco genre which I have come to champion in recent years. Nu Disco is often made up of old disco tracks which have been slowed down and stretched with a hypnotic and heavy kick beat added. Consequently my sets tend to be interspersed with a healthy dose of Nu Disco. Here are a couple of examples.

Barry & Marvin by The Players Union

Hang On (Sade) by Get Down Edits

However as I said, I have a short attention span so it wont be too long before I start to drop in Minimal Techno tunes. Ah minimal techno. An evening of it would drive me to distraction because not a lot happens with Minimal. However, to my mind, in some cases it sounds as each tone has been hand crafted and shaped for precision and beauty - actually some Minimal is clangy and unpleasant but I tend not to buy that stuff ;-)

Dangly Panther by Jimpster

Unfortunately it seems that many beach bars on the island have been infected with the tyranny of the club music. I regularly encounter DJ's pumping an incessant diet of high volume techno or deep house to bemused looking sun worshippers.  Why I wonder? Maybe they don't really want to be playing on a beach and live in hope that a promoter from one of the big clubs is going to hear them and rescue them from their place of exile on the beach. Maybe it's because they can really only play what they like and just happen to have landed a poorly paid residency in a beach bar. Another DJ mate, George Solar, takes a more strident approach and maintains a strictly low bpm with his self named Comfy dub sessions. When asked recently why he didn't play techno in the very successful Babylon Beach bar he simply said, "Because I can." And who is to argue that his sets are anything but appropriate as he envelopes his audience with warm dubby tones while they soak up the rays or become engaged in beachside dinner conversations.

My own approach is somewhat more eclectic. Nothing is outlawed based on tempo or genre but I try to play with a degree of sensitivity to those present and a typical several hours set will see me visit most genres as I seek to actively engage everyone. When the whole Ibiza scene kicked off nearly 30 years ago the musical choices played in the clubs and terraces where decidedly eclectic. Over the years this inclusive eclecticism seems to have been narrowed so that people wrongly think that the Ibiza sound is techno or house. To my mind, by designating myself as a Balearic DJ means that I am aligning myself with the inclusive spirit on which the original scene was based. Some years back, for one of my Frisky Radio broadcasts I tried to roughly define what I mean by Balearic music. In some ways its very eclectic nature means that it defies definition but if you listen to the start of this mix you will hear my voice trying to explain my personal perspective on it. As I said this mix was produced a couple of years back but looking through it now I see that it was a valiant attempt to define Balearic and within a two hour mix which features a wide range of genres. (for convenience I have split the two hour mix into two parts which you can download if you wish)

What is Balearic? Part 1.

What is Balearic? Part 2

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