Before I went to the art-festival Watdajel, I didn’t know that there has been a thriving party going on in my very own town for many years, bringing tropical vibes onto a dancefloor, deep in a secret forest. Every time people go there, they enter a magical world, hidden behind the leaves of the trees where the organic percussion and menacing bass sounds, the forest air and the warmth and happiness radiating from the visitors and the DJ’s are blended together into one amazing experience that can only described with one word: Safari!
This time, 20 November, it was too cold for an actual forest. But the entire dancefloor of the cultural event centre ACU, was transformed into one big, foggy rainforest. On the lineup were, next to the Argentinian heavywheight Chancha Via Circuito, Utrecht’s homegrown global bass formation Kako Da Ne, Utrecht’s alround tropical legend Café de Calaveras and of course Safari’s own DJ’s Prace & Booze’em.
As usual, I was late and just missed Kako Da Ne’s opening set. When entered the vibrant dancefloor-jungle, I was greeted by bird-sounds and the deep, organic grooves of Chancha Via Cictuito, second on the list, who moved back and forth between deeper, thoughtful and more passionate vibes, varying between cumbia, 3ball, zouk, and amazing digital folklore that goes beyond any categorisation. Whenever a fantastic beat dropped, people ululated and uttered ecstatic sounds out of pure joy. Café de Calaveras, in turn, raised the tension, heating up the atmosphere with a number of popular reggaeton, dancehall and Dutch bubbling classics that gave just the necessary spark of familiarity for people to be drawn into the groove completely.
The atmosphere was absolutely unique: a pinch of dancehall/urban, hippies with bubble blowers and Latin American folk. And of course the ever-present students on a night out, either because they’d been going to the party many times already or sticking around because the vibes were so good.
I had the chance to talk to the organisers again and recap what we talked about, back at Watdajel. And my amazement with what they managed to build up was only stronger now I saw it in front of my own eyes.
S: “It all evolved out of another underground party called Generator, which focused on different styles of music. That was at least about six or seven years ago. There was some Balkan and tropical involved back then but also a great deal of electro and other stuff. It was a little bit of everything. But at a certain point we decided to go ‘all tropical’ and turn the event into something fresh, which had to have a new name too. Once we sat down together in the garden, brainstorming about the new concept and what came to mind was Safari! It just hit us, that was exactly what we wanted to offer to Utrecht: something else, tropical sounds, a fresh trip away from the ever repetitive techno and electro of the underground in this city!
GB: How did you manage to build such a strong followers base, especially in a city like Utrecht, where most people are students who just want to get druk and don’t really give much about music?
S: We come from the world of illegal underground parties, which have always thrived in this city. The secret of their success is that they build entirely on personal social networks. We don’t advertise, don’t target the main party public, aren’t that much around on the web. We hardly ever use Soundcloud, LOL… Yet on the other hand, we maintain close contact with many people here, locally, who know that our parties are great. Advertisement goes from mouth to mouth and people usually like it so much that they keep coming back every new edition.
GB: Are you saying that people loved the sound of global bass and kept coming back?
S: Pretty much.. Especially girls were infatuated with the grooves of cumbia, dancehall or kuduro. And when girls have a good time, guys will follow automatically, haha. People even liked it too much so had to make sure that the party wouldn’t blow up too fast and lose its character. That happens to a lot of successful concepts. We’ve barely had any negative experiences, apart from gigs being cancelled and stuff like that.
GB: But I hear that this all happened a long time ago.. how did you ever find out about this music?
S: (DJ Booze’em) My brother got into it first. He gave me some things that he thought I just had to listen to. In the beginning I had to get used to it. It was different from anything I’d ever heard, but on a second listen, I realised it was great, something that more people deserved to hear. In fact we were one of the first ever that I know of who went into this kind of music in the Netherlands. Blogs such as Generation Bass didn’t exist yet, it were just ideas spreading from one DJ to another. And once you’re in this, the rest follows. We supported moombahton on our events right from the moment it was invented. We booked Fellow without knowing they would later become such a big name. That’s just how things happen, and they’ve always turned out right for us.
GB: With such a long history of succesful organising, is there anything in all those years you are most proud of so far?
S: Well, as I said, we don’t actually want to grow too big. Many events that started out like us have blown up and get caught up into this hyped world of commercial nightlife, often destroying themselves within a couple of years. We like to avoid that and keep it small and underground. That’s also why we try to know all our visitors in person with our Facebook account. But that too creates very nice situations. One thing that directly comes to mind is Oscilador Bass, who performed in my backyard on a private party, all dressed up with his iconic TV-mask on, in a garden in Kanaleneiland, on walking distance from your house actually. Such things are legendary. And now with Chancha Via Circuito, that’s also an achievement we are very happy about.
Right after his gig, I also had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Chancha himself and ask him what inspires him and how he came to develop such a unique style. A style that doesn’t even allow itself to be described by ‘global bass’. Rather, it is an intricate mixture of diverse folkloristic, ancestral music from the Andes, with deep, almost meditative electronic soundscapes.
CVC: One of my biggest inspirations is nature. I love to go into the forests and the mountains and be surrounded by the splendour of it. My other inspiration are the sounds of the streets, the music that you hear coming out of the houses everywhere when you walk in the villages and on markets. I try to soak in all these experiences.
GB: And how are is your music received? Is there a lot of attention for digital folklore? For example, is there anything like a scene you consider yourself part of?
CVC: In terms of reception, it is actually going quite well. Attention for what we do is increasing a lot lately. If you’re talking about a ‘scene’, the experimental Latin-electronic Zizek Club nights in Buenos Aires have been around for quite some years now and they were very successful. These events grew into the label and booking agency ZZK Records, where I am also signed. Other ZZK artists are acts like Frikstailers, El Remolón and La Yegros, who are all touring all over the world right now.
You saw my last album, ‘Amansara’, you may have noticed too that there I collaborated with Barrio Lindo and with Sidirum, two other artists who are doing very well in this genre. And the link between my work and traditional folkloric music is also very direct don’t forget Miriam Garcia, an indigenous Argentinian folk singer, she is amazing.
GB: And outside Argentina?
CVC: I’ve been around lately, playing my music in different places, and what I can say is that people’s response is usually very enthusiastic, even beyond what I expected. Even though the style may be a bit unfamiliar, from what I have experienced, people are usually feeling it almost immediately. Exactly like you saw here, the atmosphere was amazing. I don’t actually know how many of them already knew me before tonight but you could feel that they definitely had an amazing time.
GB: Anything more that we can expect from you in the future, something that our readers can already look forward to?
CVC: Well, in terms of music, I just released the album ‘Amansara’, shortly ago. That was a very big project, production-wise. Right now my focus is on touring and DJ-ing, communicating my music directly to people on the dancefloor. I like to alternate these two things a bit.
GB: We have readers from all over the world, where do they need to be to see you live on this tour?
CVC: On the Chancha Via Circuito facebook page, there is a scheme with all the dates and locations. Of course it would be great if people would come to see me play!
I was tired and even though I planned not to, I stayed (it always ends up like that somehow), chilling with the organiser of Watdajel, dancing and explaining visitors the word on my snapback, ‘cumbia’, until the lights went on and the Safari-trip had come to an end. With a smile on my face, I walked back into the cold night.
The date for the next edition isn’t known yet but we’ll keep you updated!
Check out some pictures here!
If it can’t be in a forest, we just make one!
Kako Da Ne in action
No safari without a good camera!
Me represenging Generation Bass (badass UMB-skull on my shirt just out of view..)
Chancha behind the desks
Chancha chilling in the crowd
DJ Prace chilling with the organiser of Watdajel
DJ Edgar Nevermoo
Café de Calaveras rocking it!
What was left of the camera at the end of the night..