What brings top DJs like Armin Van Buuren to Sunburn year after year? Their Indian fans

Aatish Nath

Jan,08 2017 11:06:45 IST

Backstage at Sunburn, where artists recouped after spending some time in the spotlight, or then prepared to face the crowds, Firstpost managed to snag interviews with some of the international DJs who had made the trek to play for the 10th edition of Sunburn.

Armin Van Buuren backstage at Sunburn

Armin Van Buuren backstage at Sunburn. All photos courtesy Aatish Nath

For Armin Van Buuren, who played his first show in India in 2009, the chance to see India’s music scene mature, has been a highlight. Van Buuren said as much when he was closing out day one of the festival, stepping up from the stage and onto the console area to address the crowd from his perch. He alluded to the journalist interviews that had taken place earlier in the day, and said that most asked him about how India’s music scene compares to the rest of the world, and he had only good things to say, much to delight of the crowd, that was cheering and hanging onto every word. Earlier in the day, Van Buuren had told us, “It’s the fans that keep me coming back. My Facebook statistics will tell you that India has always been the top three of the most important countries in the world, so I’m just super excited and happy to be here.”

The use of social media to connect with fans as also echoed by 23-year-old Polish DJ Tom Swoon, who said, “I’ve been getting messages from Indian people all year round [saying], ‘When are you going to be back?’”

LNY TNZ, a Dutch duo made up of Mitchell Vreeswijk and Jan Stadhouders, were playing in India for the first time. Said Stadhouders, “We have no idea what to expect, but we heard that the Indian crowds are crazy…” interjected Vreeswijk, “we have a lot of followers on Instagram and Soundcloud from India, so we always receive a lot of love from the Indian people, and we’re about to find out how crazy the party people can go here.” It's clear then, that social media is serving as a vital link between music lovers and musicians.



The internet is also how the artists' fans manage to stay abreast of the latest remixes and albums — most of which are available to stream or listen to online. While DJs who have their own podcasts — like Van Buuren — regularly introduce their listeners to new remixes, protégés or songs, others have to rely on the World Wide Web to connect with listeners and build audiences over time.

The outlier in this was Christian Smith, who plays techno, and performed on day three on the Ray-Ban stage. Smith had also played Goa’s Krank festival two days prior, and has something of an elder statesmen’s views on India’s music scene, and its evolution. He said, “I was surprised (by) how many parties are going on in Goa. On the same day, there were like nine different parties with international DJs. So I guess the scene is really evolving fast in India, and of course EDM is still the driving force here, but eventually those kids listening to EDM will graduate, and graduate to other styles of music, whether its house or techno or whatever, and this will make the scene for underground music bigger here in India for sure.”

While the Main Stage was dominated by DJs playing their own songs and remixing only the most popular tracks, the other stages saw acts play everything from psy-trance to trap to bass-heavy techno. The reason these all fall under the umbrella of EDM are because musicians tend of listen to different genres of music while on the move.

Christian Smith backstage at Sunburn

Christian Smith backstage at Sunburn

Said Swoon, “I listen to everything but not EDM, when I’m on the road and travelling. When I’m back home and I’m chilling, I’m mostly listening to jazz music for example, some chill out drum and bass sometimes even. And also, because before being a DJ, I was playing guitar in a rock band, I also listen to a lot of rock music.” Not every artist has that breadth of musical interest, but Smith also shared his musical preferences and said, “I listen to a big variety of music. I listen to '80s music [and] rock and roll. I really like Grace Jones from the '80s and reggae — really a big, big variety.” Smith went on to say that this open-minded approached allowed him to, “tell a story” while DJing.

Speaking to these acts, what becomes apparent is how often they are criss-crossing the globe to make it for shows that are booked on different continents. With New Year's night just days away (from when these interviews were conducted), most of the DJs were playing a set before jetting off to spin their hits on the night of the 31st all over the world. What’s apparent from talking to them is how DJing is a job, just like any other, but they’re just lucky to have offices that change almost daily.

Updated Date: Jan 08, 2017 11:06 AM