FORM Arcosanti announces stellar cultural programming for 2019 installment

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FORM Arcosanti announces stellar cultural programming for 2019 installmentForm Arcosanti 2016 Education

FORM Arcosanti has revealed an impeccably curated slate of cultural programming for the 2019 installment of the three-day creative retreat/festival. To complement an already masterful lineup that features Florence + The Machine, Kaytranada, Skrillex, Anderson .Paak, JPGMAFIA, Peggy Gou, Bonobo, and more, FORM is bringing in a wide variety of artists, speakers, authors, and activists for the weekend of May 10 – 12 in Arizona’s high desert.

A cornerstone ingredient in FORM’s annual success, the weekend’s jammed itinerary consists of talks, panels, workshops, immersive art, poetry, new technologies, and outdoor/wellness activities, each presented by renowned experts in their respective fields. This year’s most anticipated topics include Between Two Books—a conversation between Florence Welch and authors Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot and Ysra Daley-Ward, art workshops with African-American artist and performer at the festival, Lonnie Holley, and a poetry series curated by spoken word artist George Watsky. Other programming high points include a rare public demo of Tónandi—Sigur Rós’s mixed-reality project with tech innovators Magic Leap, as well as a conversation with Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.

General admission tickets for FORM Arcosanti 2019 are sold out, however a limited number of glamping Patron Bundles remain available, which can cover up to four attendees. Learn more about FORM’s cultural programming and purchase last minute Patron Bundles here.

Techno Tuesday: Oscar G on bringing ‘The Culture’ back into house

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Techno Tuesday: Oscar G on bringing ‘The Culture’ back into houseTechno Tuesdays

Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.

One of America’s top house exports has come out with another class album to add onto his extensive discography. For The Culture is Oscar G‘s homage to the scene that he’s been a heavy contributor to for close to three decades. Unfolding across twelve tracks, each synthesizes classic house and modern popular elements into timeless house with ease. The LP immediately captivates with its opener—a sensuous dance-floor-ready imagining of Ashanti and Fabolous’ “Into You” featuring vocals from Katiahshé —and only continues to do so throughout the rest. For The Culture as a whole is distinctively Oscar G, and shows off an artist with an unwavering commitment toward maintaining the integrity of the sound that drew him into a life in dance music. But, it stretches this format enough to show edge as well.

The album is also special because it recognizes local stars as well. Many of For The Culture‘s tracks are collaborations with artist friends like Lazaro Casanova, Ronald Rodriguez, Stryke, and more. Keen to hear more on the inspirations behind the album, the writing process, and his MO toward music writing in general, we picked Oscar’s brain for this Techno Tuesday. Order a copy of For The Culture here in the meantime.

Techno Tuesday: Oscar G on bringing ‘The Culture’ back into houseOSCAR G 2738

What was the inspiration behind For The Culture? Has making an album with the help of fellow local talents been an item on your bucket list? What about the message you’re looking to convey?
In a dance culture that has long been defined by originality and individuality, we find ourselves in a moment where music is strictly defined by genres and the mass appeal merchandise items attached to them—be it hair-dos, clothing, drugs etc. I was originally attracted to a movement with a diverse following that appealed to the streets. These days, that movement seems at times like it’s been gentrified into high end elitist VIP experiences in exotic locations with a soundtrack that is regurgitated and uniform sounds that are posing as essential forms of music who’s pioneers thanklessly pushed forward. This album is my humble attempt at recognizing that original culture that first inspired me and continues to today.

Let’s dive deeper into the album process. How did you go about writing each track and putting it into place? Are there any plugins/synths/gear items that played a big role in putting together a lot of the tracks, or was there a routine you followed to help your creative flow?
About six months after I started working on the album I decided to listen to the ten or so tracks I had completed to get a vibe for how close to complete the project was. I ended up dumping every single track, as they sounded like a collection of mindless tech house that would probably get me a bunch of bookings…ha!

From that point on, things started moving much faster and smoother. I began using technics that I used long ago with my SP-1200 drum sampler, but instead with Pro-Tools software. Song ideas started coming together much easier, and I broke away from studio habits I had formed. When you make music for a long time you can get caught up in comfort zones. I tried to break out of that by tapping in to the way I made music when I was first starting out. This was inspiring in many ways. I then called friends Stryke, Lazaro Casanova, Oba Frank Lords, Katiahshe and Ronald Rodriguez to collaborate on several of the songs.
In the end, I just hope it does justice to the culture it represents.

Is there any track in particular on the LP that defines it? Why is that, if so? How have you seen “the culture” evolve over time, and how has it stayed the same?
I think the album is defined by its diversity. No single track or genre defines it much like the culture it represents. This culture is always evolving and always seems to have a new surprise waiting around the corner. Certain things things don’t change though. People will always feel the need to move to the sound of drums. That is as pure as it gets.

What can young fans do to keep the spirit of “the culture” alive?
Keep an open mind. Focus on the music.

What does house music mean to you?
House music has been a huge part of most of my life. It’s what I do. It has taken me around the world and put a roof over my family’s head and food on our table. It is a sanctuary I can always count on. It is the love of my life.

After being in the scene for so long, how do you go about pushing yourself as an artist and finding new inspiration to create?
I never look back and never buy my own bullshit or hype. I try to stay in touch with what got me hooked on this to begin with.
Inspiration is a gift and not always easy to come by. I try not to force it and instead live my life with the ones I love and pray that I’ll continue to be blessed with inspiration.

What does a day in the studio look like for Oscar G?
I’m not a regular schedule type studio person. Sometimes I will go a month or two without setting foot in there, then there are times that I will go into full hermit no sleep no shower creative binges. A day in the studio probably begins at about 1am and ends with lunch the next day. I don’t have a regular process but I do usually start things off with drums and basslines. The best projects usually come together quicker than most.

What’s your current setup?
In the studio I am a big fan of Pro-Tools. I use a lot of Native Instruments and IK multimedia plug-ins. I also use my roland 909 & 808 as well as older analog synths I love like the Yamaha TX81Z and Oberheim Matrix 1000. In the DJ booth I use a Pioneer 900 Nexus 2 mixer with Traktor and X1 controllers (first generation because I prefer them to the newer model).

How do you prepare for a marathon set?
I tend to spend most of my time organizing music for marathon sets. I usually go through promos and buy music one day a week. When preparing for a marathon, it’s less of that and more of just making sure I’m aware of where my music is and make it easy to get to. I want to make sure I play the stuff I’m sure of but also can get to stuff I’m not sure about or need to read the crowd to figure out. I also like to have a certain map in mind. A general outline of the ride you want to take people on. In the end though, it’s all about connecting with people the night of and being ready. There is also the physical aspect of rest and hydration before hand. It can be a bit exhausting, but there is no more gratifying feeling than connecting with people for 10, 12, 15 hours!

Last words before we conclude? Upcoming projects outside the album or other fun things in the pipeline?
I am always grateful for and mindful of how lucky I am to do this. I appreciate every single person who listens to my music and dances to my sets. That is what keeps me going and inspires me the most.
Stay tuned!

Welcome to the Jungle: the local event brand shaping China’s flourishing electronic music culture

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Welcome to the Jungle: the local event brand shaping China’s flourishing electronic music culture8

The air at China’s Electric Jungle music festival is rife with more than just thick blankets of meandering cigarette smoke. The untethered Chinese electronic festival goers beam with the enthusiasm of a culture not yet jaded by the “put-your-fucking-hands-up” of it all. 

China’s sprawling electronic music scene, while invariably unique (despite Western influences), follows the traditional counter-culture-becomes-the-culture plot. Among the local efforts to secure dance music widespread recognition, Jungle Events is most notable for working, not just to throw sensational, world-class festivals with the most sought-after electronic acts, but to promote camaraderie among its supporters.

“Jungle is one of the only domestic festival brands in China. The team is made up of Chinese ravers who want to establish a community of ravers in China, not just throw festivals,” says Chinese trance titan and perennial Jungle billing, Luminn, echoing the company’s distinct ethos.

Signed to Armin van Buuren’s army of global trance talent, Armada, Luminn (real name, JunLiang Fan) speaks ambivalently towards the influx of foreign festival brands embedding themselves in the Chinese market. As the first Chinese artist to secure a clean sweep of spots on the Ultra, EDC, and TRANSMISSION lineups, he posits with authority: Jungle stands out. 

It’s simple enough. The Chinese want to go to raves thrown by Chinese ravers. That’s not to say international muscle hasn’t amassed a robust following in recent years. Ultra China’s first swing in 2017 drew over 40,000 awestruck attendees to its inaugural weekend in Shanghai. The goliath outfits also make an effort to book domestic talent. EDC China’s official flyer from last year sprinkled the hometown heroes alphabetically alongside Alison Wonderland, Disclosure, and the lot—same-size font and all. 

“Rave:” an antiquated term on US or European soil. But inside China’s cocktail of fresh-faced organizers and authorities privy to the most arbitrary whims (event permits count for little), the tired term has earned its wings here. Even the most meticulously planned festival is an inspired act of valor for the Chinese—clandestine warehouse setting be damned. 

KSHMR, born Niles Hollowell-Dhar, reckons he’s performed in China more than any other country outside the US. Resting on the upper-most echelons of both the international big-room scene and Jungle’s most recent lineup, the California native revels in the laundry-fresh feel of China’s developing dance scene.  

“They are probably the most enthusiastic of any fanbase that I have around the world—showing up at the airports when I arrive, and even at the hotels,” says KSHMR. “There’s a vigor and a zeal to the Chinese people that I feel it’s a shame that a lot of the world doesn’t understand.”

Once the effects of the awe-inducing elixir comprised of Skrillex, REZZ, and Martin Garrix, (just a few of Jungle’s other active ingredients) subsides, we remember Jungle 2018’s auspicious undercard. Radiating sweet heat akin to her effervescent live sets is DJ Lizzy. Chinese-turned-New-Jersey-native, Lizzy Wang was the first female Chinese DJ to book a slot at Ultra. Inspirited by Newark’s omnipresent hip-hop culture, Wang started making music to relate to her more rambunctious American peers. Like a video-game heroine, she began unlocking levels of newfound confidence with every DIY production skill acquired from days spent poring over YouTube tutorials.

Wang attributes Jungle’s loyal following to its keen and ever-domestic ear. 

“[The Jungle Team] cares about what the Chinese ravers want to see on a lineup,” says Wang. “It’s about more than selling tickets.” 

Both the Jungle founders, a collective of former University of Southern California transfer students, and Chinese EDM at large, owe at least their root infrastructure to dance music conventions from the states; though what’s evolved since their most nascent notions of EDM world-building is unmistakably domestic. Luminn observes the recent rush of Chinese producers opting to include Mandarin and Cantonese lyrics in their tracks. 

As with nearly any art form, there is a degree of reciprocity inherent in Eastern and Western influences that travels through the global dance music scene. Just before his Saturday performance at Jungle’s most recent installment, globetrotting English-born, part-Chinese trap talent, TroyBoi spoke of his manifold use of Asian instrumentation in his productions (“KinjaBang” and “Souls,” are two of the starkest examples).

“I like to create a worldly sound, with an electronic/hip-hop backbone to it that will translate wherever I play,” he says. “It gives me an edge when I come to tour in places like China.”

In comparison to TroyBoi, the LA-based Drezo was one of the most unanticipated additions to the 2018 lineup. Sporting visuals suited for a biopic on Satan himself, and a nefariously pulsing electro/house sound to match, Drezo’s performance was certainly liable to send Jungle patrons into a head-scratching frenzy. Instead, Drezo’s prescribed dose of strange was just what Saturday’s Bass Stage ordered, accruing a commendable crowd that was as excited as it was confounded.

“Something about the atmosphere here reminds me of the [US] scene around 2011,” says Drezo just after his set. “They go crazy for everything.”

Repeat Jungle dignitary, Terry Zhong, a recent grad of Boston’s Berklee College of Music cites Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga’s blurring the lines of pop and dance music as a vessel for EDM’s Chinese infiltration. The Insomniac talent began fine-tuning his piano prowess at the age of five—since then cracking a sundry of local lineups, including EDC Guangdong, as well as prominent bookings throughout the domestic club circuit. 

“[The Chinese] are trying to emulate what’s happening in the US,” says Zhong. “But now we’re starting to grow our own dance scene, to find a Chinese PLUR.”

Sound familiar? 


China’s ‘ban’ on hip-hop evidences music’s cultural permeability [Editorial]

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Hip Hop

Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff of Migos collectively brimmed with anticipation on January 26, 2017. Culture, the Atlanta hip hop trio’s second studio album, was scheduled to drop at midnight — a follow up to 2016’s EP, 3 Way.

Its two lead singles, “Bad and Boujee” and “T-Shirt,” had catalyzed just the heavy anticipation for its release that Migos had sought: “Bad and Boujee” ascended to viral status, going quadruple platinum, while “T-Shirt” went double platinum. Their collaborative labor in the studio was poised to pay off, and the music industry was not only watching—it was attentively listening.

Culture predictably earned Platinum certification after crossing the sale point of more than one-million units. Come the beginning of 2018, the outfit found themselves among the nominees for “Best Rap Album” at the Grammy’s 60th iteration.

Migos released Culture II around the same time as their Grammy nomination. Like its predecessor, this new sequel of an LP was swiftly and hungrily consumed by their fan base, who’d been impatiently awaiting it since its announcement. The play count on Culture II must rest somewhere in the millions by now, and that number will have grown by the time a reader of this editorial reaches its end.

Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff  sit atop a musical empire of their own making, and yet, their broad repertoire would rank entirely as “tasteless, vulgar, and obscene” in today’s Chinese media landscape given its hip-hop classification.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) — the country’s main media regulator—released four new “Don’t” media restrictions on January 19. Television networks are expected to abide by the newly published rules: “1. Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble, 2. Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar, and obscene, 3. Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class, and 4. Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals, and problematic moral integrity.”

The SAPPRFT’s promulgation of these stringent media rules “specifically requires that programs should not feature actors with tattoos [or depict] hip-hop culture, sub-culture (non-mainstream culture) and dispirited culture (decadent culture),” according to Chinese news source, Sina.

Across the Pacific, hip-hop accounted for a quarter of all music consumption in the United States in 2017, surpassing rock music to become the largest musical genre in the country for the first time in history.

Hip-hop’s rise to become the most popular genre of music for the first time last year speaks not only to the genre’s longevity in the context of the US music industry, but additionally to its continuing cultural and economic prominence. An underground musical movement of the mid-1970s, the genre originated in the Bronx in New York City as a recreational outlet that married elements of MCing, DJing, spoken verse, and break dancing. It offered a vocal platform for the block party artists that identified and used it as a vehicle of expression.

While hip-hop rides a wave of unprecedented centrality to the commercial American music market, it is duly an important, and perhaps a lesser known fact that this music remains only in a nascent stage in China. This germinal state of Chinese hip-hop that renders it vulnerable to the SAPPRFT’s newly imposed media rules. In fact, it’s almost as though these rules err on the nationalist side, seeking shut out a subculture with international roots. Hip-hop has not yet received the opportunity to become a cornerstone of musical commerce in the Chinese market, and is thus more susceptible to heavy restrictions — if not total attempted eradication.

The SAPPRFT’s limitations on the Chinese media’s portrayal of hip-hop will only further thwart the genre’s ability to gain a substantial market presence, being that hip-hop and its accompanying subculture is being written out of the Chinese media by the media’s chief regulators. “Hip-hop’s prospects in China seem dim after Chinese rappers [known by the stage names “PG One” and “GAI”] removed from TV shows,” posited a headline from the state-facilitated tabloid, Global Times. Global Times would go on to identify hip-hop as a “tool for people to vent their anger, misery, [and] complaints.” Another national news agency, Xinhua, stated that PG One “does not deserve the stage,” further remarking that “we [China] should say ‘no’ to whoever provides a platform for low-taste content.” PG One’s music has since been removed from a number of online Chinese music websites.

The Chinese Republic’s crusade on hip-hop as duly a genre and kind of culture that is “low-taste” in nature arises out of the state’s desire to regulate pop culture, a primary source of influence for youth in China and elsewhere. The SAPPRFT’s media rules that target the development and potential success of Chinese hip-hop seek to control, contain, and homogenize the pop cultural experience in China, as the genre “threatens” to become as substantial an element of pop culture there as it has in the US. On a more basic level,  “pop culture” classification briefly set aside, the SAPPRFT’s movement against hip-hop portrayal in the Chinese media represents a dangerous model of cultural construction, in which a culture is crafted and defined by its forced limitations.

Yet, as hip-hop flirts with Chinese media censorship its power becomes increasingly clear. The title “hip-hop” bespeaks a musical personality that has resonated in both the US and in China. Hip-hop’s subjection to such stringent regulation only evidences that the genre has traveled internationally, arrived, and exhibited its allure on Chinese ground in a sort of musical cross-pollination that evinces its pervasive quality.