Within mere hours of his flight landing in Mumbai from Amsterdam, I had the honor to sit face to face with Richard Durand, Dutch DJ extraordinaire. Having been to India many times since 1997, he is not outsider to Indian culture. And in keeping with tradition, his first meal upon arriving was – you guessed it – Spaghetti Bolognaise. With Parmesan Cheese, of course. A good welcome, no?
Mumbai was the first destination on his tour to kick of the launch of his new album – “In Search of Sunrise” – which, in his own words, is actually dedicated to the people and spirit of India itself. From the instant one puts in CD1, one get a sense of Indian melodies being played with drums and bass in the background. While not all tracks on the album are stereotypically Indian, replete with flutes and chants and sitars, as is the case with some other electronica out there, the general ambience is quite warm and upbeat; it is almost as it exudes a tropical vibe without really trying hard.
“I wanted to do something very different with this album,” Richard mentioned, “I wanted to go for a sound that wasn’t too deep, not too light… just right.” And though he may be jet setting across the globe, living in fancy hotels and playing exclusive gigs, he has not let any of that get to his head.
According to him, its all about making sure everyone in the audience is having a good time. “Sometimes you can really connect with one particular person in the audience when you’re playing… but then you notice, the entire audience is actually full of that one kind of person.” And thats when you know the crowd and the music are completely in sync with each other. And that is precisely what I was about to get a glimpse of later that night…
We got there fairly early, anticipating a good warm up act – and why wouldn’t we? After all, if a DJ of Richard Durand’s caliber was supposed to play for us later, it wouldn’t be unfair to expect something half decent to set the mood prior to the main act, right?
Imagine our disappointment when, for at least two hours, we sat there trying to make some sense out of Nikhil Chinappa’s opening act. For two hours that seemed like an eternity, DJ Chinappa practically stood there, giving his turntables a lazy spin or two every ten minutes or so; at this juncture, we were really doubtful if he was actually plugged in, since most of the music seemed to be changing only when there was some noticeable activity in the sound recorders’ booth.
Quite seriously, if it weren’t for some fans in the front, bouncing blindly to some pretty blasé bass beats with the occasional change in tempo, one wouldn’t even feel like we were being entertained by a live DJ. If you think about it, even a blind man randomly turning and twisting volume and wavelength knobs would seem amusing enough in comparison.
Around 11 pm, things took a turn for the better the instant Richard Durand and Julie Thompson entered the club. Though they arrived late (maybe a little more than the tolerable threshold for being fashionably late), there was an immediate uproar within the crowd, as people started milling up next to them to take pictures.
And in these few moments, DJ Chinnapa finally showed some signs of life as he announced Durand’s entry, but he didn’t seem keen on letting go of his position until for at least another half hour, in which he continued to bore us with more redundant sounds and beats. Nonetheless, we were stoked to see Durand there, and we knew things could only get better.
In fact, the very instant Durand took to the stage, he wasted no time – after a quick introduction and a few thankful words, he started spinning away, completely revitalizing the seemingly dead atmosphere within Blue Frog at the time. More importantly, he knew how to get the crowds going, as he was able to get them to follow suit with his own gesticulations. And within just two minutes of listening to the Durand’s mixes and productions, one could all but forget the two hours of pain we had to endure before.
Durand’s brand of progressive trance was quite energetic, without trying to be so; ambient keyboard-driven melodies backed by unobtrusive drums and bass and smooth transitions and fade outs between different tracks were definitely successful in keeping the audience completely entranced.
There wasn’t a single dull moment as the crowds jumped and jived to the arpeggiated changes; his sound pallet that night featured just the right amount of delays and reverb effects, without causing an overkill of mixed harmonies being thrown in.
And while this melodious outpour continued, Julie Thompson stepped in on the PA, singing a few songs live. The audience was practically at the beck and call of Durand’s and Thompson’s gestures that night, waving and raving away with at the mere flick of a gesture. All in all, the wonderful music along with Thompson’s fresh vocals brought out a whole new level of energy and enthusiasm within the audience, ensuring that everyone was indeed having a good time.
From afar, with the tropical feel of the music music, complemented by Blue Frog’s light shows and ambience, one could feel oneself transported to some hip club-happy island party in the Mediterranean, dancing away with abandon.
Once again, we were fortunate to be there at Blue Frog that night, for these few moments of escapism from the daily, dreary routines of life on weekdays. We can only hope that Richard Durand will be back soon again, to give his Indian fans a new lease on the European electronic scene.
Photo and Video Credits: Hiloni Kapasi
Special Thanks: Afshaan Karim @ Submerge
That’s right! Catch the man & get a chance to win CDs of his latest album in the December Issue of the Score Magazine!