Exclusive: Armin Van Buuren on Myanmar, trance music and meeting the King
ELECTRONIC dance music has exploded onto the Myanmar scene in recent years, with world-famous DJs such as Afrojack and R3hab playing sold-out shows around the country.
But today, five-time No 1 DJ in the world Armin Van Buuren is set to headline the We Are Connected music festival at ONE Entertainment Park in Thingangyun township. A native of the Netherlands, the Grammy-nominated DJ arrived in Myanmar on November 21 to prepare for his set.
The Myanmar Times had a chance to catch up with him yesterday about his experience so far in the Golden Land, as well as his thoughts on EDM’s recent boom in popularity. (We also got him to talk about meeting the King of the Netherlands.)
So how do you find Myanmar?
I’m super-excited to be here. I do a weekly radio show, A State of Trance, and on the show, I engage with social media to check the reactions to music I’m producing. Normally people are like, “When will you come to Australia?” or “When will you come to Argentina?” But lately, more people have been asking, “When will you come to Myanmar?”
Now I’m here, and I’m very excited that many of my fans are already waiting. I think this is a really great country – people have been super-friendly and I feel very safe. So far, I’m enjoying the fact that it’s so sunny.
You’re here now, and other DJs such as Hardwell, Yellow Claw and Martin Garrix are planning to come in the next few months. Why do you think Myanmar fans have embraced EDM so tightly?
I think it’s really great that the people embrace DJ culture and dance music. I think dance music, right now, is as popular as The Beatles were in the 60s. It’s appealing to a lot of young people, and even pop music on the radio often has dance music beats behind it. Having so many festivals and DJs in Myanmar is a pretty new thing, but I think it’s really great – people have a lot to choose from. They can see which artists they like. We love the competition because we have to do our very best if other festivals are coming soon after us. We want to be very special – I’m not just here to press play and throw my hands up. People will see a complete show, with visuals. Hopefully we blow them away.
Who are the up-and-coming DJs fans should be looking out for?
I’m super-excited about guys like David Gravell, Reuben de Ronde, Orjan Nilsen, MaRLo and Andrew Rayel.
In 2014, your song “This Is What It Feels Like” was nominated for a Best Dance Recording Grammy Award, making you the first trance music DJ to ever be nominated. What was that experience like, and what are your goals from here?
I mean it was a really great moment in my life. At the time, I was touring in Australia. I was sitting in the artist waiting area and I saw somebody mention it on Twitter. I was like, “WHAT!” It’s still the highlight of my career. Winning a Grammy is absolutely one of my remaining goals, but it’s also something you can’t control, ya know? So I just want to keep making music.
As a leading pioneer of trance music, what do you think the future holds for the genre?
What I’m seeing in trance music right now is a lot of diversification. Trance music is not just one genre any more – we have uplifting, psychedelic, vocal, tech … so many different types of trance coming out. Every subgenre has its own following.
One event we will hold next year in February will have four different areas with four different types of trance. So the amazing thing about this – in answer to your question – is the fact that trance music is growing so fast. Not just one type of song, but many types that remain very melodic and emotional. I’m super happy about that.
You had a chance to meet King WilemAlexander of the Netherlands in 2013 at his inauguration. What was that moment like for you, to meet your king?
It was incredible because it wasn’t planned. I was playing in the celebration after his coronation, and they [the royals] were hopping on the boat. The idea was that they would stop by several of the events taking place. So there’s 5 million people watching the live broadcast on television, and I’m the last stop on their tour. I was actually playing with the royal symphony orchestra.
So what happened was, he actually got off the boat, he came on stage and he shook my hand. He did that unscripted. To get a handshake from the newly crowned king in front of 5 million people watchin on TV and 25,000 people dancing in front of you … It was very special.
You earned a law degree in 2003 from Leiden University. Do you ever get to use it?
I’m not exactly defending cases. But it’s really good to know a lot about tax and copyright laws when you have to read the contracts about the music that you are releasing. It’s also good to know a lot about international tax laws because I have to pay taxes in many countries.
Van Buuran will perform tonight as the headliner of a line-up that includes Firebeatz, MaRLo, Bassjackers, Husman, Deuce and local DJ Kendrick starting at 4pm. Tickets are available for K35,000.
Armin Van Buuren (centre, black shirt) poses with organisers at a press conference ahead of today’s show.
Van Buuren plays today at ONE Entertainment Park in Thingangyun Township.
The Netherlands native has played shows around the world and been ranked the world’s No 1 DJ five times by DJ Mag.