It’s 4 in the afternoon. The sun is shining on everyone moving their bodies to the repetitive beats blasting out of the speakers. DGTL Festival, held in the NDSM docklands in Amsterdam, brought them all together, providing music to die for. Mano Le Tough is the man of the hour creating an incredible atmosphere on the dancefloor. People are dancing, smiling, chatting; all in sync with the heavenly bass. There is not a single unhappy face to be found in the crowd. And what a crowd it is! You can find every personality imaginable in a modern society. Shoreditch’s finest hipsters are dancing next to brutal-looking amigos from Spain; edgier Berlin clubbers are standing full of pride and rhythmically shaking their heads, adding a hand movement every now and then. An interesting conversation is happening behind me: a skinny French guy rocking a Baline shirt (who looks like he turned 16 yesterday) is arguing with a ‘raving granny’ – a woman in her 50’s who definitely saw how and when house and techno started. The topic of their dispute is quite obvious: music. The tween is trying to convince his opponent that some track is absolutely amazing. The woman is clearly not a big fan; saying that this ‘sugarbabes lullaby’ should be buried so nobody can hear it. I did not hear the end of conversation, but something tells me that they did not come to a consensus.
I keep meeting new people: weird-looking hippies juxtaposing the industrial landscape of the docklands; a group of LADs from England; and some Dutch dudes who look like models from Men’s Health. All these people are so different, yet they are all here. They are all here for music. Music with no distinct type of followers; music loved by a rainbow of characters. I keep walking and thinking: what is the secret? Why is this music loved by so many?
Firstly, let’s clarify something. I am talking about dance music here, not EDM. Although these two definitely have similarities and overlaps, they are aborigines of two different tribes. Dance music is mostly an underground movement played in intimate clubs and temporarily venues with a variety of sub-genres followed by devoted fans. EDM is the more mainstream, big money cousin with lead artists such as Skrillex, Tiesto and Avicii being, somewhat, the pop-stars of today. I do not mean to offend anyone’s music tastes here, but differences must be made.
Anyway, back to the topic. Why is dance music getting more and more popular?
Firstly, there is something for everyone. A variety of sub-genres gives you the opportunity to discover your taste. And within these sub-genres there are sub-sub-genres. For example, there is deep-, tech-, electro-, acid- and other god-knows-what-else house music. And all these sub-genres/sub-sub-genres are very different from each other. So if you are a fan of deep, it doesn’t mean that you’ll go crazy about electro. Those who are not into house (weird people) will find their tune in techno, electronic, downtempo, garage, dubstep. There will be something you like. If there is not, just wait. This music is evolving every day, so just come back and check tomorrow.
Now to a less exciting point – globalisation and technological advances. The development of digital platforms for music and internet in general have made it easier to find these underground sounds. A trip to a record store or a visit to someone with that collection was a must before platforms like Soundcloud and the all-mighty YouTube came around. Now, the discovery of music is easy and can be done from the comfort of your couch. It is just one click away. You just need to be able to find the true gems in all these unlimited piles of tracks. The 21st century is fully in power and technology is stepping further and further forward. People stopped memorising because we have USB drives, we type faster then we think and we don’t have our own music taste because we have YouTube recommendations instead. Don’t get me wrong, I do occasionally use these recommendations myself but sometimes they are crap, official crap. A good example is the channel loved by many – Majestic. As one of Youtube’s most recommended channels, there are definitely a few good tracks in the channel’s collection, but a lot of them are just Rihanna remixes with 4/4 time signature and a half-naked girl as the videoclip cover. So don’t follow all its suggestions. Just don’t.
There is even a psychological reasoning for a popularity of dance music. Dance music is based on a lot of repetitions and loops. And as it turns out, the human brain likes repetitions. Psychologists discovered that people like things they have experienced before. It does not matter what it is: a picture, a chocolate muffin or a sound; people seem to like it more when they encounter something for a second, third or millionth time. With sound being one of our main tools for the world perception, it is no wonder that we enjoy a sound when it is familiar, and dance music delivers.
Meanwhile at DGTL, I keep walking and reach another stage where KiNK is rocking the crowd. And I think of another reason. The atmosphere created by dance music cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. All these people remind me of a family. You can go up to someone and start talking, have a small dance with a complete stranger or even share the ice-cream you’re holding in your hands. Everyone is united, because they are part of something. Although dance music is getting more and more popular, there is still that feeling that you’re a part of something that is known only to you and a few others. There are obviously another million reasons for its popularity, but, call me a romantic – I think that the family feeling is the most important of all.
Words: Nazira Kassenova