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Dance Buenos Aires, Dance: South American Music Conference
Costa Salguero, Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 10-11, 2004
By Ryan Gawn
(more articles from this author)
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The first South American Music Conference landed in Buenos Aires, with a host of international DJs joining local talent to the delight of over 22,000 fans. Boasting 29 international DJs, 35 South American DJs and four arenas of music, this event made its first tentative steps towards establishing itself in the global calendar.

The New York Times’ recent article (Rachel Dodes, 12th December, 2004) commented on the influx of foreign visitors to Buenos Aires. They are described as strolling through the streets of the trendy Palermo Viejo neighborhood, visiting the many sights that the city offers, as well as enjoying the delicious beef and wine. Nevertheless, the article, entitled “Why go now” neglected to mention yet another reason for an influx of visitors to the city – the first South American Music Conference .

Buenos Aires has long been regarded as the dance music centre of South America. After jockeying with Brazil and after hosting Creamfields Buenos Aires in 2002, Argentina has finally solidified itself as the capital of electronica in South America. The SAMC is yet just another of Heineken Music’s many offerings around the world – having maintained a strong presence in the Southern cone with Heineken Thirst, they have helped develop local DJ and music industries, as well as bring a number of international DJs to the continent. With the reputations of Detroit, Miami and the forthcoming London in Spring 2005, many saw the SAMC as the chance for Argentina and South America to become firmly established in the global calendar. Gustavo Sofovich, event organizer and producer commented on his idea and projections for the future:

“Having lived in Miami, I saw the model that is the Winter Music Conference. So why not create a South American conference like Miami, so that DJs, promoters, record labels, club owners could come together? In 2004 we began the kick off for a lot of parties and conferences. In February we’ll be hosting Tiesto again, and then we’ll have South American Techno, which is a pure techno festival. The idea is that in four to five years, we’ll be just like Miami – four or five days of conference and parties. By the 4th year we’ll have over 50,000 people.”

Attended by fans, musicians, DJ’s, producers, radio programmers, fashion designers, distributors, music publications, music schools, record labels, event organizers and club owners the Conference gave many the opportunity to network and discuss the local and international industry. Elio Riso (Argentine DJ and producer) commented on the importance of the SAMC for South America:

“I believe it’s very important for South America that there’s a conference, especially since for seven or eight years there has been the Winter Music Conference in Miami. Now the industry can begin to look at South America a lot more. Despite a larger quantity of people in Brazil, the scene is a lot more advanced in Argentina. This also creates competition with Creamfields, which can only be good for the fans. With the economic situation, a lot of tourists are visiting Argentina, and this also means that there is better exposure of international DJs in the country. I think the crowd is here tonight, to see both the international and south American DJs – the DJs are giving it their best, as is the crowd.”

Day One – Panels, networking and more panels

The first day of the two-day conference was primarily educational, consisting of a series of panels covering themes such as DJ origins, digital distribution, promotion, radio and agencies. With 600 attendees, both foreigners and locals were enthusiastic and eager to learn - one speaker commented that there were 20 times as many people in the audience compared to a similar panel at the Miami conference.

One of the most interesting panels saw Canada’s John Acquaviva, Germany’s birthday boy Chris Liebing, and the UK’s Omid 16B discussing the new technologies available to DJs with local DJs. After debating the merits of scratching technology such as Final Scratch, Acquaviva mentioned the democratization of the music, explaining that technology has made mixing a lot more accessible due to software and price reduction – an issue that has significantly affected local DJs. As Carlos Shaw mentioned, with the prices of technology dropping, and the increasing amount of good software available online, the hardware divide has disappeared in South America – now the divide is talent-related.

DJs also discussed use of the internet, the increasing lack of exposure given to B-sides (due to the increased use of mp3s), and the worthlessness of technology without an idea or inspiration. Omid 16B made a very strong impression on the locals, when he pointed out that for him, being a DJ was not just about money or fame. This conflicted with some local views, which (in light of the economic situation in the country) see it as a moneymaking venture and business rather than a chance for artists to develop their work.

“What I was trying to do on the panel was to explain that part of their oppression is due to the fact that they believe it exists. If you’re going to make your music based on that, you’re never going to make good real individual music. You’re always going to make music that somehow passes the pass mark to get you recognised. To really be something special, try to shake of all the negativity from the past, live in the present, and try and be creative with the present.”

With the local Argentine ego at stake, some thought that South American DJs on the panel felt under pressure to prove themselves against the international heavyweights. For some, this was their first time on a panel, and the experience divide was evident at times.

Perhaps this would have been overcome by the presence or input of homegrown Hernan Cattaneo. The world-renowned #22 (DJ mag poll) DJ and producer was surprisingly not present at the conference, despite having played only a week earlier in the city with John Digweed. On the downside, some of the DJs were very obviously under prepared, and despite the panel being “technical,” there were no demonstrations of use of technology nor related techniques.

Another highlight of the conference was the Festival & Party organization panel. This was made up of international promoters and organizers, with experience mainly from North America. Event Producer Brad Roulier (The Church) provided a very detailed description of his work in Colorado, offering hints and tips on expanding and developing the scene. Macedonian Viktor Mizo talked about his humble beginnings as party organizer in Pennsylvania to huge events in Manhattan, as well as how to put together a fluid and coherent lineup. Finally, the conference was treated to a presentation by organizers of the Detroit Music Conference, who shared insights and tips from one of the best conferences in the industry.

Despite the differing opinions and attitudes, the international and local DJs found the panels useful and interesting. The comments and questions from the crowd displayed their deep interest in the issues. Nevertheless, with the quantity and quality of information, it was quite tiring for many, and quite a few attendees mentioned that the panels could have been spread out more (perhaps two days of panels) and not so concentrated – a positive indication for next year’s conference.

Another important part of day one was the inevitable networking and contact-building. With many DJs, journalists and promoters having come to Argentina for the first time, it gave the outside world the chance to realize that there was good information and opportunities to be developed with the local scene. Liebing was one of the many DJs in Argentina for the first time.

“I think the music conference is a good thing to get people together to pass on information which would not otherwise be passed on at regular parties. But then again, you should not make it too theoretical – one convention like this a year in a region is enough, but the rest should be parties.”

Hundreds of personalities were milling around, exchanging ideas and business cards at the seminars and numerous after-parties in the local clubs. Local record labels, music schools, amateur DJs and artists also got chances to showcase their talents, giving many opportunities and exposure. Many DJs commented that as a first conference they were very impressed. Acquaviva was amazed that both the conference and closing party were so well attended:

“I think that this is pretty good for a first effort. I actually think there’s a lot of potential in the Latin world, it’s up for the English speaking world to realize that that Latin world has a real power and potential in the industry.”

Many concurred that although Day One had been a success, there was still not the party atmosphere that you would see in Miami. Being a lot more educationally orientated, it seems like only a matter of time before the right balance is struck.

Day Two – The Closing Party

Kicking off at an early 4 pm, the second day brought 22,000 buzzed and enthusiastic fans to the port-side Costa Salguero complex by the Rio de la Plata. Four huge, air-conditioned dance floors awaited revelers, as well as stalls, flamethrowers and jugglers. With energy drinks, Heineken and sushi in abundance, the fans had high expectations after months of publicity, pre-parties and buildup - they were not disappointed. Armed with necklaces listing each arena’s lineup, many moved from room to room, eager to hear their favorite DJ, or even listen to something new. New York Producer Jim Welch was impressed with the fact that huge quantities of fans would move between rooms, searching out their DJs in an educated and dedicated manner.

The HOUSE room was host to up and coming Peruvian team Vich & Berger. Berger commented on his set (which included a roof-raising a cappella from Iio’s “Rapture”) and the warm response he received from the local crowd:

“I’m not really sure if they were really knowledgeable about the music that I play, but at least I got a really good response. The people were dancing, smiling, they’re really nice & courteous compared to New York. They seem really loyal to the DJ here. I spoke to Zabiela, and he told me that I had to come down here – the people are really friendly, and the response was overwhelming. Usually it’s a challenge for me to motivate the people, but the people here are really open-minded, and it’s just taught me that music is the best form of communication, no matter what language you speak. People here are devoted to the music. They want to be there, they want to dance, they don’t care. You can play a track from 2001, and they’ll dance to it – they’re not like nerds – they will dance to anything.”

Locals Elio Riso and Luis Callegari took over, as well as international heavyweights such as Bad Boy Bill, Danny Rampling (who also played at Buenos Aires’ first ever Creamfields), Acquaviva, Smoking Jo and Pete Tong. He treated the masses to a typical Tong set, with remixes of Guy Gerber’s “Stoppage Time” and Eric Prydz’ “Call on me,” leaving no doubt that a more popular touch was present at the SAMC. Acquaviva, having gained a lot of fans from his performance on the previous day’s panel, took over from Tong, playing a less commercial set that went down a storm. The US’s Green Velvet finished off the lineup, playing to an exhausted but up-for-it crowd.

Only a few metres away, Room 2/3 hosted the PROGRESSIVE / TRANCE lineup of mainly international talent such as Lucien Foort, Way Out West (the only group to play “live” using instruments that evening) and well-known Argentina-fan Nick Warren. Full to the brim at 8 pm, there was notable Argentine talent in Room 2/3 consisted of Aldo Haydar and Javier Bussola, the latter playing an amazing set which paved the way for Tall Paul. Many agreed that the best lineup was to be found in this arena, and few were disappointed. Brit Judge Jules certainly did not disappoint, with his set being one of the best of the night. It was predictable Jules – hard, deep and thumping trance, which was warmly received by the steaming Argentines, who rarely see him in South America. Ferry Corsten, who is becoming a bit of a regular here in Buenos Aires, closed the night with an amazing three hour set that left the crowd chanting for more after his trademark “Rock your body rock.” As far as visuals go, things were quite disappointing – despite the previous day’s discussions concerning the increasing popularity and promising future of video technology in clubs, Room 2/3’s VJ had left by 2 am, leaving things to the computer. Nevertheless, the amazing lighting effects in all fourrooms made up for this.

Videos aside, Room 4 (TECH HOUSE) showcased the South American talent. Chilean DJ Tony Mass, Argentina’s Tommy Jacobs and Dr. Trincado played to a devoted crowd till sunset. Evil Eddie Richards then warmed things up further for fellow Brit Justin Robertson, who handed over to a remarkable set by local Diego Ro-k. The home crowd literally gave it their all for the “Maradonna of DJs” playing cutting-edge techno house. As one of the stars of the conference, many agreed that it is this type of genuine talent that the SAMC has helped expose. Diego was followed by yet another highlight of the conference – Tiga. Bathed in blue light, the crowd went crazy with the Canadian, knowing exactly which buttons to push on his first visit to the country, playing an untypical but very danceable set. After these two awesome sets, Derrick May / Francois K had a difficult act to follow. Circulation finished off the steamy arena with a hard house onslaught till the small hours.

Last but not least was Room 5, which was full to the brim with the true TECHNO fans. Room 5’s temperature definitely surpassed the typical Argentine summer in this huge arena, with many fans literally just stripping off in the heat. There were also a high number of female DJs here – something that was lacking in the other rooms. Colombian Diego Mystick kicked things off, and was followed by a host of South Americans, such as Brazilian beauty Ingrid Chasseraux, fellow Brazilians Fabricio Pecanha and Anderson Noise. Argentine Dero handed over the decks to the northern hemisphere. Misstress Barbara and Magda played reasonably before the highlights of the night arrived, with Belgium’s Marco Bailey being the first of four banging sets that made this arena possibly the best of the night. The roar of approval for superstar Richie Hawtin’s set was astounding, with this it being one of the four highlights of the techno room. Scandinavian techno idol Christian Smith kept up the pace admirably, with Chris Liebing stealing the show to end with a stormer that left the crowd exhausted after the four-set mayhem. Liebing’s performance during the conference left a big impression that has not gone unnoticed – he will certainly be welcome in Argentina in the future.

With the event closing up, all internationals were full of praise for the Argentine crowd and Buenos Aires, and many were surprised with the friendliness and response of the punters. Roulier commented:

“I’m honestly completely blown away. I didn’t really know what to expect, and then when I came down I realized that this was the first time that the South American Music Conference was happening, and to see these types of responses. It’s very overwhelming, very inspiring, because things like this don’t happen in North America. I’ve been absolutely blown away, it’s really impressive. I’m sure every single DJ would say the same thing – it’s way more than they could expect.”

Many were very impressed with the crowd’s knowledge and lack of categorizing – the scene is still relatively young in Argentina, and the crowd is less judgmental and just enjoy the music for what it is. Many thought that the crowd responded a lot better than they would in Miami - fashion-status has not hit Buenos Aires yet, and the only grumbles really concerned the duration of it (too short). Some also mentioned the lack of Latin influence, but said that the passion of the crowd made up for this. The warmth and friendliness of the crowd is not the only reason that Buenos Aires has established itself so well. The homegrown industry has been slowly coming to its own, and in light of local-turned-superstar Cattaneo’s success, local talent have realized that they too have something to contribute internationally.

Many also mentioned that they had learnt a lot from their time. Omid commented on what he had learnt from his time at the SAMC:

“We need to make a bit more of an effort in knowing what’s going on around the world. The British press are very stuck in their ways, and don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on globally. No agencies that I’m aware of around the world seem to be noticing these people and this amazing talent.”

As the early morning summer sun beat down on Buenos Aires, thousands of ecstatic but exhausted fans streamed out onto the streets of the city, to the many after parties around the city. The squinting eyes were accompanied by broad smiles, as they knew that Argentina was now firmly on the map. New York record label legend Jim Welch sums up his experience at the conference and what it means for the scene.

“I had an idea that it was going to be a pretty groundbreaking event, but it’s really amazing to see things go way beyond peoples’ expectations and see electronic music growing so quickly in this country and throughout South America – it’s like the same thing that was going on in 1993 / 1994 in Europe, but in it’s own new and modern way. It’s incredible, and I really believe that as it develops it’s going to give back to the rest of the global scene. This will happen every year from now on and it will get bigger and bigger, I’m sure, inspiring artists from all over South America. If I can help with this, then that’s an amazing thing. This is only going to get bigger.”

Look out Miami!

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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