ADE Global Sessions Aruba and Electric Festival: A weekend in electronic music paradise
Most people know of Aruba. Perhaps a catchy Beach Boys chorus comes to mind or maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to visit the white sandy beaches of the Southern Caribbean island. The small destination is a melting pot of cultures: a sovereign state of The Netherlands, the island is littered with a jarring amount of Dutch influence for a place so distant from Europe. Residents switch casually between Dutch and Spanish, and then to a bizarre mix of the two, their local language, Papiamento.
Three years ago, it only made sense for one of electronic music’s premier conferences to begin expanding their reach beyond the Dutch realm, and Aruba was a home away from home. Amsterdam Dance Event’s Global Sessions landed in the Caribbean for the first time in 2012, a clairvoyant decision to open the gateway to the Latin American market as well as the oft overlooked pocket of culture in the Caribbean.
Though popular music and culture still fails to properly recognize the true power of dancehall and its many subgenres, there is no denying its influence in some of today’s biggest hits. OMI’s “Cheerleader” was a massive collective effort between several Jamaican talents that went multi-platinum and remains a popular radio hit today. Major Lazer, a dancehall fusion group championed into popularity largely thanks to Diplo, landed this year’s most massive summer hit with “Lean On,” which became the first No. 1 hit on Top 40 radio from an indie, artist-owned label.
Arguably, there is no better time to focus in on the Caribbean region than now, during a time when their influence is making huge waves on Western and worldwide radio. ADE Global Sessions set the scene — though on the beach, rather than typical conference rooms — for pertinent figures to sit down and share their own knowledge about the Latin American markets, Aruba as a base for the growing electronic presence in the Caribbean, and of course, the background and history of dancehall and its influence on the world. Recognized talents like Chuckie, who is now based in Aruba, as well as Loco Dice sat down and faced questions from South American peers and journalists, eager to have their own words in with the major artists.
Photo: Hans van den Heuvel
But the panels were not the only place that these artists took the stage. ADE in Aruba is held in partnership with Electric Festival, a growing two-day event on the island that beckoned a diverse line up of talents. Like Aruba’s own culture, the festival was a melting pot of styles: Friday was heavily commandeered by electro house talents like The Partysquad, Chuckie, NERVO and Afrojack, while Saturday gave way entirely to the deeper grooves of techno talents like Caleb Calloway and Loco Dice.
Electric Festival is only in its third year and remains simple with only one stage, but the team behind EF seems to be masters at balancing the vastly different audiences of Aruba, and the growing global presence of its show. Void of all the bells and whistles, Electric Festival keeps the focus on what’s really important: the music. All night, festival-goers grooved with signature easygoing energy of the island, whether to the up-and-down bounces of Chuckie or to the building progressions of Loco Dice, late into the night.
Photo: Ramsay Soemanta
However, where ADE Global Sessions truly shined was far from its main stages and rather, right where most would feel at home in Aruba — close to the water under the warm sunshine. The final day of Global Sessions was a decompression of sorts. The day began with a sunset cruise around the Southern coast of the island, but in ADE style, the cruise was accompanied by a fiery performance from The Partysquad. A true Caribbean fusion formed as the party continued on, when the Dutch duo were joined by Aruba native Fellow and Jamaica’s Kamal Bankay to round out the boat trip.
The catamaran was eventually docked at the Renaissance hotel’s private island that played host to a party that lasted well into the late (or early) hours of the night. Led by Paco Osuna and a slew of other talents, ADE received a closing party that it deserved, set right on the beach as waves crashed just feet away from the DJ booth.
Aruba is a world far away from the typical Western scenes many have become accustomed to. Highlighted by some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and warm breezes, the island gathering provided the perfect precursor for ADE’s flagship event, set to take place in just a few weeks after in its home base of Amsterdam. ADE continues to pioneer new frontiers for vital conversation about electronic music and its many roots around the world. For any region of electronic music, there’s no way to ignore the impactful influences of the Caribbean region and its talents — let ADE and Electric Festival be your guide and you definitely can’t go wrong.