“People want to be moved and touched by music…” 909originals catches up with Satori

Over the past decade or so, Satori has built a reputation for blending global musical influences with uplifting electronica, on labels such as Underyourskin, DGTL and Crosstown Rebels.

Recently, the Dutch artist developed a new live concept, Maktub, and with pandemic restrictions loosening, he’s just come off a global tour, which took in locations such as Egypt, Cape Town, Berlin and Dubai, as well as various cities across the US.

His latest release is Lalai, a collaboration with Iranian opera singer Ariana Vafadari – an Eastern-tinged, synth-driven cut on Crosstown Rebels. It was released on 28 January, and can be streamed/downloaded here.

909originals caught up with him.

Hi Satori, thanks for talking to us. How has the new year started for you?

My year has been great so far. I took four months off to write new music and travel, visit museums to see art, and learn more about history. It’s an inspirational time for me and enables me to charge up for the rest of the year.

Your new single Lalai is due out on Crosstown Rebels soon. How would you describe it?

The song is sung by Iranian opera singer Ariana Vafadari and it was recorded in a 400 year old water well. Initially, she wrote the lyrics for her son, for when she takes him to bed, but eventually we gave it a broader meaning. It became more of a ‘goodbye’ song, that represents the ‘letting go’ of a person or the ‘letting go’ of day into night. The two extremes were my inspiration.

On one side, you have Ariana, the lullaby, which is very delicate and romantic. On the other hand you have the heavy electronic sounds of beats and synths. It was a big challenge to bring these worlds together, but I am very happy with the result.

You’ve just come off a global Maktub tour. What was that experience like?

It was absolutely beautiful! Obviously, I’ve missed touring around the world with my Maktub show, so it felt liberating.

The energy in each room of each city was very special to me. I guess it had to do with the fact that people have come out of a lockdown, so everyone was in the need to go out, connect and listen to music.

The result of that is that I was playing in front of a crowd who were so appreciative and willing to follow me in any direction during my show. On stage I felt free, and more inspired than ever.

Over the past few years you have developed the Maktub concept from an album into a cinematic live experience –  what has been the most rewarding aspect of that journey?

The most rewarding aspect is to be able to play my more ambient work in front of a big crowd. Some of my songs I can’t play when I do a club show – they are too deep or ambient. But having the visuals supporting an ambient moment in my show make the whole experience more strong and impressive, in a way that catches the attention of a big crowd.

It allows me to let my audience experience my more ambient work, and make it part of my journey. I just love the balance of going from ambient to energy and dancing grooves and back to ambient. It’s almost watching a tango show, with moment of high-energy and firm dance moves and parts of slowness and elegancy.

You have long incorporated global sounds into your productions, in particular the sounds of the Middle East and Africa. What is it about the music from these parts of the world that is so inspiring to you?

It’s funny that people always say Middle East, while for me it’s connected with my Balkan roots. My father is from Serbia. If you look to Balkan music, it has been influenced by the time when the Ottoman empire was ruling over the Balkans. They brought their instruments, their scales, their melodies and the way of singing. So the native people obviously picked up on that.

What you see in present Balkan music are many Oriental scales inherited from the Ottoman era. But then again, Ottoman music was influenced by Persian music during the time of the great Persian empire. So, basically all these countries are influencing each other.

What I am trying to do is to create a bridge between this music and modern electronica. I don’t like to see music as part of a nation. I believe we are all one big family, borrowing ideas from each other, and using it for our own expression.

Prior to the pandemic you were a resident at Heart Ibiza. Are you expecting that to return this summer?

Yes we are working on it as we speak for a brand new concept for my residency in Ibiza. We are gonna start in June. I can’t wait.

Last year marked ten years since you first broke on to the scene – how has your approach to production changed over that time?

Well, it’s an ongoing process, but my music theory has grown, and my skills as a musician has grown, from playing piano, to flute or singing – all basically evolved with daily practice.

At the end of the day, it’s all based on hard work and practice everyday. Fall down seven times, stand up eight times. Besides the skills, I do believe that slowly my music went more to something that is close to my heart.

Now I realise that music is not only entertainment, people want to be moved and touched by music.

We’re now two years on from the start of COVID-19. Is there anything that you think has changed about dance music and club culture as a result of the pandemic?

Yes, there’s no ‘techno police’ on the dancefloors anymore. In 2019, and before, there were always a few of these skin-scratchers during a night who really believed that they had a monopoly on how music needed to be played. I called them the ‘techno police’.

Because of the pandemic and people being in self isolation for months, the crowd is so appreciative for any music event. They find joy in any beat. And we all should, of course.

Music is a blessing and we should celebrate every night we are able to experience music together. So, because of the pandemic, the night feels so positive, and people are too busy having a good time that they are not interested in the opinions of the techno police.

Thanks to Satori for talking to us. Lalai is released on Crosstown Rebels on 28 January, and can be downloaded/streamed here.

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