Baloo

Baloo, DJ and Creative Director of MDLBEAST talks SOUNDSTORM, the Saudi electronic scene & more: Interview

Baloo is a Saudi house DJ & producer, with years upon years of expertise in the scene on both the creative and technical sides, also being the Creative Director of hugely influential brand MDLBEAST. Being at the forefront of change within Saudi Arabia’s electronic scene and pioneering the scene, pushing it forward and creating new opportunities, we wanted to talk to Baloo not only about his music but also his expertise as a Creative Director. With much to share, We Rave You talked to him about all of this and more.

Hi there, thanks for talking to us! As the Chief Creative Director of MDLBEAST, what are your day to day duties? Can you describe what you do within the company?

“With MDLBEAST, I’ve been working on the company’s overall direction and vision since the start. This includes developing its brand ecosystem, vision, communication, overseeing creative on campaigns, future event concepts and brand innovations, social content, I also dive into line ups and music curation. I work with a wonderful team and I focus on innovation and maintaining our creative quality.”

Being at the forefront of the electronic scene in Saudi Arabia, how do you see the scene growing and evolving even further in the near future, and how important do you feel it is to connect the Middle Eastern scene with the rest of the world? 

“Music is a universal language, and a global conversation. Until December 2019, we weren’t able to be part of the electronic music conversation. We, the local talent, performed in private settings with no hopes of making an income, we only did it for the music. That’s different now, we are able to perform in public and create connections with new audiences, hopefully around the world.

Appetite is huge across the region and will continue to grow. As such, we’ve extended our annual music festival, SOUNDSTORM, to four days instead of three to give everyone the opportunity to watch their favorite artist perform.

The passion for dance music has been around for years thanks to a thriving underground community. Nowadays, however, it’s more popular among a younger generation. There is a new generation hungry for culture and quality music, which comes as no surprise when considering 70% of the population of Saudi is below the age of 30. At MDLBEAST, we’re playing an important role in this change.

Through the talent we work with, the events we put on, and the culture we encourage, we’re building an infrastructure that will develop the music scene not just in Saudi, but across the wider region. The music industry is one, which is why it’s very important we all learn from each other and find inspiration in all sounds. The opportunity has never been bigger and we’re moving quick.”

There have been reservations from people around the world about how this is being backed. Can you elaborate on the people behind it and how you are really making the effort on changes peoples views?

“With the approval for public performance in early 2019, we were able to study our market and build the strategy for MDLBEAST as a big brand beyond the festival. You can imagine, the magnitude of this event requires a full infrastructure, logistics, security, and full clearance from the government, and the government saw the massive benefits on our creative landscape, our creative economy. The people behind this brand are Saudis who see the huge possibilities of these events on our people and our region… so much change in so little time… our lives have completely changed.”

Image credit: MDLBEAST (via Facebook

We know MDLBEAST is trying to change cultural diversity in Saudi Arabia. What are the next steps moving in 2022?

“With global conversation and exposure comes cultural exchange… we aim to continuously evolve our scene and grow our regional audience and presence. We want to contribute to the global conversation and also bring the electronic music scene here to discover our local audiences and to see us for who we actually are.. peaceful, musical, rhythmic people who celebrate life everyday.

Arab youth are the ones creating cultures and movements, and we’re here to amplify this and discover the unseen. The entire region is on the rise, extremely hungry and full of ambitious talent– something we noticed after the success of our inaugural SOUNDSTORM festival. From entertainment through music, live performances and videos, our strategy revolves around supporting talent.

This is why we came up with XP, a platform that aims to bring the best of minds to build the music industry in the region. We’re excited for it and looking forward to what’s going to come out of it, so we begin connecting, working and elevating the music scene.”

What ideas do you have for MDLBEAST to expand even further as a company in the future going forward?

“We already have so many fresh ideas in progress. New record labels, more regional events, more support for our talent to find their voices and showcase their sound to the world, and honestly to build music culture and nightlife in our part of the world. Privately, our nightlife has been thriving with talent, and we are transitioning all this from very private to very public so everyone can join! This way, from our own perspective we can do something similar to what disco did for New York music culture in the late 70s…Everyone sharing music on one dancefloor. We are there, pushing for underground music to leave private spaces and become accessible to everyone.”

If MDLBEAST wasn’t pushing the cultural changes, where would Saudi be right now and would things ever move forward?

“So many great things are happening in Saudi aside from MDLBEAST. We are living a creative cultural renaissance. Celebrating self-expression in art, music, film, sports, tourism, and cuisine, among many other things.

So many local musicians and young entrepreneurs are diving into creating music event brands like Noctuary, EKO, KNZ, Astronauts Lab, White Oasis, Glitch, and many many more.. these are the brands that have helped grow our scene…”

Speaking of the company expanding, it recently announced a brand new music conference called XP. Can you tell us more about the conference and what people can expect from it? 

“Yes! The most exciting parts of our work at MDLBEAST are the growth opportunities through education and cultural exchange. The XP Music Conference is based on building music-centric economies, based on four pillars: Talent – Scene – Policy – Impact. Music comes with an ecosystem, a space for our local entrepreneurs, multiple creative professionals, policy makers, and event promoters to cross paths and build the larger scene… with talent, music labels, event brands, and tourism all working together to build the bigger picture.”

We wanted to also know Baloo as a DJ, including what his style of house music is like and how the two sides of the industry may intersect together for him.

Aside from being the Creative Director, you also produce and DJ under the name Baloo. When did you get into producing? Tell us more about your musical origins. 

“I am first and foremost a DJ. I have dabbled in production over the course of my career but really never saw an end benefit to it considering what the social and cultural landscape was when i was just getting started in music. Nevertheless, I am releasing some music, collaborations with my friend, DJ / Producer Carlo, this year under Aterral Records and soon launching a new record label focusing on the underground house music spectrum.”

How would you describe your style of house music? 

“Groovy, deep, filthy, and percussive. I learned music through the Washington DC and New York scenes, a very distinct sound. Very purist in my approach to house music, but also hungry for fresh sounds and innovative approaches to making house tracks.”

 

With shows lined up such as sets at SOUNDSTORM’s upcoming edition this December, how do you approach planning for your sets? Are they carefully crafted or do you like to freestyle? 

“Last time around I freestyled. I had no choice, there was way too much going on, I played three times over the festival. I think this time around I will have more preparation for sure, I have my own tracks to play this time and I’m excited to see people’s reactions. But to answer your question honestly, I’ll probably prepare as much as I can and will end up freestyling anyway… you can never predict how the crowd reacts.”

Since you have had extensive experience within the music industry on both sides as both a producer and industry expert, how different do you think the two different experiences are? 

“Well the two feed each other beautifully. Being an artist helps me think and build with talent and audiences at the heart. I think my lifelong interactions with events as an audience member also plays a role here, in many instances.

So cultural context, talent and a lifelong relationship with music and its events, all those aspects constantly play a role in decision-making and my design thinking processes.”

Finishing up, are there any plans that you would like to tell us about? What can we expect from you and MDLBEAST as we go into 2022? 

“We have a lot of new concepts in the works, SOUNDSTORM is our flagship annual event and our biggest, but there’s so much room for smaller events to take place in our main cities and in some of our regional destinations, in Saudi and beyond. There are so many opportunities to create here, people to entertain, talent to support and amplify, really building room for job creation in these creative endeavors. We are working on a new label to launch, new events, new music content and all kinds of media.

Next is More!”

You can find Baloo and the MDLBEAST crew at both the XP conference and SOUNDSTORM this month. To find out more about both, click here.

A 23 year old dance music enthusiast from Manchester, UK. Lover of all genres, especially dubstep and house. Find me at gigs and festivals across the world.

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