Shlomi Aber on Be As One, Israeli EDM: "The Political Barriers Can't Be Resolved by Music"
Israel is by no means lagging behind the electronic dance music capitals of the world. In particular, the coastal city of Tel Aviv -- known as the "city that never sleeps" -- boasts a world-class nightlife and voracious appetite for electronic beats. It's no surprise then that Israel would spawn one of the global techno scene's biggest stars, DJ-producer Shlomi Aber.
Counting releases among top international techno labels like Cocoon, Cadenza, and Ovum is impressive enough for any producer -- and it's definitely gotten Aber his share of record sales and industry accolades. But perhaps most significant is his own Be As One imprint, conserving the Detroit techno legacy through output from pioneers like Kenny Larkin and Stacey Pullen, while pushing the future of the genre via homegrown Israeli talent like Gel Abril and Itamar.
Ahead of tonight's headlining performance at FDR Lounge at the Delano for the Notes from the Underground party, Crossfade caught up with Shlomi Aber to chat about the Israeli EDM scene, Be As One, and his upcoming projects.
Crossfade: How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music? Were you exposed to much of it while growing up in Israel?
Shlomi Aber: The Israeli scene used to be really hot in the late '90s to beginning of the 2000s -- probably one of the best places in the world for clubbing back then. I got into the circuit somewhere around the mid '90s. It was that long ago that I hardly even remember why, but I do remember I knew straight away that that's who I am and that's what I'm going to do for the rest of my life.
From what we understand, the Israeli EDM scene has historically had a very strong taste for psy-trance, influenced by the scene in Goa, a popular travel destination for Israeli backpackers. Was there resistance from locals to the Detroit-style techno you were playing in the '90s? What was the scene like in Israel when you first started playing out, and how has the scene evolved since?
That's true that the psy-trance scene used to be massive in Israel. After all, some of the world's most famous psy-trance DJs are from Israel. But it never really dominated the local scene, at least not at the clubs. Most of the trance parties used to be taking place in open nature -- they still are, actually. We used to have a big variety of clubs and musical influences here in Israel -- we all found our places and our scenes. Unfortunately, when the political problems started in the early 2000s, the scene really collapsed. It took some time, but now it is up again big-time, and it's become one of my favorite places to play.
This year, we spoke with "Queen of Techno" Nicole Moudaber -- a native of Lebanon -- and she told us about how the EDM scene in '90s Beirut was bringing Muslims, Jews, Christians and people from all backgrounds together in peace and harmony. What has been your experience as a DJ with the crowds in Israel? Has electronic dance music and the communal dance ritual impacted the political and cultural barriers that exist in any way?
As I'm touring on weekends, I don't really have the chance to go out and check the local clubs. But you can find many tourists, from many backgrounds and religions going out and clubbing around the city. I think Israel is a very open-minded place. It holds some of the biggest, artistic, high-tech, and gay communities in the world. Despite that, as much as I would love to see that it happens, the political barriers can't be resolved by music. If that day will come, I want to be the one who spins the first record.
Your Be As One imprint has been described as a proponent of "highly intelligent music". What can you tell us about this concept? What does "highly intelligent music" mean to you, and how is it different from the rest?
I started Be As One around 2005 with that concept in mind. It never was about a specific type of music, I was just looking for unique dance floor music that would fit my musical vision of back then and kept me excited. As I'm a music lover and not a general "lover", I find it more important to release music that surprises me, different from other labels, but still music I will be able to play out.
As the year closes and you look back, what have been some of the highlights of 2013 for you?
So many. It was a fantastic year. Some great festivals and fun Ibiza moments, but those are all known. The real highlights are in those shows you are not coming to with any expectations -- there, the real magic is happening.
So what can we expect from you in 2014? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to from you and the imprint?
My next release for December to January will be from me on Be As One alongside a dear friend and talented producer, Guti. In addition, my remix om the UK-based Defected Records is coming out around the same dates. It's an interesting vocal project and fun people to work with. It's a real challenge to come from the techno scene and do a remix for one of the most classic house labels of the past 15 years.
Shlomi Aber. With Dakap'n Bump and Snay. As part of Notes From the Underground. Friday, November 8. FDR at the Delano, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-674-5752 or visit delano-hotel.com.
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