To say that someone was born to make music is a cliché. Yet when it comes to Brazilian DJ Alok Petrillo, known simply as Alok, who grew up with DJ parents and began playing professionally at the age of 12, it's appropriate.
Tonight, January 19, Alok returns to Miami for the first time since Ultra, where he appeared for the first time last year. Miami is one of five dates on a U.S. tour that finds Alok criss-crossing the country. He calls his experience at Ultra “amazing” and says it was a “dream come true” to share the stage with some of the best in the business. He also worked with Ultra this past October in Rio de Janeiro.
In fact, Ultra was just one of many successes in 2016, a year that saw Alok’s profile grow exponentially. The 25-year-old went from relative unknown to one of the top DJs in the world thanks in part to a slew of singles. One of them, “Hear Me Now,” featured a collaboration with Bruno Martini and Zeeba.
Alok's parents, who have been playing for 20 years, were frontrunners of Brazil's dance music scene. While their son makes a name for himself, they’re still busy at home. "Yes, they are DJs; they still play," he says. "They are pioneers in the electronic scene here in Brazil. When I was in school and I told people my parents were DJs, they didn't understand. Now when my sister, she's 12 years old, says, 'My brother is a DJ,' everyone thinks it's really cool. Things are changing.”
So her brother may be cool now because he's a DJ, but are her parents cool?
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"Yeah, they are still cool. They play really, really underground. They play the psytrance scene. My dad also [organizes] one of the biggest festivals in South America. It's called Universo Paralello, which is seven days of
Being cool is not Alok’s goal either. In 2015, DJ Magazine named him “Best DJ in Brazil.” The accolades and festival appearances only multiplied thereafter.
"Last year was a breakout year of going outside Brazil, out into the world. It's really hard for Brazilian artists to get known outside of here, and usually people get big and stay here in Brazil. Things are starting to happen, and I'm really happy about that because I never did something cheesy, you know? I always try to do something real. I never sold myself to something I thought people could accept better. I just did something I really believed in, nothing really commercial.”
Still, it isn’t always a good thing when people know your name.
Last spring, the young DJ accidentally ran afoul of one of EDM's biggest personalities, Joel Zimmerman, better known as Deadmau5. The notoriously quick-to-anger Zimmerman went on a series of Twitter rants after he came to believe that Alok had ripped and "performed" a then-unreleased track, "Imaginary Friends," at Tomorrowland Brasil. In a video post on Facebook, Alok explained that the track was already online and that he hadn't even incorporated it into his set. The track was playing in the background as Alok spoke into a microphone, addressing the crowd.
"I felt the track had a really nice vibe, but I didn't use the drop, I didn't use the building-up, I didn't use anything at all. I just used the one part to speak. It was weird to see his reaction. I apologized because I would never mean to disrespect him at all. I love his stuff."
After explaining the situation, Deadmau5 actually turned around and apologized to Alok.
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"He said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. Sometimes I wake up pissed off at the world.' I was like, 'It’s fine; keep rocking.' I think it was the first time he apologized to someone."
Alok says he wants to make a difference, and not just on the dance floor spinning saccharine house beats. He’s still at the beginning of his career, but he’s already well into several philanthropic efforts, working with impoverished children in Africa, as well as Grupo de Apoio ao Adolescente e Criança com Câncer (
"In my life, I'm not here looking at numbers; I'm not here looking for popularity and fame. I'm looking to be something that is important because fame is a trap. A lot of people get famous, and the next day, people forget them... [I want] to do an important thing that will make people remember me tomorrow even if I'm not more successful, to do something special while I was here on Earth.”