A recent global first saw chart-topping DJ Tiesto host a conference on the Twitter.com internet site about his collaboration with SAMA winning rockers Blk Jks – and the border-hopping digital world we now inhabit.
This column originally appeared in the Cape Argus ‘Tonight; section on 1-2 May 2010.
It’s 5pm sharp on Wednesday evening and, across the globe, a phalanx of music journalists furrows their collective brows to squeeze their questions into a 140 character limit. It’s the new digital way – a press-conference held via Twitter, the latest communication fad to sweep the internet. Rather than a bank of microphones facing Tiesto, and a room of expectant scribes with pens poised, this conference has writers plugged into their laptops, firing off questions via ethernet cable and wi-fi links to an interview subject thousands of kilometres away, and hoping to solicit answers shorter than a single SMS message.
In this world, I’m @evnm (short for http://www.twitter.com/evnm), a moniker deliberately chosen because it only takes up five of those precious 140 character spaces. The cutting-edge internet style of this unique Twitter press-conference suits the event perfectly – it’s all in support of the Smirnoff Experience “MashUp” concert, which turns the traditional concept of a concert on its head. Here fans cannot buy tickets, they can only win them. Its a world of digital downloads and branded experiences, of iPods and MP3s, of Twitter “tweets” and Facebook “posts”. In the online space, music-lovers are connected by pixels, social networks and mobile phones that allow them to carry the world wide web in their pockets. Here, fans are invited to “Like” the Smirnoff group on the Facebook.com website. Then, after answering a few basic questions, they are rewarded with an MP3 copy of “Dreaming”, the new Tiesto vs Blk Jks collaboration. You score eight minutes of banging dance anthem that’s yours to own for a the price of a quick internet interaction.
“I like how Dreaming came out,” Tiesto “tweets” in answer to @lucidonline, a team of digital marketing strategists and multi-media creators who’ve dialled in from Britain. “It was great to work w/ BLK JKS. They are coming from a completely different place musically.” Lucid do well in the answer stakes – Tiesto has only 30 minutes to address four questions from the twenty scattered journalists, decide on answers and then squeeze those into the 140 character constraint which defines the Twitter.com platform. About new projects, Tiesto tells them: “I just did a track w/ Diplo called ‘Come On’ that’s blowing up!”
The reference to Diplo, the Philadelphia-based hit-maker, is is of particular interest for the internet-connected South African music follower. Rumours doing the rounds in the digital “blogosphere” have Diplo slated as the producer of new material by recent South African success story, Die Antwoord. The controversial Cape-based “Zef Rap Rave Rock” group were recently whisked to the United States for album deals and concerts after their video on YouTube.com piqued huge international interest – at last count, “Enter The Ninja” has garnered over 3.5 million views. How did the Diplo/Antwoord rumour start? By the posting of a single picture to an online forum – a Polaroid-style snap of the Antwoord duo, Ninja and Yo-landi Vi$$er, leaping about with Diplo.
Diplo is largely to thank for the international success of Blk Jks – after spotting them during a local tour, he facilitated a record deal and recording sessions in Bloomington, Indiana. The resulting release, “After Robots”, has seen the band win the South African Music Award for “Best Alternative Album”, and lauded by Rolling Stone as “Africa’s best new band”; by Spin as one of the Top 20 releases of 2009 and by the celebrated American “South By South-West” music showcase as boasting the week’s “Best Musician”. Blk Jks – Lindani Buthelezi (vocals, guitar), Mpumi Mcata(guitar, vocals), Molefi Makananise (bass, guitar) and Tshepang Ramoba (drums, vocals) – have played across the United States and Europe, are one of the local bands to land a coveted slot on the FIFA 2010 launch concert and have played with the varied likes of Femi Kuti, Santigold, Dirty Projectors and Michael Franti (Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy).
Back in the Twitter press-con, Tiesto is answering questions about his show at the Smirnoff “MashUp”. “I think I’m going to be playing my remix of ‘Ou est le swimming pool’ and new track w/ Diplo,” he tells @ilmeditor, who runs the online magazine, ILikeMusic.com. “I’m really looking forward to coming back to S Africa, I haven’t been there for a long time” he says, and adds, “I’m also excited about the W Cup!” Jason Elk (@jasonelk), founder of South African video website Zoopy asks Tiesto how he would “describe the South African dance energy” at local performances. “The crowd are so into the music,” says a DJ who has, quite literally, played all over the world. “They go totally nuts. I feel so privileged to play for that crowd and they party hard!”
Then, although Tiesto doesn’t answer my question about the process of working with the Blk Jks to create “Dreaming”, I get the satisfaction of a direct answer to a potentially thorny query: “What is it like for @Tiesto to be working with #SmirnoffBeThere – a concert that you can’t buy a ticket for?!” Tiesto takes this in his stride, answering, “I like working w Smirnoff, they definitely support music & art. I’m excited to be there for our upcoming show!” Local celebrity magazine, “Heat”, warms him up with a music question about song names – “I don’t think too much about titles. As long as the people I play music for are happy then it’s all good”. Then asks whether he’s ever “hooked up” with a fan and gets the five character fire-cracker reply, “Never!”
“It depends on t/ venue, more importantly t/ crwd. if they r into the music it doesnt matter how many ppl r there,” Tiesto says in “Twitter-speak” to @jonnytiernan from IheartAU, an edgy lifestyle and culture publication from Ireland who wants to know what kind of DJ experiences he enjoys the most. Sadly, there’s no time for Jonny’s other question: “More satisfying: dropping a tune in a DJ set for instant reaction, or the long-tail effect of studio work?”
Other questions vary from the general to the scene-savvy specific: “Pete Tha Zouk ‘I’m Back Again’ was on your Club Life Podcast, will it appear on your next compilation?” “I’m working on ‘A New Dawn’ which is my new mix compilation,” says Tiesto, keeping both journalists and fans hanging as he adds, “More details soon!” SubbaCultchaCom wants to know, “What is your favourite world destination and why?” which sees globe-trotting music-maker barely pausing for thought as he answers, “I get to travel a lot, but I really enjoying staying in LA and Stockholm at the moment, great vibe!”
Tiesto and Blk Jks play the Smirnoff “MashUp Street” Experience in Johannesburg on 15 May, for which tickets cannot be bought. Cape Townian fans can experience it live, and city-hoppers can try to win tickets, at SmirnoffExperience.co.za. “Dreaming”, the new Tiesto vs Blk Jks collaboration, can be downloaded for free at Facebook.com/Smirnoff. See the full Tiesto Twitter conference atTwitter.com/DreamingSA and Twitter.com/evnm.
This column originally appeared in the Cape Argus ‘Tonight; section on 1-2 May 2010. Find out more on Tonight.co.za.