As the Blurr Cairo team prep the Omar Khayyam Boat for another roof-blowing party, we chat to the man who'll make the magic happen this Thursday 26th; the unstoppable ElRow legend, Toni Varga....
Four years ago, a little thing called ElRow emerged on the Barcelona clubbing scene and proceeded to rock the city with its insane approach to partying. The confetti explosions and fancy dress costumes may have given it its ‘it’ factor, its element of acid trip surrealness, but it was the music, the constant stream of talented spinners whose sound transfixed partygoers, which kept people coming back. Four years ago, Toni Varga was one of the original residents at this partying extravaganza, commandeering the crowd with his beats, a sound he says can be found “lying somewhere in the middle of Deep and Tech House.”
The DJ and producer may consider the kaleidoscopic stomping ground home, but his gigs there just scratch the surface of his career, having flown to every far flung corner of the globe to perform to crowds of crazed electronic music fans. From the mud-soaked grounds at Creamfields festival in England, to sun-drenched Brazil, to his most recent trip to South Africa - a spot he cites as one of his favourites - Varga has ventured far and wide in the name of playing out his signature sound; he even spun out a sensational set in our very own Sahel last summer, when Blurr brought over the whole ElRow shebang to the seaside, dancing chickens and all. And now Varga is back in town and after a stint in Pacha Sharm, is preparing to take on the task of injecting his electrifying music into the Thursday night of many a crazy Cairo party kid on March 26th at Omar Khayyam boat. “For me the first time I came to Egypt I was shocked, because I’d never heard of electronic music fans here,” Varga explains in his heavily Spanish accented voice, “But it was a really beautiful surprise for me that when I was playing, a lot of people knew me, and they knew my music, and my work and everything.”
The DJ, who is the epitome of casual, in shorts, flip flops and a graphic tee, broke into the industry 12 years ago; he has both remained immersed in it and never looked back since. “I did a few jobs before I got into electronic music but nothing stuck. Once I got into this industry, from that moment until now, I’ve only been involved in music – I found my life there,” he adds with a laugh. When he isn’t roaming the planet playing for massive crowds, he’s home in Barcelona spinning up a storm for his ElRow ravers on weekends and working as a producer in his studio on weekdays. Essentially every day of his existence involves the creation of sound in some form or other.
His passion for his job is evident; an unaltered lust for music that transcends the boundaries of repetition because to him, every party, every country, every crowd, is different. “The amazing thing about DJing…it’s that vibe, that energy!” he says he says with an infectious smile, “When you are playing and the people are looking at you, it’s incredible.” His comments do not betray some kind of egotistical aspect; his speech has an inherent sincerity to it, even though, especially in this day and age, DJs command such a unique position of power, both in the generic sense of fame as the possible rockstar equivalents of our generation, but also, quite literally, the power they have over a party. When you’re floating among the crowd, lost in a sea of humans, from your end all you really see is the solitary figure of the DJ on the other side of the decks. That one person under the spotlight controls the entire crowd; it is their movements that dictate precisely how the night will proceed – when the crowd is pulsating through the sound, the DJ did that. We imagine it would be easy for that rush to get to your head – a thought solidified by the diva-esque horror stories we’re heard of other visiting DJs, who shall remain nameless. But Varga is gracious, appreciative; “For me this energy in a place, that comes from the crowd, is the most important thing in the world,” he says earnestly, “It’s really crucial that you have a good connection with the people.”
His philosophy is simple; stick to playing music that the people who have come to see him like, and he does not make grandiose claims about elaborate descriptions of his music or tapping some different musical vein every place he goes. “I’ll play the same music, whether it’s Egypt or Spain, because you know, you have to stay true to your style. And some people will like it, some people won’t but I think in Egypt people seemed to really like my style. And the people here are crazy and dance the whole time,” he adds with a grin.
Though the salt and pepper haired spinner loves his globetrotting gigs, he’s firmly anchored in Barcelona. “For me now, it’s a really good mix between performing, travelling, working in the studio. And it’s nice to travel a lot but sometimes you have to go play for your people in Barcelona,” he says simply. His now-hometown (essentially) holds some sort of inexorable appeal to him. “The party scene in Barcelona, especially in ElRow, there’s something about it. The atmosphere, and the people there, I think…it’s like magic, no?”
And the music man will be bringing a dose of his own musical wizardry to the city tomorrow night when he hits the decks at Omar Khayyam, some of the signature Varga voodoo. So keep an eye out. Or an ear.
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