Offcast Samhain by DJ Isis
Not a podcast but an Offcast: a side of you some of us might not know. How would you describe your Offcast?
The initial idea was to make a slow tempo psychedelic tribal mix, but I found it was a bit too much ‘dance’, so I decided to make it more ‘chill-out’ including a lot of listening music. The name of this Offcast is Samhain (pronounced as Sawen). This is one of the eight Celtic celebrations of the year in which we honor the end of the summer. We look back at the previous period, honour the dead, take leave of all that we no longer want to carry with us and with that we create room for something new. So everything you hear in this Offcast is in line with the spirit of this time of the year. I think it’s important to know our culture and roots in order to know where we are heading too.
You think we have no clue where we’re heading to these days?
Well, I think we kind of forgot about the origins of our celebrations. We think Christmas is about presents and Santa Claus, while it actually comes from the ancient Celtic Yule celebration (celebrating that the days becoming longer and lighter).
(Laughs) I could go on for hours and hours about the Celtic traditions, but let’s try to stick with the short version. Two years ago we started to celebrate the Celtic fertility festival Beltane in the church of Ruigoord on the 30th of April (former Queensday in The Netherlands). The idea is to bring back the sacredness to the party. We celebrate to remember not to forget. Good thing is that we see the need for these kinds of festivals growing after years and years of the same kind of parties with a more hedonistic character.
Could you pick a track from the Offcast that embodies the sound of Samhain?
El vuelo del Aguila (flight of the Eagle) by Piet Jan Blauw and Cheko. In this track the Dutch audiovisual artist Piet Jan Blauw combines electronic soundscapes with the shamanic flute played by the Mexican Aztec Cheko, creating a kind of transcendent atmosphere. It is said that during Samhain, the boundary between the material and spiritual world is at its thinnest, and this song captures that mood very well. It’s also a nice wink to the Mexican ‘Dia de los Muertos’ which also resonates with Samhain.
Does this Offcast represent your own music?
The music of the Offcast is very atmospheric, not so much dance music, which is my normal angle as a DJ. Even my dance repertoire has slightly shifted throughout time, from more tech house and deep house combined with techno, to a more holistic organic sound including ethno and acoustic influenced dance music but also a sound I call psy- tech, the more playful approach to psychedelic dance music.
You’ve been around in the electronic music industry for twenty-five years, starting as a DJ when you were only 16-years old. How would you describe the journey of electronic music from the 90’s until now?
In the 90’s electronic dance music was something new, so these were very exciting times. It was a big hype and you could feel the spark everywhere, first in The UK & The Netherlands and after that in all other countries around the world. Now the spark of doing something completely new is, of course gone, but another door has opened. In the 90’s electronic music was mainly focused on computers and synthesizers, but around the year 2000, it became mainstream and more and more sub-movements arose. Artists started looking around at other possibilities within the electronic music field and nowadays you see that the tendency in electronic music starts to become more acoustic, nature orientated and native. A whole new global scene is born, look at festivals such as Burning Man, Boom and Fusion. The world is now ready for change and you can see this kind of music becoming more accessible on a larger scale.
You just mentioned Burning Man, Boom and Fusion. You are also the co-founder of Dutch festivals like Magneet. What is the influence of these festivals?
I think these transformational events are the future. It’s a mini-community, in which thousands of people have the same experience, they get inspired by each other, by the music, dance together, share life. Just forget what you learned in economics class at school because this to me is real profit.
At these kinds of festivals, people learn new things that they can implement into their own lives back home. For me a real eye-opener was, for example, the fact that at Burning Man people genuinely care about the environment, no trash is left behind. When I got back to The Netherlands, I was shocked by all the garbage people throw on the ground.
Sustainability was also one of your main themes being the Night Mayor of Amsterdam from 2010 to 2012, what changes were you able to make?
My mom was a mayor for twenty-five years, and ever since I was little I was involved in social issues, so when Amsterdam was looking for a new Night Mayor, a lot of people said to me: Isis, this is really something you should do! During those two years I did a lot of lobbying, talking hours and hours with officials and because of that, I was able to establish the Magneet festival, a first major breakthrough in the tight time regulations of the city. I also advocated the 24-hour permits in Amsterdam, from which a lot of people benefit nowadays. Concerning sustainability I introduced innovative waste policies during events, to be able to rely on the social consciousness of visitors to make sure everybody cleans up their own mess and leave no garbage behind.
How do you see the role of music in society?
Music is really important. I get upset when I hear kids don’t even get music lessons at school anymore. It has been proven that playing instruments has a positive influence on the brain and besides that singing and making music is also very fun and good for your body. Speaking about that, during ADE Green there was a very interesting talk called Music as Medicine, about the potential role that music has in healthcare.
Music also unites us. It’s something we globally understand and want to experience together. I don’t believe in the political power games of divide and conquer, I believe in getting together, planting new seeds and transforming into something better the past has showed us so far.
Where and when will we be able to experience your future sound together?
Coming Saturday the 29th of October we will celebrate Samhain at the Church of Ruigoord for those who want to tap into the roots of European culture and hear my modern approach of indigenous dance music.