Was your graduation ceremony a little bit of an anti-climax? Get a little hot under that gown? Did you feel a bit like it was for your Mum’s benefit? You clearly didn’t graduate from the university of Red Bull.
Crack is in Barcelona for the best graduation party on the planet. A three-day showcase with no scrolls and no certificates, just the affirmation that you’re pretty awesome at what you do. It’s Sonar By Day 2012 and Crack is sipping a mojito and soaking in the Spanish sun at the Sonar Presents: The Red Bull Music Academy stage. The cream of last year’s alumni are sharing stage space with invited guests, previous graduates and headliners, most notably in the form of disco legend DJ Harvey, newly crowned tech queen Nina Kraviz and genre creating footwork superstars Rashad And Spinn, forming a perfectly assembled collection of past, present and future electronic stars.
Of the current crop that graces the stage over the three sun-soaked days, eleven nationalities are represented. Sucking in the most open-minded of Sonar’s attendees, the stage acts as a pin-drop for all that’s current in electronic music. There is a veritable air of celebration in the air that those in attendance have been proudly selected by RBMA to showcase.
The Red Bull Music Academy has become an institution in modern music, not least because of the numerous levels on which the operation functions. Firstly the actual academy offers 60 producers and musicians from around the world the opportunity to spend two weeks at the Red Bull Music Academy: essentially a fortnight of lectures, events, parties and seminars that equip said student with everything they need to know to forge a successful career in the electronic music world, without sacrificing an ounce of credibility.
Secondly, the Academy hosts parties around the world and brings these artists and selected guests to wider attention. These range from nightclub events to more expansive affairs, like taking over the whole of the London Eye with all 32 booths of the landmark filled with specially invited artists. If you like your musical institutions with a degree of ambition, try dreaming up another idea on par.
Also to maximise exposure for the artists in question, the recently revamped Red Bull Music Academy Radio offers one of the most extensive mix selections available on the internet. As part of the deal when artists play the events, a large selection of the audio is recorded and made available for listening on the website.
Co-founder of the RBMA Torsten Schmidt reflected on the growth of the Academy during his time with Crack. “When you have a brand that has the collateral and the willingness to support cultural growth at a grass roots level, magic things can happen. We look to educate and entertain at the same time through the Academy.” A quick scan of recent graduates of the RBMA is a prodigious roll call of emerged/emerging talent. B Bravo, Axel Bowman, Braiden, Om Unit, Hudson Mohawke, Jackmaster, Lunice, Space Dimension Controller, Tokimonsta, Fatima, Jamie Woon, Onra, Teebs, Aloe Blaac, Andreya Triana, Nina Kraviz and one current front cover star in Flying Lotus make up recent alumni.
During the course of our time at Sonar, Crack spoke to numerous people about the support Red Bull Music Academy had provided them as artists. One of the most vocal was Crack feature star and mix provider Doc Daneeka.
“The main thing I gained was meeting an insane network of people who I’ve come to know and love. To suddenly branch out and meet these people in the same position as me, fighting for the same thing, on the same page but coming from different backgrounds – people like Nick Hook from Cubic Zirconia, Ella from UMA, Claude Speeed. It was far more beneficial to meet people and hear lectures from people who weren’t necessarily in my particular field. You’d be exposed to stuff you feel you should know, and that immediately makes you hungry to continue that learning. It opened our minds up to other levels. But then to be fed information by the best that have ever been … I learnt more in those two weeks than I did in the whole of school.”
Another standout performer from last year’s participants was Om Unit. Far from being an enigma, his sound is a perfect amalgamation of the kind of artist that the RBMA take very seriously. A swirling mix of dubstep, dub, footwork and UK bass inform his sound. “I think that has a lot to do with why I was chosen”, he reveals. “The same can be said for a large number of other graduates. My sound is definitely a blend of a lot of styles and I think RBMA definitely look for people with a bit of originality to their production. You can spot that from this year’s participants.”
It’s no coincidence Doc Daneeka’s current partner in music production Benjamin Damage has been selected for this next RBMA event, to be held in New York next April. The selection process has been kind to a wave of producers who will already be on many an electronic music aficionado’s radar. T.Williams, Koreless, Evian Christ, Throwing Snow, Rudi Zygadlo and Alitrec as well as Damage are the seven participants that have been selected to represent the UK at next year’s event. It’s an opportunity Ben is extremely excited to be given:
“The application was interesting. I’d been thinking about it for a far too long and just getting confused, so I woke up one afternoon hungover and wrote the whole thing right then, without thinking. No bullshit, no pretending to be cool or know all this stuff, I just wrote total truth. I can’t wait to meet a whole new set of people who are genuinely passionate about music. Plus it’s in the best place on earth. I mean, of all the places I’ve been, New York isn’t just the best. It’s in its own league.”
The diversity of talent the RBMA showcases in their worldwide events often acts as the most quantifiable indicator of the superb wave of individuals they support. A quick scan of their events page heralds events happening in eleven different countries over the course of a two month period. Torsten is quick to play up these events as a big part of the operation. “It’s the best way we have of cementing existing relationships. The ship would not float if we didn’t provide the stages for performance. Take Sonar, we are all meeting here for a party, but many people here will also partake in the more educational side of what we do at a future academy lecture, for example. The parties allow us to make contact with such a wide range of artists.” Wide range is the phrase. Some of the artists playing under the RBMA banner in the next two months include Todd Terje, Lone, Moodymann, Hudson Mohawke, Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never, Mala, Theo Parrish, Legowelt and Dam-Funk. The quality speaks for itself.
Looking forward to the Academy in April next year, New York’s rich and varied electronic music heritage will act as an inspirational backdrop to what will be two weeks encapsulating what exactly what makes electronic music so fucking good in 2013. You’d do well to make the graduation ceremony.
For thousands of live recordings, in-depth interviews and DJ mixes, including those from Sonar, check out the new Red Bull Music Academy Radio site at rbmaradio.com
For more about Red Bull Music Academy go to
Words: Thomas Frost