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tectonic shift

Electronica is the new rock and roll


Madison Square Garden, they say, is the holy temple of rock and roll. So when last December, Swedish House Mafia became the first DJ act to headline MSG, some saw it as a tectonic shift. The change seemed complete when at the Grammys, earlier this year in February, Skrillex won three prizes and David Guetta and Deadmau5 (pronounced 'deadmouse' ) jammed with the rock act Foo Fighters, and rappers L'il Wayne and Chris Brown. There's hardly any song on mainstream radio today that doesn't bear the trademark electronic dance music stamp. Akshai Sarin, a regular on the international circuit having played alongside topflight international artistes - he performed at Exit Festival in Serbia in 2011 alongside a line-up that included Arcade Fire, Deadmau5, Magnetic Man, Jamiroquai, M. I. A. and Portishead - says there is no denying EDM's big ascent. "All I know is Skrillex won three Grammys and Deadmau5 was the first electronic music entity on the cover of Rolling Stone last month. I hear both get paid more than stars like Akon and Pitbull. End of story, " he quips.

Indians, too, are dancing to the tune of superstar DJs who unleash electronic beats from their computers and MIDI controllers. Big acts like Parisian DJ David Guetta, the '90s enfant terrible Fat Boy Slim and whiz kids like James Zabiela and Avicii have all played here in recent months.

Electronic dance music hasn't just sprouted out of nowhere. It's been around for decades in some form or the other but today it's the soundtrack of the mainstream. Whether its hiphop, R&B or plain ol' pop, all borrow elements from house, techno and electro. "I met Giorgio Moroder - the man who sowed the seeds of this genre with his track I Feel Love by Donna Summers - in Ibiza last month, and we had an in depth discussion on this topic. EDM is a very loosely thrown around term and very vague as the music it initially used to describe isn't just a genre anymore. Electronic Dance Music is the glue that holds the mainstream together today. Strip away the Hindi vocals from Bollywood item numbers and you have a house/electro track. Strip away Flo Rida and Justin Timberlake's vocals and you have the same thing, " says Sarin, who just released an album called Connected on Tiesto's - to the uninitiated one of the biggest electro house DJs, Black Hole Recordings, earlier in the year. Add to that the economics of it.

EDM is efficient and cost effective, just like the tools used to make it. Secondly, distribution and marketing are cost effective thanks to iTunes, YouTube, social media and free internet radio. "Also, and most importantly, it's easy to host one or two people on stage with CDs/laptop/turntables versus a 6 piece band with complex sound requirements, hit-or-miss songs, instruments, egos and moods, " says Sarin.

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