Orion Speaks On The Origins Of Peligrosa, SXSW 2014, and The Global Bass Scene

Image via Peligrosa on Facebook
Image via Peligrosa on Facebook

So when an EDM website partners with a progressive clothing brand, it’s a pairing that has happened hundreds of times before, and thus makes sense. However, when said website also partners with a well-respected party that shares a close affiliation with all shades of the Latin diaspora, that might seem to be a bit unusual. However, if you talk to Peligrosa party founder (and Austin, Texas resident) Orion “DJ Orion” Garcia for 20 minutes, Do Androids Dance partnering with Peligrosa ultimately makes all of the sense in the world. As well, in talking with DJ Orion, one becomes acutely aware that for as much as we could be led to believe that the future of American EDM has everything to do with rap, trap, and kids who are white and black, that the idea of American dance getting turned various shades of brown should be considered, too. Overall, the Peligrosa x Do Androids Dance x Karmaloop week of events at SXSW will likely showcase something that, more than anything else, is a lot more about the inclusive community that dance music should ideally strive to become. From touching on Peligrosa’s roots, to his thoughts about the SXSW week, as well as global bass, it’s pop crossover and yes, his thoughts and theories on how to be sustainable and organic as a creative, it’s a far reaching view into a man, a party and an ideal. Enjoy!

Obviously, let’s begin at the beginning. How did Peligrosa come together?
Peligrosa started in 2007, at Creekside, [where we're doing an event during SXSW]. We had (Mexican DJ/producer/A&R legend) Toy Selectah the first time. I book people [we] want to see and hear. [The party came to be because] too many people were requesting too much Latin music when I had my open format nights. I’d go from ’90s to metal to ’80s to hip-hop to funk to R&B to cumbia to reggaeton to dancehall to glitch-hop to electro. I wanted to keep my Friday night like that and not over-saturate it [with traditional Latin sounds]. So, me and a couple of the guys I would play with who also had big Latin music catalogs decided to throw a separate night somewhere else for what became Peligrosa.

I am aware that Peligrosa is a worldwide community, but who were the DJs who were with you at the start?
The original members were Hobo D [who is now pursuing higher education in South Korea] and Manolo Black. Manolo was DJing in Austin for 20 years, long before I came here. He was into Brazillian sounds and jazztronica, while Hobo D was a big funk collector and he collected a lot of cumbia records and rare stuff. I was heavy on the Puerto Rican salsa and Colombian cumbia. I didn’t want to do a cumbia or salsa party, I wanted to do this world music party where we would take the lesser known music from all over the world and bring them together. We knew how to work our crowds. To have a successful night, you have to put in the work to develop your own crowd. We did that.

Regarding Do Androids Dance and Karmaloop joining forces with you guys in Austin, what are you looking forward to this year?
I’m interested to see how some of the people will play together. A lot of the people Do Androids Dance came with I hadn’t heard of like Infuze, Jacuzzi, Buku, and Pawn. On my team, I can’t wait to hear Jubilee, the Moombahton Massive crew, Willy Joy, Zuzuka Poderosa, Tormenta Tropical, basically everybody. Joao Brasil is coming, too. We’ve been talking two years in a row, and I think he’ll show up this year.

What has allowed Peligrosa to exist for seven years and grow into a global community?
My intent for it was to promulgate what we do here, and spread it elsewhere. I became aware that there wasn’t a huge audience in my local geography, but I knew that in other local geographies, people were doing things. So, we connected those gaps over the internet. We relate to these parties elsewhere. We all hold onto tradition and pursue originality.

Peligrosa is a largely organic party. Do you have any fear about losing any of that flavor with having outside partners and sponsors? If not, why?
I have learned to not be a “yes man.” I want somebody to want to collaborate with me, and not just throw money at it because they have to fill a quota for events. When we spoke to Karmaloop, I told them “I only want you guys to be involved if this is something that you’re excited about.” Everybody was on board with that idea, and was actually excited about it.

What, of yourself, have you contributed to the creative process behind Peligrosa?
It’s mainly been experiments with my own identity, and figuring out what it is about where I come from and what I know about myself that I can show other people who might [or might not] relate.

I think that a big part of what has allowed EDM to grow in America are the sheer number of producers that came into dance through moombahton. Your thoughts about that progression and how intriguing it is that something with such a Latin background has (arguably) led the charge?
It was moombahton in some places, but other music in other geographies. Latin alt-rock in southern California and southern Texas, Houston Latin rappers making mixtapes in the ’90s. There’s always been an interest in combining things, especially for migrants. You want it to feel like home, so you bring your traditions in, and mix them with the traditions that are already built in to where you are. I was talking to (Que Bajo party resident, DJ/producer) Uproot Andy one night and he plotted the geography of moombahton. He said it went from the Carribean dembow got picked up by the Dutch, who used the snare pattern of house. It then traveled across the ocean and we took that Dutch house, slowed it down and put more of the Carribean back into it. So now, it’s like everything is getting put back into it.

That was right at the beginning of when people started getting aware of music without borders. You think of songs that go together, as unified by tempo, feel and energy, and people started seeing that you can de-compartmentalize music from around the world. It’s become so manifested and if you listen to the synth soul for lack of a better term today and you hear a bassline that’s kind of Spanish, but its done in a hip-hop way, with a snare that has a certain pattern that relates to something more African, and the hi-hat and kicks have a completely different origin. Some of the samples are like flipped vogue samples with a baile funk break. The integration of different musics like like started around the time moombahton started. People started realizing that Latin and South America among many places was a destination point. You want to be a club DJ and tour Ibiza, somewhere in Europe or Tokyo. You never heard anyone saying they wanted to play Bogota, Colombia or Caracas, Venezuela.

As population shift occurs in America, I feel like parties like Peligrosa and the connected crew of DJs the party associates with worldwide will play a huge part in shaping the world moving forward. Where’s the point of crossing over for what you do, and/or do you think it will ever occur?
More Central and South Americans are coming to the states, so that influence of ideas is becoming more prevalent. As soon as half of the population of the United States is Latino, Latin sounds will gain a solid foothold. I don’t know if it will ever take off. So much of what [Peligrosa, Que Bajo in New York, and other parties] do is to bring light to the undesirable music. Palenke from the Pacific coast of Colombia is negro music, and the rich Spaniards don’t want anything to do with it. What makes it appealing to us is the emotional content. You can hear the realities of some of these people. Will true feelings ever be popular? Or will it just be some fickle emotional pop shit.

I’ve been asking myself that same question. Some of the Latin artists who are popular on the upper levels of the underground scene aren’t pushing anything new. However, for the most part I think people may think that’s really terrible stuff. A lot of even tribal or cumbia is re-edits and sampled. I think once people start producing the sound with real music and real instrumentation and the content becomes more original is when I think it will have more of an effect on the market. Ultimately, the richest man in the world is a Mexican dude. It’s all about how the wealth gets distributed.

As much as Peligrosa is a party known for trending Latino, the SXSW events will have a much more globalized flair. Your thoughts about this, and this being a reason why people should check them out?
I’m very aware of the value of this, both intrinsically and externally. It’s about my culture, and the fact that I also respect music that comes from everywhere. People can say, “[Orion], you’re Latin American.” Well, I was born in Panama, I grew up in Germany and I live in the states. There’s so much about “Latin this, Latin that.” My parents are both first generation from where they’re from, so I don’t know. I want people to have that same respect I have for everything.