Why Dutch DJ R3hab, back for new Hong Kong show, loves the city so much
There's always something going on and the parties are great, says performer at two-day Electric Wonderland event
“I absolutely love Hong Kong,” says Dutch dance music chart-topper R3hab.
The DJ and producer has played in the city several times before, most recently in 2012, and even used a dramatic photo of Hong Kong on the cover of his Living 4 The City single with Dutch group Shermanology. He returns on May 8 as part of the two-day Electric Wonderland event.
“The city has such an amazing energy and is so intriguing,” says the man born Fadil El Ghoul. “There's always something going on and the parties are great; I have had a few shows there that were so much fun and also intimate. I'm looking forward to a very special show on May 8.
“It's all about the energy, interaction and chemistry with the crowd. I love playing all over the world but I must admit that I am big fan of playing in Asia. People here get so excited for the shows; the market for music has been exploding.”
R3hab headlines the opening night of Electric Wonderland, which takes place over two days and three stages at the W Hong Kong in Kowloon, with the second night starring fellow Dutch DJ Dannic. Both are producers of arms-in-the-air anthems: R3hab's style is broadly electro house with pop-trance touches, full of big drops and hooky melodies; it fits firmly into the nebulous EDM category.
R3hab first came to prominence in 2008 with a slightly more hardcore sound that he describes as “chainsaw madness”. He's of Moroccan extraction, and there's a clear North African influence in tunes such as Pump the Party, while Latin comes to the fore in his rework of Paul Johnson's classic Get Get Down.
Throughout his short career he's worked incredibly hard, knocking out more than 30 remixes in 2011, and eight singles in 2014, a year when he produced or remixed six singles that went to No 1 – something he somehow finds time for amid the globetrotting schedule of an international DJ.
“You make time, like I am doing right now,” he says. “I landed in Bangkok 12 hours ago and I only slept for five hours, and now I’m up and about to finish a remix for Rihanna.”
Getting the work of mainstream pop artists ready for the dance floor is something of a R3hab speciality: he's also remixed for the likes of Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias and Calvin Harris. “Remixing Rihanna and Calvin Harris records has been a lot of fun for me,” he says. “They both have a lot of energy and go so well with a dance tempo.” His big break, in fact, came in 2011, “when Lady Gaga asked me to remix her record Judas, and she put it on her YouTube channel within 24 hours after I delivered it to her”.
R3hab is particularly well connected within the commercially thriving Dutch house scene. He has collaborated several times with fellow Dutch DJ and producer Afrojack, and released music on the latter's Wall Recordings label; and has also worked extensively with Dutch stars Chuckie and the ubiquitous Hardwell – the latter grew up in the same neighbourhood as R3hab and the pair went to school together. R3hab has an interesting explanation for the success of so many DJs and producers from the Netherlands in recent years.
“I think it's in the water,” he says. “When people around you are doing something good, you automatically try to be just as good as them, and it sort of has a snowball effect.”
A former student of economics and marketing, R3hab is also a savvy promoter of his own career. “My studies definitely have helped me,” he says. “Marketing is an important aspect of a music career and I feel like I run a strong social media game.”
It would perhaps be an obvious move to parlay that knowledge into business activities such as label ownership, but R3hab says he has no aspiration to become a mogul just yet. “At the moment there’s no label for me; I just want to have a good time and make music. It's hard enough to find time for that.”
Electric Wonderland, May 8, May 9, from 10pm both nights, W Hong Kong, 1 Austin Rd West, West Kowloon, from HK$388 (Friday night entry) to HK$1,188 (weekend VIP package). Inquiries: 9348 1000