Djay Pee: The Originality of Fusion
Djay Pee: The Originality of Fusion
A universe of mysticism, magic and the creative genius, DJay Pee has been hailed as a cultural alchemist. His unique fusion of western and south east Asian sounds has won him both acclaim and recognition including this year’s coveted AVIMA award for best electronic act. Massimo Gava goes backstage to meet the man, the legend and the force behind the latest musical wave.
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DJay Pee, aka Jean Pierre Lanteri, is the award winning French musical artist everyone in the know is talking about. The man who walked out on a lucrative job as an oil trader to follow his passion for music, has rewarded his legions of fans with a string of award winning hits including Kids, I Feel Love and the magical Geisha. He splits his time between Paris and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he has a recording studio.
Why did you move from France to Malaysia?
I’ve always loved traveling. I think traveling is an eye opening experience because you discover new places, new cultures, new people and, in my case, a new way of life. Being in two places I get the best of both worlds with the East meeting the West.
What made you give up your career as an oil trader to become a musician?
I’ve always wanted to be a musician but there was a time when I didn’t think I could make a career out of it. That’s why I ended up joining the corporate world for a few years. Let’s face it: what’s more corporate than a job in the oil and gas industry? I made plenty of money and it gave me a comfortable life in Paris, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Something was missing. I took a sabbatical and after that the rest, as they say, is history. My mind is constantly buzzing with loads of melodies, sounds and rhythms that have to get out. It’s really difficult to explain but this love of music reflects a much deeper need to fulfill myself.
How would you describe your music and what makes it so unique?
It’s a fusion of so many different elements: house, western groove, eastern rhythm and orchestration. Most people who listen to my music find it soothing. The lounge fusion genre has already been popular for many years. Cafe del Mar and Buddha Bar have set the trend for that, but I want to bring it to a new level by incorporating a strong and energetic south east Asian feeling. That’s why I try to use different instruments from the region.
What specific sounds are we talking about ?
I’m particularly fond of Japanese, Chinese and Cambodian flutes. But the instrument I really like is the Erhu. It’s a two-string Chinese violin that’s played on the left thigh. The sound is fairly similar to a conventional violin but I think it conveys more emotional expression. I really like it when artists perform music in their original settings. In the track The King of Angkor, the flutes were recorded amongst the ancient ruins of Angkor temple. Likewise the Erhu was played by the Malaysian musician Chan Kim Loong on the track Lost. He’s an absolute genius and a man who I’ve got a huge amount of time for, a really inspirational figure.
It’s been said you have an ‘Asian Heart.’ What does that mean?
I suppose it’s because I really feel in harmony with Asia. I’ve been living in the region for some time now and one of the things I notice is how people are less aggressive. They smile more and they’ve got so much respect for each other. It’s so different to the western culture. I still have my place in Paris where I go for meetings, but in all honesty I feel happier in Malaysia. I guess if I didn’t have an Asian heart I wouldn’t be there.
What music do you listen to when you’re not composing?
I enjoy listening to the music of the country that I’m visiting. I also try to learn something about the culture and understand the emotion. In terms of my favourite musicians I would say they’re Jean Michelle Jarre, Andrew Lum, Ruychi Sakamoto and classical musicians. I love Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G.
When we think about composers we assume they like to work in silence and yet you seem to be at your best in a room full of people?
I always get inspired when I’m in a club watching people react to the music I’m playing. But that’s just part of it. Sometimes when I listen to a piece of music there could be something in it that sets me off… it could be a guitar gimmick, a rhythmic groove or the voice on the track. I try to remember these things so that I can work them into my next composition.
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Do you think this fusion of East and West will influence music in the future?
I think so, in fact it’s happening already. There’s more fusion between Indian and Western music, African and Balinese, or in my case between Asia and the West. I think the word ‘fusion’ will become part of the new musical style that’s currently being invented. In France and other parts of Europe for example, there’s already plenty of influence with Latin and African music. But in my opinion Asian music is still underrepresented.
Why do you think the Asian sound isn’t so well received in the western world?
I think it’s just a matter of time because the music industry is constantly evolving. As more people in the West are exposed to Asian music the more they’ll get to like it. It’ll take time but on the other hand it might explode on the scene tomorrow, and before you know it everyone will be calling it the new ‘in thing.’ Who knows? But I would say that the success of the Buddha Bar compilations, which often feature East Asian tracks, has kicked off a trend. Also successful Bollywood movies are helping to break the hegemony of the western sound.
Lots of critics talk about a period of decadence in western music where nothing original was produced. Do you think this reflects the vision of a crumbling western world?
I don’t think about it in terms of decadence. I prefer to see it as a form of evolution. The evolution of music has been quite rapid in the last few years. Loads of genres and sub genres have surfaced. Personally I think that when two or more genres fuse together it creates something that’s really refreshing.
What does winning an award mean to you?
Receiving an award is always exciting. It’s a kind of acknowledgement that my music does have an appeal and that I’m on the right track. It’s the spur to raise my game and be more creative.
What other plans do you have?
To compose of course! I have a fundamental need to do this. I really want people to listen to and enjoy what’s in my head. I want to give them something fresh, an original form of music that feeds their emotions. I want to give them something that smoothes out the creases in their lives.
It sounds like a mission?
An artist always feels he’s on a mission. He has to communicate a message regardless of whether he uses music, painting or any other means to get his vision across.