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Beating Poverty

World number one DJ, Paul van Dyk, has scratched more than the surface of the world music scene and beyond. Now, he sits down for a turntable tete-a-tete: speaking out for social justice.

Indigo:

New York – Stockholm – Shanghai – being a famous DJ, you have seen the entire world from its bright side at night in the clubs, as well as from its dark side in the streets at daylight.

Paul van Dyk:

That’s true. I have seen the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, or Mexico City on my journeys. My first incentive, however, came from my fi rst show in Mumbai, India. Since that, I have really been trying to tackle the topic of child poverty. The misery I saw is simply not acceptable to me. So I contacted the German consulate on site at once to find a charity foundation. For me, Akansha seemed to have the most effective concept. They have their own schools in the slums, but their top priority is to provide food for the kids. Akansha enables children to have access to education and therefore offers a chance for a better future.

Indigo:

However, child poverty is not only a topic in threshold countries like India. UNICEF recently published a report on that topic showing a shocking result: in wealthy European countries like Germany, Great Britain, or Italy material wealth levels are declining.

Paul van Dyk:

Yes, Germany still is one of the richest countries in the world, but if only the people who are really in need benefited from our social security system, enough money would be available for our children. I do not want to polarise, but I am saying that as I have already done some charity work.

Indigo:

With your own charity project Rückenwind you support children in your hometown of Berlin. Can you actually compare the situation of children here in Germany and in India?

Paul van Dyk:

It is another kind of poverty. There are always people who say that it is much worse in India than here in Germany. You cannot compare poverty, as a person can only be considered poor in respect to the subjective circumstances of life.

Indigo:

So, against this background, who can be considered poor in Germany ?

Paul van Dyk:

For example, we at Rückenwind found that a lot of families have neither a computer at home nor access to the internet. However, teachers often say: “See what you can find about this topic in the internet and write it down.” So, of course, children do not want to admit that they are poor, so they just claim they did not do their homework and get a bad mark. Our priority, however, is to give those children the feeling that they mean something to us. If you think that you are nobody you do not have any incentive to learn anything.

Indigo:

Akansha in India, Rückenwind in Germany, Ground Zero Kids in the U.S. – these are just a few organisations supported by you. With your packed timetable and being a famous DJ, do you actually have time for all these projects?

Paul van Dyk:

Well, I am only part of a team in these projects. What could I really offer to these kids as an individual, besides being the clown or playing with them? Of course this is also part of my work, but we need trained pedagogues. My true role lies in the areas of investment and ideas.

Indigo:

What was your last specifi c idea?

Paul van Dyk:

We are planning to go to the countryside with two mini buses together with the kids so that they can see a real cow, a real pig, or real trees – and not only those dirty things they usually see here in the city.

Indigo:

But at least Berlin awarded you Landesverdienstorden (city merit of order) for your commitment last year – given all your music awards for best and most popular DJ, is this only another award for your trophy cabinet or can you still enjoy this award?

Paul van Dyk:

Of course I enjoy receiving awards, but awards are not the driving force for me to do what I do. For example, I would never change a single note to get an award.

Indigo:

Despite your success, you do not rest on your laurels but care about new artists in this fi eld. You support young and interesting artists with your own label, VANDIT Records. So who is actually interesting for you?

Paul van Dyk:

The field of electronic music is not that different from punk music; there are some great bands and many bad ones. I would rather not talk about the bad ones now. However, I am really enthusiastic about Santiago Niño at the moment. He has roots in Guatemala, but is now living in Colombia. As Santiago is a real expert in electronic music, he joined me on my last tour through South America.

Indigo:

And what about European artists?

Paul van Dyk:

Eddie Halliwell or Adam Sharadon from Great Britain have made great songs. However, with the internet it no longer matters where you’re located. Compose a song in some village and it might become a global hit. It is no longer relevant to be in hotspots like London or Barcelona. It’s about the same question as: Where is your favourite club? For example, the Gallery in Turnmills in London is an excellent event, but if you asked me whether this is a cool club, I would say no as it is badly built. The layout is completely inappropriate. Then again, look at an event we organised in the Kesselhaus in Berlin. The special thing about this location is there’ll be a classic guitar concert the day before our show – you cannot say that it is always good or always bad. Electronic music is a global phenomenon that has its roots in Europe. But you can find people from all over who deal with this genre and are enthusiastic about it.

Indigo:

Could you name an enthusiastic party?

Paul van Dyk:

The whole summer season on Ibiza is great. Ibiza is in Europe, but it is not only interesting from a European point of view. You can fi nd people from anywhere there. Partygoers from Beirut would never light fireworks with some from Tel Aviv. On Ibiza, the god you believe in is not a topic.. It’s all about having a nice day and chatting with a nice person and not about politics.

Indigo:

Your last record, which was a compilation with other artists, was called The Politics of Dancing 2. So are you tackling political phenomena with this title?

Paul van Dyk:

I regard electronic music as being a powerful means of connecting people from completely different historical, cultural, or religious backgrounds We should consider the number of diplomats that would be necessary for such a positive effect to set in.

Text in box:

Brown, caffeinated soda = CocaCola, self-sticking slips of paper = Post-It Notes, Electronic Music = Paul van Dyk – some brands have gone global and become terms of their own. Born in 1971, Paul van Dyk grew up in East Berlin and has become one of the most popular DJs and music producers. Apart from being awarded with the Best Producer of Techno- and House Music (British DJ Magazine), most popular DJ 2005 and 1006 (Top 100 DJ Poll at DJ Mag) and a nomination for the Grammy 2005 in the category Best Electronic/Dance Album, he has received the Landesverdienstorden (order of merit) from the city of Berlin. When he’s not at the turntable, he invests time and money in social and political projects. He has founded Rückenwind, a childrens relief project. Through the American initiative Rock the Vote he called for youths to make use of their opportunity to vote. Van Dyk’s last Album, The Politics of Dancing 2, appeared in 2005. His club remix of Justin Timberlake’s new single, What Goes Around...Comes Around, is currently in store shelves.

Author: Miriam Frömel

Photos: Harry Schnitger, Verena Brandt

Translation: Bart Schere


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