“Learning from the old. Making new. Always turning positive”
The electronic music scene’s rapid development has pulled underground artists into the mainstream limelight. Often associated with environments and behaviors that are often misunderstood, the electronic music scene may have specific connotations that the artists do not actually embody. A magnified view of such includes drugs, insincere relationships, and a lack of focus on respectful connections to prioritize a superficial image. Someone is here to change that.
Newly minted in Grand Rapids, MI, the Samsara Family Collective is a group of 6 individual electronic music producers based out of West Michigan who began to collaborate in late 2016. Their collective name is derived from the Sanskrit language. Samsara Family Collective has the goal to reach beyond a party vibe to listeners and to their concert attendees that they care deeply about them to provide interconnected respect. The Collective recently hosted their first showcase at the Pyramid Scheme bar (68 Commerce Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI) on February 16, 2017.
"We all stand to benefit from something from coming together as a group” Rowland said.
Samsara is a term that refers to the concept of the cycles of change within existence. It is a concept that is linked to fundamental succession from past experience in order to grow and continue through the cycles. The Samsara Family Collective reiterates this meaning by emanating it through their learning from each other and from past mistakes. It is collectively acknowledged that each person brings their own strengths to the table and is self-aware of areas in which they need to grow. By learning from each other, the whole group is stronger in the progression toward their goals and current endeavors. “Essentially, we want to be ever-evolving with creativity. Samsara is the life and death of the creative cycle. We would like to be constantly evolving” Sukhman Sidhu said.
Collective versus individual
Collectives bring strength to ideas that are shared and propel stagnant movement towards connecting to the community and listeners who appreciate their music and message. It is through their combined collaborative process the group remains proud of their development and is keen on being humble enough to acknowledge areas of weakness. The group exudes humility in their interactions with each other to stay focused and moving forward confidently. Hoffer said,
“I think a big way of how we approach it is really explaining your perspective and empathizing for the opposite person. When you are working with a group of passionate individuals like this you’re going to butt heads but when that occurs it’s important that everyone understand each other’s viewpoint”.
What are they?
Samsara flirts with style and fun simultaneously while being self- aware in order to challenge the current electronic scene on a local level. Christian Hoffer, the manager of Samsara, works to keep the group focused on their common goals and priorities. His role is to engage the group with a focused clarity that they share the common goal of moving forward, and paring down to essential professional conduct.
"A lot of people wanna make music, and wanna be successful with it, but there’s a huge gap between having talent and producing and actually getting somewhere with it. [...] With friendly competition combined with everyone keeping with our spokes the same length, if you will. Once your spokes are the same length, you have a round object that can go down the road” Hoffer said.
The six members are connected by a web of past individual electronic music endeavors. Nick Rowland (Super Future) and Sukhman Sidhu (Dead Language) began their journey together playing a music gig in Lansing prior to their relocation to Grand Rapids. Sparked by creative inspiration they wanted to pool resources together in Grand Rapids. Rowland and Sidhu met Justin Wolbrink (Sandose) and DeVante Barnes (G-Bread), previous collaborators and formed the idea of a stronger electronic production collective. Wolbrink attends Grand Rapids Community College in the recording technology program with Mitch Driesenga (Dreezstring). Once this group formed, Christian Hoffer (ChoFF), a common friend of all, joined as the final member.
“We all have our own niche and sector” Hoffer said.
The unified theme of progression binds the group together in order to maintain momentum and holds themselves to high standards, both individually and as a group. Hoffer on what brought them together said, “Vision. We wanted to do something greater than all of us and we knew we couldn’t do it individually. And we all have our various strengths and whatnot. We all have our own niche and sector. It’s like everyone’s direction is essentially pointed the same way”.
It was the need for individual electronic music producers to step up together in a healthy and articulate manner. Rowland (Super Future) acknowledges they strive towards connecting individual players.
“There’s a lot of talent and a lot of people trying to do their own thing but the most important reason that I wanted to start something for was pooling resources initially, but I didn’t think it would come together where we were all learning this much from each other. And [...] banding together taught us a lot more. It kind of got us all on a more professional page. We all stand to benefit from something by coming together as a group” Rowland said.
Cyclicity is essential to Samsara’s original Sanskrit derivative and currently to Samsara Family Collective as a concept of conduct and faith in growth. It is fundamental to the way new electronic music is constructed to resonate with a crowd. Sidhu (Dead Language) is a proponent of the group’s tenacity to move forward together. “That’s something we have as a backbone of our collective. We are the family, we’re the Samsara Family and that’s what we want to keep it as, it’s not just us, everyone is a part of it”. Sidhu is unafraid to talk about his process of music being connected to his emotions. He wants to re-create a feeling he experienced at a music concert and produce his own.
“My personal process is more emotion-based. I have a general feeling that I felt in moments of complete awe when I hear a track at a show. I’m generally going for a feeling in your gut. It’s something [...] I felt in my heart or gut I would like to emulate” Sidhu said.
Samsara is experiencing the excitement of being new, while collaborating, to a music scene that, for years, has steadily been making its way to mainstream platforms. Barnes (G-Bread) believes strong simplicity brings prestige to electronic music. Barnes enjoys the international sharing ability of websites underground musicians make their music available on. “They have ideas, their ideas aren’t just filtered by a label. They have unfiltered ideas. It’s just the most raw form of music”. Barnes said Samsara has brought a new dimension to his music making. Dealing with natural tensions of being an artist, he wants to uphold the group’s values throughout all areas of life.
“I think a very personal point, from an individual’s point of view, is I can overreact. I prefer to think more logically but I don’t always and it gets very difficult when working with these guys [...]. “We’re a team, we’re a family [...] and these guys are my brothers and they are important to me” Barnes said.
Driesenga (Dreezstring) emphasized they remain a collective to push their own personal progress so Samsara can evolve in a professional direction. “Everything is mastered. Everything is concise, sharp” he said. Driesenga supports the acronym of EDM, also known as Electronic dance music, in its fundamental meaning.
“In its simplest form that’s what it is; you can call it all these different subgenres but at the end of the day it’s music that you dance to. You know it’s made to be danced to, that’s why they have the big heavy kicks and the screaming sounds because that hits the human body harder. That’s why the drums are locked into certain patterns because it’s something you can dance to” Driesenga said.
Samsara is a collective of young gentlemen that are seeking to give the respect, dignity, and expression that electronic musicians are capable of. Rowland said, “First and foremost we want to show people that we are actually a formidable piece of the scene, we want to be the number one entertainers with our own original music, and for people know that with us they will have a good time…” Furthering the reputation of West Michigan electronic scene is important, “We want to help Grand Rapids be found because of our music, and West Michigan in general because we’re all loosely West Michigan based or Michigan based” Rowland said. Rowland, on learning together, said, “It’s kind of forced us to learn about other new aspects which some of us have strong backgrounds in”.
On his own individual music, Wolbrink (Sandose), said he focuses on effects that the listener can feel as an experience. Through the way his music interplays with its format he said,
“It’s called ear-candy as a good way to describe it. It’s best when you have headphones on or can listen to it loud. You can hear a sound move back and forth around the spectrum. It will start here and kind of move and then the sound will be over here”.
Wolbrink said that his first electronic music festival he attended in 2014 made him feel connected to his purpose, “This is what I want to do, this is what I love, it was like I finally found my thing”. On this clarity to make electronic music Wolbrink said, “Ever since then it’s my goal to play the main stage. I just knew this would be the only thing I’d be happy doing in my life”.
Find them online:
Samsara Family Collective Website
Instagram Handle: @Samsara.fam
Youtube: Samsara Family
Promotional media for showcase at Pyramid Scheme bar in Grand Rapids, MI
ChOFF Entertainment LLC (Management)
Samsara Mixtape Vol.1 was released January 24, 2017 and has 11 tracks on it. Each artist has one individual track of their own. The rest of the tracks include duos while Super Future has three solo tracks total. The Mixtape Vol.1 is separated by its track listings and allows the listener to move around the album with ease. This is a benefit compared to long mixes and the listener has to move to specific minute and second frames to find separate selections. The average length of the songs is 3:36.
The first track is by G-Bread and Dead Language called “Takeover”. The track begins dark and spooky. After the intro there is an increase in tempo and adds deep vocals. There is a subtle bass layer that sounds like a drone with a slower tempo that pulls back. There is a layer of a beat tapping included throughout the song. The drum tapping melody is repeated with a sample of rapper Two Chainz. The original sounds seem to keep the song flowing. This drum tapping sound is awkward and snags the listener from other sounds. Overall, the song sways back and forth with vocals with a wavering tempo.
The second track is by Super Future called “Jay Pop” starts with a high note coming in and effects that sound like soaring. Vocals of a female singing in Japanese begin shortly after. There a drum level that balances out the quick pace. There is a layer that sounds like sparkling and adds dimension. The tempo does not slow down significantly nor are there any drastic bass “drops”. This difference is pleasantly surprising. The song is sweet and simple and has the tendency to be more uplifting in its structure which is not a surprise coming from Super Future. His sound is more well-rounded than his EP (2016) with added complexities of differing levels of sound that contrast with harmonies. The end sounds like the ends are trying to meet up and sounds a bit confusing. The overall sound is light and happy.
The third track is by Dreezstring called “Shotgunner”. It begins eerily and slowly with higher octaves that add dynamic texture next to the rhythm. The beginning of the song begins strong with stylistic interaction in the range of high and low notes. The pace picks up with deeper notes that sound like a guy saying something inaudibly. There are samples of a gun clicking and a woman whispering “ecouter” which is the French word for “listen”. The song exemplifies control of technical balance. His knowledge and technique of song composition is apparent. The song demonstrates precision and care but near 3:00 it plateaus. This is sensible for the first mixtape but feels like reluctance to be more dynamic. The song is organized well with tension building up at times and is unhurried in accordance to the rhythm.
Sandose’s “Memory” is the fourth track that begins slowly with “ear candy” that sounds like a natural movement shortly before piano chords play. This is harmonious and highlights a relaxed rhythm. The slower pace and tempo level out the bass increase and decreases. The tempo picks up swiftly as it broadens cheerfully. The bass notes that it started out with snag back with a feeling that is sharp. The structure expresses contour of details and is comprehensive with his “ear candy” technique.
Samsara Mixtape Vol. 1 stands out as the artists are experimenting with finding a flow to the patterns they want to play. They aren’t boxed in by range or character to the songs the play. The Mixtape Vol. 1 design is striking with a range of richness and also direct experimental sounds. Each song shows finesse of sounds that are subtle to add expression to an otherwise mechanical and sterile type of music production. It is vital to celebrate local musicians in their presentation of goals. It is also important to be sensitive to their ability to grow and expand by being attentive to their collaborative sound aesthetic.
Devante Barnes, Mitch Driesenga, Christian Hoffer, Nick Rowland, Sukhman Sidhu, Justin Wolbrink, interview by Colleen MacLauchlan, January 27, 2017.
Last edited: Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 12:10 am
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