We headed down to NYU Abu Dhabi for the Barzakh Music Festival to check out Pedro Coquenao aka Batida, dubbed ‘The Almost Perfect DJ’ and nobody can quite prepare you for the structure of this set. Aside from the Latin-Afro groove and floor shredding beats, we heard of the uniqueness of a Batida DJ performance – but you just have to experience it for yourself.
Shortly after the introduction we were greeted by thumping beats but to our surprise all lights remained switched on. And we sat there wondering - Is this the show? When will stage lighting kick in? This was our introduction into what was going to be a memorable experience.
Batida then began talking over music that was loud and ecstatic. His sarcastic tone poked fun at introductory disclaimers about the originality of music along with a forewarning of the cliché obligatory DJ rituals. He never actually addressed the crowd and would instead make statements like “How you doing insert name of the city here”
We were amused and animated as the beats kicked in and his crew danced amongst audience members in a seated concert hall setting. This was all so exciting, something we had never experienced before. But there was still something different and unique about this performance. The Almost perfect DJ was not onstage! infact nobody knew where he was and we were watching a mannequin propped up behind what I assume was an unplugged CDJ player. (Yes you can go back and read that line again)
The audience joined in on the dancing as Pedro’s inspiring and contagious dancers occasionally reappeared with props and snacks for the crowd. The fun was spilling over and the DJ had connected us on so many levels.
Admittedly I was partially hoping he’d make an appearance on stage when closing the set, but then again, I guess it was just an almost perfect DJ set.
How did you come up with this concept?
My ideas evolve from other ideas. I never know when an idea is the next or the last one. It's always moving. But this one in particular happened right after a big set. It was at a huge festival – 7000 people. After the event I asked my agent what they thought about my set and they said it was great but you could have waved your arm a little more and been more interactive. That was my idea – I would replace myself with a mannequin so its arm can stay in the air for the whole set.
I started adding layers to this idea which gradually evolved into a set. You know I put a lot of work and sweat into records but then someone tells me its the arm that works.
Do you get any grief from other DJs about what you do?
No, because other DJs see it and poke fun as well because they are never 'that DJ'. So it's more like teasing not mocking. It's like a metaphor.
Do you have a vision for the future of DJing?
I think we will have more superstars with bigger shows and brands. The type of structure will keep evolving and will become more interactive and sensitive. The eviction will become more organic. Modern festivals focus on being green and environment-friendly but hopefully these festivals also use more ‘art’ in their slogans and we as people demand more music in art.
We want to know your view on the MENA music scene
I think here people are engaged with reality and they have an intention. During the Arab spring it was the musicians that bought information to the people. That is something I really respect and admire. If you feel sad or angry about something the best thing you can do is convey it through music. It's a soul saver when someone speaks to you in your language and translates what’s going on through music.
For info on other shows at NYU Abu Dhabi visit nyuad-artscenter.org
Image Courtesy: Batida Official
About the Writer
Faariss Khalil is a British musician who currently lives in Dubai. As a former turntablist from Bristol his experience of growing up in a thriving music scene has fuelled his passion to uncover new music in the UAE