Electronic Dance Music comes in myriad forms, most mysterious to those who are not yet well exposed. The generic idea is that it is a repeating rhythm with sound levels and bass moving louder or softer to bring the dance crowd closer to sonic release. The DJs at the mixing board plug their thumb drives in, then spend the evening making volume changes and inspiring the crowd by their own motion onstage while they’re mixing.
For those who stay the course, and begin to learn the differences in style, the nuance comes out. There is a style which incorporates popular music, then mixes it into dance format. There is a style of being a DJ in which your movements are authentic rather than staged. When you find someone who can bring both a sound palette which fills rooms and a stage presence which inspires energy on the dance floor, that’s someone to remember.
Matoma (Tom Lagergren) is a Norwegian born phenomenon. He headlines European festivals, plays his own sold-out shows, and appears to be in near constant motion. Here’s why: Matoma captures your attention from the first minute he steps behind the board. The sound is upbeat and often familiar. And, while he’s mixing, Matoma is in constant motion. He’s dancing, he’s on his microphone adding some vocals, his hand motions and gestures to the crowd are authentic rather than pre-programed. The nearest parallel is to comedy in which anyone can tell a joke, but that doesn’t mean they tell it well. When a comedian who has both the words and the timing down tells a joke you can’t help but laugh. For Matoma it is the same interaction. Watch him and listen and you will quickly find your feet moving and your head bobbing.
Matoma and our friends at A R I Z O N A recently released Heart So Big. Matoma shares: “I couldn’t imagine a better music video for this special song than this! It truly brought me to tears to feel all the love in these incredible videos, like little glimpses into the hearts and memories of people all over the world. Like the song, it’s a reminder to treasure the good that we have in our lives, and that we are all connected by that common joy.”
Collaborations are something which Matoma does well. He had his first big success with Matoma & Notorious B.I.G.’s “Old Thing Back” and followed that with many others with Jason Derulo, Jennifer Lopez, Dua Lipa and many more performers.
The new song Midnight Sun is a collaboration with JP Cooper.
Unlike almost any other EDM performer, Matoma has taken some surprising steps. He had reserved three billboards alongside the freeway on the route to Coachella. Rather than self-promote, he gave those to be used for bringing attention and connection between those festival bound and those in need in Ukraine. This is not the behavior of the stereotypical DJ. This is a thoughtful gesture by someone with an evolved sensibility and perspective.
Matoma was one the first artists to go climate positive in 2015 and working with the United Nations beginning in 2018. Climate positive is defined “an activity goes beyond achieving net zero carbon emissions to actually create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” This has since become widespread among entertainers, but someone had to kick that into motion.
Matoma as a performer is dynamic. As a person he is thoughtful and perceptive. We had a terrific conversation. Links to it in both video and audio format are below:
EDM music is taking a deep hold on the choices people make when they go out for an evening. They want a party, and excuse to be out an about, and to simply have the exhuberant fun of dancing in a room where everyone is freed from the fear of dancing alone.
Matoma brings that party wherever he goes. But, unlike many in the space while his performance is engaged and interactive he also carries himself with the dignity of someone who thinks deeply beyond how to keep the party rolling or when to fire the confetti cannon. It is always dangerous to impute values to someone you have only observed from a distance. However, as the above podcast conversations reveal, Matoma is multi-faceted. Watch him. In time there’s something more coming and it’s going to be both fun to watch and surprising. He may not yet know what is next, but it’s easy to see it will be worth watching.