In our latest artist feature we spoke to Vander on leaving the Dominican Republic as a teenager, working for The Gardens of Babylon, and the inspiration behind his Corals events.
If we could describe Vander and his art in one word, adventurous would probably make the most sense. Leaving his home of the Dominican Republic in his late teens was his first taste of adventure after feeling trapped in his hometown. Since then a self proclaimed travel addiction has compelled Vander to stray wherever his legs take him.
A deeply spiritual individual, Vander’s passion for exploring new things, places and music eventually led him to The Gardens of Babylon which ultimately led to a residency. Since then, he now runs his own events series named Corals.
His musical style is a journey through a groovy, electronic Antillean soundscapes that almost always feature Latin American instrumentation creating images in your mind of sunny beaches and straw hats, releasing on labels such as The Gardens of Babylon, Stil Vor Talent, Pipe & Pochet, and Klassified to name a few.
Whether its travelling the world, finding his inner peace, mixing classic instruments and electronic music, or following other on their own sonic journeys both via his own music and events, as well as his series of online masterclasses, it’s clear that wherever Vander goes adventure isn’t too far behind.
Interview & words: Callum Martinez
What was your earliest experience with music?
I remember falling in love with music and groove when I listened to a song called ‘La Cosquillita’ for the first time. It’s by renowned Dominican legend Juan Luis Guerra. The track is from 1994 – I’m not sure how old I was when I listened to it (I was born in 93 so I guess way after it’s release because I have vivid memories of it), but I remember I couldn’t stop playing and dancing to it. Not long after that I asked my mom to buy me instruments. She got me a set of congas from the Villa Consuelo market.
You left the Dominican Republic at a young age. What compelled you to move when you did? What were you missing?
I moved from the Dominican Republic about 10 years ago, in 2011. I left to pursue a Civil Engineer degree in Mexico. I wasn’t missing anything to be honest; I just felt there was more out there in the world for me and indeed that’s what I’ve found. I’ve been traveling intensively since then to all parts of the world. I find it mind-blowing to observe how everywhere it’s the same but also very different.
I have been hooked to this feeling, hence my travel addiction.
How does spirituality fit into your story?
I wouldn’t be standing where I am if it wasn’t for the spiritual practices of my life.
Not everybody knows but I was raised in a conservative family and the transition from going through what my family believes is right to becoming who I really am, an artist, has been challenging. This transition required a lot of wisdom, mental clarity, and faith to pursue this dream of mine and “go against the odds”. Becoming an artist hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve done but it’s by far the most rewarding.
I identify with my creative side. It helps to clear my mind and let the creativity flow. Meditation has been the key to my mental well-being and creative explosion.
How did you develop the ‘mambo’ rhythm and what inspired its creation?
I stole the world mambo from a sub-genre created in the Dominican Republic. It’s a style that comes from Merengue and showcases a very distinctive groove that I must admit I love. The idea from my concept is to bring those elements to electronic music.
What inspired you to start Corals, and how does the events planning look for the brand in 2022?
When I got the opportunity to have a residency at Ponton I started to think about how I can take this residency to the next level by giving our visitors a new experience. The venue was next to the water and all the walls were made of glass, so it gave an illusion that we were standing on top of the water. Taking this into account I started to think how we can enhance this experience and also gave some meaning to the events – that’s were Corals: The Underwater Experience came from.
Corals are a thing in my home country, Dominican Republic, and during my research I stumbled upon some great pictures of it. Seeing all the colours under the water and making the connection with DR it was perfect for this. Creating a Corals in the venue it was the perfect way to create the “underwater” experience we were looking for. Besides that, it also gave a meaning to the parties because we could use the event to raise awareness about the environmental impact that we are having in the oceans.
You have played some amazing festivals, what’s your favourite memory?
I have many but I would say playing back-to-back with Julien from Parallells on a Saturday Morning in Afrikaburn in the Cobra Stage. That was an epic sunrise!
How would you describe your sonic identity?
Groovy electronic music.
How did your relationship with the Gardens of Babylon come about?
I was living in The Netherlands and by chance of life I saw an advertisement of the first Babylon event with Yokoo and fell in love with the communication of it. I started digging the community and then one day I met Shishi (The Gardens of Babylon founder) around 2018 in the first Family gathering organized for the people involved in the community. After that meeting, we didn’t talk much until one summer when I had a university break for three months. I texted her that I had free time and that if she needed some help, I was more than happy to work for her for free. She kindly agreed and the rest is history.
I became the first intern at the company and worked with Shishi for the next two years. We travelled the world making amazing events, meeting the most loving people, and creating unforgettable memories. I am super grateful with the experience and with the whole community that opened their doors to me as a human being and musician.
I wouldn’t be where I am at if it wasn’t for The Gardens of Babylon.
What are your top 3 favourite records ever made?
Difficult to answer but I would say: Glue by Bicep; Beat It by Michael Jackson and Holocene by Bon Iver
If you could work with any artist in the world, who would it be?
I would love to work with Illangelo – The Weekend’s producer.
What’s next for you?
Besides touring, I have an EP coming in October on Oliver Koletzki’s label A Tribe Called Kotori – it’s a co-produced EP with my friend Saudade. I’m very excited for this EP since it’s Saudade’s first release and I am very happy we did this together. I also have a single coming up with ULTRA called Paran Bola co-produced with Fiin, Ramiro Rossotti and featuring Miluhska on the vocals.
In addition, I am focusing on putting out masterclasses featuring artists I admire on my online music academy www.curiousartists.club – you should check it out if you want to learn how to make music and DJ.