Championing Team Trop
Last year I brought out ColeCo, a musical duo from Toronto, to Honolulu to play the Labor Day edition of the Bacardi Pool Party.
I wanted to do something big but also different, since people were going to be coming no matter what. I thought it would be a good time to introduce the new sound I loved, a sub-genre of deep house music called Tropical House.
The guys were awesome and had their sound on lock, even abbreviating it to “Trop,” which still makes me giggle. They were making it sound so hard!
“Oh, there’s a lot of us Trop producers,” they would say in between multiple social media posts of them hanging out on the beach in aloha shirts to make their friends in freezing Canada jealous.
While I was still new to the name, I wasn’t new to the sound and the fact that I loved it. It brought me from indie-dance and nu-disco to areas of deep house I had yet to really explore. All I knew is the instruments were what pulled me in, but the beautiful environment in which I am able to play music is the most inspiring.
We are living this music.
On some of my favorite tracks you can hear a marimba, trumpet, flute or strings. Piano and saxophone are also fairly common. It’s most often a higher synthesized, even tempo in the range of 100-115 beats per minute and very easy to listen to, often with vocals. Usually the track is a remix of a popular hit.
The genre is gaining speed on the music festival circuit, as Goldroom wowed crowds at Ultra in Miami and Kygo closed out Coachella last weekend. People don’t need to have their brains gushed out to bangers anymore.
“I love it because it's different from all the mainstream EDM that are bangers or music people want to rage to,” Hawaii-based producer/DJ Jeff "Phantom" Pham, pictured below, said. “The vibes it gives off is summer, beach feels.
“Tropical house to me brings me a soothing emotion; it acts almost as a theme to paradise. Artists incorporate saxophones, trumpets, flutes, different styles of percussions not normally used in a regular EDM track.”
This weekend, promoter/producer/DJ Matt Barberi turns his monthly Lush party on the third Friday of each month into the summer kickoff for Tropical House. As a long-time proponent of this genre, I was invited to be the special guest DJ. I am, as they say, ecstatic.
“Tropical House to me is the natural maturing of electronic music for the masses,” Barberi said. “Using synthesized melodic patterns, often well-known pop vocals and uplifting party vibes perfect for making anyone smile and feel good.”
It feels good to be championing a concept before it hits the mainstream, but it feels even better to be in the epicenter of the place these producers are inspired by when making this music.
The most explosive producer in this genre is Kygo, who is from one of the coldest corners of the world in Norway. Others, like Bakermat, ColeCo, Henry Land, Bergs and Soco are also from very very cold places.
But we are in the tropics, so it’s time to enjoy that with some inspired music.
Check out some of my favorite Tropical House mixes right now, plus my mix from the last time I was at Lush, below.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.