Air Presents: Danga

Danga’s recent edit of “FE!N” alongside Indonesian producer Egnever is a pretty great introduction to the Belgian artist and his presence here in Asia. The track bounces from Europe to Southeast Asia, drawing influence from the UK and Brazil along the way, all of it swirling around a major but moody US rap song. It’s an atmospheric, baile jungle edit of the orchestral original featuring soaring new synth melodies and dynamic percussion. The version is tropical and electronic, all blended with a heady, soulful vibe. It embodies his DJ sets and his production, both of which revolve around contemporary world music and melodic rap with an eye kept diligently on the dance floor.

Ironically, Danga has never met Egnever in person and he also didn’t get to visit Indonesia on his Asia tour last month, which included a Halloween set here in Bangkok at Blaq Lyte Air. “I know Egnever from SoundCloud,” he says over video chat from a bullet train in Japan. “A lot of people that I’ve met on tour, I already met them on SoundCloud. My music was already going around here before I ever landed in Asia. SoundCloud is a small world.”

Danga grew up in a small village an hour outside of Antwerp, Belgium’s biggest city. His parents exposed him to music at a very young age and he started going to festivals and concerts with them by the time he was 12 years old. But he’s never been a clubgoer, despite his career behind the decks. “I don’t go out to bars and stuff, I prefer to be at home,” he laughs. “Wake up early, eat good. No drinking. Just a healthy lifestyle.” When he started DJing, he was playing a blend of rap and R&B, revolving around artists like Drake and The Weeknd. But when afrobeats started making waves from Nigeria across the world, it took him in a new direction, opening him up to stuff like dancehall, afro house, and reggaeton.

Although Danga is a white European playing Black styles of music, he says the scene in Europe is actually pretty diverse, with evenly-mixed crowds and artists coming from many different backgrounds, especially in The Netherlandsโ€”which shares a border with Antwerp. “There are people from everywhere living here in Europe,” he explains. “When it comes to DJing, we’re very aware of making sure everyone has the same chances.”

Danga started touring Asia in 2018, and it was his first exposure outside of Europe. He says that gigs here have a bigger impact for him than those at home. His first trip to the region was with the Studio KOTO label along with some Dutch artists who already had a presence here. This most recent trip was Danga’s third tour, which he mostly organized through friends he’s made over the years. He says that it’s different in every city, but the parties are usually a mix of forward-thinking locals, expats, and tourists stumbling in and not knowing what’s going on.

“I feel most comfortable playing in Seoul right now,” Danga says when asked to reflect on his experiences on this side of the world. He likes it so much in Seoul that he spent an extra week there without gigs to meet up with locals and pass out clothes from Arte, the streetwear brand he works for. “Indonesia also has a really good scene and understands what I’m playing. In Osaka, people went extra crazy. The Bangkok festivals are growing very fast. Southeast Asia is going really well in general.” But there are still hurdles, and he points to the fiasco with The 1975 in Kuala Lumpur as one example. “The local talents had this chance to play and show what they’ve got, but then because of one band it gets canceled. It’s really sad.” But you can be sure Danga will be back in the region again soon, and expect some more collabs with locals to drop even sooner.