Is Tropical House the sound of the Tropics?

Nothing is hotter in fashion right now than Tropical patterns, and now the Tropics appears to be taking over music as well. Tropical House is the latest musical genre that is all over the clubs, music festivals and radio. Never heard of it? Well, you’ve heard the songs, just look up a few of these tracks on Spotify:

  • Kygo – Firestorm (sooo popular),
  • Bakermat – One Day
  • Kingande – Jubel
  • Felix Jaehn’s remix of OMI’s Cheerleader
  • Robin Shulz’ remix of Mr. Probz’ Waves

It’s very much feel good music, supposed to sound like summer at the beach and conjures up that Seminyak party vibe. However, I’m not sure it really counts as tropical music. It’s almost entirely made by Scandinavians and Germans rather than anyone actually from the Tropics. Even the guy who named it – youthful Australian DJ Thomas Jack –is from chilly Bega on the south coast. Maybe it’s more about wishing you were here rather than actually being here.

It is also, at times, rather plinky plonk. The sound is like a very shallow engagement with tropical music and maybe it would be better to swap the sax for some gamelan. As well as ditching the pan pipes altogether.

So should a self-respecting tropicalist listen to it?

Well, Thomas Jack I think goes beyond the superficial and genuinely explores the music of the Carribean and Brazil in his mixes, which are on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/thomasjackmusic. He also lives in Miami now, which I think just counts as part of the tropics.

If you want something deeper though, why not go further? The tropics has produced a lot of its own music genres after all. The obvious choice is reggae which has percolated globally, as anyone who has gone to an Aboriginal battle of the bands in the Northern Territory or visited the Pacific Islands would attest.

My vote for most right-on Tropicalist music goes to Mbalax – a fusion of Cuban music with traditional Senegelase music. It developed in the golden era of pan-tropical collaboration post-independence in the ’70s and was popularised by singers like Youssou N’Dour. It’s fun music and not made by white people in Norway.

But I still can’t help that I quite like Kygo, and I think Thomas Jack’s mixes would go pretty good at a Darwin dry season house (or sand bar) party. And listening to these poor North Europeans blatantly wishing they were where I get to live every day makes me feel slightly superior as I listen to their music. It is, after all, cool.

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