Current Mood: Cool
Twice more last night did I get the same questions from friends and bystanders: “Where did you first hear it? How do you keep up with house music? What exactly IS Hed Kandi?”
How it Began
Air Canada does not usually give me much to be thankful about, but I will give them full credit for introducing me to house music. I was introduced to Hed Kandi in 2004, at flight level 360 in the night sky on a transatlantic flight (sadly, heading homeward). The meals had just been cleared and I was looking through the inflight magazine at the radio section (back in those days we didn’t have touch screens ).
“Hed Kandi – Twisted Disco” caught my eye in the channel listing, so I began listening.
It was euphoric.
I was hooked.
Progressions – Keeping Up
From Hed Kandi, one quickly learns about Ministry of Sound (part of the same conglomerate), then other brands such as Kontor, Cafe del Mar, and more recently, Fierce Angel (brainchild of Hed Kandi’s creator, Mark Doyle).
I like all genres of house/trance/techno but I should stress that simply calling a piece of music “Hed Kandi” can often be misleading. A quick trip through the Hed Kandi website reveals just how diverse each released album is (“Twisted Disco” is nothing like “Beach House,” for instance), in terms of genre, mixing style and contributing artists. However, I loosely define Hed Kandi closer to the “vocal house and light electro, yet always dance music” genres, and while this is far from true, it provides some perspective when one listens to heavier techno or trance of the Kontor variety, for instance. On this note, if “Hed Kandi” ever comes to your town, you may not hear music that’s actually on Hed Kandi albums (but some music definitely will be); it’s more about the experience and having a DJ that is “Hed Kandi certified.”
In terms of keeping up with house music in general, however, I think you cannot go wrong by spending a few minutes every week on Beatport.
The Love Affair
I do not profess to know anything about the business model behind Hed Kandi, nor am I an expert on the music, but I can clearly see that their efforts to turn themselves into a lifestyle brand are largely fueled by their album releases. Jason Brooks’ artwork was the best thing to happen to their album covers, as it associated the music with a sense of glamour that Mr. Brooks’ art invokes in us, the listeners and readers. Indeed, a collection of Hed Kandi albums in a book case looks right at home next to Plato’s Republic or Uranometria 2000.0, and certainly everything in between. A Brooks painting or poster hanging on the walls of a cozy apartment is supposed to give some insight into the occupant’s music taste, yet somehow speaks about the occupant’s entire lifestyle.
Just as children collect trading cards to elevate their social status amongst their peers, Hed Kandi enthusiasts are almost forced to grab each album right off the proverbial CD-and-printing-press, just because the new artwork adds to one’s style points, while the music continues to surprise, educate and entertain.
Yet, the sense of exclusivity is only for show. It actually is an “exclusive” brand that is designed for everyone’s enjoyment. Indeed, one feels instantly welcome into this “exclusive” community as soon as one hears his or her first Hed Kandi song. The song selection is designed to welcome listeners from every other genre of music, and it sure as hell keeps me awake on my long commutes to and from school. Hed Kandi does not alienate classical musicians like drum-and-bass sometimes can, nor does it keep the hip-hoppers at bay.
I stress again, hip-hoppers will enjoy it, given some time and open-mindedness. If a hip-hopper tells you that they don’t like “house and techno,” a (metaphorical) slap is in order.
I do feel like the labelling of the Hed Kandi brand as lifestyle is almost done tongue-in-cheek. Sure, they’re offering colognes and clothes, but they were, and always will feed off their music. Let us never forget that. Music needs a large audience to propagate, something that true exclusivity would never allow. Unlike any other commodity, music feeds off its ability to make itself available to everyone, regardless of financial or social constructs, and I think Hed Kandi’s pseudo-exclusive-yet-widely-available feel is what makes it special. Coupled with carefully arranged albums, we, the avid listeners, do feel that we are receiving the best bang for our quid.
Mr. Doyle was on to something spectacular when he created the Hed Kandi label, and while he’s moved on to other projects such as Fierce Angel, there is still his sense of perfectionism when a new Hed Kandi album is released.
Oh, and speaking of Mr. Doyle, do try and check out Fierce Angel. It offers a bit more of a “classic” Hed Kandi feel, yet fits in seamlessly into one’s music collection right next to post-Doyle Hed Kandi albums.
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