The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 is delivering a ton of great and quirky music in the Netherlands’ city of Rotterdam but what about music made in the country itself?
Some of it will be featured during the semi-finals and grand final, a nod to the Eurovision tradition of showcasing the host country’s musical creativity, but not all of course and so it seems fitting to profile five very cool artists, each of whom makes wholly unique music and who help you to appreciate just how richly and culturally diverse the Netherlands is and why it’s creative output is very much worth discovering.
So sit back in-between all the Eurovision musical goodness and listen to five artists who have something completely original to say to a meld of music which entrances at every turn.
A Dutch recording artist, singer-songwriter, actor, producer and mc, Esperanza Denswil, known by her stage moniker Pink Oculus, is a Rotterdam-born artist of a great many talents who began her career very much under her own terms
Her first release, “Sweat”, which came out in November 2013, was independently released, a towering propulsive surging of emotions, beats and resonant vocals which never lets up once its highly-memorable journey deep into your eardrums and soul.
Her path to this brilliantly catchy and highly-danceable song, which has been followed by the likes of “Delicious” began at the age of two when a mime act on television gave her the acting bug, a creative aspiration that found company years later when, after moving to Amsterdam with her mother and sister, she began writing short stories, going so far as to win a writing contest at the relatively tender age of 12.
Drawing her inspiration from artists such as happily diverse as Mos Def, Erykah Badu and Dinah Washington, Pink Oculus premiered her artistic altar ego in 2013 after working with visual artist and director Bouba Doula and coming up with songs including “Sweat” which led to her first unofficial tour through the Netherlands and around the world which took up all of 2014.
Described by Culture Trip as a Muse-like band that “make heavy-hitting rock anthems that demand mosh pits and headbanging”, De Start are an alternative rock band that formed in Nijmegen, a city close to the German border, in 2006.
The Muse reference was not an idle comparison by the way with the band, who shared the same musical sensibilities and passion as the British band, supporting Muse on their Drones World Tour through Portugal, Germany, Belgium Italy and Spain in 2016.
That’s quite the heady culmination to a decade of activity for a band which found its genesis in lead singer Torre Florim, in whose apartment the band’s demo was first recorded before they went on to become the support act for Belgian outfit dEUS and release their debut album Wait for Evolution.
With all that talent bristling along with fervent energy, which found vibrantly upbeat expression in tracks like 2014’s “Get It Together”, De Start have gone on to play festivals like Lowlands and Glastonbury, release a slew of albums including 2019’s sixth effort Bubble Gum and even garner themselves some advertising action, with their track “Kitty Kitty” used to promote channel All4 in the UK.
Possessed of an entirely memorable artistic moniker in Fatima Yamaha, Bas Bron is a music artist and producer who specialises in electronica and is renowned in his country of birth for it.
Kicking things off in 2001 with “You’ve Got My Love”, which reflected the electropop and electrofunk of his album of the same year, Ready, Bron has largely either performed live in a band, or released musically under monikers such as Seymour Bits, “a 23-year-old computer programmer named Seymour Jackson who travelled to Zanzibar and Tanzania to pursue his dream of making electronic music”, gifted and, of course, Fatima Yamaha.
Culture Trip describes his decade-plus long body of work as Fatima Yamaha as “an impressive back catalogue of slow-burning melodic dance tracks” which escapes easy categorization and regularly sways between electronic genres while occasionally lifting audial gestures from early 1990s video games.
Taken “Love Invaders” which is a catchy piece of lo-fi electropop which oozes rhythm, a chilled sensibility and style which draws you in and doesn’t let go for the duration.
There’s a something hypnotically seductive about the songs of My Baby which, according to Culture Trip, fuse “the rhythmic echoes of classic Blues with funk-influenced grooves” with their latest music even reflecting the sound of American desert or stoner rock.
That’s quite the cocktail of infectiously attractive sounds, and Dutch-New Zealand band My Baby, which comprises Joost van Dijck (drums), his sister Cato van Dijck (vocals) and Daniel ‘Dafreez’ Johnston (guitars) makes the absolute most of it, ladling out generous helpings of compellingly moody atmosphere in tracks like “Remedy II”.
Discovered, so says Wikipedia, by the PR-Manager of bass player Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, Prince), My Baby released their debut album My Baby Loves Voodoo! in 2013, followed by 2015’s Shamanaid.
In demand at festivals like Freak Valley, Lowlands, Down the Rabbit Hole and Glastonbury where they have played six times, My Baby is a band possessed of a unique sound, look, sensibility and sense of self that comes together in one of the most unique bands around.
BEA1991 takes things down a notch or two in intensity with the artist who has contributed to albums by Blood Orange, worked with Dev Hynes on her own material and whose sound has been described by the Guardian as “Röyksopp covering Kate Bush circa The Dreaming” (quite the compliment!) having “a keen ear for minimalistic production [who] has put together a number of mesmerizing tracks that are guided by her compelling vocals.” (Culture Trip)
Songs like “Filthy Believer” reflect the exuberantly gentle dreamy pop for which she is renowned, lifting you up with a melody that floats along in blissful perfection, happily taking you with it.
She has self-described her music, particularly the ten tracks of debut album Brand New Adult as “one soothing experience”, an apt description for music that entrances with its bold presence while not overwhelming you with a wall of unwelcome sound.
In fact, the sound of BEA1991, who is Dutch-British, is a thousand kinds of beautiful, the sort of songs that you need when the world is being uniformly awful (so pretty much all the time then) and you need somewhere to escape.