“Dancing while dreaming away. Que soñao.”
Swedish-Chilean artist, producer and DJ Cristian Dinamarca is known for his trippy, trance-infused sounds with rhythmic Latin influences. After successfully putting out his instrumental album Fantasilandia Vol. 1 and 2, and several EP’s, he has just released his new album, soñao, on April 12; a fusion of his merging passions of electronic trance and reggaeton. Describing the record as “atmospheric, dreamy and danceable – pop soundscapes combined with percussion-heavy Latin rhythms and a whiff of rave”, soñao is an ode to, “dancing while dreaming away. Que soñao.” Celebrating the release, we spoke with the artist about his new work and his past experiences of DJing and producing that got him to the point of experimentation he embodies today.
Let’s talk about your beginning chapters of creating and experimenting with music!
I grew up in a suburb in Stockholm, and there was a youth centre where you could learn how to DJ every Wednesday. I went there and the guy that was teaching us was also just a kid, but he loved trance and a lot of us did too. We came there with nothing, didn’t have any CDs or anything because we were just beginning so we used his stuff and played around with it. I remember he had posters of DJ Tiësto and Love Parade and stuff like that. We were just all thinking “yeah, we wanna do that when we grow up”.
And you did! What did this transition — from Djing at a youth group to wanting to make your own music — look like?
Growing up, I was DJing a lot in Stockholm and also in Sweden. After school, this was my main job for a long time. It was really nice in the beginning, but after a while I realised I’m not going to make it anywhere as a DJ outside of Stockholm. That’s when I started thinking, ‘okay, who are the DJs that come to Sweden from outside?‘. The answer to that was, and is, people who produced an EP (who you can then also book). So, that is when I realised I had to do something more. I always knew the programmes and how to produce, because I usually made my own edits. So it was then I decided that I had to focus on just making music.
How did this learning, and creative process play out in your daily routine?
When I decided to focus on my music I made a plan for intervals of three months, six months, three years, and so on. I saved a lot of money from my DJ sets when I was playing three to four times a week and with that I rented a studio. After a while of investing in myself, at around 28 things started to work out, I started getting bookings, first in Europe and from there I continued.
It sounds like a very courageous series of steps. How did you feel during this shift?
Yeah, for sure. When I was DJing as my main job, I was always thinking about the dance floor and how it should be packed. If someone was leaving, I could easily understand “okay I have to put this on”, so my mind was in a more commercial place. When I started producing and getting booked for my music, it was a totally different feeling because my set could become super experimental. My sets now are just an hour or so and people are there to feel the music. It felt like Djing became fun and I got much more creative freedom and much more creative overall.
Trance was one of your first influences from when you were DJ-ing, however you also have some powerful Latin influences. Was this inspiration-point always present?
When I first decided to start making music, I had a long period of mimicking the sounds produced by all my favourite artists. I used this to really figure out how to make this specific sound or do these specific techniques. After a while I felt like I was getting the hang of the technical parts and then I had to ask the deeper questions: Who am I? What do I wanna show that’s unique for me? That’s when I started thinking about how I like electronic music, but felt like it was missing something. It’s missing the rhythms that I like to dance to, but it’s not missing the melodies. My love for trance started when I was around 13. So I think the melody was always there, but then the rhythm and stuff came through my life at home being surrounded by my parents who are from Chile. They listened to a lot of music from there, but there was also a Chilean community here in Stockholm growing up. Every summer there was a football tournament with only Latinos and they listened to a lot of reggaeton and stuff like that. It always made sense for me to mix these worlds because the melodies are the best in trance and the rhythms themselves are best in Latin music.
So this Latin influence was always around in your youth…
Yes. However, the very first time I heard Latin music was when I was seven or eight in Chile. Our plan was to come to Sweden because there was a dictatorship in Chile and we were going to save money, wait for the dictatorship to end and then go back. We went back when I was seven or eight to move, but we ended up staying there for only a year and a half. I remember being there and seeing kids my age outdoors who had choreographed dances to reggaeton songs. It was like TikTok, but without TikTok and they were just doing it on the street. I was like, what is that? And it turned out it was this artist called El General. I think also he was the first to make reggaeton. However, back then, I just heard it, thought it was cool, became friends with those kids, but then moved back to Sweden and listened to more trance.
You also recently moved to Madrid. Was this to surround yourself by the music that you are passionate about or was it out of another interest?
I started going to Madrid after I first got invited by a publishing company there, Universal Music Publishing. They invited me for a week to work with their artists and they put me in a session, from Monday to Saturday. And it was really nice. So I started going there a few more times to work with their artists and every time I got back to Sweden, there would be months of me making no music — just doing beats. In Madrid I was really productive, working with vocalists and producing a lot. So I realised I should be there. It’s also the perfect place to make music in Spanish while staying in Europe.
How did your collaboration with Meth Math come to be?
It actually happened at a distance. They released an EP earlier last year and they asked me if I wanted to contribute and I started sending them beats and eventually it became a song for that EP. Then we talked and I was like, “Yeah, let’s do one for me next time”.
Is this how most of your collaborations begin?
I try to contact people that I like (and that I feel that would answer my email). Then, I just send them beats. I usually prefer to be in the same room with the artists I work with. I feel like we make way more interesting stuff that way and the connection is better. I also feel like every person I collaborate with is really talented. Either they studied piano since they were two or something. Because of this, when I’m in the studio with them and they’re playing a melody, I can add what I know on top of that skill. Since I’ve never studied music, it’s really nice to be with professional people and collaborate, exploring what we can each bring to the picture. That’s how I think it is possible to come up with something new and exciting.
So your collaborations usually take an improvisational route?
Yeah. For example, with AMORE, I would usually tell her to sit down by the mini keyboard and I start choosing sounds. When she liked one, she would start creating a melody and then we would get into this really nice motivational dynamic. Because we would do everything together, it’s just really organic. But beyond the music it’s really nice to just get to know each other. I think the most important thing is to respect the other person and really appreciate what they’re doing.
Outside of clubs and parties, is there a place you would want your sounds to be heard?
I don’t know where exactly, but for my music to be listened to by different generations would be cool. Like maybe a parent with their kid listening to it and then they can really appreciate the song from their own perspectives, in a car or somewhere together. I never thought of an actual place actually, maybe like Machu Picchu.
Now that you say that with the generations, your song Sana Sana, isn’t that a song that parents usually sing to their kids to heal their wounds? How did you decide to use the song?
That was actually La Favi who chose it. We were sitting here in Stockholm, we had the beat and she just came up with that. She started singing the melody and the lyrics of Sana Sana and I was surprised, like, what? She had the million dollar idea and it’s nice because every Latin person is gonna know the song.
Do you have a favourite song that you’ve made or produced?
I feel like it’s always the last one I created, the last one that I produced. But I don’t know. I really like mwah :3, the one I did with rusowsky. It’s a mix of two really nice worlds. But I was looking at my Spotify yesterday and I was super happy because now all my top songs are songs with vocals, which is what I always wanted to get into more.
Your new album, soñao is amazing. Combining layers of fast sounds and rhythms with intricate melodies, do you see this album as a new chapter within your creativity?
I honestly feel like it’s my first album in some way because I’ve only released EPs and the only full length project has been Fantasilandia, which is only instrumental and is its own world. This is more showcasing all of me. There’s maybe one song that sounds a bit like Fantasilanda, then there’s a few songs that sound more like Sol De Mi Vida, and then there are a few songs that sound like what I’m doing right now, which is with vocals. So I feel like this album really shows the most of me. But also the process with this was unique because usually when I produce I do one, two or three songs a day, but then with this album I started listening to all my stuff and tried to combine songs and see if it made sense. With STAYCORE co-founder Ghazal and our friend Simon, we shuffled through around a hundred songs and for this picked the 10 good ones.
What is your biggest motivation for making music?
I just love making music. I feel like it’s more fun to make music than to DJ. It’s really nice and inspiring to meet a lot of new people and I’ve noticed when collaborating with other artists that when you make music together you are in a weird frequency where all of your combined energy goes to experimenting in making a song. I love that. I love the feeling of when you’ve done a really good song and you’re sitting there at the end of the day listening to it, and you’re like, we really did that.
Thank you for sharing! It was lovely to hear all of your experiences and thoughts.
Thank you so much! Was nice to explore your questions.
Image courtesy of Dinamarca
Words by Lara Somoroff