Roger Shah has long been a revered and coveted name on the international dance circuit. The German trance colossus’ prolificacy and ingenuity are legendary. With more than six albums to his credit, a multifarious array of remixes and an inventive live performance to boot, it’s not hard to see why he’s remained an esteemed fixture in the scene since his emergence in the early nineties.
“My old Balearic trademark sound does not really exist anymore. The new album represents what I am playing right now.” Roger Shah
Far from merely a DJ, Shah is a sonic explorer; roaming audible landscapes in search of the uncharted territories from which he assembles new sounds, forging new musical avenues. Having earned the adulation of his contemporaries, Armin Van Buuren is among his many admirers, and global audiences alike, Shah has firmly established himself as an irrefutable innovator of his craft.
Born in southern Germany, his initial ventures in music began with him learning to play the keyboard at age ten, going on to play in a band not long after. But it wasn’t until he encountered dance music that he knew that a life spent composing and performing was on the cards for him. At age twenty he started to DJ, slowly building his profile with hits such as 1999’s The Mission and since then has been at the helm of numerous acclaimed releases on some of Europe’s top labels.
One intriguing aspect of Shah’s life as a DJ is his constantly shifting musical identity. Over the course of his career he has developed something of a reputation for his vigorous employment of multiple aliases. Titles such as Sunlounger and Savannah are just two examples of his chameleon-esque name hopping.
However, this pursuit is not one rooted in vanity, the reason for it is surprisingly practical as he explains, “It has more to do with contracts and exclusivity reasons with record companies, or even just working with different producers on different projects. This way I could also work and check out different record companies to see how they work.” Around 2010 he dropped the ‘DJ’ prefixation from his nom de guerre, opting to go simply with his birth name to coincide with his live act taking on a more instrumental approach.
Shah has toured broadly this past year, promoting his album Openminded. His entertainment value as a performer has undoubtedly gone from strength to strength too, with his act forgoing the usual treatment of selecting and mixing tracks in favour of incorporating live playing and vocals.
Undeterred by trivialities such as destination, his philosophy with regard to performance is one of earnestly sharing the unifying experience only music can provide, as he states, “Music is a universal language and has no cultural barrier, it doesn’t matter where I play or for what kind of culture, the response is almost always the same. People sing along with their hands in the air.”
23 November saw the release of the latest instalment of Shah’s Magic Island series, Volume 4. Known for its signature Balearic blend of rhythm and melody, the series has turned listeners the world over on to the sounds of distant, beatific summer isles. With this iteration however, Shah is hoping to capture something new rather than resting on the back of a tested formula. “My old Balearic trademark sound does not really exist anymore. The new album represents what I am playing right now.” Critical response to the new release has been favourable so far.
Ever on the move, Shah is already plotting out his activities in the coming year with designs for soundtracks for several Hollywood films in the works, having recently been appointed as an in-house producer at Disney. This, along with a prospective fashion imprint goes to show that the man is rampantly trotting out the path to artistic fulfilment.
Roger Shah is due to perform at Truth Nightclub on New Year’s Eve and at Bloublometjies in Cape Town on 12 January. It’s a tour he’s feverishly looking forward to, “The people have been very enthusiastic about my music. I think this is a great country to build something special.”
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