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Superstar DJ Armin van Buuren on what NYC means to his music

Superstar DJ Armin van Buuren on what NYC means to his music
Photograph: Courtesy Bart Heemskerk

This weekend, New York’s beloved electronic music festival Electric Zoo returns to Randalls Island for its ninth edition. Featuring three full days of nonstop dance music, the highly anticipated summer music festival boosts a star-studded lineup of some of the world’s biggest DJs and producers. Among a crowd of superstar DJs, Grammy-nominated Dutchman Armin van Buuren finds himself right at home.

Known as the flag-bearer of the trance music movement, van Buuren has become nothing short of a pioneer amongst the electronic community—and a legend among his fans. He's been a headliner at Electric Zoo since its inception in 2009 and returns to the festival’s Main Stage this Sunday for a sure-to-be-unforgettable set. With a massive discography (which stands at around 700 tracks), we decided the NYC festival would be a good time to investigate the role that the city has played in his music.

From a two-night stint under the Brooklyn Bridge in 2006 to a solo sold-out Madison Square Garden show in 2014, van Buuren has spent plenty of time here, but he's quick to let us know that cities in and of themselves don’t really inspire him: “It’s just a bunch of buildings!” However, there are records that will always have special significance to him in New York. Here’s what he had to say. 

1. This Light Between Us featuring Christian Burns

“I decided to close with this dark track during my headlining performance at Electric Zoo 2011. It got a massive crowd reaction, which is actually really funny because it wasn’t doing so well in the charts. It was the first time I ever closed with a track that wasn’t in the Top 40, and it was a huge success! Sometimes a specific track works really well on the dance floor but not on the radio, and vice versa. I love playing at Electric Zoo because New Yorkers are really passionate about trance music. Whether it’s a radio show or new performance, New Yorkers get so engaged with it. I have such a strong connection with my fans and great memories here.”

2. Intense featuring Miri Ben-Ari

“This was the opening track from my fifth artist album, Intense. I was introduced to violinist Miri Ben-Ari by my manager who was living in New York at the time, and we decided to work together. We recorded the track in New York, and it became a big part of my Armin Only show at Madison Square Garden in 2014. It was amazing because, I mean, who doesn’t want to perform at MSG? It was one of the highlights of my career! My own solo show in such a legendary space. I’ll admit it was weird as a dance music venue with the seats at all, but you feel the extraordinary air about the place when you walk around. I saw a picture of me on the wall and was so humbled.”

3. Don't Want To Fight Love Away featuring Cindy Alma

This is another song that will always make me think of my Madison Square Garden show. It was the first time Cindy sang it live with me. She was actually laying on top of the piano the entire song! [Laughs]

4. Beautiful Life featuring Cindy Alma

“This track has a lot of New York City significance for me because it’s actually where we shot the music video for it. We spent a day running around downtown filming it. It was a lot of fun.”

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