Balearic Beat, also known as Balearic House, or simply Balearic initially is an eclectic blend of DJ-led dance music that emerged in the mid-1980s. It later became the name of a more specific style of Electronic Dance Music that was popular into the mid-1990s. Balearic Beat was named for its popularity among European nightclub and beach Rave patrons on the Balearic island of Ibiza, a popular tourist destination. Some dance music compilations referred to it as "the sound of Ibiza," even though many other, more aggressive and upbeat forms of dance music could be heard on the island.
UK disc jockeys Trevor Fung, Paul Oakenfold, and Danny Rampling are commonly credited with having "discovered" Balearic beat (as far as the UK was concerned) in 1987 while on holiday in Ibiza. Reportedly, they were introduced to the music at Amnesia, an Ibizan nightclub, by DJ Alfredo from Argentina, who had a residency there.
DJ Alfredo, whose birth name is Alfredo Fiorito, played an eclectic mix of dance music whose style encompassed the Indie hypno grooves of the Woodentops, the mystic Rock of The Waterboys, early House, Europop, and oddities from the likes of Peter Gabriel and Chris Rea. After visiting other clubs on the island where similar music was being played, including Pacha and Ku,Oakenfold and his friends Trevor Fung and Ian St. Paul Oakenfold returned to London, where they unsuccessfully tried to establish a nightclub called the Funhouse in the Balearic style. Returning to Ibiza during the summer of 1987, Oakenfold rented a villa where he hosted a number of his DJ friends, including Danny Rampling, Johnny Walker, and Nicky Holloway. Returning to London after the summer, Oakenfold reintroduced the Balearic style at a South London nightclub called the Project Club. The club initially attracted those who had visited Ibiza and who were familiar with the Balearic concept. Fueled by their use of Ecstasy and an emerging fashion style based on baggy clothes and bright colors, these Ibiza veterans were responsible for propagating the Balearic subculture within the evolving UK Rave scene. In 1988, Oakenfold established a second outlet for Balearic beat, a Monday night event called Spectrum, which is credited with exposing the Balearic concept to a wider audience. It was 1988 when Balearic beat was first noticed in the U.S., according to Dance Music Report magazine. Jose Padilla, is an Ibizan DJ best known for his residency at Café del Mar.
Balearic Beat records vary between House or Italo House and Deep House influenced sounds and a slower R 'n' B influenced (under 119bpm) beat consisting of bass drum, snare, and hi-hats (often produced with a Roland TR-909 drum machine) programmed in certain laid-back, swing-beat patterns; plus Soul, Latin-Jazz, African, Funk, and Dub affectations; and production techniques borrowed from other styles of dance music that were popular at the time. Vocals were sometimes present, but much of the music was instrumental. The sounds of acoustic instruments such as guitar and piano were sometimes incorporated into Balearic beat. Having been primarily associated with a particular percussion pattern that eventually fell out of vogue, the style eventually faded from prominence, and its repertoire was subsumed by the more general "chill out" and "downtempo" genres.
The style of Balearic Beat is described by its inventors, as opposed to its UK followers, as the ability for the DJ to play across a broad range of styles, from early minimal New Beat to the first extended remixes of Pop-songs, making Balearic DJ sets those that tend to have the sharpest turns of musical direction. While the public outside Ibiza generally describes Balearic beat as a music style, the island based community regard Balearic beat as a non-style or a healthy disrespect to style conformity and a challenge to the norm. It's a freestyle expression that seamlessly binds sporadic vinyl inspiration through technical flair on the turntables.
In recent years, due to stylistic segregation in Electronic Dance Music, few promoters and DJs dare to stretch the spectrum of styles that far in fear of losing identity and clients. DJ Alfredo still heralds the most diversity among Ibiza DJs, but generally the approach to mixing as well as the terminology, have been swallowed up by the Chillout scene.
Ibiza is still considered by some to have its own 'sound,' however, including the music of Jens Gad, co-creator of Enigma, and his new chillout-world-influenced hybrid project, Achillea, recorded in his studio in the hills overlooking Ibiza.
Compilations such as Global Lounge Sessions: The Balearic Sound of Ibiza, released in 2002, and Sequoia Groove's Buddha-Lounge series, continue to be released. These generally feature house music and certain downtempo selections, not the old style of Balearic Beat, per se. Some prefer to use the term Balearic more generally, however, to apply to all of these styles.
Pedro del Mar