Dipha Barus has two personalities. There’s the affable but quiet guy with the friendly smile who almost disappears into his surroundings. Then there’s the the superstar DJ who owns the stage as the center of attention, attracting thousands to his arena shows, ready to rock out to his electronics beats.
It’s hard not to like both of them.
Born and raised in Jakarta, Barus is one of Indonesia’s biggest music stars. A former member of electronic group Agrikulture, Barus now travels the country as a DJ, music producer and songwriter, headlining clubs and massive electronic dance music festivals like the Djakarta Warehouse Project, attended by a record 90,000 fans over two days in 2016.
Marriott TRAVELER caught up with Barus at the W Bali – Seminyak, while filming Marriott International’s latest installment of its “You Are Here” campaign, in which Marriott Rewards members reveal how travel has impacted their lives and how membership with the world’s largest hotel company enables them to experience the world.
If there's one place I would recommend visiting, it's Bali. There are so many beautiful places to go and it has such a rich culture.
Bali is familiar territory to Barus.
The island, a quick 90-minute flight from Jakarta, is Barus’ respite from the crowded, noisy and polluted streets of Jakarta. More than 10 million people live in the largest city in Southeast Asia, so it’s no surprise that coming to Bali, with its beaches, lush forests, and rolling hills of rice paddies, is a welcome retreat.
“I really love Bali,” he says. “If there’s one place I would recommend visiting, it’s Bali. There are so many beautiful places to go and it has such a rich culture.” He’s partial to Ubud because it’s “really quiet and chill,” far from the tourists and clubs he’s used to playing in the more urban Seminyak. “I really love the quiet places.”
The rainforests of Bali’s Ubud is where Barus first learned how to meditate — his favorite travel memory.
“It really got to me because from that day, I meditate every day,” Barus says. “As a DJ, I see the crowds and party, but I really love to meditate to find my inner peace. It’s my escape.”
His escape from performing sets that range from 90 minutes to two hours at a club or festival, to a marathon nine-hour show once in front of 4,000 fans in Jakarta.
I'm really happy to see how the Asian culture is getting more known in the world, but my concern is that have to stick to our roots, our culture.
Keeping Indonesian Culture Alive
Barus’ music mixes sounds using traditional instruments found in Indonesian culture with modern pop beats, borrowing from dubstep, trap, and old school hip-hop.
Because of a busy performing schedule that finds him traveling all over Indonesia, Barus finds himself producing most of his music with his laptop in hotels or at the airport.
“I travel every day,” Barus says. “I take my days off when it’s Christmas or in January.”
“I always produce when I’m traveling,” Barus adds, researching local music shops to check out in the cities he’s visiting. “I really love to collect samples from instruments found across Indonesia, and from different cultures. In Indonesia, we have a really unique culture, so many differnet languages and tribes.
“Traveling is how I get to see the (country’s) different cultures and people,” Barus says. “Every day, I discover a new thing, a new culture. Every day I discover a new influence for my music.”
Preserving Asian culture through his music is important to Barus.
While his own popularity is growing, it’s coming at a time when more Indonesian radio stations are playing local EDM artists.
“I’m really happy to see how the Asian culture is getting more known in the world, but my concern is that have to stick to our roots, our culture,” Barus says. “I want Western culture to see us differently.”
For the song that’s featured in Barus’ “You Are Here” spot and music video, he mixes the mystical with ambient rave, combining an ensemble of Java and Bali music known as gamelan, which is an integral part of Indonesian culture. It’s played with xylophones, bamboo flutes, metallophones and a rebab, a bowed instrument.
“There are not a lot of people doing that — mixing Asian culture with EDM,” Barus says.
Doing that helped put Barus on the map in Indonesia, with his track “No One Can Stop Us” winning the best electronic music production of the year, and making “All Good” go viral.
Barus’ pre-show ritual is pretty simple: 30 minutes of meditation and mineral water. That’s it.
He also keeps his act pretty simple; he doesn’t wear a mask or a costume — something other more colorful EDM artists like Deadmau5, Daft Punk, Marshmello and Cazzette are known for.
“I don’t need that,” he says. “This is me.”
Every day, I discover a new thing, a new culture. Every day I discover a new influence for my music.
An EDM Hot Spot
Bali, with its busy club scene, is easily one of the most popular hangouts for EDM’s biggest stars. Heading from the airport to a hotel will take you past billboards for top artists like Zedd, Hardwell and Kygo playing festivals or the many clubs on the island.
“Here the underground dance music scene is really nice,” Barus says. “There are a lot of parties and big festivals here.”
Mixing music and its appeal as a vacation hotspot is what the W Bali is hoping will attract music acts like Barus to record at its Sound Suite, a fully equipped studio at the resort.
Barus is distracted by all the Sound Suite’s toys — the guitars, keyboard, mixing deck — the first time we meet him. You see the same reaction when you meet artists at the W’s Sound Suites in Barcelona, Hollywood and Seattle.
Why Travel Matters
His music career may dictate Barus’ busy travel schedule, but he considers it important to take the time to appreciate your surroundings. And taking in the local culture.
“There are so many places that are more beautiful than where you are right now,” Barus says. “You can also get new inspiration from just seeing other people from another country. People who are strangers to you. You’ll get inspiration off their vibes.
While his travels typically take him around Southeast Asia like Borneo and Singapore, Barus also has performed in clubs in New York City and Los Angeles, two cities he both loves.
It’s Seattle that really caught him off guard, though.
“I really loved New York’s vibe, but I really loved Seattle,” Barus says. “I loved the weather and the music scene there. I was quite surprised. I thought it would be like any normal city, but the underground music scene was great. The dance music scene is great. I didn’t expect much but I really loved that city.”
But home will always be Jakarta, where he was born and raised.
He recommends visiting Kota Tua, Jakarta’s original downtown area, a historical part of town. His favorite restaurant is Rendezvous, which mixes Indonesian and Chinese cuisine.
Favorite Acts and Festivals
Barus lists Yuna, from Malaysia, and Korea’s Keith Ape and Beenzino as some of his favorite artists lately.
And while he highly recommends checking out the Djakarta Warehouse Project, to see Asian artists you won’t find performing anywhere else, Barus is partial to events like California’s Coachella, too.
“I really love music festivals, not just EDM festivals,” Barus says.
Working with Marriott
Working with Marriott was the first time Barus created an original track for a hotel company. He wasn’t completing foreign to working with brands, having produced jingles for advertising campaigns in the past.
He produced the new song the way he would any other track.
“I just made something that I love,” Barus says. “I’m really happy with it.”
To produce the track, Barus also got to work with Indonesian singer Lala Karmela, a close friend.
“I’m glad I was able to finally do a project together with her,” Barus says. “Her voice and lyrics really blended with my track.”
Barus ultimately wanted the track to represent a sense of freedom. “When you hear the music, you feel really chill and energetic at the same time,” Barus says. He hopes the same feeling comes across in the musicvideo for the track.
He found working with Marriott a very collaborative and freeing process.
“Most brands that I work with give me a track and say, ‘Make it sound like this,'” Barus says. With Marriott, “they gave me total freedom to create a track that mixes my Indonesian and EDM style. They gave me no reference track to stick to.”
Because of that, he’s also not worried that his fans will think he’s sold out.
“I don’t think it’s a problem at all,” Barus says. “It’s the kind of track I usually play on my sets—EDM music combined with traditional vibes. They’ll really connect to it.”
What helped was that Barus was also working with a hotel brand he likes, the W. He had visited the W Bali-Seminyak several times before.
“It’s a really cool brand and represents who I am and what I’m doing right now,” Barus says of the W. “It fits with my vision and my brand. I’m a very visual guy, and I love the way the W represents itself through its advertising.”
In the long run, Barus hopes the W will help him grow his fanbase outside Indonesia.
“My fanbase is big but it’s just around Indonesia,” Barus says. “The W Hotel brand will really help me find a new fanbase because they’re worldwide.”
Being On Set
The size of the “You Are Here” shoot caught Barus off guard.
He expected a smaller production, not one with multiple cameras, nearly a hundred extras dancing in and out of a pool at a three-bedroom villa watching him perform on stage. There were drones hovering overhead as he jumped off a cliff or multiple locations, one including an abandoned theme park with hordes of dragnonflies buzzing all around.
“The production was much bigger than I expected,” Barus says. “It was really awesome. I mean, it was like playing at a real pool party. The vibe and the energy was the same as the energy I feel when I play in a festival. People got really crazy! I didn’t expect that. It was great.”
As he remembers the shoot, one of Barus’ big signature smiles breaks out across his face.
“I’m really happy to be in this project,” he says.