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Going beyond the trance scene


Published on: March 6, 2017 | Updated on: March 6, 2017

As cleansing is cathartic, stirring just as many emotions as memories, grand melodies, there seems to be little that Above and Beyond’s music can’t do to you. While the London-based trio perennially finds a place at the world’s leading dance music festivals, even reaching 30 million listeners across 35 countries every week through its radio show, Group Therapy, it’s incomplete without an annual trance pilgrimage to India — this time, for a colourful celebration over the Holi weekend. The group’s Paavo Siljamäki gets chatty ahead of their Submerge tour to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.

What fascinates Paavo, Jono Grant and Tony McGuinness about India is its culture, people, food, music and parties. They even started their own label, Anjunabeats, naming it after Anjuna in Goa, famed for its trance parties. "India has always been a special place for us. It’s the birthplace of Group Therapy Radio and the spiritual home of our Anjunabeats label," recalls Paavo.

The music Above and Beyond makes, can’t be easily pigeonholed. Even Paavo has difficulty finding words to describe it. "We make everything from acoustic songs and hard club stuff, to chilled tracks," he explains. And, truly so. Since their days of counting Ferry Corsten, Tiesto and Matt Darey as influences, their sights have been set on evolving, interestingly drawing contrasts between happy and sad, the light and dark.

This love for contrasts has also led them on another quest, foraying from trance into acoustic. "For years, we were trying to figure out the best way to play live as a band, since we all play instruments," Paavo tells us. Subsequently, their acoustic project reflects the group’s classical training — while Tony sings and plays guitar, mandolin and ukulele, Paavo takes to the grand piano and cello with Jono on the Rhodes piano, guitar and vibraphone.

The reworkings of some of their best-selling tracks like Sun & Moon, Sticky Fingers, We’re All We Need and Love is Not Enough, have been since performed at iconic venues around the world, and their albums Acoustic I and Acoustic II have topped music charts worldwide. According to the band, the project has only helped them hit refresh on what they do musically. "What’s amazing is that it brings families together — people were bringing their parents and kids to the live concerts and it allowed us to look at the songs we love in a new way," he says.

Paavo grew up in a musical environment, where everyone played an instrument. His father sang in choirs while his grandfather wrote poems. "I grew up thinking I need a ‘real job,’ but realised music was — and always will be — my true love," he says. It’s this love that also gets him to dish out advice for the young and the restless. "Don’t think success is having a million likes on Facebook. Success is the ability to do what you love and make enough income from it, so you can fully concentrate on it and keep doing what you love, always evolving and improving. Music’s such a deep subject, you’ll never know it all, but while learning, it will bring so much love to your life — you’re lucky," he smiles, knowing that love in itself is above and beyond.