Ela tem um bilhete! Ela tem um bilhete! is all I heard while walking into New York’s famous Webster Hall at the top of the new year. Blankets of snow covered the city’s busy streets, but the music venue was packed to the masses with women in scantily clad tanks and shorts. Ela tem um bilhete! Esta aqui! I overheard a woman say to an employee, who refused to let her pal back into the venue—over her shoulders laid the Brazilian flag. It may have suffered a few snags as she tried to maneuver through the crowd, but there were plenty more flying high for DJ and producer extraordinaire Alok Petrillo.
Anticipating the stage at 1:30 a.m., the 25-year-old feels the waves of love from the crowd as he takes on his very first Big Apple gig. “To see Brazilians here feels really nice,” he tells me backstage alongside his close friend and collaborator Ori Rakib. “It feels more comfortable to be out here since I’m trying to break this barrier. In Brazil, I got really comfortable. Now, I’m trying to work outside of my comfort zone.”
Born to legendary psytrance DJ parents, Alok got his start in the industry at the tender age of 10 and two years later, was considered a professional among the elders. For his latest singles, “Me and You” (featuring Rakib) and the Narcos-inspired “Fuego,” Alok manages to mix and match high tempos with alternative sounds. Thinking smart, Alok bought the rights to Rodrigo Amarante’s theme song from the Netflix series and mixed it with the help his brother Bhaskar to make one alluring track. His previous single “Here Me Now” (featuring Zeeba), a Spinnin’ Records release, has amassed over 30 million views on YouTube and topped the Brazilian music charts.
On top of being named the country’s “Best Brazilian DJ” in 2014 and 2015, Alok is hoping to spread his Midas touch in the states. After bringing down the house at Webster Hall with mixes of deep cuts from TLC and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Alok took his talents to Miami’s LIV, San Diego, Las Vegas and Orlando’s 2017 World Cup Tournament. And as someone who isn’t afraid to showcase his humanitarianism, as he gives back frequently to orphanages in East Africa, the sky is truly the limit for the humble and gifted music-maker.
VIBE Viva: “Me and You” is such a good song. How did you met Ori Rakib?
Alok: I met him in [the] subway here. He’s a street artist, and I saw him play. I was really impressed with his talent so I brought him into the studio and we made “Me and You.” After that, I brought him to Brazil where we did a lot of performances and did a really nice video. Now I’m here in New York, I’m in this b***h and I’m playing here for the first time and I’m really happy to have him here.
A lot of people with Brazil flags, here. It’s really beautiful. How does it feel to find such representation in New York?
There are Brazilians all over the world. So it’s not hard [to miss them]. To see Brazilians here feels really nice. It feels more comfortable to be out here since I’m trying to break this barrier. In Brazil, I got really comfortable. Now, I’m trying to work outside of my comfort zone.
How long have you been spinning?
Thirteen years. Playing as a professional, since I was twelve. My parents are DJs. They did parties and festivals so I got into something really similar. I got to do Tomorrowland – the biggest EDM festival in the world – and it was amazing. It’s funny, I was listening to my old sets and nowadays I felt like my presentation was a little bit amateur. It feels like I’ve grown up, so I’m looking forward to the next one so I can do it better, which is good actually. You always have to criticize yourself.
What aspects of your culture affect the music?
I think [it’s] the groove. Brazilian people love “the fat.” You can see that in the Brazilian music as well—the popular Brazilian music. Yeah, I think it’s the groove.
What are other Brazilian acts should we know about?
[Electronic acts like] Leo, Liberato, Gabe and Bhaskar are all talented people. I think those are the best ones for me.
I heard “Fuego” and immediately loved the blend of the Narcos theme song. What inspired that?
Narcos got really big in Brazil because it’s a Brazilian actor. I just felt like if we added Narcos, it was really going to go up. We bought the rights for it. It was difficult [at first], but after finally communicating with them, we released it and it’s doing well.
What else are you and Ori working on this year?
We are going to release a track that to me is the strongest one I have. It’s called “Love is Tempo,” which [Ori] wrote, and I think it is going to be the breaking record in my career.
Tell me about what went behind creating the video for “Hear Me Now.”
For the video, I was influenced by the passing of my grandmother. I had the feeling that I wanted to hug her one more time but I was too busy doing my stuff. I just tried to make a video, which showed this. And I didn’t put a death in it because it would be too heavy, but I tried to put a situation where you [could] also lose. Don’t tell someone you love them tomorrow—tell them today.
Are there any American acts that you would like to work with?
I love Eric Prydz, Justin Beiber and Marshmellow as well. It’s crazy because I was following him (Marshmellow) when he had one thousand followers, and after eight months, he had 2 million! [Laughs]
You went to Africa, recently. What was that experience like?
I help out Fraternidad Sem Fronteiras (Fraternity Without Borders), which does work in Africa. Mozambique has almost one million orphans so I always help out when I can. Three months ago, I really got into a deep depression and was trying to find out, ‘What’s the purpose of life? What’s the real reason to be here?’ Because I saw myself with money, popularity and fame, everything that was intended to be perfect in life, but I felt something empty in myself. I wanted to know what’s the reason to be here and not just the material, so I called this group and they said, ‘Why don’t you guys go to Africa?’ So I went there and nowadays, I feel myself more into life, more in the game, understanding a little bit more of the reason to be here. I continue to donate, but I want to go there every year as well to see how everyone is doing.
Credit Bryan Kwon