Milko Moustache and McLaren join forces behind the decks to brighten your day
Dubai… home to myriad glitzy nightclubs with outrageously priced bottle service and swanky pool parties frequented by buffed-up muscle boys and surgically enhanced chicks more interested in posing and pouting for their Insta stories than the tunes booming from the speakers. It works for the majority. But it’s in the underbelly of Dubai’s scene where the real magic happens; where like-minded music-heads and creative souls of all nationalities somehow find each other and come together to offer alternative events for kindred spirits.
Such is the story of Ivan Bahchevanov and Michael McLaren, who forged a friendship after they met for the first time among the sand dunes at Desert Dream, where they were both booked to DJ separately – Ivan under his Milko Moustache moniker and Michael under his somewhat less inventive DJ name, McLaren.
Long-term UAE resident Ivan, who hails from Bulgaria and has lived in Dubai for 18 years, has DJed for underground movements like NODJ, Plus Minus, Solace, 4 People, and at festivals like Burning Man, AfrikaBurn, Bedouin Tech, SoundOpia and Dawaran.
Saffa Michael cut his teeth DJing at Chicago House Knights and Soul’d Out Sundays, at the Fooba club, in Benoni, Johannesburg – parties he co-promoted with his mate Dev Craig. Since moving to Dubai six years ago, he’s played at many of the same parties in the UAE as Ivan. Both are resident at Deep Tribe, run by Fadi Jasim, and both ventured to AfrikaBurn last year where they dropped “dirty sets” for State of Bliss, Why Not, Tony the Love Bus and Dung Beetle.
Like all good bromances, the pair have finally got it together behind the decks and now play out as Sunrise Syndicate.
With Dubai – and many cities around the world – on lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the lads have kindly shared their Vitamin C19 Mix with iamCrü to keep us bumping away at home. Turn it up loud.
Check out Sunrise Syndicate’s Vitamin C19 Mix here and read our catch-up with the guys below…
What were your first impressions of each other?
Michael: I first met Ivan in the desert when we were helping to build a stage, some shade and piecing together some sound equipment – with a butter knife and plastic bags at some point – for a gig we were both booked to play. Then I heard his set: it was about 5am, and his tune selection was superb. Essentially, we teamed up the day we met, and my impression was a feeling of friendship from home – the words resourceful and committed come to mind.
Ivan: “Dynamite tunes, bro...” That was the first thought running through my mind as I watched him having a fight with the mixer and a speaker while playing a sundowner set. He won eventually.
You’re heavily involved with Desert Dream. What’s the story there?
Michael: Desert Dream was run by our good friend and partner Mahmoud Nabil Rashid, who moved to Johannesburg and the dream was put on hold until a few of us got together to throw a new edition – The Re-birth. The turnout for that was absolutely incredible! We’ve now got a solid team behind Desert Dream, and this includes our community, who are the valued members and partners. There is nothing else like it in Dubai and this is why we do it – all together as a family.
Ivan: The freedom and impulsiveness pulled me in. The effort, the community, the creativity...it’s far beyond what you see, feel or achieve in a club.
Tell us more about it…
Ivan: It’s a non-commercial, profit-free platform for self-expression and creativity. A community of like-minded individuals who chose to live their passions through sharing positive vibes and good energy. It’s a podium where we make the elements combine in a powerful symbiosis that brings the overall experience to a completely different level.
Michael: In other words, it’s a community of like-minded music-lovers, creators, explorers, misfits, gypsies and hippies. It’s a place to create and collaborate, to make art, and express yourself truly without judgement, in nature, to be free and carefree. It’s amazing to see people from all parts of the world come together for one goal – to participate and create a one-of-a-kind experience with no sponsors, no infrastructure, built by the people for the people.
What’s so great about throwing a gathering in the desert?
Ivan: The natural magic and vastness of the desert. The feeling of being part of something much bigger, the freedom, the purity, the escape.
Michael: The freedom to create without boundaries and typical venue restrictions.
What’s not so great about throwing a gathering in the desert?
Ivan: The logistics are pretty complicated. However, with a great team effort from all the organisers and and volunteers, we’ve learned how
to tackle the difficulties. We apply very strict rules of conduct and get really serious when it comes to leaving our home looking better and cleaner after every gathering. It’s taken time to involve and educate our community but we’ve seen great progress on that front lately.
What prompted you guys to finally pair up as Sunrise Syndicate?
Ivan: We’d known each other for quite a while before we to took the leap of faith to join forces behind the decks. However, I believe we always recognised our similarities in music selection and taste, which led to one crazy morning when we decided to join our adjacent slots at a festival and have an impromptu b2b session. That improvised collaboration between McLaren and Milko Moustache just naturally evolved into us DJing together as Sunrise Syndicate.
Michael: It’s a lot more fun and challenging and generates a bit of magic when we respond to each other’s selection, it creates a unique unplanned flow. Our first time was mind-blowing, with incredible energy from the crowd. We knew we had something special going on from that day.
What makes it work?
Ivan: We both have our own approach. There’s a lot of improvisation and work on-the-go. We like surprising each other, pick up from where one leaves off and we enjoy some random tickles that have become quite illustrious to our sound. We don’t interfere in each other’s style of preparation or performance, but we turn this unpredictability into a powerful force when we rub shoulders in the booth. When we play, we don’t just follow each other, we feel each other.
Michael: I guess I’m the introvert. I love discovering new music or escaping into a production, but I’ve never really been big on getting gigs or promotion. Ivan pushes me to be more out there, and of course we inspire each other by introducing new sounds and artists.
What’s the plan for Sunrise Syndicate moving forward? Could we see some productions coming soon?
Ivan: That’s the plan. Being music junkies, we both have a million ideas running through our heads that we would like to see channeled into productions.
Michael: This has been on the cards for a while, so yes, thanks to the Coronavirus we both have the time now to sit down and create.
What other parties in the UAE get a thumbs up from you guys?
Ivan: Deep Tribe, 4 People – those the guys are doing real magic in Abu Dhabi – Kaynouna and Snoopy Beats are working
very hard to deconstruct the trivial model of nightlife in the region. It’s that combination between art, music and self-expression that creates the feeling of complicity and leaves you with a memorable experience rather than just a terrible hangover.
Michael: Snoopy Beats (held at a Butlins-esque hotel resort in the neighbouring emirate of Fujairah) is as original as they come. Big up to its promoter and DJ Wael Hoolz, who always brings something fresh and creative to the table. Dawaran have also curated something really unique and special, and Deep Tribe, 4 People and Kaynouna have got it going on.
You’re about to take over the decks and the party is a bit flat. What’s the first tune you play?
Ivan: The Original Mix of BAAL’s Lumen, on Musica Autonomica, is my nuclear weapon. A melodic explosion of energy and power.
Michael: The Original Mix of Jobe’s Boma, which is on Chapter 24 Records.
What are you planning for when the Covid-19 pandemic is finally over?
Michael: A big and extra special Desert Dream.
Ivan: We all hope for these troubled times to finish sooner rather than later. Soon the Holy month of Ramadan and the summer will be upon us, which will put our natural habitat on hold for a longer period. When all that’s wrapped up and as soon as the weather is in our favour, we’ll return to the desert. I believe everyone is starving for a good ol’ bender and that is where our efforts will be focused – more music, more art, more dancing, more good times.
Meanwhile, during the lockdown, we have opened our Desert Dream online platform to all performers with ability to stream their DJ sets and so far the response has been remarkable. We’re hosting live broadcasts on our social channels involving our community and music selectors to bring some good vibes into the current restricted daily routines.
Loving your Vitamin C19 Mix. Give us a little insight into this mix…
Ivan: It’s a very spontaneous studio mix compiled literally on the go. The tracks were just flowing and matching in the right sequence. We basically built the mix the way we perform behind the decks – emotional, melodic, deep.
Michael: It’s a smooth blend from deep to a little upbeat, keeping our deep melodic and bassline flow and featuring our favourite artists – and a few gems from South Africa.
What have you learned about yourself during the lockdown in Dubai?
Ivan: That I really want to have a garden!
Michael: I’ve gained more appreciation for friends and family. Love you all!
Listen to Sunrise Syndicate’s Vitamin C19 Mix here and join the Desert Dream community to check out more music from the merry band of desert warriors.
Jacob Groening Lime (Original Mix) (Earthly Delights)
Raw Main Valkyrja (Gorje Hewek & Izhevski Touch) (All Day I Dream)
Jake The Rapper Time To Waste (Iorie's Dystopian Sundown) (Happy Camper Records)
Oliver Koletzki Rainbow Serpent (Iorie Remix) (Stil Vor Talent)
Manuel Sahagun, Christ Burstein & Los Cabra Agua Panela (Elfenberg Remix) (Serafin Audio Imprint)
Javier Ho Routine (Original Mix) (Olatu Recordings)
Trippin Jaguar Night Over Eridu (Dandara & Arutani Remix) (Amselcom)
Dirty Doering Khayelitsha (Original Mix) (Katermukke)
Daniel Rateuke Kofi (Cioz Remix) (Monaberry)
Elfenberg Kigelia (Original Mix) (Still Vor Talent)
Namito Stone Flower (Original) (Sol Selectas)
Dan Buri Baan Nohk (Los Cabra Thrill Remix) (Akbal Music)
Sebastien Leger Forbidden Garden (Tim Green Remix) (Lost Miracle)
Oliver Koletzki Fire in the Jungle (Lunar Plane Remix) (Stil Vor Talent)
Arutani Zombie (Original Mix) (Amselcom)
Zenbeat & Audrey Two of Us (Original Mix) (Bagira Ice Limited)
LaTique & Pierre Johnson Vx23 (Original Mix) (Stay True Sounds)
Fka Mash Lonely Jester (Original Mix) (Atjazz Records Company)
Ryan Murgatroyd iKalimba (Kyle Watson Remix) (Unreleased)
Iorie & Arutani Vivienda Del Marginado (Coss Remix) (Serafin Audio Imprint)
Sam Shure Louna (Original Mix) (Stil Vor Talent)
Matthew Dekay The Four Agreements (Martin Roth Beats Edit) (Anjunadeep)