Music talk: Omri Smadar Is on a Mission to Hypnotize the Masses

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Highlights

Omri Smadar is a musical powerhouse and master of multiple genres with a background in classical composition
Omri produced his first album when he was just 17 and went on to dominate dance floors around the world with his unparalleled selection skills
Now he’s one of Artlist Original’s most versatile artists, producing cosmic disco and cinematic electronica under Omri Smadar and drum’ n’ bass under Florian.

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Musically speaking, there’s not much Omri Smadar can’t do. He’s the kind of musician who can turn his hand to any genre and master it almost immediately. Over his decades-long career, Omri has dominated dozens of sounds, from reggae to dancehall to house. And since he joined forces with the Artlist Original label, he’s explored deep disco and orchestral cinema under his own name and drum’ n’ bass under the Florian moniker.

From Bach to The Prodigy

Omri is not sure where his love for music came from, but he was enamored by the purity and complexity of Bach and Bartók from a young age. He wanted to learn to compose like them, so he started learning piano aged 8. “I loved piano, but I hated sitting on my butt in lessons doing the same thing over and over again,” Omri says. “I’ve always preferred improvising and going with the flow.”

It wasn’t long before Omri ditched his piano teacher and started exploring the kaleidoscopic world of jazz. The spontaneity and controlled chaos felt right to Omri, and this same spirit soon led to an obsession with 90s rave music. As a teen, Omri could not stop listening to The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk or Groove Armada. His music taste was unusually diverse and open from the get-go, which led to a giant achievement early on. At 17, Omri wrote, produced, mixed, mastered and released an album – by himself.

“I had this really old software on this really old computer. I was inspired by sounds from the UK and whatever I found in record stores. That was my first step into electronic music production.” What’s particularly remarkable about this album is that Omri can listen to it today and still enjoy it, demonstrating a deep-rooted intuition early on. “It’s really primitive and naive, but it sounds good and has some nice ideas in it.”.

Around the same time he produced his first album, Omri started DJing at local events with a friend. “We’d play Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, Nirvana, Pixies at parties for 20-year-olds when we were still in high school,” he laughs. 

Starting to go international

It never occurred to him to pursue anything other than music. He studied classical composition and music theory at Jerusalem Academy of the Arts and spent the next 3 years immersed in the deep theory of composition. “I was really into understanding composition, harmony and orchestration. I wanted to find the code – like, what makes good music and what makes 2 notes work together. I wanted to understand the connection between everything, learn the language and how to write it.”

This endless curiosity and thirst for understanding are responsible for Omri’s unparalleled production skills. When he writes a house music track, he comes at it with the mindset of Bach. And when he turns his hand to drum’ n’ bass, he approaches it with the creativity of Chopin. “I always want to expand my toolbox as a musician,” he says.

When he graduated, Omri dedicated himself to DJing and moved to Tel Aviv to be closer to the vibrant nightlife. That’s where he fell in love with sound system culture, and in 2005 formed Abuya Sound with 3 friends. They performed their Caribbean-fusion music worldwide, but in 2012, Omri felt it was time to return to his electronic music roots.

A Portuguese label called Ostra Disco released Omri’s first single, “Muzika Salim,” in 2015 – a worldly blend of Middle Eastern party music full of complex rhythms and haunting melodies.

As his production portfolio grew, so did his DJ career. He was soon playing every major local festival as well as shows in Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Finland and Austria, amongst others. “My sets are full of harmonies and melodies and vocals – I want it to be an experience,” he says.

“Working with Artlist, I can shine a light on other sides of my personality as an artist.”

Although he was a respected producer from the get-go, Omri says his big break came in 2020 with the release of Collage: An Electronic Tribute to Timeless Israeli Music. “I remixed all these classic songs from new wave 80s to Yemenite disco to alternative rock and made my own interpretation of it.” It was released on the country’s biggest independent label, and Omri found himself catapulted to the forefront of the local music scene. 

“It exposed me to a lot of people and got plays on many radio stations. I think it brought something fresh to the clubs. After this, it became common to hear Hebrew in underground clubs, so I think it started something new.”

A couple of months later, Omri released his En Safak EP on Blue Shadow, which immediately topped Beatport’s Indie Dance charts and received a 9.5-star review from Mixmag. But, just as he was about to tour the world and bask in the glory of his achievements, COVID hit.

Artlist to the rescue

Instead of enjoying the moment he’d spent his entire career working towards, he found himself stuck at home with no income. That’s when a friend suggested he team up with Artlist. “They asked me to remix an EP, and it was super well-received, so they kept giving me more projects.”

As well as writing house and disco, the guys at the Artlist Original label encouraged Omri to explore different sides of his creativity. They wanted him to draw on his classical composition background to create cinematic, orchestral music. “It made me really happy because, before COVID, all my creativity went to planning my next dance track,” Omri says. “Working with Artlist, I can shine a light on other sides of my personality as an artist.”

Producing for Artlist during lockdown was a lifeline, but it also helped Omri’s creativity evolve. “I was so creative and productive, my manager told me I need to slow down,” Omri laughs.

Omri’s most popular Artlist projects are Disco Shapira and Disco Shabazi, albums named after neighborhoods in Tel Aviv.

“I wanted to combine the worlds of music and visual arts and also create club-ready, dancefloor-friendly tracks. And with these 2 albums, I merged these worlds with disco, African, Indian vibes in a very organic way.”

As if Omri hasn’t got enough on his creative plate, he’s recently turned his hand to live performance, recently playing in front of about 15,000 people. He says it was one of the most intimidating yet creatively stimulating experiences of his life, and he can’t wait to devote more time to it.

At last, Omri’s able to bask in the limelight he should’ve enjoyed pre-COVID. Except now, he has a full Artlist catalog, a blossoming live act and dozens more releases in the pipeline. Nothing can stop him now – not even a pandemic.

Listen to Omri Smadar’s catalog on Artlist – and for his bass-heavy productions, check out Florian.

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About Alice Austin

Alice Austin is a freelance writer from London. She writes for Mixmag, Beatportal, Huck, Dummy, Electronic Beats, Red Bulletin and more. She likes to explore youth and sub-culture through the lens of music, a vocation that has led her around the world. You can contact and/or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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