Small Island Syndrome: the dance music disease...

Words by: Cila Warncke
Posted: 5/11/09 10:26

Small Island Syndrome"In her first monthly column for I Voice, writer Cila Warncke turns her attention to a health-crisis in dance music."

In the course of three seasons in Ibiza I've heard a number of variations on the "you'll never eat lunch in this town again" theme. This year's highlight was a spectacularly inchoate email which concluded with the remark: "there's some negativity surrounding you... from people you worked with. Not a good idea on such a small island."

This is a painfully advanced case of Small Island Syndrome - the condition of being so wrapped up in the tiny, petty, playschool politics of your particular bubble that you forget there is a world outside.

For reasons of both psychology and geography, Ibiza is chock-a-block with S.I.S sufferers. The symptoms are everywhere. Clubs charging 20 for a bottle of beer, greedily convinced their tiny island is immune to the realities of the global economy. Promoters howling in wounded outrage at press criticism, while stiffing fans with 70 euro tickets and clubs packed to fire hazard capacity. Techno veteran Ellen Allien, whose label BPitch control celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, being nominated for "Best Newcomer" at the DJ Awards (perhaps next season they'll rename the category: "Best Artist Pacha Management Only Learned About This Year").

The illness is not exclusive to dance music, either. Metal goons Metallica were down with a bad case when they sued their own fans, and Sony proved that even multinational mega-corporations get Small Island Syndrome when they copy-protected their CDs with software that damaged their customers' PCs.

Watching chronic S.I.S patients blundering through life, blinded by their own self-importance, is richly entertaining, but - like all wasting conditions - it costs. Dance music is particularly vulnerable because it is a small industry. People get lazy and instead of pushing boundaries, they try to drag everything - and everyone - back into the confines of their miniature universes. Hence déjà vu DJ line-ups, unvaried club artwork and an annual avalanche of cheesy remixes of tired old tunes.

Small Islanders may even admit the status quo is dull as dishrags, but they're too petrified to do anything about it. Their motto is: "if it's still even slightly functional don't dare try to fix it." They'll run clubs into the ground, play records to death and bore their punters senseless rather than risk a single euro. The only losers are clubbers who crave something new. It's no coincidence the most talked-about parties of the Ibiza season were innovators - Reclaim the Dancefloor, Channel Zoo, Luciano at Ushuaia. Repetitive beats are good, repetitive culture isn't.

There are remedies for Small Island Syndrome but, like addicts, sufferers have to want to change. Unfortunately the nature of the illness makes them mostly oblivious to the idiocy of their behaviour. Should you, or anyone you know, show signs of Small Island Syndrome, act immediately: Read a chapter book. Or the International Herald Tribune. Or...

Watch Adam Curtis' awesome documentary:
The Century of Self .
Listen to On The Road Again

If all else fails: get on a plane. Ibiza is a small island but it has an airport.


Roberto Capuano
Politics Of Dancing
Ralph Lawson