Myanmar is set to make a milestone in EDM, or music for that matter, with an inaugural edition of We Are Connected Festival and its stellar headliner Armin van Buuren.

Happening this November 23 at The One Entertainment Venue, Yangon, the festival will be van Buuren’s debut in Myanmar as well as the first time the Southeast Asian country has seen an electronic act as big as the Grammy-nominated, five-year-straight bearer of DJ Mag‘s No. 1 DJ title.

See also: Armin van Buuren adds more SE Asia dates for Armin Only Embrace World Tour

We Are Connected will also feature Beatport’s No. 1 DJ MaRLo, progressive house doublet Firebeatz, Spinnin’ Records’ own Bassjackers, and trance tune maker Husman, with more additions to be announced.

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As the festival rolls around, we talk to the people that make this historic moment possible: Dennis de Bruin, the CEO of ALDA Asia, the eastern extension of Dutch giant promoter company ALDA Events; and Sithu Pe Myint, Managing Director of local promoter Zeekwat Collective.

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wac-6Being one of the top event organisers in the world, what makes ALDA venture in Myanmar instead of more mature EDM locations like Thailand, Singapore or South Korea?

ALDA is active in over 30 countries in the world, with a strong focus on Asia. We are specialised in developing new markets and our strength is to educate and support local teams in becoming successful event promoters. Although Myanmar is a new EDM market and a new country for ALDA, we have experience with our shows all across Southeast Asia as well as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, India, and South Korea. So we are proud to add Myanmar to our list of EDM destinations in Asia and we are confident that together with our partner Zeekwat we can grow EDM in Myanmar by bringing high quality event experiences and festivals to the country. We Are Connected is just the beginning!

Will We Are Connected be branching out to other cities in Southeast Asia?

Although the brand has been developed for Myanmar, we experience a lot of interest from the rest of the world. The story is very current and we believe it will actually bring people together. Most of the dance lovers in Asia are spending a lot of their time online, listening to their favourite DJs and discussing music. With We Are Connected we want to bring them together in real life. Meet and share their passion for music with people from all over the world. Make new friends. Create a movement! That message works. We are looking at possibilities to bring We Are Connected to other markets in Asia in 2017, but Myanmar will always be the home ground. So if we do it, we hope that people in Myanmar can be proud that their movement is spreading to other countries and we can unite all those dance lovers in Asia.

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Compared to Europe, how has the dance music industry evolved in Asia in the past few years?

Electronic music started in Europe and has been popular for years. Especially in the Netherlands, where ALDA was founded 10 years ago, is electronic music the leading music genre. DJs like Tiësto, Martin Garrix and especially Armin van Buuren, our headliner for We Are Connected, are among the most famous persons there, and around the world. In Asia, electronic music is a relatively new genre, but it is growing rapidly. In countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, dance music is playing a role for a couple of years now, but in countries like the Philippines, China and Myanmar it is growing at an incredible speed. Myanmar had its first electronic music festival last year, and this year there are five in three months’ time.

What can we expect from the first edition of We Are Connected in terms of production, stage and special effects?

We Are Connected "smiley" ©We Are Connected
We Are Connected “smiley” ©We Are Connected

With We Are Connected, we want to be different and create a stage that will amaze people all over Asia. We are at the moment finalising our designs and it will be really next level in terms of size, video and light. The way we will integrate video and light will be unprecedented in Myanmar. The team that’s developing is behind great shows like The Flying Dutch, Armin Only, I am Hardwell and AMF. I can’t say much at this point, but we will reveal more details in the coming weeks. The We Are Connected “smiley” will of course play a very important role at the festival. For ALDA, it’s not only about the stage, but even more about the full experience. From the moment you buy your ticket to the moment you enter the venue and from the toilets to the bars. It all has to be right. That’s the only way you can fully concentrate on the music and your (new) friends.

ALDA had years working EDM’s biggest names, how can Asian DJs step up to be as good as their European predecessors?

Hard work and good music. Asia is on the radar now! So all agencies are spotting for new talent. Make sure you are heard and find a team that can help you, but most important is to create good music. Don’t try to be a copy of Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren or Avicii, but try to create your own style. ALDA is working together with agents to find new DJs and so we want to have local acts perform at all our festivals. Electronic dance music is growing fast in Asia, but it needs its own local heroes, and we are very happy to help with that.

Before heading to Asia, do you know any famous music festivals from Asia?

ALDA is doing business in Asia for over 5 years and we have done about 40 shows in Asia. So we are very familiar with the festivals in Asia. For me one of the best is Djakarta Warehouse Project in Jakarta. They’ve been around for years and very professional. A good example of a promoter who is going the extra mile to give its visitors the best experience possible. Just like how ALDA works and what we will build in Myanmar in the coming years.

©We Are Connected
©We Are Connected

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wac-5Tell us about Zeekwat Collective and your experience behind music festivals!

Zeekwat Collective is relatively new company formed together by a group of friends who share a passion for creating and delivering unforgettable experiences for people. Although Zeekwat is a new company, the founders have previous experience in delivering high quality events in Myanmar. As we decided to take on this big task of creating a brand new music concept, we have ensured that we have the right partnerships in place to get the job done right. So, our partnership with ALDA marks the cornerstone of our vision of creating an unforgettable musical experience for the people of Myanmar.

How big is the dance music scene in Myanmar? How do you differentiate We Are Connected from fellow newcomer festivals such as GoldenLand and 808 Yangon?

Dance Music scene in Myanmar has taken off dramatically over the past 2 years. Although it is still in its infancy compared to bigger markets, you can see from the growing number of festivals taking place in Myanmar that it’s an upward trend. The concept behind We Are Connected is all about a movement for the youth of Myanmar to become connected to the rest of the world through music, just as how Myanmar as a country has opened its door to the world through its political and economic reforms.

©We Are Connected
The festival’s early bird sale (October 8) getting a good response from local EDM lovers ©We Are Connected

What is the locals’ spending power for a music festival?

Myanmar being a developing country has a very wide income gap. For many years, those who could afford it can experience international music festivals only in neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Thailand. Our goal is to bring this type of international experience to Myanmar and make it accessible for the local market.

How did you work with ALDA for the lineup?

Having shared the same vision, working with ALDA has been smooth since we first sat down to discuss We Are Connected. Our goal was to look beyond a one-day music festival experience and create a new movement in music and lifestyle. With that goal in mind, we could not have thought of anyone better than Armin van Buuren as the headliner.

Armin van Buuren ©Daniel Bosczarski/Getty Images
Armin van Buuren ©Daniel Bosczarski/Getty Images

How did you feel when one he said yes to helming the festival?

Firstly, we feel honoured that Armin was willing to headline We Are Connected’s inaugural edition. We are very grateful that he’s a part of the festival’s history and excited to see him deliver a memorable performance as he always does.

Can we look forward to more collaborations between Zeekwat Collective and ALDA?

Our partnership with ALDA is that of a very strategic one and given that we would like to be in the forefront of the dance music movement in Myanmar, we do expect to be working with ALDA in the long run!

We Are Connected Festival 2016 takes place on November 23 at The One Entertainment Venue, Yangon, from 4PM-12AM. Tickets are MMK35,000. Visit MMTIX to purchase. Follow WAC’s Facebook page for the latest updates.

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