The Amsterdam collective celebrates their city’s musical and cultural diversity with a unique mix of techno, afro-disco, and cumbia—and a special playlist for AdHoc readers.
Just when you think you’ve experienced every type of party there is—disco, techno, EDM, salsa, dancehall, you name it—The Mauskovic Dance Band shows up with something electrifyingly different. Dutch producer and multi-instrumentalist Nic Mauskovic, whose past collaborators include psych-rocker Jacco Gardner, set up the experimental collective in Amsterdam with some cousins of his and cumbia drummer Juan Hundred in 2016, and they’ve been touring together ever since. A reflection of Amsterdam’s cultural and artistic diversity, their music combines the sounds and vibes of different global dance cultures, including afro-disco, dub, underground techno, champeta, and cumbia. The result is a tantalizing mix of spacey sounds and tropical currents—tied together by the homespun touch synonymous with Amsterdam’s independent music scene—that’s got people dancing all around the world.
AdHoc spoke with Nic about the story behind the band, their musical influences, and their EP, Shadance Hall, out April 17. He also shared a playlist he curated for our readers, describing it as a “collection of tracks that inspired our latest EP and are timeless for us. Many of the tracks are inspired by the Dub style mixing of the Jamaicans and use the studio as their instrument.” Give it a spin below:
AdHoc: Tell me a bit about how the band got together and how you guys all met.
Nic: That’s kind of simple, actually, because most of us are family. Except for the drummer, we are actually all cousins. We used to play at old grungy blues places as like a blues family band in Amsterdam during our teenage years. Then we met Juan Hundred, our drummer—I think four years ago. He was very influenced by cumbia and more Latin American music styles, and that kind of changed the direction that we were going in. [That’s when] we started the band as you know it now.
What’s it like to work and perform with your family?
It’s nice because we know each other pretty well now. You also have the classic family fights, but almost every band that plays a lot together becomes kind of a family so I’m not sure if it even makes a difference. I think spending a lot of time with one group of people is always pretty intense.
What do you think each member brings to the sound of the band?
Some guys in the band are really into other kinds of music [from me], me so it creates a funny mix of sounds. Donnie, the keyboard guy and singer—he really likes old Dutch sounds and also the language, so that’s quite funny as a contrast to what we do now. And then the bass player, Mano, is a very rock-oriented guy—he likes punk rock and a lot of post-punk bands. And the drummer is just cumbia [laughs]. And there’s always some stuff that we all have an interest in—or else we wouldn’t play in a band together.
Everybody has their own character, which makes it very interesting. For me, actually, I’m not really stuck to one genre or style—it’s maybe more about the vibe. I’m a bit more into the non-Western sounds and the African stuff, and I explore that more than any other style—also because I’m the drummer, so rhythm is my thing. In the last couple of years, I’ve also covered a lot of post-punk stuff, [though] I found some similar vibes and links between those styles of music. We don’t create a classic pop song; we experiment and have longer structures based on jams and repetitive rhythms.
Did you all grow up in Amsterdam?
Yeah, all of us grew up in or around Amsterdam.
And how do you think the city has influenced the sound of the band?
I think mainly because there’s a lot of parties and electronic music around here, and the club scene is pretty good. So it automatically fusioned with what we were doing, which was also suitable for the dancefloor. There’s a lot of record shops here, and people that buy vinyl, and we have Red Light Radio and Dekmantel—institutions that are very active in connecting the local scene. All of this influenced us quite a lot, actually. We don’t only want to reproduce old-school Afrobeat. The city definitely pushes us to make something new and contemporary for the clubs now.
Would you say the band’s goal is to make people dance?
Yes and no. It’s pretty up-tempo, rhythmic music, so it’s definitely good for dancing, but it’s not the only goal. We actually try to create an atmosphere—[the sort of] vibe that we enjoy ourselves. It’s great when the vibe of the place we’re playing at fits the music; then everything comes together, and people start dancing.
Has the cultural diversity in Amsterdam influenced the band as well?
Yeah, Amsterdam overall is pretty international; there’s a lot of students and musicians from other places that are based here now. So the music automatically becomes a mix of everything, in a way that nobody’s really conscious of. We also have a lot of Surinamese immigrants, which bring pretty good music and pretty nice food.
What do fans tell you about why they enjoy your music?
A lot of people say it’s pretty happy and uptempo, which is maybe kind of right, but for me it’s not necessarily super happy music all the time. A lot of the old African records we listen to are not necessarily “happy” because there’s rhythm on it. Some people assume that when it’s really rhythmic and percussive, then it’s automatically “happy,” because it’s dance music. Techno is also not… happy. It’s another kind of trance. But a lot of people see us as a kind of tropical band. I think we’re more of a new wave band that is influenced by non-Western cultures, different kinds of rhythms and percussive instruments.
Have you traveled to these different countries?
We went to Mexico in December to play a gig, which was really nice, because when we started the band, the music was really connected to cumbia, which also partly comes from Mexico. I went to Zambia, and we’ve played in South Africa. I also played drums with a Zambian group, which is also why we have a lot of more African-style rhythms. So we have traveled to some places, but never really to explore the music so much—more to perform or do something else. We mainly discovered the music through other people here in Amsterdam.
What can you tell us about the new Shadance Hall EP?
It’s a bit more influenced by dancehall, dub, and reggae, and the Jamaican sound system culture. I listened to a lot of dub records during the last year, so [that] sound plays a bigger role in it now than it did before. We use a bit more of the drum machines than before, and the lyrics are all in Dutch this time. We usually use English or different languages—I mean, our Dutch English, not necessarily perfectly spoken English. If it fits the song, we sing in whatever language.
Do you guys dance on stage?
I mean, yeah—if it’s a cool show, we definitely dance. Actually, none of us really dance in the club so much, but Donny goes up and down pretty fast on one leg; that’s kind of his move, which he can’t really control [laughs].