DJ Michael Canitrot on being the official DJ at the International Cannes Film Festival, making music for fashion, and his famous ‘So, Happy in Paris?' parties

It's France's moment under the sun. A few years ago Bob Sinclair asked the world to hold on (and kept it spinning on his fingertips), and now people can't seem to get enough of David Guetta (who, incidentally, will be touring India in a few days). Paris-based DJ/ producer Michael Canitrot was in New Delhi recently to play at The Blue Bar in Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. With Electronic music as his base and accents of House, Pop, Rock, Afro and Disco, Michael Canitrot has become a name to look out for. The official DJ of the Cannes International Film Festival for eight years, Michael has also been doing customised music for luxury labels like Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier and Christian Dior. In 2000, he organised his ‘So, Happy in Paris?' party for the first time in, well, Paris. Now over 100 ‘So, Happy in Paris?' parties are organised in clubs across Marrakech, Tokyo, New York, London and Luxembourg every year, bringing together a range of guest DJs and singers from across the world.

Canitrot was born in a musical family; his mother was a fan of Black music, listening to the likes of Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, while his dad's preferences lay in Rock from the stables of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. “And I think I'm a mix between Black music and Rock music. I discovered Electronic music in 1997 in France and I started to play Electronic music with my background of Black music and Rock music,” he says. He says he's been mixing music at friends' parties since he was 10. When 12, he started learning the drums and played in a rock band too. His first professional party, however, came when he was 17.

Recalling how ‘So, Happy in Paris?' germinated, Canitrot recalls, “The idea was very simple in the beginning — it was just to create a party for my friends and create music that I like… that's it.”

After the third edition — by when it became a prominent part of Paris' club scene — compatriot David Guetta, who ran the popular club les Bain-Douches in Paris, asked Canitrot to organise his next party there. “It was the beginning of the story and now ‘So, Happy in Paris?' is now all around the world. It is, of course, a musical concept around Electronic music, but it's also a glamorous visage of Paris. I'm also trying to create a meeting point between live music and DJ-ing; get in some singers and musicians with me and play together.” And when the time came to celebrate its 10th anniversary, where else but the Eiffel Tower!

“It was like a dream because, of course, the name of my party is ‘So, Happy in Paris?' and to do the party on top of the Eiffel Tower was for me the best place to celebrate the anniversary. Probably the best party of my life. Four thousand people; not too much but only my best friends, partners, artistes, VIPs and incredible memories,” he smiles.

Canitrot is now busy working on his first artiste album, scheduled to release next year. The first single will be releasing in May this year. “It's very important for me, that's why I want to first release the singles, take my time and release the album the next year,” he says of the album, which “is about creating a bridge between Pop, Rock and Electronic music.”

The biggest opportunity, according to him, that came from playing at Cannes was the chance to expand genres. “Because, at Cannes, I can play classical music, Indian music, Latino music, all kinds of music. So it makes me very curious. And it's very important for me.” This curiosity, he says, is the thrust of music; where a DJ, without losing contact with the crowd through extremely underground music, manages to introduce to them new sounds. “I think one of the most important things for a DJ is to be curious and make people curious.”

It was Cannes that, in fact, opened the doors to fashion, when people started approaching him to create soundtracks and playlists for fashion shows, stalls, parties, expositions. Recalling a special soundtrack that he made for an exhibition on Christian Dior (the man, not the brand), Canitrot recalls, “It was really interesting because he was a big fan of old French music and I tried to mix that with new interpretations through Electronic music.”

As venues one would want to keep returning to, Canitrot picks Japan and Korea in Asia. Brazil, however, he says, has been the revelation. “It's a huge country and people really like to party and dance and I think it will be one of the most important countries for Electronic music and clubbing in general.”

In the pipeline is a double CD compilation for Playboy magazine, which he sees as an opportunity to reach out to a wider audience in the U.S. On the artistes whose tracks he'll be remixing, he names Australian singer Goti and fellow Parisian DJ Michael Calfan. “This man is on fire, I tell you,” says Canitrot. (Canitrot played a few of the former's tracks at The Blue Bar, too.)