Furious electro-dance style sweeps France

Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:14pm EDT

A man is seen with a 'Tecktonik' hairstyle in a hairdressing salon in Paris March 7, 2008. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

A man is seen with a 'Tecktonik' hairstyle in a hairdressing salon in Paris March 7, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

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PARIS (Billboard) - Enter any nightclub in Paris right now, and chances are you'll bump into a group of weird-looking teenagers, seemingly trying to rip their own heads off. If so, don't worry -- you have just entered the world of Tecktonik.

This electro-dance scene was born in 2000 at Paris nightclub Metropolis, and has gradually become an all-encompassing teenage lifestyle, incorporating a highly distinctive dance and dress code (skinny-fit trousers and tight T-shirts, Day-Glo colors and punk-inspired spiky haircuts). It's now ubiquitous in France: on TV, in newspapers and magazines, in discos, even in schools.

EMI France international development director Laurence Muller compares it to hip-hop.

"It involves fashion, visuals, music and dance," he says, "with maybe graphic arts a bit behind."

It's also a brand in the purest sense of the word. "Tecktonik" and "TCK" are official trademarks, owned by Cyril Blanc and Alexandre Barouzdin, the two electro dancers who, eight years ago, launched Tecktonik Killer club nights, which mixed various electronic music styles with synthesized, repetitive voices and a high beats-per-minute rate.

"At first, we protected the name to prevent other nightclubs (from) advertising Tecktonik nights," Barouzdin says. "We did not mean to create a brand."

Now, however, a mind-boggling range of official Tecktonik products are available: from music compilations and a Sony Ericsson mobile handset (due in April) to clothes, jewelry, an energy drink and even two official hair salons.

DANCE FEVER

Blanc and Barouzdin also initiated the dance with exaggerated arm and head gestures, which spread through battles at Metropolis and then online, when dancers started posting their performances on video-sharing sites including YouTube, Dailymotion and Skyblog.

"Tecktonik videos are among the most-watched on our service," Dailymotion content director Martin Rogard says. He says traffic first spiked in March 2007 and then exploded with the release of Mondotek's hit "Alive" (Mercury/Universal) in November. The official posting of the "Alive" video alone has attracted more than 1.9 million views.

Around the same time, mainstream pop artists Lorie and Yelle incorporated the dance into their videos as Tecktonik hit the mainstream.

Unlike many musical movements, Tecktonik takes a stance against drugs and alcohol. Frederic Pau, program director of No. 1 France music radio network NRJ, praises it as "a healthy movement, with a good spirit." NRJ is organizing a Tecktonik tour, expected this summer.

Barouzdin and Blanc, who decline to reveal financial details, have licensed their brand worldwide to EMI Music France for music-related products. TF1 Enterprises -- a division of leading French TV channel TF1 -- acts as Tecktonik's agent for distribution licenses for other products.

INTERNATIONAL INTEREST

EMI France says its latest genre compilation, "Tecktonik/Vol. 4," is the most successful yet. The album, featuring such local acts as Hardrox and Dim Chris alongside international DJ/mixers including U.S.-based Robbie Rivera and Italy's Paolo Bolognesi, has shipped more than 230,000 copies since its December release, according to EMI. "Vol. 5" is due April 21 and will include a DVD featuring dance tips.

But despite the trademark protection for the Tecktonik name, the popularity of the movement has inspired other labels to release their own electro-dance compilations targeting Tecktonik fans.

"We don't need the word 'Tecktonik,"' says Philippe Solas, marketing director at Mercury France, which released Mondotek's "Alive." "(The style of) dance says enough by itself."

Barouzdin remains sanguine about the competition.

"Successes such as Mondotek help the movement live," he says. "The brand Tecktonik is just a quality label."

He also has plans to help the Tecktonik eagle symbol spread its wings internationally. Tecktonik Killer nights have already taken place in Morocco, Belgium and Switzerland; there are negotiations for events in Hungary, Russia and Japan.

Meanwhile, "Tecktonik/Vol. 4" has been rolling out internationally since February 18, and international artists are showing interest. Moby's single "Disco Lies" (Mute) was remixed by Tecktonik DJ Dim Chris, while a video shot by Dailymotion shows Janet Jackson discovering the dance.

"We have made her choreography proposals," says Barouzdin, who also claims interest from Kanye West and Madonna.

Pau has no doubt the movement will eventually catch on globally.

"All it needs," he says, "is one international artist or DJ to embrace it."

Reuters/Billboard

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