“If their is one thing I want people to know about me,” says Wiwek Mahabali, “ it’s that I’m always choosing my own path.” That’s something a lot of artists say, but for Wiwek it’s truer than most. He’s not only become a world-class DJ/producer with a resume full of collaborators and festival gigs to die for–he’s gotten there through a whole style that he invented himself.
Wiwek was born in IJsselstein, a little town located in a picturesque part of the Netherlands that’s produced an inordinate number of world-dominating DJs, to parents of East Indian descent who emigrated from the South American former Dutch colony of Suriname. His dad sang and played Indian folk music, and between the traditional styles he heard at home and the Western pop he heard everywhere else, Wiwek already had a variety of sounds and rhythms in his system when he was first inspired to start making electronic music.
Inspired by hearing Tiësto spin on Dutch radio, he made his first beats on Music 2000 for the PlayStation One, before his older brother turned him onto Fruity Loops. Soon enough he was making beats for local rappers as the Dutch house boom was going on around him. Retreating into his bedroom studio to refine his skills, he learned to channel all of those disparate influences bouncing around his head into a distinctive style, where complex Indian-inspired rhythms collided with the adrenaline-rush dynamics of trap and tribal house (not to mention a library full of sampled animal sounds), that he named “jungle terror.”
Early Wiwek singles like “Angry Birdz” and his Gregor Salto collaboration “On Your Mark” didn’t sound like anything else being made at the time, but soon enough they began popping up in sets by A-list DJs. In short time he was playing the same stages as them, making his first festival appearance in 2015 at Ultra, and fulfilling a promise he’s made to himself not to attend a major electronic music festival before he was invited to play one.
A Twitter DM to Skrillex, who Wiwek knew was regularly playing his tracks, turned into a relationship that’s helped take the young artist to a new level. In 2016 OWSLA released his EP The Free and Rebellious, which not only included a collaboration between the two (“Killa”) but also served as the soundtrack to a short film called Still in the Cage that the pair co-produced, and premiered that August to a massive crowd at the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA.