René ter Horst and Gaston Steenkist, also known as DJ Zki and Dobre, The Good Men, Jark Prongo, Klatsch! and, of course, Chocolate Puma have been making peerless dance music for 20 years. Here, Dan Baxter from Defected Records looks back at discovering them for the first time and reports on a weekend spent dancing to their inimitable beats in Ibiza. Any self-respecting student of house music ought to know their history and understand the enduring relevance of Chocolate Puma right up to today’s scene. If there was a University of House Music, these guys would certainly be two of its most distinguished professors. From recent Beatport chart-topping records to mentoring some of the most heavyweight dance music names around (think Laidback Luke), they are still leading the way in house music innovation and they’re also pretty damn incredible DJs to boot.
It all really kicked off way back in 1993 with The Good Men. FFRR had just released a record called ‘Give It Up’, which became a huge international club success – in fact, one of the very biggest of the early 1990s –way bigger than, say, even Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’ which had come out a few months before (and is still very much acclaimed today).
‘Give It Up’ hit the UK Top 5 and the video was played endlessly on MTV and featured on Channel 4’s The Chart Show, where it sat atop the Dance Chart for an eternity – its popularity across many different types of dancefloor and even beyond them, into places like fashion catwalks at the height of the ‘90s supermodel era, continued for well over a year. With that unforgettable percussion intro, a Brazilian carnival beat plus those wailing siren-like horns and huge chords, it was both joyful yet also ever so slightly sinister, and utterly hooked a generation onto the joys of dance music.
Fast forward 18 years and it still has the power to produce goosebumps. Now, in the week Chocolate Puma joined the House Masters Hall of Fame with the release of their deluxe triple CD edition, which contains a freshly re-worked 2011 update of ‘Give It Up’, I was fortunate enough to enjoy this ‘moment’ not just once again but twice last weekend on my flying visit to Ibiza. If smashing it is a somewhat over-used term these days, René and Gaston completely destroyed Defected’s Ibiza Saturday Takeover, firstly at Ushuaia, then at Pacha where they used the new (and dare I even say improved) ‘Give It Up’ edit to close an immense night at 07.00 Sunday morning. Playing alongside The Shapeshifters that night, they had just defined another level of ‘smash’.
With René and Gaston at the decks, you get two master set builders who can give it to you as uplifting as they can tough and underground. At Ushuaia, they moved effortlessly from an earlier deepness to a tougher party sound with their trademark funk, wit and intelligence. Always innovating, you can count on Chocolate Puma to hit their dancefloors from a completely different point of view; next time you hear them play, just check out the sheer quantity let alone quality of their own special edits of tracks they rely upon throughout their sets.
Amidst plenty of their own marquee original productions such as the latest ‘For Your Love 2011’, ‘I Wanna Be U’ and also ‘Back Home’, for me some of the hottest CP edits played on Saturday night were their latest of the new Hot Natured ‘Forward Motion’, whilst the 2011 update of their 2002 remix of Boris D’Lugosch’s ‘Never Enough’ takes on a new drama altogether. In terms of finest party-pleasers, they also found time to drop their mix of Shovell’s ‘Soul Makossa’ and the most uplifting piano moment of the evening came in the form of Rogerseventytwo’s ‘Take Me Higher’, which had the Ushuaia crowd in raptures. Over at Pacha, the CP edits of Danny Daze’s ‘Your Everything’ and The Prodigy’s ‘Everybody In The Place’ (Bingo Players’ Bootleg) were their own stated tracks of the night, whilst unleashing the forthcoming Chocolate Puma Remix of Ray Foxx’s ‘The Trumpeter’ at Ushuaia, I just have to say it’s a good job the place doesn’t have a roof!
What a way to spend a Saturday night, not to mention that they are two of the most genuine guys you could ever hope to meet René and Gaston… Chocolate Puma… it’s been 20 years and I’m still dancing…
Words: Dan Baxter
House Masters Chocolate Puma is available now from Beatport and Defected Store