Pete Tong on bringing his Ibiza Classics to Melbourne

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Pete Tong on bringing his Ibiza Classics to Melbourne

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is hard to avoid in an average day. You’ll probably hear it at the gym, on the radio as you drive to work, synchronized with an advert or playing from your own phone – but this has certainly not always been the way.

Up until the late ‘90s, EDM was a very specific sub-genre of dance music that existed mainly at night clubs and as a feature – a tourist attraction – of EDM’s global stronghold: a Balearic island called Ibiza, about 150km from the Spanish city Valencia.

In January 1991, a British DJ, radio host and music journalist named Pete Tong began running a Friday night show called Essential Selection. It first exposed British, then global, audiences to the emerging EDM scene – artists and songs like Brainbug’s ‘Insomnia’, Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here Right Now’, Robert Miles’ ‘Children’ and Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’.

Nowadays, Tong still broadcasts his radio show – but instead from his garage in Los Angeles – and makes regular DJ appearances around the world, including in his beloved Ibiza. A venture that Tong is particularly proud of, however, his latest project of global notoriety is the Ibiza Classics, which he DJs while accompanied by the Jules Buckley-conducted World Heritage Orchestra.

“It began as an invitation back in 2015 to get involved in the ‘Proms’ – which is a series of classical concerts that have been running for over 100 years in the UK,” Tong says. “They were looking to do something that might appeal to a younger audience – a little bit more contemporary – so they talked to BBC Radio 1 about it. BBC Radio 1 asked me to get involved and I did.”

Promenade concerts (the expansion of The Proms) have existed in London’s pleasure gardens since the mid-18th century, and indoor Proms became a feature of 19th century musical life in London from 1838. Ibiza Classics has its roots in this movement, and in Melbourne, the event will be performed at this city’s equivalent pleasure garden: the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

The Proms were inaugurated on August 10, 1895 in the Queen’s Hall in Langham Place by promoter Robert Newman. Fully experienced in running similar concerts at His Majesty’s Theatre, Newman wished to generate a wider audience for concert hall music by offering low-ticket prices and an informal atmosphere – where eating, drinking and smoking were permitted to the ‘promenaders’.

Having grown up in the county of Kent in the Borough of Dartford, Tong is very much a consummate Englishman – so it’s with pride that he describes his role in this manifestation of the honoured British concert series.

“I am the creative director, I guess,” Tong says. “The curator of the show and the track listing, providing a deeper dive into the way the songs are interpreted, working side-by-side with Jules Buckley and Chris Wheeler from The Heritage Orchestra in terms of adapting them from the song’s original form into the way that you are hearing them now – and, I guess, a bit of a ‘ringmaster’ when it comes to the actual performance.”

Jules Buckley is Chief Conductor of Holland’s renowned Metropole Orkest and the Musical Director of the UK’s Heritage Orchestra, who will be touring Australia with Tong for the performances. Chris Wheeler produces cutting-edge orchestral shows around the world, working with artists such as Björk, Giorgio Moroder, Squarepusher and Goldie.

Wheeler’s understanding of modern production values incorporates new technology, visual art, sound design, and classical rendition – fueling his fresh stance on orchestral performance.

It’s all made possible by the remarkable talent of The Heritage Orchestra. Since 2004, the Orchestra has collaborated with Aphex Twin, Tim Minchin, The National, Ben Folds and Anna Calvi, regularly performing on the world’s most renowned stages – from the Sydney Opera House to the Royal Albert Hall.

When & Where: Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne – November 3

Tickets and info via

Written by Dan Watt