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ADE cultural programme 2022 in Oude Kerk
Image from Mark Richter

Cultural tips for ADE 2023

Amsterdam Dance Event is not all about dancing. Besides the dependable night programme and conference, there’s always plenty to do without setting foot in a club. From film programmes to concerts, lectures to exhibitions, ADE’s cultural programme is a testament to electronic dance music’s rich cultural history and legacy. Whether it’s one-off performances, groundbreaking conversations, or art made by those fighting for their right to party, there’s something for everyone this year – even if you can’t stand techno.

Callum McLean
Callum McLean writes about all things (electronic) music and culture in Amsterdam.
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Read the complete official ADE programme here.

Boris Acket presents TIJDSDUUR

Warm up gently this ADE with a free night of art and musical performances at iconic venue De School. Since this former technical school was first taken over as a club and multifunctional art, work and leisure space in 2016, De School has maintained a key role in Amsterdam’s club culture. This ADE Wednesday, several of its spaces will host performances from Slagwerk Den Haag, Jameszoo, Elsemarijn Bruijs, Helena Basilova and Spekki Webu – each responding to artist Boris Acket’s installation Tijdsduur. With the venue finally set to close up in January 2024, what better time to visit these hallowed halls?

First performance at 20:00. Doors from 19:00-late.

Boris Acket presents TIJDSDUUR | Wednesday 18 October | De School | Free

Recharge & Revolt: Queer Resistance and Rave Culture in Ukraine

For us, this is just a good time, but for them, this is what they call life. This ADE, experience dance music’s transformative power for those fighting for freedom. Major Amsterdam venue Melkweg invites guest curators Anton Shebetko and Maria Vtorushina to its exhibition space, to show how central Ukraine’s techno scene has been for queer youth in the country since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. Running until 26 November, the exhibition opens bombastically – with not only talks but also a killer show from Ukrainian drag queens Sletlana and Grizolda and hardcore tunes from DJ and activist Katro Zauber.

Amsterdam Andalusisch Orkest & Mary Lake

Image from Govert Driessen

Techno travels. And sometimes it comes back with new flavours, partners and sounds. For ADE this year, jazz haven Bimhuis stages just such a meeting of club culture with music from the Arab world. Mary Lake, eclectic DJ and resident of Amsterdam club SPIELRAUM, will spar with the sounds of The Amsterdam Andalusian Orchestra: known for sounds spanning southern Spain, North Africa and mystical Eastern music. With the Orchestra’s Hamza Amrani on the stringed ud and rabab, this concert promises an alchemical fusion of styles perfectly demonstrating dance music’s international evolution.

Amsterdam Andalusisch Orkest & Mary Lake | Thursday 19 October | Bimhuis | €16 / €19

Machinedrum & Holly

Besides its many club nights, ADE always attracts a reliable roster of live talent to Amsterdam’s many concert venues over the long weekend. An obvious highlight this year will be uptempo dream team Machinedrum and Holly, presenting their new project River of Heaven (天の川), the name of their most recent release on VISION, the label from Dutch drum ‘n’ bass supergroup Noisia. Set to get Paradiso’s upstairs shaking, this one is guaranteed to thrill as a standalone or as a warmup to the night’s main party downstairs.

Machinedrum & Holly | Thursday 19 October | Paradiso | €17 + €4 membership

Steppin’ Talks x Doka

Doka, the basement bar at Amsterdam hotel and culture hotspot Volkshotel is no newcomer to the city’s club culture. But since a major refurbishment in 2019, the space’s superior sound system has supercharged its transformation into something greater, hosting increasingly high profile parties, concerts and listening events. This ADE Doka welcomes back Steppin’ Into Tomorrow, a local cultural platform promoting greater diversity and social progress through music. This iteration of Steppin’ Talks fosters a discussion between record label owners about maintaining a healthy, diverse artistic community. Bonus points for also granting access to the later, otherwise sold out, United Identities party.

Steppin’ Talks x Doka | Thursday 19 October | Doka | €7.50

Gay Guerrilla - minimal music with live ritual performance

Figures like Steve Reich and Philip Glass have long been celebrated for their minimal music’s key influence on electronic music. However, since his death in 1990, unsung minimal pioneer Julius Eastman has also become increasingly recognised for his highly influential compositions in the ‘70s – remarkable not only for their powerful musical innovations, but also their unflinching political provocations: Eastman was an outspoken gay African American. This ADE, the monumental Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam’s city centre pays homage to one such piece, the mesmerising ‘Gay Guerilla’. A twin-piano performance by Helena Basilova & Vivianne Cheng accompanies “ritual” re-interpretations through shibari and audiovisuals. Predictably powerful stuff.

Welcome to Afrofuturism

Another key influence on electronic music history is afrofuturism, an African diasporic cultural movement across popular culture and science fiction. This special programme at the student-run Kriterion cinema, organised with the local CPT collective, presents films and performances tracing the movement from the ‘70s to today. Space is the Place (1974) presents key afrofuturist figurehead Sun Ra, a huge influence on Detroit electronic legends Drexciya, introduced here by the 2010 documentary of the same name. Following these screenings, boogie future-wards with a live performance by “Groove God” Jaïr Darnoud and a DJ set from Sunny Saimuns.

Welcome to Afrofuturism | Friday 20 October | Filmtheater Kriterion | €8.50 or free with Cineville

Sandberg Institute x H’ART Museum x Opera Forward Festival

Opera, art school, Julia Caesar, and electronic music – these are by no means obvious bedfellows, but they make up the ingredients of this unique free performance at Amsterdam’s H’ART Museum, formerly known as the Hermitage. Bouncing off the museum’s current exhibition on the historical Roman emperor, 13 masters students from the Sandberg Institute have created an operatic performance centred on Caesar and the work of Amsterdam-based Turkish Electronic composer Elif Murat. Note that, though free, attendees should RSVP ahead of time so they don’t miss this unique event.

ADE Beats

Felix Meritis exterior.
Image from Felix Meritis

For party punters, it’s easy to forget that ADE is also a major conference for electronic music industry insiders. While the Pro Pass can be prohibitively expensive for many casual visitors, this year’s event bridges the gap: offering more affordable alternatives and select programmes for enthusiasts or industry newcomers. ADE Beats, for example, gathers key international voices on hip hop, bass and beats. This year’s takeover at Felix Meritis presents events celebrating hip hop’s 50-year anniversary, including a talk with pioneer of the genre Grandmaster Flash, and a lecture on hip hop feminism from Kim Dankoor.

ADE Beats @ Felix Meritis | Saturday 21 October | Felix Meritis | €35

Fatima Yamaha plays Ontzichtbaar

Another film-music crossover, this event welcomes back to ADE Dutch musician Bas Bron. Bron has released music under many aliases for over two decades, including as a member and producer of beloved Dutch hip hop group De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig. But he’s best known internationally as Fatima Yamaha, whose infectious 2004 single ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’ became a ubiquitous hit more than ten years later. New film Ontzichtbaar – a documentary love letter to cleaners, with a Fatima Yamaha Score – screens at EYE just before this live performance of the score a stone’s throw away at Parallel: a perfect double bill!

Fatima Yamaha plays Ontzichtbaar | Saturday 21 October | Parallel | €17

For all things (electronic) music and culture, find Amsterdam-based writer Callum McLean at his website

Callum McLean
Callum McLean writes about all things (electronic) music and culture in Amsterdam.
Follow Callum