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Ultra: 10 Songs To Shake The Dance Floor

On March 26 and 27, the Ultra Music Festival closes out Miami's weeklong Winter Music Conference for electronic and dance music. Last year, it was estimated that more than 70,000 people attended, and the festival's popularity only seems to be increasing. As a byproduct of Ultra's success, the scope of sounds coming from the stages at the annual festival is becoming increasingly diverse. Though Ultra's roots are in house, trance and techno, this year's line-up mirrors dance music's recent tendency to mix genres.

Here are 10 songs from some of this year's performers, handpicked to showcase the range of styles featured at the festival.

Advisory: Some of these recordings contain explicit language and subject matter not suitable for all ages.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tiesto (feat. Jonsi)

Headlining this year's festival is Dutch DJ and producer Tiesto. As arguably the most famous DJ in the world, Tiesto's influence in dance music cannot be overstated. His star power has helped to change the way DJs are perceived: They've gone from anonymous faces behind turntables to iconic musicians. On the title track from his latest album, Kaleidoscope, he teams up with Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi. The Icelandic singer's haunting falsetto builds the first five minutes of this song, and releases it to a trance-y explosion of synthesizers. The latter half of the piece is more typical of Tiesto's sound.

Major Lazer (feat. Mr. Vegas and Jovi Rockwell)

Who would have thought that the most successful dancehall album of 2009 would come from two white guys, one from London and one from Philly? Nevertheless, Diplo and Switch made some Ja-magic with Guns Don’t Kill People... Lazers Do, getting help from some established dancehall stars like T.O.K., Vybz Kartel and Mr. Vegas. This track features Mr. Vegas and newcomer Jovi Rockwell, whose vocals vibe perfectly with the rolling groove on this cut.This album is available from Amazon MP3.

Passion Pit (Calvin Harris Remix)

Passion Pit sits high on the bill of this year's festival, and a large part of that has to do with the amount of remix attention that its 2009 album, Manners, received. Producers have been remixing rock and pop music for club play since the early '80s -- and, for many artists, it spreads their work to an audience that would have never known or cared.

Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force

Afrika Bambaataa's appearance at Ultra may seem out of place, but as the father of the electro-funk sound, he fits right in. Best known for his role in the creation of hip-hop, Bambaataa was heavily influenced by the electronic music scene at the time. His most famous track, "Planet Rock," samples Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" for its main melody, and is driven by an up-tempo hip-hop rhythm.


In 2008, Croydon, U.K., producer Benga released the album Diary of an Afro Warrior to tremendous critical acclaim. The album's crossover appeal landed it on many best-of lists for the year, and brought the dubstep genre out of South London to an international audience. Benga has been producing tracks since his early teens, and alongside longtime friend Skream, resides at the forefront of a globally charged dubstep scene.

Pretty Lights

Pretty Lights is the work of producer Derek Vincent Smith, whose soul-laden samples have become their signature. Smith's beats are for the most part rooted in hip-hop, though flavored with sonic elements often found in today's electro-house scene. "I Can See It in Your Face" is a track from his EP Making Up a Changing Mind.

The EP is available for free from Pretty Lights' site and for purchase from Amazon MP3.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (A-Trak Remix)

Born in Montreal but based in New York, turntablist and producer A-Trak is a jack of all trades in the music business. The younger brother of David Macklovitch from Chromeo, Alain Macklovitch rose to fame by winning the Disco Mix Clubs World DJ Championship at age 15. He runs a label, heads a collaborative clothing line, performs as Kanye West's personal tour DJ, and has even released a toy. He also happens to be an excellent remixer, as evidenced by his remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs single "Heads Will Roll," which caught fire in the blogosphere last year.

Fake Blood (Boy 8-Bit Remix)

DJ/producers Fake Blood and Boy 8-Bit both hail from London and have been playing shows together across North America. In 2008, Fake Blood released a bass-heavy banger called "Mars." Using a technique called side-chain bass compression, Fake Blood removes all but the bass frequencies of a track for a more prominent bass line and bass kick. The song was remixed heavily, though it was his touring buddy Boy 8-Bit who provided the most compelling interpretation of the song. It takes a spacey, more relaxed approach to Fake Blood's sound.

Wolfgang Gartner

This glitchy electro reworking of Beethoven's 5th Symphony shows why Wolfgang Gartner is currently sitting atop dance music's "electro house" scene. Gartner supplies a range of thinly spliced samples throughout the piece, creating a work that sounds both aurally stimulating and danceable. Note the range of textures he uses after the beat drop, and the precision with which he works them together.


Joel Thomas Zimmerman, or Deadmau5, had a quick rise to super-stardom. He released eight albums from 2006 to 2009. Originally from Ontario, he performed at this year's Olympic Games, while "Moar Ghosts n Stuff" was aired across America when it was blasted from the loudspeakers during mogul skier Hannah Kearney's gold-medal run. He headlines the second night of Ultra, and will surely wear some variation on his mouse costume.

This album is available from Amazon MP3.

Sami Yenigun
Sami Yenigun is the Executive Producer of NPR's All Things Considered and the Consider This podcast. Yenigun works with hosts, editors, and producers to plan and execute the editorial vision of NPR's flagship afternoon newsmagazine and evening podcast. He comes to this role after serving as a Supervising Editor on All Things Considered, where he helped launch Consider This and oversaw the growth of the newsmagazine on new platforms.