The term “world music” can, at times, feel like a catch-all for foreign acts whose rhythms and styles defy conventional categorization. For Polo & Pan, though, that label may be better adjusted to “worlds music,” given how well the French duo of Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynszpan seem to merge planes to not only create distinctive songs but also put on colorful, engaging performances that have propelled them through the ranks of electronic dance music.
Take the group’s biggest commercial hit to date, 2021’s “Ani Kuni”. The lyrics were adapted from a Native American hymn that traces back to the Arapaho tribes of the western Great Plains. The melody is evocative of “Spaghetti Westerns,” whose portrayals of Indigenous Americans haven’t all aged so well. Put those two in the juxtaposing hands of Polo & Pan, throw on a danceable beat, and the result is an infectious track that is at once heavy with meaning and light on its feet.
Such is the trick that seemingly all great electronic acts have pulled. Sure, wholly original beats can be great, but how many great beats are wholly original? Few, if any, DJs have achieved global success without repurposing the work of artists and cultures that came before them.
As Polo & Pan showed throughout their February 5th set at The Shrine in Los Angeles, CA, they have no bones about breathing fresh life into familiar refrains, often building them up, bit by bit.
There were the pieces of Portuguese that comprised “Nana,” which is itself an ode to an Afro-Brazilian religious spirit. There was the rock-revival-as-disco inherent in their hopping remix of Scottish band Pilot’s “Magic”, and the reimagining of Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” as the backdrop for Victoria Lafaurie’s enchanting recanting of a world beyond ours in “Pays Imaginaire”.
Along with all that came the rug-cutting rhythms beneath Spanish entreaties on “Mexicali” and the nod to the American popular culture classic The Wizard of Oz on “Dorothy”, as well as many a colorful graphic to back up Polocorp and Peter Pan. Indeed, the LEDs on and behind the DJ booth served as quite the canvas on which to transport the audience to whichever ethereal realm the group dreamt up.
With all that art and all those lights—and with Victoria returning to the stage as a human disco ball for “Peter Pan” during the encore—Polo & Pan could’ve simply stood on stage, pressed play and taken the night off, and few in the house would’ve held it against them. Instead, they endeavored to rebuild their bangers from the bottom up, with deliberate pace. At times, they left the booth behind, but mostly to sing and dance some themselves.
The rest of the time, Paul and Alexandre took their opportunities to give thanks and show gratitude to the crowd that had braved so many waves of a still-roiling pandemic to reach this moment with those who showed up to sell out a 6,300-attendee venue like The Shrine Expo Hall.
That events like these can resume to this extent, amid a world drowning in disease, can feel like a mixed blessing these days. But as Polo & Pan exemplify in their music, there is value to both sides of bittersweetness. After all, what would the pleasantries of their beats be without the complexities beneath?
Up next for Polo & Pan is a stop at Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, NV on Tuesday night (2/8). From there, the duo will head off to Salt Lake City, UT (2/9) and Denver, CO’s Mission Ballroom (2/10). Head to the group’s website for full tour details and check out a gallery of images from Friday night’s performance courtesy of photographer Josh Martin.