We’ve all been there. You’re in the club at 1am, surrounded by fist pumping and spilled vodka sodas, trying to hear your friend over terrible dubstep remixes of top 40 radio pop. It’s literally your worst nightmare, but all the clubs are like this, so you have to suck it up if you want to keep the party going. But it doesn’t have to be this way. That was the mindset when Waël Mechri-Yver and Juriël Zeligman founded BABËL New York. Tired of the segregation and monotony that was dominating nightlife culture, BABËL was designed to unite people of different cultures and social groups with something everyone can relate to: damn good music in a setting that encourages creativity. We caught up with the founders to learn more about BABËL’s mission and what’s in store for the coming year.
When you founded BABËL more than a year ago, did you see something missing in the New York nightlife scene? Or was its creation solely based on the desire to build a community of musicians and artists?
The idea for BABËL came after a long observation of the NYC nightlife scene. It was really frustrating to see how separated and segregated New Yorkers were among different social groupings – whether it was the hipster scene or the gay scene or the theatre scene – everyone had their own clubs and hangouts. You had the very high-end (and often boring) nightclubs where the music was secondary and the bottles were queens. On the other side of the spectrum, you had the underground parties where music was god and nothing else was important. Seeing everyone scattered like that wasn’t at all inspiring. BABËL’s goal is to bring back Magic to nightlife like the legendary Studio 54 or Limelight days – we want people to experience that love again.
BABËL New York always throws epic DJ parties, but it’s so much more than music. You’ve built a diverse creative community with people from all walks of life. How do you use art and other creative mediums to enhance the music experience?
The people are the most important aspect. Entry to our events isn’t based on how much you’re willing to pay for a table – it’s based on being part of our creative community by bringing your cool to the table. We’re always looking to infuse fresh, creative aspects of art and music into our events. We love adding performance elements to our parties through whimsical collaborations, whether it’s with a live art installation or musical performance. All together, we ensure a quality environment that is elevating and fun. That’s why we keep attracting the same people back and are growing a loyal community.
We always look to recreate environments and incorporate immerse experiences. For our last Atmosphere event celebrating Summer Solstice, we had a florist come in to design the studio. For events like the Parisian Ball, held on Governors Island with Fete Paradiso, we had vintage carousels from the early 20th century shipped in with their original wood and metal detailing. Attendees were able to play carnival games and dance around this dreamy set up. With the carnival rides spinning, it really was a unique, magical journey to a different era.
We find a lot of the mega clubs in big cities play generic music that doesn’t have much heart behind it. But you’re changing that by bringing world-renowned DJs who are actually super talented to bigger venues. How has the reaction been from the nightlife community? Has anyone told you you changed the experience for the better?
Music is our first inspiration because there’s nothing that gives a more direct or connective experience. In our opinion, the music industry has been lacking a certain amount of inventiveness and creativity. I always think back to the music my parents grew up on – the Stones, Beatles, Bob Marley – and feel our generation is missing something big. BABËL collaborates with the best artists and producers to give listeners a selection of beautiful, non-commercial music with a focus on electronic deep and funky house. This effort has definitely not gone unnoticed, and some of the biggest names in nightlife and hospitality have come to partner and collaborate with us. It has been incredible to watch this community flourish and see all the new support from people in the industry we’ve looked up to for years.
We can’t wait to hear about what’s next for BABËL. What can we expect to see this year?
The goal of BABËL is to turn the darkness of nightlife into light. Nightlife is supposed to be a world where you can release the pressures of everyday life and fall into a dreamscape. We would like to see more inspiring environments with less ego and more collaborations. We want to see a real comeback of creativity fueled by the work of artists, performers and creatives instead of the commercialism around us.
In the coming year, we are focused on expanding BABËL to new locations and continuing to grow our community through fresh and innovative collaborations. We brought our friends and NYC community an environment where they can express themselves, gather, socialize, inspire others and be inspired – now it is time to spread that love. In the coming months, we’ll be building out our music division and label to continue to share the music we love with the world.
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