Switzerland isn’t a country particularly renowned for its electronic music scene, but every now and again names such as EDX and Madwave offer some evidence that there is a club scene in the relatively small, landlocked country.
Nora En Pure is certainly another.
The deep house artist was born Daniela Di Lillo in South Africa to a South African mother and Swiss father. They relocated to her dad’s home nation when Niederer was young for work reasons, though the family remains connected to South Africa and returns often.
“That’s what all my childhood memories consist of — the wilderness, the bush, and I’m super connected with it,” Di Lillo says. “There’s no other place I feel as much at home as in those wilderness areas where you don’t have cellphone reception, electricity, and you really connect with nature.”
It was about a decade ago that Di Lillo started dabbling in electronic music, initially as a hobby while she was studying. Prior to that, she was interested in indie and rock music, but soon fell in love with the creativity that electronic music offers.
“The process, and how you can combine really organic elements like real instruments with electronic music,” she says. “That’s what I initially fell in love with, just the energy that electronic music brings versus if you’re in a band.”
So Di Lillo developed the Nora En Pure project and, as is the contemporary way, put some tracks out there on the internet with few expectations. Wouldn’t you know it — people liked her tunes and word started to spread.
“You know how it is — with the internet, music spreads and three or four years later some music got picked up by some bigger players and the interest in the project grew,” she says. “I then got into talks with my team back then — they said maybe I should consider touring and that was the first time I considered going out DJing. For me, it was always about the music and not really about the aspect of being in front of people and performing.”
She describes her sounds as organic, melodic and nature-inspired, and it is that glorious dichotomy — technology and nature — that makes her so intriguing. She aims to create a feeling of wanderlust in her listeners — a desire to travel, spiritually if not physically though preferably both. Weirdly though, it has yet to really catch on in her home country.
“There’s quite a good scene [in Switzerland] for really underground music, which I don’t really belong to,” she says. “It’s more underground than what I do. There are a couple of clubs which play random music and people go out to just party. But there are one or two clubs where a lot of actually German fellow DJs go and play. I always figured I would fit in that too, but given the background of music and that there are so many great German DJs, I don’t know what the reason is but they prefer DJs from abroad than their own. I only play two or three times a year in Zurich.”
To smooth that process along a little and help in the creation of a local scene, a number of Swiss DJs joined forces to create a group called the Helvetic Nerds. Alongside Di Lillo, other members include the aforementioned EDX, Sons of Maria, and more.
“We are a group of people who started working together because Switzerland’s really small,” Di Lillo says. “It’s not known for great electronic music producers, DJs, or whatever. When I started, the people I was introduced to who had studios got me into this whole world. It’s different genres but we have a couple of different labels and we all work together somehow.”
November 2019 saw the release of Homebound, the latest in a string of extended plays and the follow up to 2018’s Polynesia. Di Lillo says that they’re all connected.
“With my music, I always try to connect to the previous releases and go a step further,” she says. “You always want to keep evolving, go another step, and also keep a signature sound. Touch the people who like your previous music. Homebound is one of my favorites now — before that, I thought the Polynesia EP was diverse and a step forward, because I always try to have a unique sound. Make the people listening forget about their daily stress and let their minds travel.”
This week, Nora En Pure performs at 1015 Folsom, the latest of her frequent visits to this city. She’s here so often nowadays that she considers it her second home.
“North America is still my biggest market and it has done a lot for me and my music,” she says. “So many great shows here and a loyal fanbase. I appreciate and love playing in the States. I’m never nervous in the States. Sometimes I go to other places and wonder what people expect, though it usually turns out to be good. The States is like home already, so I’m comfortable.”
Because of that comfort level, she’ll be showcasing plenty of new music in San Francisco. The vibe of this city, she says, works well with her own.
“I’ll probably play a lot of new stuff, especially when it’s a city I often return to,” she says. “I always try to play stuff that people haven’t heard before, which is always a little risky because at times you can get new people that have never heard of you or that just know your most popular tracks from a few years ago. I still try to catch them with the newer sounds which hopefully they can relate to. But I always try to stay close to the Nora En Pure sound and not go too far off that.”
Catch her while you can — Di Lillo is hoping to take a few breaks during 2020 while she keeps healthy and works on new music.
“It was just a lot these recent years and this year I also got sick and had to cancel shows which I hate to do,” she says. “Also to keep the motivation high and to keep myself healthy and sane, I do some longer travel breaks in between. Stay home and work on music. Apart from that, a lot of new music.”
Nora En Pure at 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 3 at 1015 Folsom.