Zen Selekta: Music is our Meditation, the Dancefloor is our Temple
Merriam-Webster defines Zen as “a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than conscious effort,” while Urban Dictionary describes Selekta as “a DJ who drops hot tracks” or “the protagonist in a situation, with the most power, commonly used by junglists.”
“Zen” isn’t limited to temple walls or deep meditative practice. Sometimes, the easiest place to find your Zen is on the dancefloor. This is something Nicole Barton, known on stage as Zen Selekta, understands with powerful clarity.
For Barton, spirituality and music are intertwined. She’s always been a “selekta” or selector — a term used to describe the person who selects which tracks to spin to keep the vibe going (AKA the DJ) — but pursuing a musical career seemed far-fetched. Then she began meditating, and everything changed.
“I always had this feeling inside me that I was supposed to be some sort of music performer,” Barton said in an exclusive interview with MP3 MAG. “But I always thought a career in music was unobtainable. Then, when I started my spiritual journey, I realized that anything is possible. If you have an unwavering belief that you can accomplish something, and you put that together with action every day, it will happen.”
Barton’s first meditation experience during her sophomore year of high school was a turning point. Struggling to cope with adolescent stress, she discovered meditation through an online article. “I’ll never forget that moment,” Barton said. “After my first session, my whole body was tingling. I felt like I had just discovered a whole new world. I realized then that I was actually connecting to something deeper. That’s how it all started.”
That was seven years ago, and she’s been building the Zen Selekta project ever since. With a few DEF performances under her belt and upcoming sets at Sonic Bloom and Lightning in a Bottle this summer, her deep tribal bass music is finally reaching the masses. But fame and fortune aren’t her main concerns; her mission remains to “make the world a better place through [her] platform as a music producer and DJ.”
Every Zen Selekta set is a new journey, filled with global sounds, massive bangers and cavernous low-end bass that shakes you to your core. It’s the sound of a less distracted world — one with strange, mystical features and furious embellishments. A Zen Selekta set is like a good book: easy to get lost in, filled with vibrant characters and subtle wisdom.
In this way, Barton is a prolific author of musical experiences, unafraid to challenge her audience with a shocking plot twist or alternate ending. According to Barton, that’s what great selectors are supposed to do. “Sometimes you gotta give the people what they need, not just what they think they want,” she said.
There’s a certain harmony in Zen Selekta’s performance that’s both elusive and intoxicating. The effect is equal parts meditative and awakening, not just for the audience, but for Barton, too. She’s not shy about dancing on stage, moving in whatever way the music takes her. But her dancing is more of a natural reaction than a conscious effort, something she insists she “just can’t control.” When the music starts, the outside world fades away. Nothing else matters except for that moment, and Barton makes sure to embrace that feeling every time she’s on stage. In this way, music and dancing are Barton’s meditation — her Zen. “Music is how we express ourselves truly,” Barton said. “And dancing is meditation at the same time.”
This is the kind of experience Barton hopes to create for her audience — one of meditation and healing. To be clear: this doesn’t mean every song she plays is a deep, self-contained exploration of downtempo ambiance typically associated with musical “healing” escapades. There’s plenty of that, for sure. But she also likes to get loud and throw down. Barton believes life, and music, is all about balance.
“It’s important to embrace duality because we can’t avoid it,” Barton said. “Would we even know what joy is without sadness? We have to go through hard times to appreciate the good times. I definitely try to convey that in my music. That’s why I use these deep, dark bass and synth sounds, but I also have this beautiful, light, melodic side. Both of these sounds have a greater impact when they’re in balance together.”
Similarly, not all music has to be designed for a spiritual experience. Where’s the fun in that, anyway? Sometimes you just have to let loose and go wild. Getting silly and headbanging to riddim with your friends is healing in its own right. “I’ve profoundly healed by blasting 50 Cent, haven’t you?” Barton joked.
That’s the thing about music — it’s universal. It’s a language we all speak; an elusive entity that turns random strangers into friends, and a tough day into a magical moment. Whether you’re looking for a yogic sound bath or an excuse to shake your ass on the dancefloor, music is always there for us.
This is the entire ethos of the Zen Selekta project. She creates music to instill peace into the world, one show at a time. You don’t need to meditate in the Himalayas to find your peace, your Zen. All you have to do is dance, and let music lead the way. The dancefloor is our temple. Music is our meditation. And Zen Selekta is our missionary, here to spread the good word and put a little boogie in our step. Hallelujah, shanti shanti shanti, or whatever you prefer.
Catch Zen Selekta alongside Alix Perez, LYNY, N3ptune and more at Sonic Bloom, which will take place June 15-18 this year. Buy your festival passes here.