Written by Noe Gomez, Ana Alvarado & RayTrill Harvey

Everyone remembers their first show, the one that changed their life. Everyone remembers a veteran raver running up to them to trade Kandi for the first time. With some, this practice is just a widely accepted part of the culture but for others, this is a practice that has changed their lives. There is an emotional connection derived from someone making kandi and then giving that piece of themselves to someone else.

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I remember my first time trading kandi, i also have had several kandi exchanges that have stuck in my memory forever. I received an orange unicorn kandi bracelet from someone who is now one of my best friends in the world, it just stated, “magical

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 mother fucker!” Another one of my best friends traded a bracelet with me that said “pot-tito” and had an actual small glass vase attached to it with a marijuana nug inside of it, we’ve been friends ever since. One of my favorites was given to me during my first ever show at Stereo Live & it was a HUGE Hype Factory Perler that mad me cry when it was given to me.

Instead of rambling on about the kandi exchanges that have changed my life, we want you to hear about the culture from the humans who have dedicated their lives to being kandi kids! Their words blew me away & I hope they do the same for all of you.

The PLUR exchange of a perler

PLUR Stand for Peace. Love. Unity. Respect. Here we see the exchange that demonstrates each one of these words through a unifying gesture. Video By Eymi Aleman

“For years the creation, display and trading of Kandi have been core elements of a shifting EDM culture. To some the idea that a small string of beads can end up defining a significant memory for the person they are traded to may seem ludicrous; however, many in the rave scene have garnered a great deal of joy from it. The practice of trading has become almost ritualistic as individuals trade the beads (with accompanying hand motions and the ideals of peace, love, unity and respect during the beads). The physical reminder of that shared experience helps many catalog significant feelings and events in the rave scene. Kandi has become a symbol of the love and bonds people of every age, background and ethnicity can share through music. Even though EDM may shift, I know Kandi kids will always be a significant part of that culture.” -Jordan Waltz (Veteran Perler and Kandi Maker. Houston, TX)

Left: Jordan Waltz with Excision and the perler she made for his paradox tour. When asked about this perler, Jordan stated excision said he would not play if they did not let her inside with it. Right: Various Perlers she has made of Pokemon with intricate details.
More Perlers by Jordan Waltz. Perlers are made with a giant board containing pegs, upon each peg is placed a colored plastic bead. It takes a long time to get together a pattern to create art as detailed as the perlers above and even longer to lay in all the beads. Once every bead is laid, the artist must carefully iron the beats until they melt creating the finished product above.

Richard Hoffman from Livingston, New Jersey, has been a figure in the Kandi scene ever since his outstanding perlers started surfacing around social media, from his Armin Van Buuren Perler that was the exact likeness of his face to his most recent, the Lost Lands perler in honor of Excisions new festival. We Got a chance to grab some words from him.

Richard: “I’ve been making kandi since 2011 when I moved to Orlando to go to college. My first “rave” was Dayglow, which is now Life in Color. I made my first kandi singles for that event and then started moving up the kandi ladder, if you will. I started making cuffs and masks, making my pieces more and more complicated and detailed. In 2012, I started making perlers. My first perler was a pokeball.”

Tell us about the Lost Lands perler! How long did it take to make and how much did it cost to make, what inspired you?

Richard: Well…. once I saw the logo that Excision posted, I got really inspired. I’ve always wanted to make a tree of life design, and the fact that he included dinosaurs in the bottom of it 

20631458_10213714666923540_1171809231_nmade that much simpler of a decision. I was also looking for a new project since I had just finished a project using the latest Defqon.1 festival logo. So it was almost like destiny. Once I got my hands on that logo, I went to work creating my pattern. The timeline for this particular perler went as so: around 6 or 7 hours to make the pattern itself; over a week to actually lay each of the 30,299 beads by hand (I worked on it every night between 5 and 8 hours, it all depended on which section I was working); and another 7 hours to iron it (ironing it is very labor-intensive as I have to use masking tape and poke holes in each bead so that I can flip it and iron it and save my boards from extreme warping). The cost of this perler is what I am unsure about. The way I purchase beads for all of my projects is by using the money I get from selling my perlers. I always purchase beads whenever I get a coupon or there’s a sale. I’ll even buy beads when I don’t need them. I’m always looking and stocking for the future. I have an entire drawer in my side cabinet full of miscellaneous colors of beads. 

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Tell us about why you think the art of kandi making and trading is so important for the EDM culture?

Richard: Some people think we’re just taking beads and putting them on string or taking perler beads and melting them to make simple designs. But it’s just so much more than that. We pour our hearts and souls in every piece. Every kandi single, every kandi cuff, every kandi mask, every perler (whether it be a tiny perler for a kandi single or pendant that hangs from your neck or one that hangs on your wall), they all have a tiny piece of the creator. The colors we chose, the placement of those colors, the design of the perler (whether it be a custom pattern or one from Google), they were all chosen by the creator for a specific. It doesn’t matter if two kandi singles look the same, they aren’t. Each one is like a snowflake; they may look the same, but they aren’t. That’s why it’s so important in our culture. You give a little piece of yourself to the person you’re trading with at an event. And after you trade, you two are bonded because of that piece you traded. You each have a little piece of the other person with you forever. That’s what PLUR stands for: there’s Peace when you trade; there’s the Love that the piece was made with; there’s Unity when you grasp each other’s hand and trade and are one; and you Respect each other’s hard work that was put in to the piece being traded.

Mariana Beltran & Ben Taha
Trading kandi has been a thing to do in the scene for a very long time. It represents much more than just trading bracelets with a friend. It’s an exchange that physically and spiritually represents the meaning of PLUR, one of the most powerful reminder gestures of what this scene is built off of. With festival season here, I had the chance to talk to some people who spend more time making kandi to share with others than, more than doing anything else. These handful of people are some of the happiest and nicest people around. To some, making kandi is just a hobby, to others it’s a lifestyle.

Rave Name: Traveurysm
Hometown: San Francisco, Ca

Noe: Why do you think trading kandi is so important in the scene?
Travis: You can rave without kandi trading. Kandi is unique to American raves; in other parts of the world the vibes are still great but they don’t trade. But think about what kandi is. You’re making a unique, colorful gift for a stranger and trading it with them in a moment of love and connection and acceptance. It’s the perfect symbol of everything raving is about. So I consider myself lucky to rave in the US and be a part of kandi culture.

Noe: Do you remember your first experience of trading kandi with someone? And what were your emotions like? 🙂
Travis: My friends had a kandi party a few weeks before EDC 2014, and I traded a little with them. My first proper trade was at EDC, seeing Yellow Claw at Circuit Grounds. I was so overwhelmed with awe and happiness that I was standing in place slowly rotating, jaw hanging open, with a dumb goofy look on my face. A guy came over and put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I was okay. I wasn’t used to strangers being that friendly; I waved him away because that’s how I was used to treating people outside of raving. But my brother Joel leaned in and said: “It’s okay, he’s just checking on you. Ravers take care of each other!” So I went over to him and gave him a big hug and thanked him. He traded me a kandi that said STRATOSPHERIC. His name was Caleb. The moment the trade was done, I knew it would be the first of thousands of trades. It was euphoric.

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Noe: What’s your favorite kandi trading experience?
Travis: My favorite was Day 1 of EDC 2016. I was standing by the bathrooms waiting for my best friend to come out, and I saw a girl standing alone. It looked like her day could be going better. I went over and talked to her and the conversation was effortless. She said no one had traded with her the whole night; I’m guessing it’s because she was so pretty that people were intimidated. When we traded, she gave me a really simple green bracelet – not technically “kandi” in the traditional sense but a bracelet made of colored beads – that she’d gotten in Hawaii. She said she had to overcome a lot of fears to make that trip. I told her I would wear it whenever I needed courage, and I have. I wear it at least once a week, her name was Melissa. I’m still hoping to rave with her again someday, but she lives in Vegas, so that’s not easy to arrange.

Noe: What’s your favorite piece of kandi you’ve made?
Travis: That’s a tough one, I’ve made hundreds. But one of them stands out. One day I was making kandi at home and my brother Joel pointed out that there were a lot of fish beads lying around and he didn’t know what to do with them. At the time, my rave name was “Kandi King” and my friends would give me kandi challenges, like making a bracelet with a really short length of string. Joel dared me to make one using as many fish as possible. I used 8 fish beads and added the word: “MOO.” I think it’s hilarious. I traded it with a guy in line for the shuttles day 2 of EDC 2016.

Noe: If you could redefine the meaning of PLUR, What would it be ?
Travis: This may not be a redefinition so much as a simplification, but you can boil PLUR down to just L. Love is the act of deliberately adding value to someone’s life. We do that at raves with music, conversation, kandi, light shows, massages, costumes, and so on. All of those things add value to the lives of other ravers. But ideally, we should live every moment of our lives that way. It should be the guiding light from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, no matter how gray or mundane our schedule is. I’ve found that this philosophy gradually eliminates the “dead” parts of your life, when you’re waiting for something to end so you can get back to the part you enjoy. Every moment is an irreplaceable opportunity to love. You can make doing laundry or riding in an uber as transformative as being on someone’s shoulders at Above & Beyond. Raving is a lifestyle, and the lifestyle is Love.

20622603_10213714666763536_218478830_oAbove Perlers Made by Richard Hoffman

Meet Dennis Cruz Loera, also known as the Perler God and a veteran Kandi Kid. He’s always been such a radiant person who attracts all types of uplifting people. It’s hard not to enjoy yourself around him. Sometimes, he trades a unique piece or if you really touch him, you get a custom. Why does he take his time to do it?

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Nexie: What is like being a kandi kid?
Dennis: Being a kandi kid, it’s more than just some string and beads. Lights all night 2015, I traded my first piece of kandi. It was so beautiful in my eyes I began to make my own. I wanted to spread the love I saw in it. I trade from singles to cuffs.

fb_img_1500921456084 Trading cuffs is such joy because no one really expects a big trade. Sometimes I take about 20 minutes on singles. Generally speaking an average cuff take about 30 minutes. Even with perlers, I take about 30 minutes to complete a piece, or even take a few hours! Trading at different events isn’t too difficult. I like trading with radiant vibes who are connecting with the music. I have received the honor to trade with artists. I normally snap or tweet an artist ahead of time so they’re aware of a trade I worked hard for them personally. Artists like the Lost Kings were overjoyed and wore my pieces with pride! Audien loves what I do and has told me that he would keep my perlers in his studio. It means the world to me that the people I love, give me positive feedback and make me want to continue to become better at what I do.
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This cuff is my trademark. You will always catch me wearing it at any show or festival. As many trades as I receive I store them in my box of trades. I’d rather store them than break them. They all mean so much to me I rather be safe than sorry. The only time I’ll wear a trade is if it’s a complete custom made to wear on all occasions.

Being a kandi kid has made me feel more superior than just a normal person. I have people come up to me asking if I’m the perler god, which makes me laugh – I’m just like everyone else who has a huge passion for what they do.

Raver name: Ly
Hometown: Fresno, CA

Noe: Why do you think trading kandi is so important in the scene?
Ly: I believe kandi plays a major role in the rave culture. Many people including myself, connect with each other by trading kandi. Going to events & meeting new people. Trading kandi is the beginning of new friendships. my first piece ever received was from my best friend. She taught me what PLUR was, & she made me a mini cuff. We traded at local event & she said she was the one that took my “PLURGINITY” hahah Since she was the first to ever trade me. I was super happy, I cherished the piece with all my heart & wore it proudly. I wore it to an event shortly after, in representation of our friendship and her love for me.

To the left, Mariana L. Beltran To the Right, Erin Pivek

Noe: What’s your favorite kandi trading experience?
Ly: My favorite kandi experience was when I re-met up with this girl named Leslie. I’ve her at a previous rave before. I had made her a bunny cuff. A cuff that said Bunny Leslie with a bunny plush attached to it. A Bunny because when we first met at beyond wonderland Bay Area we both were dressed up as bunnies. I called her my Bunny Leslie 💖 It was nice to meet up with her once more at a different event. It shows that even though we are from different cities, we can still keep in touch and keep this bond between us.

Noe: If you could redefine the meaning of PLUR, What would it be ?
Ly: I would say, being kind and good to others without expecting anything back in return. Spread the positivity and love to others.

Pieces by Jordan Waltz, Johnny Bund & Michael Turner
Video By Eymi Aleman
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Posted by:Noe Gomez

A DJ/Producer for ÏMURGE. San Jose, CA 🙏🏼

One thought on “The Culture of Kandi in EDM

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