The Daily Gamecock

Legacy in new light: 'Sandstorm' and its remix

The Sandstorm begins in the student section of Williams-Brice Stadium as rally towels are flailed around.
The Sandstorm begins in the student section of Williams-Brice Stadium as rally towels are flailed around.

In Williams-Brice Stadium, students stand surrounded by thousands of others, drenched in sweat, using a rally towel to keep their eyes dry. The Columbia heat beats down on the eager students' faces.

There is a tangible excitement in the air.

The sound of electronic music rides in slowly and in high-pitched synths as a sea of white towels are thrown into the air: up, down, up, down, up, down.

"Sandstorm" drops and you become one with the entire student body as you chant, "U-S-C! U-S-C!"

"Sandstorm," by Darude, is a thing of legend in Columbia. First played in 2009 in a game against Ole Miss, the song has since become a staple of the South Carolina game day experience.

Eric Nichols, senior associate athletics director for marketing and branding/chief marketing officer at South Carolina, is the man responsible. He added the song to the song pool at Williams-Brice Stadium and subsequently formed a piece of South Carolina culture.

“('Sandstorm') was on a list of what we call ‘hot songs’ that you play in momentum situations,” Nichols said. “The situation at Ole Miss lended itself to playing it … And then it kind of became a thing. We kept playing it and kept playing it, and our fans found an identity with it.”

Since then, it has become tradition to play "Sandstorm" before kickoff and during the game, receiving a resounding crowd reaction every time.

Ten years later, "Sandstorm" was given new life, and in 2019, it evolved. 

Coined by students as the “trap remix," Marco Washington, Columbia native and music producer, created a remix to "Sandstorm," which became an instant classic with South Carolina students.

“I went, and I bought the actual synthesizer that Darude used for the original – I bought that, and then I found the notes, the scales that he used to make the melody,” Washington said. “I literally recreated the entire song.”

Rebuilding the instrumental from the ground up, Washington added a new drum pattern in the drop that gives it a totally new flare.

“For the drop, I was like, 'Well, let’s have the first four counts of the drop, first four bars, be the original,'" Washington said. "After that, I’m going to switch it up and drop the trap with some snares, kicks, 808’s and stuff like that.” 

Washington posted it to his Soundcloud, MOST WANTED, and it started to gain traction on Twitter, he said. He reached out to Justin King, associate athletics director for new and creative media, and asked if he would want to use the remix in any of his content. Little did he know, the legacy of his remix would change forever.

“I think it was Vanderbilt,” Washington said. “It was a little pregame, little thing they did for Gamecock football, and (King) used the song, and next thing you know, a couple of weeks later, it got played in the stadium.” 

Washington said he had no idea they were going to play it in the stadium. He said, on that Saturday, he was watching the game from home and his phone started blowing up with people sending him videos of the remix being played in the stadium.

Although he wasn’t there for the first playing of his remix, he got to witness it in-person soon after.

“Justin (King), he hooked me up with tickets to the Florida game two years ago,” Washington said. “That was my first time hearing it in the stadium. I was like, 'Wow, man. Literally 80,000 people are going crazy and turning up to something I made in my bedroom.'”

The trap remix holds a special place in the hearts of students. "Sandstorm" is the rally cry for Gamecock football fans, but the trap remix is the theme song for South Carolina students.

“The remix really speaks to the heart of South Carolina, and the heart of USC and Columbia," second-year computer science student Alex Lay-Calvert said.

Washington said he's thankful for everyone who helped make the trap remix what it is today. He said King and the media staff made his dreams come true.

"That’s all I wanted, was something like this to happen," Washington said.


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