The trio of Maarten ‘Big Daddy’ Klein, Ed ‘Praxis’ Anderson and Taru ‘Delhi Sultanate‘ Dalmia, together make up the sound system they call BASSFoundation. A powerhouse in today’s burgeoning electronic underground.
Now, as a tectonic shift demands that our finest bass purveyors move onward to a bigger playground – at Outlook Festival 2012, the largest music and soundsystem culture festival in Europe – you bet they’re bringing their best weapons forward. We attempt to map their victory run in seminal bursts of triumph, struggle and future sounds.
In the spirit of all things BASSFoundation, we’ve also got an exclusive Dubplate titled BASSFoundation Nice Up The Dance available for stream and download below. The track comes from David Boomah and is produced by Canadian producer Marcus Visionary. As one of the leading vocalists in the D&B scene for almost 20 years, David Boomah has recorded with many of the scene's biggest producers, including ‘Who Run Tings’ with the legendary Shy FX back in 1995. His long awaited debut album is forthcoming on V Recordings in October.
On to the build-up then:
Praxis – I'm one of the two BASSFoundation DJs, and along with Delhi Sultanate and Big Daddy Klein, started the crew back in early 2009. I lived in Leeds many years ago, where I started spinning D&B alongside people like Ant TC1 and Ruckspin, but moved to India in 2007. I was surprised there was a club scene at all when I got here, but then depressed to discover you could only find commercial house, trance, Bollywood and chart music. It was also very elite and the attitude to clubbing for many people was about flashing your cash and posing. When I met Maarten and Taru, we decided to start the first regular night in Delhi which repped drum and bass, as well as dubstep and reggae/dancehall, with free entry, in less pretentious venues.
Big Daddy Klein - As my name suggests, I'm the daddy of the crew. I'm also one of the DJ's and I do our graphics. I got into D&B in the mid-late nineties when a good friend of mine started putting on nights. I often helped him flyering/postering. When I moved to India I really wanted to do something different from what was going on in the Delhi nightlife scene. I was lucky to meet Taru at a gig in Delhi, where he jumped on the mic, and a few months later I met Ed at a big festival in Goa where I was playing. Back in Delhi we all got together and started our first night, the rest is history.
Delhi Sultanate – I grew up with reggae and dancehall and sound system culture and try to represent the spirit of this culture in a way that makes sense in India. Apart from BASSFoundation, I'm part of The Ska Vengers - India's first rocksteady and ska band, and also run a trust called Word Sound Power with producer Chris McGuinness and film maker Kush Bhadwar. We travel to different parts of India with a mobile studio set up to collaborate and make movies with revolutionary singers. As well as music I'm also interested in history and martial arts. Somewhere, these things are all connected!
Reactions tended to be really positive right from the start. Despite there not being any regular nights around, some had already heard the styles somehow and were already into it. However for lots of people it was completely new; D&B and dubstep – when it’s done right and on a proper sound system – can really speak to anyone as it’s so powerful on the bass side of things and has such high energy. Early audiences seemed to be very open to new styles and were very responsive. I still think that quite a few people who come to our nights are hearing these types of music for the first time.
In essence they haven’t changed that much – from the start we had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted to do, in terms of a friendly vibe, big sound system, and pretty consistent music policy. Perhaps in the past we played a bit more of the liquid D&B styles, as we were conscious of playing stuff that didn’t alienate those new to the genre. We still spin some of this early on, but can be a bit more adventurous with deeper and techier flavours, as there are now many more heads into the music. Obviously we also have a much bigger box of dubplates these days, so reggae perhaps plays a slightly bigger role than at first.
The opening night was obviously important – we were stepping into somewhat unchartered territory and weren’t sure whether the crowd would come or even get down. In the end it was absolutely packed and people went mental all night – it’s pretty much been the same ever since! Ironically, bookings at the fanciest venues or big cash offers tend to be things we avoid, and therefore don’t see that as affirmation of what we’re doing at all.
Being asked to play at Outlook Festival in Croatia this year was pretty huge. It’s recognised as the world’s top bass music and sound system culture festival, and the line-up reads like a who’s who of the bass music scene. That they have booked three artists from India this year (Bay Beat Collective and Reggae Rajahs) is a big look for the country!
We’d be lying if we said we’ve never played a cheesy or screechy ‘bro-step’ tune at one of our nights – in the early days at least. However, although it often gets the crowd going – and in India as well as abroad this style tends to dominate the type of dubstep being played in clubs – it’s never been something we’ve been into at all. We’ve always been into the deeper, dubbier and more garage-influenced side of dubstep – which is where it all began really. It’s important not to get too snobbish about music, and whilst more musical or thoughtfully-made forms of dubstep will continue to exist whatever happens in the mainstream, it’s certainly a shame that the most commercialised and moronic side of the genre has become its public image and makes lots of money for a small number of people.
I’ve not heard too much of it to be honest. It’s not particularly surprising – commercial, consumerist culture always leeches off underground subcultures, in the hope that some coolness and credibility will rub off, and lead to more financial gain. Perhaps it will introduce whole new audiences to the genre which otherwise wouldn’t have heard it, but I doubt that.
In some senses the scene is going strong – you can hear bass music played out in some form or the other every week in big cities. There are also a number of talented producers and DJs emerging as well as more and more respected international artists touring India on a fairly regular basis. However in other senses things aren’t so positive – I feel the scene is very ‘thin’. Bass music tends to be limited to the largest metros, and within that only accessible to a very small elite – a problem exacerbated by the way in which almost all clubs and bars seem to be run. Obviously certain moralistic governments are making problems worse. Also, the quality of a lot of music played out can be pretty mediocre at best, with many people not feeling the need to hone their craft before performing publically (but still somehow getting bookings). Although bass music in India has progressed a lot in the 3 ½ years since we started BASSFoundation, the scene remains quite fragile, and it is debateable that one can call what’s going on a proper ‘subculture’ or ‘underground’.
Delhi Sultanate – At the moment we are working hard on the album. Jazzsteppa just contributed a heavy, heavy remix to the music release. I have a track collaborating with Jamaican reggae legend Sizzla coming out. I’ve also got a tune with Scottish dancehall artist Soom T in the pipeline. There are a bunch of other exciting releases set for later this year, but you’re gonna have to keep your eyes peeled for them!
http://soundcloud.com/thewildcity/bassfoundation-nice-up-the/s-qqcYO(Download via arrow on right-side of stream)
Words: Jash Reen
29 August 2012