A Timeline Of India’s Evolving Bass Culture Vol. I: The Pioneers Decode Significant Moments From The Early Days - Homegrown

A Timeline Of India’s Evolving Bass Culture Vol. I: The Pioneers Decode Significant Moments From The Early Days

[CLICK HERE FOR VOLUME II OF THE TIMELINE]


Bass music and nostalgia might seem like they make for unlikely bedfellows, but taking a look over the last two decades – you can’t help but take a moment to admire the aural revolution that is India’s bass culture since its genesis. Headlines like these tend to instil a sense of disdainfulness in those who’ve existed at the periphery of what could be construed as niche movements, so we decided to skip the loudspeaker on this one. No rants, no mission statements, and no claims of being able to predict the future over here. 2014 has been, and is still shaping up to be, an incredibly loaded year for bass music in India, and a sign that things have really and truly reached a tipping point. It’s always been interesting to us that a genre that seemingly prefers to exist in the shadows all over the world, should choose to find the light in the Indian subcontinent, so this chronicling is a tribute to the music that’s clearly got a very special role to play in our overall musical journey.
Since the mid-90’s, sporadic bass movements in different parts of the country conformed to interesting parallels and pushed boundaries in their own ways, giving rise to a musical sub-culture that, today, is arriving at a place where it can have far-reaching impact on an audience whose aural appetites are both versatile and evolving. As we toiled upon this timeline over the course of the last few months, we quickly realised that this linear narrative actually had several branches, some which spread well beyond India to lands far, far away. Far enough - and important enough - to have pushed each other into spaces neither might have ventured into on their own. We reached out to what we began jokingly referring to as the bosses of bass, over 45 of them to be precise, regardless of whether their 15 minutes of bass-fuelled fame had come and gone over a decade ago, or whether they’d ventured into newer territory, and as they each narrated their own personal journeys—each more entwined with the others than they might have realised—the multiple, simultaneous conversations quickly began to evolve into more of a round-table conference than we had intended. Not that we’re complaining.

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Besides a vague dissonance about when the gigs pioneering the sounds took place - the first international dubstep artist, the first drum’n’bass artist - we were met with an uplifting melange of answers that helped us find a method in the madness of attempting to organise those initial bass-infused years in public memory, an exercise in probing these artists to narrow down special events, mixes, festivals and gigs. Having worked with each other over the course of all these years, many of the staunch propagators of bass music, we realised, were all on the same wavelength about some of the most defining moments in the evolution of bass music in India. One picks up where the other leaves off, a refreshingly positive influx of opinions on the movement that they have unanimously been in support of, pushing hard to take it forward.
It has been a couple of months of serious chasing and beseeching artists to wrestle with their memories, to bypass the general haze and blur of the glory days when they came crashing down into the grimiest, underground venues in various cities all over the country. It has been a veritable education for Homegrown, compiling possibly the first cohesive timeline of the evolution of bass music, and its many cousins.
For the sake of simplicity, we decided to split the timeline into two volumes. However, it turns out our reasons for picking the point of partition we did were more subconsciously reasonable than we’d thought. There are, in fact, two parts to this story. The first is more fragmented, involving the very initial pioneers/pushers of the genre in India, both locals and foreigners, and the UK’s Asian Underground Movement, forming the foundation for everything we see today. The second involves a few incredibly key latecomers who took it upon themselves to resurrect an otherwise closeted genre, and take the time to evolve larger audiences’ taste for it. Neither could have evolved without the other.

Introducing the pioneers of the Mid-90’s - 2008...

[Mid-1990’s]

Bhavishyavani Futuresoundz started pushing the sound in question at Bombay’s grungiest venues in the mid-1990s.

This was ‘before you could listen to DJ mixes online and when clubs played only Bollywood and “retro” music’, Jatin Vidyarthi (Masta Justy) of Bhavishyavani tells Homegrown. Breathing life into the first signs of drum’n’bass in the city, they genially used to explain the genre as ‘Ganpati ke time drum jaisa music’ to clueless owners and managers when they started throwing small, electronic music parties in a scene overrun with mainstream pop and Bollywood music. 


BHA2
BHA2

“There was a place right next to the airport, where they used to have their drum’n’bass parties,” Kris Correya of Bay Beat Collective recalls. “There was also another venue right behind Zenzi that was notorious for after parties, open till the wee hours of morning.” 


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BHA-1-

A mutual affinity for the freshest sounds from the Asian Underground brought together Tejas Mangeshkar, Mukul Deora, visual artist Kunal Rawat, filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia, and music producer Jatin Vidyarthi - Mr Tee, Bhaisaab, Kutklass, Insat and Masta Justy  - to form Bhavishyavani Future Soundz. “Our friends Tejas and Kunal shared our music tastes and had started this fledgling graphic design company called Grandmother. They suggested we start some kind of underground party where I would DJ along with Justy & Mukul. They would promote the party and design all the flyers,”

says Ahluwalia. ‘Fast Dancing for a New India’ reads the tagline on one of their collector’s item limited edition mixtapes, now a rare commodity.

Meanwhile, on foreign shores…

Asian diasporas in the UK and US (Asian Dub Foundation, Nitin Sawhney, Talvin Singh, State of Bengal, Shiva Soundsystem) were in tandem with the movements back home, engaging in their own audio-cultural upheaval. Trying out a fusion of underground electronica, they blended breakbeats and drum’n’bass with Indian semi-classical ragas and retro Bollywood tinges; sequenced and mixed via turntables, samplers and synthesizers. This fusion bass-heavy electronic music had an unmistakeable ethnic flavour that resonated with audiences in a whole new way, opening up a Pandora’s box of sounds.

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“Back when I started doing music, it was all tinkering with technology, experimenting with and recording live instruments, restructuring them – trying to make it sound how you wanted it to sound and really playing it by ear. I still have the handmade studio speakers that I built when I was 17 or 18 when I did some work with reggae sound systems in the UK in the early days – this was the grounding work,”

Sam Zaman AKA State of Bengal tells Homegrown.

Stateofbengal&sweety kapoor withmathisrichetsource-philipgonsalves
Stateofbengal&sweety kapoor withmathisrichetsource-philipgonsalves

“I met Sweety Kapoor in 1996 and we absolutely hated each other,” Sam laughs. “We got off on the wrong foot but since then, we’ve been like brother and sister. She’s been offered interviews by leading publication here in the UK about her role behind the scenes in shaping her role in the movement, but she chose not to be the spokesperson for her position, allowing others to get in on it and become known as the new trendsetters for the new brown movement at the time.”
He continues, “The pinnacle was the Anokha nights for us, which have quite a strange history. It came out of people wanting to do something where they could showcase their work, these nights were held at a little club on a Monday, with a capacity of 600. We went on to the venue ‘The Rocket’ (which became one of the biggest venues in London later) and approached The Ministry of Sound before it was really a known ministry. After this, we moved to the Blue Note – where Talvin Singh was hanging out all the time. He chased me and persuaded me to do Monday nights here, a space where you created something for the rest of the week. We managed to keep the media out for a year and a half - we were doing something special, and we wanted to grow it locally - but artists like Bjork, Afrika Bambaataa, David Bowie and Goldie used to drop in to show their support.”
”We were searching for sounds that reverberated in your belly button, an organic process to find what was intrinsically happy and beautiful in music,” he professes.   

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Screen-Shot-2014-12-07-at-9.53

The Anokha Sessions at the Blue Note were ground-breaking and the most exciting times of my youth,” Talvin Singh agrees. “ This was a weekly night on a Monday at the Blue Note venue in Hoxton Square, London, which is now known as Shoreditch. The timings were from 9pm to 3am. There were two floors, the first floor was the floor one entered into, and just after the cloakroom was a long bar and two turntables/two CD players, set up on a table at floor level. This floor played experimental and ambient music. Trip Hop Breaks were played on a record, while an Indian Classical (Alaap) was played on a CD and then tuned, matched to perfection. This was a lab to imagine, to experiment and to create new sounds on the turntables. This floor attracted Wire magazine fans and art students from across London, they stayed on this floor all night and, at times, were curious but less interested in going down to the main floor.”
”We used to work on our productions in the week, and then go and queue up at the pressing plants to get our Dub Plates made to play the new sets at Anokha night. This was the only way to burn a one-off record, which you could play around 50 plays of, before it started to deteriorate and become too scratchy to play. These were called Dub Plates; engineers, who were a part of reggae and dub traditions, also mastered them,” he continues.

Bring It All Back - The Asian Underground eventually started taking these sounds back to their South Asian roots, as bass music started warming up in the country.

“Anokha hosted the first Drum and Bass Sessions here in India,” the legendary Talvin Singh elaborates on bass nights closer home. “The DJs were State of Bengal, Equal I and myself. The cities we played were Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi. The MIDIval Panditz used to host the event in Delhi and, on various occasions, would be the supporting DJs. We found it difficult to get the sound system to project the low-end of the sound, which is needed for the Drum and Bass repertoire, and sound aesthetic. I was always fascinated to experience the bass tones in the world of Indian Percussion, but as far as low O fidelity in the sound system context, during this period - it was non-existent in India. These came only very recently. The youth culture of the cities now is very much aware of the importance of the Bass Culture and the Sound Systems with Equalization at the clubs. In the 90′s, the music heard in clubs in India was Techno and Trance, so there was no sonic requirement for frequencies beyond 50hz. This is not the case now, as the country is now experiencing the eclectic sounds of the world of electronic music.”

RA-artists-HiRes-KarshKale1
RA-artists-HiRes-KarshKale1

“I started exploring drum n bass and live fusion in New York in the mid 90’s,” Karsh Kale retrospects about the American chapter of this same story. “Through this, I met a lot of new artists in London, and some names that stand out would be State of Bengal, Asian Dub Foundation, Bhavishyavani, MIDIval Punditz. Once I met the MIDIval Punditz, we started to bring what we were doing outside, back to India, in the late 90’s.  There were also the Asian Underground guys from London, and this was a time drum’n’bass was exploring new territory and I started doing my electric tabla and DJ sets. There was always something new to feed this movement and experimentation started opening up doors to more bass music.”

[1997]

The Midival Punditz Take Control...


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5232a5438f340

Childhood friends Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj, sick of the retro Bollywood scene, started producing original electronic music and sending out demo tracks to labels and other producers as Delhi-based outfit Midival Punditz. These guys went on to become one of the most influential producers at a time when the scene was still very nascent, steering it towards a direction that was - like what was happening abroad - cognizant of how well Indian sounds resonated with audiences compared to Western ones. Their collaborations with Indo-electronica act Tabla Beat Science (founded by producer Bill Laswell and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain) put the duo on the map. Their monthly parties, Cyber Mehfil, started really catching on and soon achieved cult status. “Legendary Cyber Mehfil d’n’b raves of the early-mid 2000’s that the MIDIval Punditz used to spin at, in Delhi farmhouses with mythical descriptions and reviews,” is how Dharam Saraviya of OML remembers them. A modern take on the ancient north Indian tradition of artistic gatherings, Cyber Mehfil parties brought the sounds of modern electronica to the traditional music of the subcontinent, with the added visuals having audiences in raptures at a confluence of cultures.

The Asian Underground keeps pushing hard & the game-changing  ‘Anokha: Soundz of the Asian Underground’ was released. 

The compilation album Anokha - Soundz of the Asian Underground was released, masterminded by Sweety Kapoor and Talvin Singh, a landmark release featuring the sounds of Talvin, State of Bengal and Osmani Soundz, ranging from Britpop to bhangra-tinged jungle and cccording to most, this was perhaps the exact moment where everything changed. 

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Screen-Shot-2014-12-07-at-10.09

Talvin Singh reminisces about his debut performance in India, which was at the Channel (V) awards. This was a solo performance of Tablatronica, which created a big rage at the time. “Nothing new really came across to a wider audience other then Bollywood,” Talvin says. “We used to have sessions at clubs in Bombay and one of these was a place in Juhu, called Razzberry Rhinoceros. I remember Equal I and myself playing a marathon set back to back and we had our passports getting wet in our back pockets, with the luggage in the car to catch our flights back to London. We were extremely close to missing our flight as we found it very difficult to close the set - the crowd was just heaving with sweat and smiles on the dance floor. This was between 1997 and 1998.”

Listen to the Anokha Release in its entirety, below: 

[1998]

The presence of bass started taking root in the country.

“The first set of gigs we did under the banner Asian Underground was in 1998 at the Razzberry Rhinoceros,” Sam Zaman recalls. “We were developing our sound, and all them cats who were present at that gig are the ones who are, today, running the system in India.”
”The Razzberry Rhinocerous in Juhu, Bombay, was a venue where a lot of raves took place,” Randolph Correia of Shaa’ir + Func & Pentagram fame, in turn, relates fondly. “This one time Talvin Singh had come down with State of Bengal. Talvin was playing records, while Sam was playing with a live band and this was my first experience with drum’n’bass in person. Bhavishyavani was also throwing a lot of drum’n’bass parties around this time. People were very hesitant, initially, to take to the sound and while some of us continued to be fascinated by it, it only caught on a decade later. Masta Justy, Kunal Rawat, Tejas Mangeshkar and Mukul Deora were some of the artists really pushing bass sounds, and playing without filter at the time. A very small community formed, and we’d all meet at Madness in Khar, which is now ironically called ‘Bass2’.”

Randolf-Correia
Randolf-Correia

“I was already hooked on to the drum’n’bass sound around this time, and had started making that sound as well,” says Randolph. 
“I have also always been a fan of Randolph Correia, with whom I’ve been exchanging music since 1999,”

Karsh Kale quips up. “It was the great network of people that has kept the scene alive. We all have that in common – its not just that it’s dance music, it’s the fact that there’s a connection to a deeper root that is Indian; not everyone in the world is doing this, as we’ve been taking influence from our roots.
Talvin Singh clinched the coveted Mercury Award this year, creating a flurry of reactions in international media and the music circuit. Asian DJs and producers had begun making their presence felt at nightclubs, radio channels and indie record labels in London, New York and San Francisco. “The Asian Underground music movement became the voice of a generation that was wary of the subcontinent’s clichéd identity.” said Samrat B (Teddy Boy Kill), in his essay ‘1982-2010’ in the ‘HUB’ yearbook, India’s first anthology of electronic music. Indian bass sounds had started struggling against the restraints of national borders, inventing its eclectic personality with a range of local and international flavours.

The Asian Underground takes the baton...

Kale began work on his first EP, Classical Science Fiction from India, and began hosting bi-weekly “Futureproof” events in New York, consisting of a live band led by him, with his DJ and live electric tabla sets, and a sound aesthetic including Indian classical, dub, drum and bass, jungle, reggae and ambient influences. He went on to become the first Indo-American who was signed to a solo recording contract in America, with San Francisco label Six Degrees Records.

[2000]

Tabla Beat Science Was Formed.

Bill Laswell founded Tabla Beat Science, a collective including Karsh Kale, Zakir Hussain, Talvin Singh, Trilok Gurtu and Sultan Khan and then they released Tala Matrix this year.

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ok9iz

“It’s like tracing a dream map, speaking about these moments,” says Karsh Kale. “Working with Zakir Hussain was like a dream, having seen him as a kid a couple of times, and having listened to his records and bought his CDs. I was 24 years old when I started playing Tabla Beat Science – the producer wanted to create a project where electronic music met the world of tabla, a truly fascinating kind of space to share with Zakir Bhai, I left that project a much better artist, and musician, due to working with him.”

Watch this stunning video of TBS performing Tala Matrix below:


[2001]

The Punditz cinch a pioneering deal.

The MIDIval Punditz became the first electronic music act from India to ever sign an international album deal, after evoking the interest of Six Degrees Records, home label of producer friend, Karsh Kale. They came to be known as the ‘new sound of 21st century India’, when they released their eponymous album the following year. Considering bass music was a massive part of their sound, this was a big moment for the movement that was still cutting its milk teeth on the genre. It also explains why they became an act to look upto for so many other major talents that followed. The following year, they accompanied Karsh Kale on his ‘Asian Massive’ tour, along with Cheb i Sabbah.

Punditzandkarshkale
Punditzandkarshkale

[2002-2003]

Bandish Projekt finds a way into the crowd...

Bandish Projekt was formed, declaring the birth of an act that successfully blended Indian folk elements with cutting-edge electronica. The original act was founded by Mayur Narvekar (Mosillator), a tabla player since he was just a child, Udyan Sagar (better known as Nucleya today) and Mehirr Nath Choppra when they were still exceedingly young.  This was another act that started making music that really appealed to Indian audiences, adapting the grooves and drops to the aural palate of the local audience when the beast of bass-heavy electronica had just begun to stir in the country as the millenium drew to a close.
”I would say I was born with it,” Mayur Narvekar tells us frankly,when asked about how his affinity for bass music evolved. “I don’t think I am part of any “bass scene” in particular as I work under a few aliases like Bandish Projekt and, now, Mosillator - the straight up drum & bass act. Bass music is just one of the genres I like to produce.”
”I have been performing this music since 1995,” Mayur goes on. “Back then, music was the most important aspect and was given more attention as compared to today - we talk about anything and everything but music. Back then we had time to think, innovate, breathe, learn, express - today we are just following somebody, and then realising that we are part of something which already exists. I think each and every individual involved with music, should check with himself or herself whether that is really what they want to do. I always say we need to be a lot more innovative in what we do. If you listen at some of the free mix sets I have put out over the last few years you can listen to the different layers of sounds and genres I have used in bass music itself.”

Blogs and radio station start firing up the unique brand of bass coming out of the country.

“BBC Radio 1 show that started in the UK in 2002 with Bobby Friction and Nihal Show was a good starting point for the Indian bass movement, where they championed Asian sounds on a Mainstream Radio,”

Mayur Narvekar says.  “One of the founders of High Chai records, dimmSummer, had a music blog which showcased talent from all across the world too.”
Ethnotechno was a blog started by Dim Summer to push ‘left-field Asian-tinged electronica’ started in 2001, to ‘take the sounds of the diaspora back to its source: South Asia’. Having built an enthusiastic audience for artists from the UK, US and other parts of the world, in their motherlands, they ran their final program in May, 2012, considering their job here done.

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Screen-Shot-2014-12-07-at-10.46


“My first performance back in 2003 was held at Herbal Club in Shoreditch, London, where I recall the early days of the launch of Nasha records. I had a track called Electronik Dhosa, which featured on their first release,” Mayur tells us. 
“It was a very organic process, but we had to wait for India to reach a certain point on its own,” dimSummer tells us. “Through parallel conduits over the years between DK (FILMI aka BollygirlNYC - founder of High Chai Records 1998) and myself, with Ethnotechno (2001-2012), we watched the electronic music scene slowly develop and finally mature to what it is now.”

FUNC International (Randolph Correia) started producing and releasing dub tunes

Randolph Correia, meanwhile, went solo as FUNCInternational, and cut two stellar albums in this year, called ‘Dubba’ and ‘Mushroom Maratha’ respectively, at a time when no one was even aware of dub music in the country. A forerunner of the time, many of his tracks were humorously titled after his substances of choice, whether it was old monk or hash. Randolph went on to perform as a part of Pentagram and Shaa’ir & Func later, but remains one of the first few producers in India to have dabbled in electronic, dub and bass music.
”The new rave scene had really started taking off in the early 90’s,” Randolph recalls. “As a Goa kid who had been listening to psytrance and rock music, when I heard breakbeat - it was like the new rock music. I started off listening to The Prodigy and Leftfield, and I discovered drum’n’bass when I listened to Goldie, and it changed everything. This happened just as I was hunting down new music, and looking for a new sound.”
He continues candidly, “When I started making dub, I was in an artist zone and didn’t really give a fuck about what was going on”“With Pentagram, I knew what I was doing and as for my solo act - I didn’t have anyone else to answer to. There was absolutely no audience for this album; forget about selling copies, I was just making it because I needed to make the music I enjoyed. I went over to Sony, and spoke to a guy and eventually got 300 CDs printed. It was quite expensive as well, at the time. I just went out and handed it out to 300 of the coolest people I knew, and genuine organic buzz took over after that.”

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randolph2

“I have also always been a fan of Randolph Correia, with whom I’ve been exchanging music since 1999,”

Karsh Kale quips up. “It was the great network of people that has kept the scene alive. We all have that in common – its not just that it’s dance music, it’s the fact that there’s a connection to a deeper root that is Indian; not everyone in the world is doing this, as we’ve been taking influence from our roots.
“My introduction to the bass genre was Randolph’s solo albums being circulated by the usual suspects in the scene,”Dharam Saraviya of OML testifies as well. “Mushroom Maratha and the Dubba albums, specifically - the rave-tinged tracks such as A Night in Karjat and Hash, they did catch my fancy but I wasn’t yet overwhelmed by the awesomeness that is 170 bpm.”

The ‘Asian Underground’ start returning to their roots.

“In 2002, Swaraj (the then leading Asian Underground night in London) flew me out to play Fire and Ice in Bombay in conjunction with Fountainhead events,” Nerm Chauhan of Shiva Soundsytem tells us. “It was a tough show, with the crowd predominantly into Trance and unfamiliar with Drum & Bass or Breakbeat. Still, it couldn’t have gone that badly because the next year, MTV flew us out again to play Mikanos. That was where I figured out that I had to win the audience over with the familiar and take them to the unknown. It worked so well, and is still one of the best gigs of my life. The best part of the night however, was meeting Indian producers and DJs cross-pollinating ideas, which was really exciting. This was around the time I first met Jitin Abraham, who would become instrumental in developing Shiva Soundsystem in India for the next ten years and one of the most important artists I also met was DJ Nasha, who now, of course, is B.R.E.E.D. It was clear something was going to happen with Bass in India. As for the Asian Underground, growing up in the UK was not easy, and the Asian Underground boom suddenly made us go from being picked on to being the hottest thing in the UK. It changed everything.”


“In 2003, the Midival Punditz’s album launch solo tour in the UK took place, that Shiva Soundsystem helped arrange. It really blew the doors off what people expected from Indian electronic acts in the UK,” proclaims Nerm.

[2004]

A forecast of future sounds 

French house music legend Laurent Garnier touring the country, cajoled the crossing of paths between Bhavishyavani and Frenchmen Josso, Char Lee and Michaud, who had booked the artist through their connections back home. The Bhavishyavani/Grandmother team sorted out the event’s design for the Bombay leg of the event, and after partying together in the wake of their first collaboration, they soon began to work together regularly. Bhavishyavani gradually shifted focus towards techno and house artists, mirroring the influences of the new members and the global turn in music tastes as well. Josso and Michaud initially organised their own gigs in Delhi under the Fresh Air banner, while Char Lee immersed himself with the Buba Tree collective, which was more dub and jazz-oriented.

The Asian Underground Rebels Against the Tide on Goan Shores on NYE.

At the Submerge & Smirnoff Experience in Goa, on New Year’s Eve, D-Code insisted on playing a Drum & Bass set on the beach despite our then manager Jitin Abraham’s insistence that he should play something more house-orientated in line with Submerge,” Nerm recalls. “A-20 minute set turned into 2 hours, bringing in the New Year.”  In its small ways, underground sounds had started wrestling for console time from commercial house and techno vibes.

[Mid 2004] The Legend of Zenzi was born. 

“For me, it started in Zenzi, Bandra,” Anil Kably, owner of the erstwhile Zenzi, Mumbai, tells us. We came to realise that this was an often-heard quote from artists and fans alike, over the course of our interviews for this extensive timeline, a hotspot for newfound bassfaces and experimental music. Ever since it opened shutters on July 20, 2004, Zenzi Bandra and Zenzi Mills have been a breeding ground for experimentation, with Kris Correya as the official music programmer and the in-house DJ, also scouting local talent that could perform here.

“Zenzi was a place where the sound departed from the progressive techno and house that was massive at the time,” Anil tells us. “Kris Correya was the pivot at the venue, and he really mentored a lot of artists here. At the NRI witching hour at the end of the year, when the Asian Underground scene descended upon the city - they found a home in Zenzi Bandra first. There was a basic understanding that allowed them to play the tunes they wanted, they were playing drum’n’bass and jungle vibes, 90’s jungle progressing into the 2000’s. This was possibly the only place that you’d hear the tunes of Congo Natty, Channel One Sound System and DJ Zinc pouring out of.”


“Bhavishyavani was also throwing drum’n’bass parties at the time, and these boys came and did some sets here as well. The breakbeat takeover was a huge step up in my opinion; they call it drum’n’bass’ cheeky cousin, and it’s my favourite genre. Breakbeats actually come from a jazz break, which are then looped - back then on turntables - and then a groove is created and a fat bassline began to be added to the mix. They’re a departure from 4/4 beats, which make up the basic house groove and the fat bass lines were an education for me, frankly - I thought it was unbelievable. Nu skool breaks, a sub-genre of breakbeat that is also a cousin of drum’n’bass, also found its place here. That is what Kris Correya and these other DJ’s brought to Zenzi Bandra. Besides that there was this hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, with big JBL speakers that had been throwing down drum’n’bass sets since 2002-2003.”

“Zenzi Mills took off the way it did because it had the sound system to back it,” Kris Correya says, mentioning that it was a Goldie gig in the UK in 2000 that really got him into drum’n’bass. “Being the first club in the country with the ‘Funktion One’ system, which is highly suited to low-end or bass music, this became the birthplace of a lot of bass, dubstep and hip hop DJs in India that are doing really well in India right now. 

“I’ve worked at five night clubs in my life, and Zenzi was the best experience because when you want to do something that is out of your heart, it is important that we have the owners’ encouragement – and that was something we had in Zenzi. Places today are too corporate, they don’t take demos. Anil deserves more credit than anyone else – trust me, I know what its like to work at a place without the owners’ support.”

“The only thing that was important to me, when it came to music, was to check the bassline,” Kris continues. “Bass music is now categorised as dubstep, basshouse, glitch-hop  - but if you understand the logic behind it, it’s the rhythm cycle that keeps shifting. For example, drum n bass is 174 BPM, dubstep is 140 BPM, basshouse is about 120-124 BP - it is the shuffling of the beat that is more, I think, the order of electronic bass music. There are also newer genres like trap – but the bassline is always there, whether its techno, house or trap – it is very, very prominent. And that makes the difference.”
”The year that Zenzi opened, Randolph, D-Code and I first met in December, got arrested, jammed and a lifetime of friendship began,”

Nerm tells us, tangentially. “That arrest directly influenced D-Code to write our lovesong to Bombay “Mumbai Cells” by Shiva Soundsystem. At Zenzi, Kris Correya’s music direction and inputs were key to its emerging as a venue of such stature.”

[2005]

As the first decade of the new millenium progressed, soundscapes were being combed for semblances of bass music.

Dhamaal Soundsystem & Sub Swara (NYC) respectively played early dubstep (Darkstep, Tempa) at VH1 New Year’s Eve in Goa,” dimSummer tells us, mentioning that as the year drew to an end, he also witnessed some DJ spinning voluptuous bass music at Touch, Hyderabad, only to never see/hear from him again. A year later, it was all Bollywood Remix & Prog. House.

“While DK was ripping Mumbai a new one with Metal Headz and Roni Size in 2003, I was visiting Hyderabad in 2005 desperately searching for DJs who were tuned into any form of the established ‘bassline / breakbeat’ scene from the UK/USA (“dubstep” was still in its early stages at this point but gaining ears in the USA). At venues and house parties I would ask, ‘Do you have anything by Bassnectar? FreQ Nasty? Meat Katie?’ All I got in return was blank stares atop blaring Prog House. At the same time our good friend Maneesh the Twister from Dhamaal (SF) was spinning 2-Step, Breakbeat & DnB at a Goa beach party to a confused crowd wondering when the Prog House was going to come back on. It was still too early…”

[2006-2007]

Drum’n’bass starts crashing more heavily upon Indian shores

Shiva Soundsystem, originally a collective formed by DJ and broadcaster Nerm with musicians performing on his DJ sets (with appearances by Foreign Beggars frontman Orifice Vulgatron and Prash Mistry from Engine Earz) really took off in India. Having kicked off relentless travels to India from 2002, the torchbearer of Asian underground music in the UK also staunchly pushed Indian artists that side of the world.
The Friction Show on BBC Asian network between 2006 to 2012 also championed a lot of new talent across the world,Mayur Narvekar shares.

“Although I’m relatively new to visiting India compared to many of our friends, I’ve gotta say both Nerm from Shiva Soundsystem and Bobby Friction introduced me to the bass and electronica coming out of India around this time,”

Prash Mistry of Engine-Earz tells us. “Of course there’s a tie-in to the global Asian Underground scene in general, but these guys were flying the flag of Indian talent abroad way back before anyone else. They did a pretty good job of getting it heard by not only the underground but also across the BBC Network in general.  Of course we gotta shout out Reju (Sharma) who was keeping them in check the whole time behind the scenes (laughs). We also heard reports back of the WOBBLE! nights happening with Mayur, Pravvy Prav, Func and those guys.”
In 2006, the UK-based live music artist, composer and producer DJ Amit came out with the critically acclaimed album Never Ending. Hailed as one of the most distinctive and original voices in the electronic music industry, he influenced a whole generation of new electronic artists and created his own sub-genre in drum’n’bass; his music is heavily influenced by Asian and Middle Eastern sounds, as well as reggae, dub, electro and techno.

[2007]

Bandish Projekt arrive at a pivotal point.

Mayur Narvekar and Udyan Sagar of Bandish Projekt part ways, with the former keeping the name of the project and Udyan going solo with his dubstep project ‘Nucleya’ in the following year. Considering what a significant role they played in making Indian underground bass known at all, this was an important moment in the midst of it all. 
“I got in to Bass music after I decided I wanted to quit making and playing dubstep,” Udyan says. “I loved dubstep only till its early days, post which everything in dubstep sounds very dissonant and distorted. I do remember the early days of bass music kind of started with dubstep being introduced here in India. There were a handful of people who initiated its promotion here in India. BREED introduced me to Dubstep, before which I was making glitch-hop and this weird Indian electronic dance music, which also ended up on my EP Koocha Monster.

Playing at Glastonbury was fun, I met a lot of interesting people and had a great time,” says Udyan about playing the mother of all festivals. When asked about how he feels he has redefined bass music in India with his unique brand of music, which has opened up a lot of people to the genre, he answers, “My intention was not to redefine any genre, to be honest with you. I have always liked interesting music, and I attempt to make music which doesn’t sound like anything else and the biggest problem I face in making the sort of music I like, is that there are no reference points for me. For example, if you attempt to make a song which falls into a particular genre - you can listen to tracks within that genre and kind of get a hint of where you can take your track, but that’s not the case with my music mostly. I think my music works well because it is very simple and it has a hook which people remember. There are a lot of people who have been pushing bass music in India the past few years, like Dub Sharma, Sickflip, Sound Avtar etc.”

Sunburn becomes the first ever major Indian music festival to play dubstep. 

“After Dhamaal & Sub Swara opened the gates, DJ Nasha tried out some ‘bass stage’ gigs at Sunburn 2007 under the guise “Bass Society,”

dimSummer of Ethnotechno says.
”Generally the major festivals and certain underground gigs  in India had maybe the biggest importance or influence on bass music in India, particularly Sunburn (and later on, NH7 doing the Bass stage),” saya DJ Nasha. “In fact, the first time Dubstep was ever played at a major festival in India was at Sunburn in 2007 when I did a set at 12 in the afternoon. Sunburn was literally still developing, and we dropped a dubstep set to virgin ears. I literally had to fight and convince Nikhil Chinapa for that showcase. Zenzi and Blue Frog were also pretty influential to show case a number of events that promoted bass music.”
Owing to this generation’s (warranted) attention deficit, take a break and then head onwards to Volume II  of this timeline-styled compilation--a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge on bass music and its evolution in India.

[This article was a mass effort, written off the backs of many important people. Compiled through research based on the interactions, answers and support of so many incredible individuals, we didn’t think it was proper to sign off without legitimate credits. So here we go. Major thanks to Prash Mistry, Ali Sachedina, Pavan Mukhi and Nerm Chauhan who both guided and connected us to the Asian Underground diasporas right from Talvin Singh to Karsh Kale, and even helped us chase more than a few of the answers down. Your enthusiasm kept this article going even when we were sick and tired of it.

Equally large thanks to Sohail Arora, whom we are lucky enough to share an office space with and hence, could hound incessantly for just about any fact we weren’t entirely sure of among other things. Apologies and thanks would probably be more appropriate. Last but not the least, thank you to every single artist, promoter and club owner mentioned in this article, who took the time out to respond to our incessant emails, phone calls and Facebook ‘stalks.’ A timeline as cohesive could not have been put together if not for both your efforts towards pushing bass music, and the passion which came through in your responses and in turn, made us want to create the best possible version of this timeline that we could.]

[CLICK HERE FOR VOLUME II OF THE TIMELINE]


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