Is Bass Music Finally Getting The Audience It Deserves With Bass Camp Festival 2016?

Last year, thousands upon thousands of people celebrating Ganpati on the streets of Mumbai danced to the unmistakably bass-oriented beats of Nucleya. As one of the biggest artists  to represent India’s emerging bass subculture (just two months ago he sold out an entire stadium in Mumbai for the launch of his album Raja Baja in less than 20 minutes) his choice to drop his new album in such a ‘unique’ location to such an ‘unassuming’ audience represented a tectonic shift. The beginnings of a full circle for those who understand the true origins of Bass music around the world, and ironic for the pioneers of the genre in India like Bhavishyavani Future Soundz, who once had to explain Bass music as “Ganpati ke time drum wala sound”.  
Even a decade after the genre’s trepid introduction to Indian audiences, it would be a stretch to call it mainstream, but there’s a full-blown community of appreciators that’s only getting bigger and hungrier for more. Standing testament to this fact is Bass Camp Festival, India’s first and only bass music festival that’s throwing it down on an unprecedented scale this year by taking it to eight Indian cities. At its helm is Sohail Arora’s KRUNK, a name utterly synonymous with the genre’s evolution over the years. Homegrown caught up with him to break down the genre’s journey in our subcontinent and how his festival is playing a key role in where it finally goes.

Image Credit: Nucleya

In the beginning, there were three 

Sohail’s 8-year-long journey with Bass music started when he met Raffael Kably and Kris Correa, forming Bay Beat Collective (BBC). Without contest, they are largely responsible for the revival of the bass scene in Bombay. And we’re not just talking about grimey, underground club vibes here. BBC actually took a sound system to a village in Mumbai and the locals took to it like fish take to water. The trio had been playing for 2 years at Zenzi when the scene had really picked up across cities like Bangalore and Delhi. In Sohail’s own words “The whole idea was to bring artists from Delhi, Bangalore and Bombay together. The first two editions of Bass Camp was just Indian artists, and then by the third edition is when I approached the British Council for support and we got a UK artist called Klute--he was our first international artist booking.” From this point on, there was no turning back--Bass Camp was, is and continues to be one of the only promoters to consistently bring down some of the most  exciting artists to India.

Of mapping new sounds for new cities

When Bass Camp first started, its core was purely Drum and Bass; just one sub genre under a much larger umbrella that is Bass music. “We started to play dubstep around 2011,” Sohail says.  “This was when the whole dubstep movement was picking up in India. I realised that it can’t be about just one sub genre. A lot of new bass sounds were also coming out of different parts of the world. Naturally, the festival by the 3rd and 4th edition transitioned into a more bass music festival rather than just one sub genre based festival - doing more justice to the name Bass Camp.” Up until now, the festival  found itself only in the big bad cities of India - where a number of people have heard and understood what this sound is.

Image Credit: Bass Camp

This year, the festival is expanding to include Shillong, Calcutta, Chandigarh and Goa--seemingly unlikely locations for a genre that people are still less exposed to.   For Sohail, this is all about taking the idea of a musical education forward and to propagate a larger musical understanding of this subculture. Recounting his past experiences, he tells Homegrown that “The Northeast is something I have experimented with over the years. I have done a bunch of parties with bass music there plus the response I got when I played at NH7 was amazing!” In fact, Shillong is expected to have a 2000 person turn out at an outdoor location- making this Bass Camp’s biggest edition this year. He also identifies Calcutta as a city to be one filled with musically savvy people, but there just isn’t much going on in the city for them.
Given their nature, it’s no surprise that programming in these new cities has to account for cultural differences. Mumbai, with a slightly more evolved musical community will be open to more experimental sound, so this becomes Bass Camp’s playground of sorts to try new things. In Shillong and Calcutta, the idea is to introduce the brand and the concept, so Nucleya will be headlining these editions. Chandigarh is most similar to Delhi, and there has been a slight push for bass music by a crew at S Cafe which is promising. Profound, an artist that Sohail used to manage, is from Chandigarh and only plays bass music, very similar to the sound from Eprom, one of the artists coming down this year. Additionally, Sam Binga will be back for Bass Camp this year to play in Chandigarh. Goa is tried and tested, so programming is according to what works best there - reggae and dub. We can’t spill this name just yet, but all we can say is that a dub originator of irreputable fame will be coming down for this edition. If dub is what makes your heart beat faster, make sure you’re in Goa for this one.

Image Credit: Bass Camp

Sound system culture emerges
Another significant element of bass music are the sound systems that were built specifically for the low frequencies--making this a technological as well as sonic revolution of sorts. “A lot of the clubs here are scared to put in such big systems here so we always have that limitation. Over the years, we’ve done enough bass music parties where we’ve had the music loud enough for people to realise the difference between listening to bass music on a JBL dock and a proper sound system. It is an education process,” Sohail explains.
Ask him who he thinks is likely to enjoy bass music most and he doesn’t skip a beat. “People who like going to a club to enjoy a sweaty, dark vibe and also not being judgemental about being stuck with a genre. You just have to find your sound within this large genre that is bass music. Any kind of sound, just find your space within that,” he says.
While the first sound systems were developed in Jamaica, and taken to a whole new level in the UK, Indian bass artists have finally started to build their own. Both Delhi Sultanate and Reggae Rajahs have built their own systems over the past year and a half, heralding a true second coming for the genre in India. Delhi Sultanate even took his sound system out into the streets of Delhi and threw down an open-ended reggae party for anybody to enjoy. In many ways, it’s his way of recreating the origins of the genre itself in the country, even though it may have started backwards.  The festival is likely to use the Reggae Rajah’s system for their Goa edition this year, something Sohail is particularly excited about . The goa edition is also going to be more focussed on dub music, and Bass Camp is getting an infamous originator of dub music to come down for this edition. This segment of the festival is in collaboration with Vaayu, where their art residents will work on installations and live art from sunset to sunrise.

Image Credit: Bass Camp

With the advent of the sound system culture, and the inclusivity that is all natural to this genre, we can easily say the Bass Music as a sub culture is here to stay. More so, with the expansive direction that Bass Camp is heading in, we’re certain that this sound is headed straight to its roots, the way it was always meant to be.
For those of you who have just begun to dabble in the genre at large, we asked Sohail to suggest a beginner’s listening guide: 
Artists  like LTJ Bukem, London Elektricity, Mad Professor, Mala, Skream and Benga, Mungo’s Hi Fi and Lee “Scratch” Perry made the list. 

[For more information on Bass Camp Festival for your city, visit their Facebook Page]

Feature Image Courtesy Bass Camp