Six months ago when Harlem Shake was all the craze, Buraka Som Sistema appeared to perform on The Boiler Room (which is basically a webstream of awesome music being played to awkwardly dancing people). The very first track weighed in at 90 beats per minute and immediately blew away the audience. “Tarraxo na Parede” by DJ Kuimba of the Di Zona Crew (DZC) in Portugal was the first zouk bass song I heard and will not be the last. I finally found a new form of dance music in just below the midtempo range that wasn’t hip-hop or putting me to sleep. I had to know more.
The word “zouk” comes from an uptempo carnival style of music from the Carribean, with a strong West African influence, namely traditional Angolan kizomba (a further derivation would be tarraxinha, a slower tempo form of kizomba). It sounds like a worldly clash of music is the most interesting blend of styles, especially the percussion, emphasizing with swung triplets and foreign drum timbres. As for the second half, “bass,” is the umbrella term for various types of music we are already familiar with, like dubstep, UK garage, and drum’n’bass. As a person who spends much of his day listening to music, I thought I found something close to the perfect genre of global dance music. The only problem is I do not think the American scene is quite ready to embrace zouk bass. I don’t think many acts who are popular right now are willing to drop what they are currently producing for it. This genre needs time and new artists to attempt at producing something new and fresh.
Now some other blogs are quickly labeling zouk bass as “slowed down moombahton” (I’m looking at you EDM Network). This isn’t exactly the case. You could relate the two with their Latin-American influence, but the two must be distinguished aside from their difference in tempo. If zouk bass was in fact “slowed down moombahton”, that means zouk bass would be a slower version of slowed down dirty dutch house with reggaeton elements. That just sounds ridiculous. Very much like moombahton, it is sparking a conversation and controversy in the always-expanding tropical and global bass music scene. We can’t quite define it exhaustively yet- but in the near future more music producers will attempt.
Some of my favorite producers (who are also friends of mine) not only introduced me to zouk bass, but also have begun to define it. In my opinion the most important zouk bass release would be the ”Zoukology” collaborative effort between Two Sev and JSTJR- two friends of mine that I introduced to each other. I’ve known Two Sev since (I think) 2010 when he was DJing in basements for college parties in Burlington, Vermont. Two years later when I moved back to my home state of Massachusetts, I discovered JSTJR, who was humbly putting out trap tunes from his bedroom in New Hampshire. I got booked in Manchester that autumn and we met up there and quickly became friends. I showed each of them the other one’s Soundcloud pages, and the rest is history.
Over in Amsterdam, there is a dutch house producer who goes by Hoodie, whom I began to follow sometime in summer 2012. He was getting into the moombahton and trap crazes as well, and eventually put out a collaboration with Danilo called “Wieliczka.” I mentioned earlier about if zouk bass was slowed-down moombahton, then it would mean that it’s a slower version of reggaeton-dutch fusion. That’s exactly what “Wieliczka” sounds like: downtempo Latin-influenced bass music with a strong dutch lead. So I feel that it is not wrong to make this style zouk bass, but it should not be strictly defined as such. It can be as flexible as moombahton with different influences as long as it comes back to those Carribean and African percussion roots. Another track worth mentioning here is Danilo’s “Monkey Roots,” which I would consider a more electro-influenced zouk bass track that can resonate easily with American electronic dance music listeners.
Zouk bass is still young and currently being defined by underground music pioneers. In the last few months Generation Bass has put up three zouk bass EPs on Beatport, including DZC Crew’s “Deep In Zouk Bass” and Two Sev’s and JSTJR’s “Zoukology.” You can also find Two Sev’s zouk bass remix of my track “Across The Pond” on Beatport and iTunes which is undoubtedly the most successful track I have been associated with so far in my music career (I feel like career is a bad word to use here, but what else would I call it?). I remember emailing that remix to Covery Music (the German label that put out my EP), and when the label guy responded, he was incredibly impressed. As zouk bass is gaining traction on blogs and labels like Mad Decent, I hope listeners of dance music will have the same reaction that Covery had as we continue to watch this genre grow.
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