Breaking Out Breaking Free: Bad Mambo can’t be put in a box
So you thought Bad Mambo was only into reggae, dub, and promoting music that doesn’t denigrate women and people whose sexual preferences don’t conform to mainstream ideas of how respectable members of society should behave?
Well you were wrong.
Over the past year we have strived to bring a different brand of dancehall music to our Kenyan audiences through our RubaDub and Rebel Bass nights. However, we have never wanted to be limited to one broad musical genre. Each and every one of us in the Bad Mambo team are music lovers and as such listen to all types of music, from all kinds of different genres. Let’s be clear though: we pretty much hate most commercially oriented music, pop music and music who’s sole purpose is to make you mindlessly dance for hours on end as you spiral deeper into a drug-induced vortex (read: house music, minimal techno, acid techno and of course our favourite bugbear: psytrance).
Over the space of two years, Nairobi has witnessed a huge proliferation of new electronic dance nights. All of a sudden being a DJ has become très cool and it seems everyone has been jumping in on the game. Which is great; for way too long Nairobi’s alternative electronic entertainment industry was dominated by mammoths who grew lazy due to not being challenged appropriately. Competition is good, new DJs are good and the more promoters that try their hand at putting on new nights, the more the quality of the city’s events will rise, with the benefits being reaped by everyone involved. There is however one thing that has been driving us at Bad Mambo slightly mad: beyond a handful of DJs and promoters who strive to add flavour with dubstep tunes (we hear you Dread Steppa) and artfully selected electronica (you too DJ Lasta), we feel the pool of music has been limited to one overarching genre: house music. People try to mix it up by adding the words: Afro, Tribal, Tropical and Deep, but the fact remains that for some time now our nights have been dominated by the same, infinitely repetitive, 4X4 rhythm structure.
Katy Gets Personal
Now you may or may not know that some of the mzungu elements of Bad Mambo (myself included) come from a very different electronic background. You see, while we were growing up, techno really was a means of protest. I personally started listening to techno around the age of 15 by going to illegal warehouse parties in the peripheries of Rome (that’s Rome Italy not Rome Iowa btw). At the time, the music that was most fashionable was called gabber music, best described as a jackhammer incessantly hammering your brain for 12 hours in a row. After about a year of raving in this style, I discovered that while I loved what we were raving for (temporary autonomous zones, breaking free from the commercialisation of all aspects of our life, escaping from the monotonous bourgeoise existence society expected of us), the music was beginning to tire me. That’s when I chanced upon Aphex Twin, Warp records and of course the seminal works of Kraftwerk, arguably the most influential electronic artists in history.
Over time, I drifted towards joining sound systems that reflected my new found love for syncopated, weird and experimental music. I first became part of Plasmodio, a short-lived Italian sound system who’s only real notable deed was musically inspiring some of the members of the then nascent Hekate sound system, a London-based group of misfits who also wanted to shake up the monotony of the underground techno music scene. I would later join and even marry one of the members of Hekate (another story for another time). What I came to realise was that while repetitive beats made for great dancing, they also made my brain spiral inwards, encouraging me to get absolutely shit-faced and not really requiring any critical thought in the process. Breakbeat music instead made me look outward, made me think, made me constantly change my style of dance as each new twist and turn was introduced to the track.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing for the banishment of all music made on a 4×4 rhythm scheme. Hell, I remember attending the 2011 Rift Valley Festival and dancing non stop under the rain as Owiny Sigoma’s repetitive chords and beats hypnotised me to the core, possibly one of my favourite dancing experiences ever. However I also believe in moderation and like to see and experience a varied music panorama which allows for diversity and encourages new forms of art and thought.
So there, my dears, lies my personal reasoning behind the launch of Bad Mambo’s new event concept: MELTDOWN. I speak for myself here and am sure that Kahiu, Adam and Davey (i.e. the rest of the team) will have slightly different takes on the matter. But on one thing we are united: MELTDOWN aims to introduce a whole new flavour of electronica to the Nairobi scene.
Come see us put our money where our mouths are, and make your minds up for yourselves at this month’s MELTDOWN warmup in Naivasha (MAY 21st), which will feature our long lost DJ Momo, temporarily back from his studies in Germany, DJ Raph one of the minds behind everyone’s favourite noisy library WLL, and a selection of the best DJs from the DJ Battle that we held at the Alchemist Bar this past April.
Following that, head over to the Alchemist Bar on May 28th (the successive Saturday), to get the rare opportunity to see one of Hekate sound’s most notorious producers spin his dark and broken magic on the dancefloor: the one and only Wirebug aka Dan Hekate. Dan will be preceded by Moroto Heavy Industries (one of the minds behind last year’s successful Nyege Nyege festival in Uganda), Jinku (Nairobi’s most experimental DJ) and we will have the honour to introduce to the Nairobi scene a whole new musical talent: Mr Booker K who, if we are not extremely wrong, you will be hearing a lot more from in the coming months.
Hell, you might hate it, you might run away screaming, hands clapped over your ears. Or you might think it’s the best thing you ever heard since you started listening to music. To be honest I don’t know how it’s going to be received, Nairobian audiences can be fickle and hard to predict. That said, the only way to find out is to give it a try, so… I hope to see you there!