Born in South London in 2002 as an amalgamation of UK garage, Jamaican dub, and two-step, dubstep’s bass heavy sound has been making waves here over the past two years. Tomorrow a party aptly named Strictly Dubstep will be the first event in the country to focus solely on the music that makes speakers wobble.
One of tomorrow night’s DJs is a new face on the music scene. Radio Ra (known as Eoghain Bellamy on his ARC), explained why dubstep is his music of choice: “To me, dubstep represents a contemporary and ever-evolving branch of electronic dance music. If drum and bass is the bastard electronic child of hip-hop, then dubstep is the bastard electronic child of reggae and dub.”
When pressed to pinpoint exactly what it was he enjoyed about one of the most popular up-and-coming styles of music, Ra said, “I like the tempo and the power. I love the sci-fi sounds in some of the newer dubstep. I’ve always loved reggae and I’ve always loved robots. Somehow, the two are married in this genre.”
Another newbie who will be dropping big tunes tomorrow is Syko (birth name Nick Sykes), a hip-hop and dubstep DJ. He says dubstep “represents what, as a kid, I imagined music from the future would sound like. Unlike so many modern forms of dance music, dubstep is full of complex, syncopated rhythms and innovative sounds, and of course, soul-shaking bass lines. A good dubstep track has everything I look for in a dance track.”
Robi Roka (real name Roberto Mallenzi), another selector at Strictly Dubstep, has always been into drum and bass, so he wasn’t impressed with dubstep in the beginning. “I didn’t really like the first forms of dubstep because they lacked a real energy and never really got me going,” Roka said in an e-mail interview. “After about two years, when drum and bass producers switched to making dubstep, it all changed for me. Dubstep became much more musical and had harder hitting, using bass lines that you would expect to here in drum and bass tracks.”
Over the past few years, pop artists such as Britney Spears, Rihanna, LMFAO and Flo Rida have added elements of dubstep to their hit singles. Once an underground genre rises to a certain level of popularity, an inevitable backlash follows. It seems that Skrillex, the posterboy for dubstep, is loathed by as many people as love his aggressive sounds.
Roka can understand why clubbers in Taiwan, who are accustomed to electro-pop remixes played at peak hours at 125 beats per minute, don’t quite get dubstep yet. “Some people still find it hard to dance to since it’s only 70 beats per minute,” he said.
Radio Ra, who prefers harsher sounding dubstep, thinks that the genre is for everyone. “I’m sure most electronic dance music lovers could find some tracks they find palatable,” he said. “The stuff I like, I would compare it to heavy metal insofar as it hits you hard and is dissonant. People get scared off with a common reaction being, ‘What the fuck is this?’”
Syko’s style runs the full range of the dubstep spectrum from melodic, progressive remixes of popular tracks to hard-hitting dance floor shakers. “Because dubstep is the coming together of so many different genres of music and really pushes the boundaries of how we define music, it’s bound to induce a strong reaction from listeners,” Syko said. “Some people just ain’t ready for it!”