Touching bass

Nov 01, 2018, 07:35 IST | Shunashir Sen

The country's only festival dedicated to bass-heavy sounds returns to the city this weekend

Touching bass
The audience at BASS CAMP festival

The sonic structure of bass music encompasses many different genres, such as breakbeat, dubstep and jungle. But it's with drum 'n' bass that this sound first made its way into nightclubs in India at the turn of this millennium. Internet penetration was on an ascendant curve. A young and affluent middle class was opening its ears to global trends. And consequently, clubs in Mumbai started experimenting with drum 'n' bass DJs in the mid-noughties, laying the foundation for a subsequent electronic music boom that now seems to have taken the country by storm.

Sohail Arora was one such DJ, who cut his teeth at Zenzi, the iconic watering hole in Bandra that shut shop in 2011. "I used to go there around 2006 and 2007 and got introduced to this music thanks to Kris Correa [the resident DJ at the club]. Then, a friend of mine and I started playing sets on Monday nights, when the place would be empty. And since I was also a programmer at Blue Frog at the time, I was curating a lot of interesting bass music, too. So finally, in February 2010, I decided to start Bass Camp festival," Arora tells us.

Sohail Arora plays a DJ set
Sohail Arora plays a DJ set

This festival, in effect, is the country's only such event that is focused entirely on bass-heavy sounds. It was initially just a three-city affair, travelling to Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. But the fact that it's now turned into a massive 10-city tour over the past three years speaks volumes about how much the Indian audience has taken to this particular type of electronica. We still can't call bass music mainstream, of course. But over the years, after the initial acceptance of drum 'n' bass in the early 2000s, the other sub genres like dubstep and jungle have also had their moments under the Indian sun.

Evidence of this lies in this year's line-up for BASS CAMP, which features mainly homegrown artistes, with three international headlining acts. Oceantied, for instance, is a Bengaluru-based producer who's held the flag for footwork — another type of bass music — aloft on our shores for some years now. Then there is Tarqeeb, who plays a mix of drum 'n' bass, dubstep and jungle. And they, along with nine other artistes, will take over the ramparts of a central Mumbai venue when the festival returns to the city this weekend. But even as the exposure to electronic music in general has increased by leaps and bounds in the past decade — with numerous boutique festivals offering a nurturing ground for such artistes — the problem, Arora says, lies with a lack of supporting infrastructure.


"I feel that India is going through its worst time when it comes to having clubs with a proper sound system for electronic music. Most of them have a make-do attitude. And in the history of dance music in Bombay, I haven't seen such a bad time. Compare it to 2009-10 when we had venues like Blue Frog, Zenzi and J49. There is no real cultural support these days. The powers that be have a problem with people having a good time. So you have everything from moral policing to closing clubs down for random reasons to places downing shutters at 1 am — all these things have stopped the growth of a nightlife hub like ours."

On November 3, 7.30 pm
At Famous Studios, Mahalaxmi.
Log on to
Entry Rs 750

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