A fast-growing online community spreading peace and love at 170bpm
An accusation that's often thrown at the dance/electronic music community is that it is (we are) too hedonistic and apolitical. You could debate the truth of that argument all day - pointing, perhaps, to what many would say is the inherently political nature of large groups of people of different races, genders, sexualities and socio-economic backgrounds dancing (often in contravention of local laws) to a music that originated in the disenfranchised gay black and Latino population of the US. A music that has since its very inception come replete with lyrics like "You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don't make a difference in OUR house."
Or you could point to a seeming upswing, in recent times, in explicitly political activity within said community. The career-ending opprobrium heaped upon Ten Walls when he revealed himself to hold hateful, homophobic views, for instance, or the #grime4corbyn movement. Or indeed Drum & Bass Against Racism (DABAR for short), a new loose collective centring around a Facebook group and spearheaded by one Grant Porter.
With the likes of Renegade Hardware and leading London D&B promoters Nu:Era already affiliated to the group, we wanted to find out more, so we threw some questions in Grant's direction...
What gave you the idea of starting the DABAR campaign?
"Initially I started the Facebook group among a small group of my D&B friends to discuss some recent observations surrounding racism within Europe and America. I could see these conversations happening elsewhere on social media, so I created the Facegroup group as a forum to talk about these issues and how they affected us. Within a couple of days of me creating the group, it started to grow rapidly as my friends added their friends, and so on.
"I soon concluded that this scene - arguably the epitome of multiculturalism - could be a positive force in making a stand against bigotry and hate, so I had the idea of using what is effectively a branding campaign. Some mates in the design and marketing industry helped me create the logo, and then I asked some promoters I knew if they'd be willing to add the logo to their event pages and artwork to assist in promoting the message that we, the drum & bass community, stand firmly against racism.
"I've been involved In the scene for quite a long time, so it was relatively easy for me to persuade the first few promoters. Very quickly other promoters reached out saying they wanted to get involved. I was lucky enough to get some premier London promoters onboard that gave a legitimacy to the campaign. Since then we have grown organically, running a grassroots campaign that grows daily."
Is DABAR essentially you, or is there a group of you?
"Well, I had the idea and still do the bulk of the group admin, but I've had a lot of help! The promoters that have joined us are our 'affiliates', and they are very much part of spreading this message and ethos. In those early days when I was still figuring out where to take this idea, I had some much needed input and hookups from Chris Inperspective (Inperspective Records), whom I have known and had the pleasure of working with for many years. Also Calds from Beautifully Crafted Jungle was quick to reach out, offer support, and help me make some useful connections within the scene. There have been many contributors to the campaign, and to them I am grateful."
Have you always been a political animal, or is this a more recent development?
"I've been angry since I hit puberty! But seriously, I'm mindful of the fact that some people don't always feel comfortable being confronted by 'politics,' as if it's somehow a thing that's detached from us. But we are all politics: it's the system in which we operate, the society in which we live, and the way we behave and interact with each other. So DABAR has to transcend the identity of 'politics'. We all have a duty to address what goes on in our society, at least some of the time."
I know you're sending out logos to put on flyers but are there any plans to stage actual DABAR events at all?
"I did discuss the idea with Chris, Calds and a few others, but we all felt that had a lot on our plate already, and the best way forward was to keep finding existing promoters to endorse the campaign. I won't rule the idea out though - if the circumstances are right, then maybe! But if we do end up doing something, I'd really like it to be a joint effort with some of our affiliates."
Lots of people have signed up to the group already, but have you had any negative responses?
"Of course! There were the usual cries of 'What's the point?' and 'You can't change the world'. But I disagree. To me, that's the voice of apathy: a voice that fails to recognise that many of the freedoms we take for granted have been fought for. Some people told me I was 'making a big deal out of nothing' and 'stirring up problems'. I realise these are sensitive issues to people for many reasons; however, I feel it's important to put these issues on the table and not be afraid to examine them; be willing to keep learning how these issues affect us all. And then there were the 'don't mix music with politics' crew..."
So what do you say to people who say that music and politics don't mix?
"Ask them if they've heard of Fela Kuti, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley or John Lennon! To me this scene and the roots of all dance music have been social movements as well as styles of music. The beginnings of house music were rooted in black and gay communities looking for a safe space; hip-hop bloomed from America's most deprived communities and became a place to examine racism and poverty. In the UK, the explosion of rave culture was very much about escaping what many felt were the oppressive policies of the Thatcher administration, and this ideology carried on through to the formation of hardcore and jungle/drum & bass.
"Sometimes the messages in these songs were simple, ideological, and largely about youthful hope, with tracks like Lennie De Ice's We Are I.E, DJ Hype & MC Fats' Peace, Love & Unity or even Andy C sampling President Nixon after the moon landing: ''For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this earth are truly one.'' The message of unity was clear and the ravers embraced it!
"I'll leave you with a quote from Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart: 'Those who tell you, "do not put too much politics in your art" are not being honest. If you look very carefully, you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is. What they are saying is, don’t upset the system.'."
Words: Russell Deeks
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