The Wire

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In Writing

The Portal: Dutch bubbling

November 2014

Wayne Marshall, writer of the Dutch bubbling essay in The Wire 370's Freedom Principle feature, shares online links to the hyperkinetic dancehall variant's stalwarts and their sonic collages

Moortje & Pester, Cassette 48
This early tape from pioneering pair DJ Moortje and MC Pester documents bubbling's beginnings in traditional dancehall sessions with a local twist, bringing together an Afro-Dutch public interested in dancing to popular songs and riddims from Jamaica, complete with local vocals and a hands-on DJ. Moortje accelerates the tempo here as he pushes the pitch adjustment slider to the limit, gesturing at what eventually will take shape as speed bubbling, while Pester shouts out the cities where bubbling coalesced – The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam. A few minutes in, Pester launches into his local anthem, “Baila Sanka,” while Moortje leans on Taxi Gang's “Santa Barbara” – an instrumental on the Bam Bam riddim, better known for Chaka Demus and Pliers's well-worn ode to Angela Lansbury – shifting the track from its loping 96 bpm to a more effervescent 106. After Pester thoroughly exhorts the crowd to shake their thing, Moortje drops seamlessly into “Murder She Wrote” and things bubble on.

06-06-1995 Amsterdam vs Rotterdam (de hele tape)
For more context, and a full-fledged leap into the speed bubbling era, you can't do better than this 90 minute video of an epic 1995 battle pitting Amsterdam against Rotterdam. Metal detectors and mid-90s fly, liquid bubbling b-boys and dancehall queens, judges and trophies, mix DJs and personalised recordings specially made to track the drama of prepared dance routines. The effects of double-time and half-time dancehall drums are on full display here, pulling dancers around stage like the strings of a marionette (see 1:15:45).

DJ Moortje "Toing"
As bubbling came into its own and dancers demanded specialised soundtracks, DJs like Moortje began to produce their own tracks which could be precisely pitched to send a bubbling crowd over the edge. Some, like the crassly partisan (and interchangeable) “Rotterdam” and “Amsterdam” were deliberately crafted as rallying cries for battles, including such winking gestures as screwing the Dutch lullaby, “Slaap Kinje Slaap,” while placing it up against hyperspeed dancehall loops and gunshots. One of Moortje's best known productions (and recently remixed), “Toing” samples the 1992 hardcore track “Poing” by Rotterdam Termination Source, drawing a surprising but not shocking line (“Poing” charted in Holland) between bubbling and gabber, not just neighbors but fellow speedfreaks. “Toing” is up at 160 bpm, about as speedy as bubbling gets. Completing the circle, an interlude reminiscent of UK jungle's doubletime breakbeats points to another kindred genre devoted to pushing tempos and deconstructing the familiar.

DJ Chippie, Bubbling One
Moortje is a founding father, to be sure, but he's not the only game in town. Other DJs and producers such as Chippie, Memmie, and later Coversquad and Chuckie, helped to shape bubbling into a veritable genre with conventions and creative possibilities all its own. DJ Chippie was one of bubbling's foremost imagineers, deeply influential as a maker of carefully crafted mixtapes packed with resonant samples from across the wide world of black pop. This particular hour-long mix (30 minutes for each side of the cassette) showcases Chippie's polyglot style, hiphop breaks mingling with fragmented, chipmunked dancehall, and tempos galloping in the 130s.

DJ Undercover (now known as DJ Superior) and DJ Deepcover recently uploaded one of their distinctive mid-90s speed bubbling productions. A quintessential example of speed bubbling at its most fragmentary, hyperkinetic, and referential, the track bears the hallmarks of the Coversquad: dozens of dancehall samples, some pitched up and others down, stuttering drums, the bitcrunched sounds of limited storage memory. During speed bubbling's heyday, Coversquad were among the most in-demand producers, both for dancers and DJs seeking specials. Their pioneering use of far-flung samples and digital tools set them apart, and their dense collages full of favorite clips and loops were big crowd pleasers. Using tracker software, Coversquad took bubbling's love for speed and explored the outer limits of the aesthetic.

DJ Chuckie, Poco Man Jam 2k14
Better known today as the jet-setting head of Dirty Dutch, DJ Chuckie got his start making bubbling beats for local DJs and dancers in the 1990s, and few better illustrate the ways that bubbling could be heard as an ur-text for the sound of contemporary Dutch house, despite how sublimated its influence has become. Chuckie's breakout hits, such as “Caribbean Drums” and “Da Partycrasher” -– not to mention the moombahton-spawning “Moombah!” – bear an audible relationship to the bubbling musical style. Earlier this year, Chuckie made the connection clear by uploading a bubbling throwback to his Soundcloud page, directly suturing the growling bass of the Dirty Dutch sound to one of bubbling's foundational songs and riddims, Poco Man Jam.

Pester & Moortje, 25 jaar Bobbeling Struggeling
Coming full circle, last year Moortje and Pester were reunited for a special performance in Rotterdam. Although bubbling has been on the margins of Dutch culture for decades, it finally seems on the precipice of due recognition for being such a distinctive, innovative, and influential phenomenon. A 20-minute session reminiscent of the earliest days of bubbling culture in the Netherlands, here Pester moves the crowd and riffs on old favourites while Moortje takes the Fever Pitch riddim to a fever pitch. The call and response character of bubbling comes through loud and clear despite the distortion, drawing a connection back to dancehall, to the Dutch Antilles, and to Afrodiasporic song and dance more broadly. 25 years and counting, still bubbling along joyfully.

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