Two Parts Bacardi, Two Parts Dalston Disco

Getting sent to the blissful surroundings of Puerto Rico to immerse yourself in culture, cuisine and cocktails may sound like a terrible chore, but Disco Bloodbath’s Ben Pistor and Damon Martin bravely stepped up and got on with it, all in the name of creating new music. Thus, off they flew to sample local sounds and learn how to mix a true Bacardi Mojito. Naturally, Clash was there to see what happened.

The aim of the project was for several UK electronica artists to reinterpret the rumba after soaking up Puerto Rican life – a vision dreamt up by Bacardi, who organised the trip to work with breaking talent, to create original pieces of music based on the ingredients of the original rumba. Overseeing things was legendary DJ Norman Jay, whose experienced eyes and ears would be a guiding force for Disco Bloodbath (a hotly-tipped act known for hosting some of East London’s most essential and extravagant parties) and the other acts (experimental dubstepper Untold and techno/grime producer Reso).

But in order to create an authentic rumba representation, it was first necessary for everyone involved to absorb the island’s atmosphere. And absorb it they did; shovelling down various delicious plantain preparations, watching impossibly nimble salsa dancers, and getting involved in the local underground club scene.

Also on the cards was the sampling of some very welcome Bacardi-based cocktails. Bacardi has always been known for pioneering cocktails – such as the Mojito (a personal favourite of the Disco Bloodbath boys) and Cuba Libre – but also for its rich heritage in music. Thus, nurturing some of electronica’s future pioneers seemed like a natural step. And where better to nurture this talent than a Caribbean island overflowing with rum and music.

As with the wider culture of the island, Puerto Rico’s modern-day music scene is rich and complex, blending Latin and Caribbean influences with western electronic overtones, including house, drum and bass and electro. For an authentic musical flavour of contemporary Puerto Rico, delve into reggaeton, a blend of salsa, reggae and hip hop – Puerto Rico’s answer to dancehall, perhaps.

One genre making small but significant waves on the island’s musical culture is dubstep, a scene which Disco Bloodbath and the other pioneers were shown first-hand by local dubstep kingpin Juan Carlos Vega, aka DJ MoShrum: one quarter of PRDC (Puerto Rico Dubstep Cru) and one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. We asked Juan about the island’s electronica scene:
“It’s pretty big and getting more popular within the local culture. As the island is pretty small, you can see the ‘scene’ is shared by all EDM genres. Dubstep is getting popular but it’s still underground. It has its true followers, and it will definitely keep growing, as you know that it’s an unstoppable wave that’s hitting the world.”

And let’s not forget the rumba – the crucial musical ingredient in the Bacardi pioneers project. In our search for the rumba we found ourselves in the middle of a colourful and lively street festival in Santurce, San Juan, with different local tones blasting from every bar and a live salsa/funk band in the plaza del mercado (market square). The festival (“local musicians playing amazing music” as Damon described it) clearly struck a chord with the Disco BB boys, revealed when asked about their favourite moment of the trip: “Easily the festival in San Juan” said Ben. “It was mainly locals, everyone enjoying themselves to live music on the street. There was a great atmosphere.”

This atmosphere will be recreated in Disco Bloodbath’s rumba rework, as the boys are planning to incorporate not just their impressions of Puerto Rico, but actual field recordings of sounds from the island, taken by Ben: “I had great fun really early one morning, going round recording the chirping birds, the sea and general local life.” Damon explains more about the track. “Currently we’re working with traditional rumba percussion patterns and trying to manipulate them into something we can build a track around. The Disco Bloodbath vibe will come from the synths and drum machines.”

East London basement disco vs. Puerto Rico’s rhythms and life – probably best listened to over a Mojito. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the result.

Words by Tristan Parker
Pictures by Ade Osoba

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