Tropical-bass rhythms rock Santos.
Mon Jun 28 2010
Ask Geko Jones to describe Que Bajo?, the weekly party that he runs with coresident Uproot Andy, and he gets right to the heart of the matter. “It’s just a really friendly party,” the DJ says. “You can expect a lot of people dancing—and a lot of girls in the house, having a good time.” He’s right; at a recent edition of the fiesta, held every Wednesday in Santos Party House’s downstairs space, the crowd that filled the room was probably two-thirds female, and everyone was moving to the beats.
But what’s most notable is exactly what those beats are. The music isn’t house or techno, disco or hip-hop; it’s not electro, drum ’n’ bass or dubstep. Instead, the sound is based in what’s become known as tropical bass, a marriage of traditional rhythms from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa with low-end subsonics and modern-day clubbing sensibilities. Add in a dollop of the real-deal old-school, and that’s the soundtrack to a Que Bajo? bash. As is apparent from surveying the dance floor, it’s infectious and effective music—both utterly familiar and appealingly exotic—that bumps and funks in all the right ways. “It’s just the kind of stuff,” Jones, 30, says, “that has a really fun vibe. It’s really hard not to like this stuff.”
It’s music that Jones—who’s also part of the Dutty Artz collective and record label with Matt Shadetek and Jace Clayton, better known as DJ/Rupture—has been gravitating toward for a lifetime. “I didn’t enjoy what my mom was listening to,” he recalls. “It was mainly ballads and love songs. But I got myself in trouble when I was really young, and got kicked out of my mom’s house and went to live with my dad. My dad is Colombian, and he had a distinctly different taste in music than my mom. When I first heard cumbia, I was like, Cool, this has lots of bass! I was already listening to reggae as well, and those were the kinds of music that were making sense to me.”
Moving to NYC from Miami when he was 21, Jones found the Gotham club scene to be lacking something. “I caught the very last Mutiny party that [Basement Bhangra’s] Rekha had, a South Asian Underground thing, which was cool,” he says. “But I just couldn’t find much else that was focusing on good electronic-meets-world-music kind of thing, which was already what I was listening to. I was actually kind of bored by the music here. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and started doing my own events.”
First up was a series of shindigs called Funkworthy FM. “They were kind of soundclash parties and improvisational things,” Jones says, “working with live instrumentalists and affecting their stuff with effects and filters, and deejaying with the musicians and vocalists.” But it was with his next project, an affair called New York Tropical, which Jones ran with Shadetek and Rupture, that things started to gel.
New York Tropical was important in two ways. First, according to Jones, it was the initial NYC party to focus on the tropical-bass sound. “As a person who goes out a lot, and knows a lot of the city’s underground DJs and knows what they were playing at the time, I can say pretty safely that nobody else was doing what we were doing then,” he states. Second, it was where he first met future partner Andy. “I had just finished my set and I was coming down from the booth,” Jones says, “and he started asking me really specific questions about a song I had played. I thought he was the first person that I had encountered that really knew about this music and had a feel for it. I was like, Well, don’t you know a thing or three!” The two started collaborating on Que Bajo? in late ’08, first hosting the shindig at Rose Live Music, then APT, and finally Santos. “We’d been wanting to play at Santos on that sound system for a while,” Jones says, “and when we did get a chance to move there, it was like, okay, this will definitely work.”
So far, he’s right. And if Jones has his way, it will keep working for a while. “I think this party has the potential to be one of those long-lasting parties,” he says, with not-unjustified confidence, “like Basement Bhangra that’s been around for 13 years, or Turntables on the Hudson, which has 12 years under it’s belt. I think we’re gonna stick around for a good long while.”
Que Bajo? is at Santos Party House every Wednesday.