DnB: How Christchurch became addicted

By Ella Gibson (she/her)

What do UC students listen to? DnB! When do they want it? Now! And all the time! DnB is the common abbreviation of the musical genre drum and bass. What has seemed like a novel musical phenomenon for our DnB-feened community has, in fact, been around for quite some time now. 

This article will attempt to enlighten you with the genre’s history and how it has become the powerhouse of [the cell] Christchurch’s music scene today. 

So what is DnB? The name more or less gives itself away in quite the literal sense; it consists of drums and bass. DnB is a genre of music characterised by the mass incorporation of different scenes and styles. 

Influences stem from the British African-Caribbean sound system with that dub and reggae sound of jungle DnB to the electronic sounds found in techstep DnB. The tempo is typically is around 160-180 bpm.  

Interestingly enough, when drum and bass first broke out in the early 90s, the tempo sat around 130 bpm. Today, producers routinely increase the tempo of their music. Drum breaks and deep bass patterned elements are the main ingredients to the DnB recipe. Other than those fundamentals, elements used to enhance the atmosphere may be added, like pads or samples. And how could I ever forget the infamous foghorn that distorts the ear into all realms of filth?!? By the way, the foghorn sound is infamous because controversy around whether it is being overused in modern DnB is quite the dilemma. Additionally, vocal and melodic elements used in DnB like an MC or vocals soloing over the music are also prevailing in the genre, which stems from Jamaica’s dancehall music. More than anything, drum and bass is notoriously known for the drops. You know, the long-awaited moments of a track when everything slowly builds and builds up until it all explodes right back at you and into your face. This is also where the track tends to shift its rhythm or bassline. Moreover, the drop may even act as a point in the track where the DJ may completely switch to another song. 

DnB surfaced out of the UK in the early 90s. Legendary early producer Goldie refers to DnB as the “the bastard child” of electronic music. Goldie’s denomination was derived from the abundant influences of DnB. It meshed together reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, acid house, funk, techno and hardcore into one conglomerate sound child. In 1992, it became clear that distinct musical avenues were forming in the British underground house and techno scene. There was the happy hardcore scene that featured the classic high pitched vocals and their big pianos. Then the mutated arena of jungle drum and bass emerged, which endorsed the heavier and darker sounds. “It’s part of the underground fabric, New York has hip-hop, we have drum’n’bass,” Goldie explained.  

The UK continues to be the permanent home for DnB. Yet, the genre has well established itself across the globe. DnB scenes within the English-speaking anglosphere are boundless as well as in the rest of the world. DnB-loving countries include Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Ireland, and Aotearoa. 

After DnB’s initial roaring popularity in the 90s, its popularity wore off in the early 2000s. Of course, the music was still being made and celebrated but not to the same extent that it initially had in those early years. This was mainly due to other genres swarming the scene, such as emo, pop-punk, and hip-hop. For one, I know that I can regretfully count myself as a Panic! At The Disco-loving preteen. Nonetheless, Pendulum did come out with Hold You Colour in 2005, which still remains the biggest selling drum and bass album of all time. However, DnB’s journey was far from over. Honey, DnB had more than a big storm coming!  

Towards the end of the 2000s, DnB was gaining more mainstream movement. It wasn’t until 2012 when the genre scored its first UK No. 1 Single which was Hot Right Now by DJ Fresh, featuring Rita Ora, which in fact launched the popstar’s career. From 2012 onwards, DnB rose to its exponential acclaim. More and more artists were being celebrated by the wider community, such as Andy C, Chase & Status, Netsky, Sub Focus, Camo & Krooked, Pendulum, Wilkinson, and High Contrast, to name a few.  

But DnB didn’t stop with those artists above. DnB flocked into each and every Christchurch flat, bar and club. Some flatmate just absolutely had to go and purchase the cheapest decks money could buy and source Ableton from some peculiar place and decide that they were suddenly going to become a DJ. And the trend goes on; the one OG flatmate will inevitably teach their sous chef DJ how to mix on decks and so on.  

Locating speakers to accompany the DnB proceedings are never of any trouble as every second flat has a pair of speakers that could blow neighbour Jill’s eardrums up into oblivion. The fad has infected Christchurch university students like the plague and continues to spread in its infectious manner. MONO is a guaranteed success if, and only if, the night’s happenings include DnB in the programme.  

Students inhale DnB like it is oxygen and exhale stank faces and gun fingers. The genre monumentally defines our generation. DnB ascended through the British underground to the mainstream ears of millions, including our own. Who knows how long DnB will be our music for? Until then, we will inescapably keep finger gunning and stank facing to the absolute filth that is drum and bass.