If there’s any genre of music that stands up to racism by its very nature, it should be jungle and drum & bass. It’s black music. It’s roots. It’s soundsystems. It’s a melting pot culture that united races and classes as a movement with an energy and ideology stronger than age-old xenophobic principals handed down through our age-old racist institutions and ideologies.
Yet unfortunately drum & bass is not free from racism. Just over two weeks into 2018 and there have been several significant examples of blatant prejudice and racism on social media within our genre. Earlier this month Rupture co-founder Mantra and Digital both experienced alarming criticism for making valid points about the lack of diversity on line-ups this year and this past weekend we also witnessed some particularly hateful and insidious remarks by serial troll Mistabishi. He’s since had his repertoire removed from Hospital Records (the label he was once signed to until 2009) who have announced they will pay any royalties they receive from his music in future to the Love Music Hate Racism organisation (biggup Hospital!)
These are just prominent incidents. Xenophobia and prejudice are rife online; on YouTube uploads and in comment threads almost any time an artist makes a strong political statement about racism online. Not all comments are as explicitly spiteful or hurtful as the ones that have since been deleted; some are grounded in unconscious white privilege. When people say they see no colour. Or if they think because they’re not racist then everything must be okay. Or if they suggest politics should be kept out of music.
It’s not going to happen. Music and politics have always been intertwined and movements have served as the best forms of resistance to connect like-minds and share ideas and stand up for equality. We can’t hide behind a PLUR cliché forever. Even if we feel we’re not guilty of them ourselves, we need to recognise that there are some inherent issues that need addressing and confronting in all aspects of wider society and they cannot be accepted. A society where in the last week alone The Weeknd has had to call out H&M for a hugely inappropriate and racist photo shoot and the US president has referred to ‘shithole’ countries.
Drum & Bass Against Racism (or DABAR for short) is one particular online group where such issues can be discussed. A place where like-minds within our genre can unite and share ideas, talk about wider political issues and help to digest the endless slew of divisive news we’re subjected to. It was founded almost two years ago and it’s important to note that the group’s intention was never to point out that drum & bass is a racist genre. Rather it’s a positive vehicle to unite those within the genre who want to make a chance. We interviewed the group’s founder Grant Porter to find out how to get involved and contribute.
It’s sad that groups such as Drum & Bass Against Racism have to exist this day in age.
It is. Looking outwardly, drum & bass should be the perfect embodiment of what should be a racism-free community. But even within our ranks we have a lot to learn. Racism isn’t all skinheads and swastikas. It’s ideas you carry about people and how you interact with those ideas throughout your life. A lot of people have said to me ‘what are you talking about? There’s no racism in drum & bass’ but to think like that is naive. We function in this society and we absorb the ideas of our society and we carry them forward.
What inspired the group to begin with?
Initially it was watching a number of people quite close to my social circle spouting a lot of misinformed ignorance. Seeing this I initially created it for myself and a few friends but it just grew and grew. It’s a two-way thing in my mind. As a community it’s asking what do we stand for? And it’s for ourselves to learn more and better our behaviour and consider our approach to these ideas of racism, white privilege and white supremacy.
There have been lots of discussions online about the genre being a lot less diverse than it was.
There have. Perhaps not enough because people are cautious about what they say. Many artists are warned about what they say now, because too much politics can alienate your fanbase. Some people feel they can’t even say racism is wrong because they fear they’ll get challenged. Whether it’s inside the scene or outside we all need to asses where we are and how we deal with the problem. And by the way, the reason I founded the group wasn’t ever about identifying a problem within in the scene, the discussion has since come up as part and parcel of that.
It’s interesting that have people have questioned why this group is necessary
Some people have said ‘why are you bringing this to our music?’ Others are angry about the fact I’ve created this thing. As if I’ve disrespected their music, trying to align it with an ideology. It’s when you scratch the surface and ask if we’ve got a problem with racism and you get that knee jerk reaction of like ‘no no no’ That speaks volumes for me.
Why can’t we speak about this? Why can’t we even put this on the table? What are we about as a scene? Where does this music come from? Is it just hedonism? Is that all it is? Is it more? Is it a social movement? I think it’s both – it’s a release and way of escapism and letting go of your worries and I think it’s also a social movement by proxy. Jungle drum & bass was a social movement. It couldn’t not be. Its creation was against the Thatcherist economics. Even back in 94 Rebel MC was saying there were problems with people calling some types of raves crackhead music. Or people saying ‘don’t go to those raves, they’ll rob you.’ I’m not saying that’s what’s happening again now. But we shouldn’t be afraid to keep examining these behaviours and ideas. And even if the people involved in the music might not be racist, they still have to deal with the security, the bar staff, all the obstacles of our society are all part of the situation.
Is there a danger of preaching to the choir within the group? How does the word spread beyond the like-minded community?
I’m not under the illusion that we’re going to change the world and defeat racism. But each small protest against racism contributes to a fairer world. Look at Rock Against Racism. That had a strong effect. It planted a seed that racism was unacceptable within their scene and they created a hostile environment for such divisive ideology. Some people might say this is bad because it pushes the ideas back underground but really we all have a moral obligation to make racism as unacceptable as possible. When I was younger I saw the power and positivity that zero tolerance for racism campaigning can have. The Anti Nazi League among others challenged far right groups and without them we may still be fighting the National Front in the streets. Far right groups (in the UK) might be stuck on the fringes but the stark reality is their prejudice still exists in wider society.
I think a lot people don’t know how to fight it
Yeah a lot of people are hesitant to challenge racism because they may not have the confidence or experience to discuss it. Getting to grips with the language and ideas surrounding white privilege and white supremacy is not easy. Others may simply be complacent. They figure they’re not racist, their friends aren’t racist, their social group isn’t. So what are you talking about? How can they be racist? But we’re not exempt from society. Music certainly isn’t. Music doesn’t stand alone from the politics of wider society. Music reflects it so what do we want to reflect?
How can people get involved and contribute to Drum & Bass Against Racism?
Promoters, labels and artists can all play a positive role by flying the DABAR logo and showing what we are about as a scene. If you are a promoter, label or artist and would like to get involved you can find our contact details on the Facebook group. Personally, don’t be afraid to challenge racist ideas. Learn and understand the idea of white privilege. When I started the group and posted it on a popular forum people thought I was having a laugh. You see how many people get rubbed up the wrong way and you realise the gravity of what we’re looking at. The supposed PLUR ideology that runs through our scene is just an idea. It doesn’t mean everyone acts like that or thinks like that. I’m grateful I come from a multicultural background and have absorbed all that. A lot of other people haven’t been quite so exposed to so many cultures and don’t have that viewpoint. This is a group for people to discuss ideas and sometimes they’re going to argue, other times they’ll agree but I don’t think it’s a case of preaching to the choir. If people support this idea and they share this, they’ll get challenged themselves and they’ll have to take up the fight and learn to sharpen their argumentative tools.
Does the group have any rules?
We want respectful, grown up discussion around issues of racism. No self promoting spam please. This is not the group to post your live streams. The only events or music we allow posted are from committed DABAR affiliate’s that are helping us spread anti-racism. That’s the only rule, though. Come and join the community!
Join now: Drum & Bass Against Racism