Remember the old Kuala Lumpur underground scene born out of the ashes of Backroom, Movement, Boom Boom Room and other legendary clubs?
Our city had a lot to boast a few good moons ago.
We hosted outdoor raves with the likes of Tiesto and Paul Van Dyke. We had Carl Cox, Derrick Carter, David Mancuoso and Dimitri from Paris spinning through the late 90s and into the 2000s. We even had Sven Vath play a completely underground jungle party in the middle of nowhere — for 12 hours!
The KL music scene was exuberant back then. People were keen to know more and they thrived on the fact that good music was something they had to look hard for.
That was the scene. People loved the search. They followed the charts and bought CDs.
DJs spent endless hours overseas digging through crates to bring back the freshest and illest sounds so we could dance and make love.
Drugs were new to the city too, so people were getting the best of the best, on cloud nine as they wasted away to the sounds of local masters DJ Gabriel, Jungle Jerry, Nickey C, Groovedoctor, Special K and the rest.
It was pure hedonism fuelled by young and old, rich and poor, locals and expats, with clubs able to keep 3,000 ragers kicking and screaming into the early hours.
But then it all came crashing down.
A wave of new school RnB ran thick and fast across the airwaves, moulding music lovers into a society of conformers. Too lazy to seek out the latest and dopest, they accepted the tripe that was put before them by radio and TV.
Capitalism and consumerism — that’s what happened to the scene. And for a good 10 years live music was dead in the city.
Flashes of commercial, generic sounds came and went, satisfying the lazy, as the myriad of DJs that had created our scene slowly vanished.
Enough was enough. In 2010, a small collective of local DJs launched Ohrwurm — an effort to rebuild, expand and take back what had been lost to the commercial music barons, they focused on bringing international underground DJ’s back into the scene.
Two years later, another party night was launched, Nobody Listens to Techno — a party focused on bringing old and new artists back to the scene, reigniting KL’s underground amongst the local DJs.And the scene once again went ablaze: new ventures such as House Department emerged, along with a series of smaller promotions.
Names like Radioslave, Phil Weeks, Blond:ish, Matthias Meyer and Lee Van Dowski were back on the billboards. Gigs started filling up again and suddenly we could be hitting three or four big parties every month.
Now, you can have your house and techno raucous every night of the week — from Wednesday to Sunday — with guys like Alam, Victor G, Kuma, JonnyVicious, LZZY, RIMKA, Slutski, and Axel Groove shaping the scene, dreaming up and throwing down parties on the regular.
But we still lack something fundamental: a crowd. We don’t have enough people filling the clubs like in the old days.
Club loyalty doesn’t exist anymore, with the Internet providing a thorough but often superficial nightlife rundown. Today’s partygoers don’t go to a club because it’s their local, they go there because it has loads of hits on Instagram or likes on Facebook.
This new generation is clueless, they don’t want to experience anything unless the Internet tells them to. It is our job to bring them up scratch, to let them in on a few secrets. As sad as it is, without the young’uns and their fresh meat, the party scene can never truly thrive.
Good or bad, they are the ones that make a party. I mean, how many of your 30-somethings with kids are out every weekend from Wednesday to Sunday? My guess: None.
DJs, club owners, promoters and the rest of us need to get the young blood involved. Engage them, get them interested. Bring them into the club and educate them, break it all down for them and grow our underground scene back to its previous glory.
Without a doubt, this is something that can be done. But we have to do it together, and we have to do it with a bit of that old school love.
Introducing Privi. Over the next six months we’ll be attempting to educate and drive that music-fuelled passion back to KL. It will no longer be about a “night out”, but rather the love of the music and the people who you are sharing that experience with.
There are many things to be announced in the future, but for now, hold tight, and warm your ears for some of the best regional and home bred techno and house producers/DJs this city has to offer.
So, are you Privi?