DJs Mano and Kush Arora on Global Bass and “Sounds Without Borders”

Mano at NuTropicPhoto by FARAHSOSA

If taking a tropical vacation was out of your budget this summer, a good alternative could be transporting yourself somewhere exotic by dancing to music from the Americas, Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific. This Friday, Los Angeles-based party NuTropic visits the Bay Area with a collective of rhythms and DJs aimed to bring crowds together through global bass music. Recently celebrating their one-year anniversary, the collective’s motto of “sounds without borders” reflects each event’s diverse and unifying atmosphere.

We got a chance to catch up with resident DJ Mano and the Bay Area’s own Kush Arora (who will be a guest DJ) about the party’s history, their friendship, and cultivating crowds with global sounds.

NuTropic takes place this Friday [9/16] with residents and special guests J Boogie, Kush Arora, and Mr. E. at The Legionnaire Saloon in Oakland.

What is global bass music, for those of us that aren’t familiar?
Kush Arora: It seems that just about anywhere in the world you will find musical mutants of that region’s classic rhythms applied to modern electronic music, and it’s generally loaded full of bass. It’s “global” because there is truly a one world sense and collaborative spirit, unity, and support between different producers, promoters, and DJs from a variety of styles that fall under this umbrella, and it’s ever expanding. Not all musical scenes are like that, some are very insular, hence the term.

Kush Arora and Mano

How did you two connect?
KA: We connected through the fun FEX (Foreign Exchange) crew/party in Chicago, which has a similar aesthetic and throws killer events there. Tyson/NewLife from that crew introduced us to one another as we both lived in SF at the time, but didn’t know each other. Since then, we’ve gotten ourselves in a decent amount of trouble together and have even thrown a few parties under the name Wildfire! that embraces the sound we’ll be doing Friday.

What inspired you to start NuTropic?
Mano: After relocating to LA (from SF) a little over one year ago, I was approached by Seano to produce a global dance party with him. He had an established relationship with an awesome venue in Echo Park, so we put our heads together and made some calls to our DJ/Producer friends to be our guests. We built on the concept from there. The NuTropic night is now growing as a monthly destination to experience sounds from all over. I have to say, it’s fun emulating dance cultures that have inspired many of us over the years, but it’s also somewhat of a history course since we’re always learning origins and traditional music roots, then moving it forward with our generation’s aesthetics.

NuTropic recently celebrated one year. What has been the most memorable part of this journey thus far?
M: I have to say it was our recent one-year anniversary in Los Angeles. A slew of last year’s guests came out to play short sets and formed a special squad for the evening. Many folks from the LA music community came out to support and help us celebrate as well. The room was definitely lit with good energy and global sounds. Nights like that give us inspiration to do events such as NuTropic. It’s rewarding to see diverse smiling faces dance together, and peoples’ jaws drop when they hear a tune for the first time like, “What is this track?!” See for yourself in the stills from our one-year anniversary here.

What goes into choosing which DJs to book for this event?
M: A lot of it comes down to the relationships we’ve built over the years, then curating what we think is a good synergistic lineup for an evening we tell DJs is “sounds without borders.” Sometimes an out of town producer/DJ will be routing through LA, and if the timing is right, things will fall into place. We try not to limit our guest DJ’s to one specific sound, but rather give them a blank canvas to take our listeners on a sonic trip. One month a guest started with 90’s hip-hop, then went into cumbia, dancehall and dem bow.

Kush, being an integral part of the Bay Area music scene with Surya Dub and Only Now, what has been the most challenging aspect in music-making in the changing Bay Area scene?
KA: If you’re in a band or even solo project in SF, finding places to practice is hard, or requires good connects and coordination with other folks within the scene who are willing to share. Lots of art spaces/studios have closed, and it’s made it much tougher for people to get out some of that rawness and feel comfortable enough to be artistic, even though like myself many folks work out of their house. It sucks to have to drive somewhere far away to practice or go through the process of losing your studio due to high rent or a douchey neighbor.

That said, the Bay fucking still has great shit going on non-stop and I love it.

Why did you choose to have this party in Oakland versus SF?
M: Venue availability played a role as to which side of the bridge we were going to do the event at. SF has several cool music spaces, but our timing and demographics led us to Oakland. Given the cultural landscape transformation that occurred in the Bay, it’s telling how we gravitated towards Oakland not only because of venue availability, but because of our aim for a diverse dancefloor. We never intend to be exclusive given the sound and slogan of our night, but I don’t think anyone will argue that Oakland cultivates more of a diverse ethnic fabric.

Name a few artists you guys will be championing in your sets this Friday.
KA: Sarkodie, Dj R7, Principe Discos crew, Madd Again!,

M: Chico Mann & Captain Planet, Full Crate, M.I.A., Yemi Alade, Bugz In The Attic.

The party’s motto is “sounds without borders.” What does that mean to you?
KA: In reality, sounds do not have borders; it’s the listeners who have borders. To me, us saying this is asking people to really try and embrace the spirit of opening up to anything that might be thrown at you, regardless of whether you understand the language of what is being played or not. It’s sad but sometimes you could literally play the same beat, different language, people can’t get down because they’re focused so much on their own comfort level they forget to have a good time.

M: I touched upon the slogan a bit and what the message means to our guest DJs, but when we thought about it a year ago, the idea was to convey an eclectic night that isn’t too constrained by specific genres or preconceived notions. Let the guards down, break down the walls, and burn up the dancefloor in a NuTropic style.

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