Our new Originators series explores specific, esoteric scenes through mixes of representative tracks and interviews with prominent artists, as conducted by Zak “SPF666” DesFleurs. The intent is to provide desperately needed historical context for these genres in the age of the Internet, a time when cultural objects are uprooted from their scenes and reworked, repurposed and reappropriated beyond recognition.
Following up on the first installment of the Originators series with the incredible DJ Relentless, we turn our sights South to a genre that has been criminally ignored with the recent revival in club music’s popularity. Bamabounce, born at the turn of the century at the hands of the tireless DJ Se7en (aka DJ Taj), is a wild, energetic blend of club structures with a wide variety of influences.
Personally, Bamabounce served as my introduction to ballroom-club hybrid tracks, not unlike the ones that pepper the sets of seemingly every DJ today. Se7en took some time to talk with me about the development of Bamabounce, his fusions of club and vogue, and our shared, unabashed love of EDM.
I was particularly excited to do this with you because there has been so little written on Bamabounce. With that in mind, how would you describe the sound of Bamabounce?
Due to the huge amount of influences that inspired me to create Bamabounce music, it’s hard to describe. It really would depend on which track you’re listening to at the time, but one major underlying quality of Bamabounce is the basic Baltimore club kick pattern that is used at some point in every track or remix that I create. Sometimes it’s tech, sometimes it’s house, and sometimes it’s that pure Baltimore sound.
My first album Bamabounce (through T&A records) was described as, “though greatly inspired by Baltimore club, Taj’s take on the sound is sometimes at a faster tempo and steeped in a heavier dirty south influence, with clever uses of TV and R&B samples throughout,” but even since then it has definitely progressed to include so much more.
Absolutely. It seems that like all of the different strains of East coast club music, it shares the main genetics of Bmore with some variations, mostly stemming from the place it started in and those that brought it to life. What was your introduction to DJing and music?
The start of my relationship with music can be traced all the way back to elementary school; I was always in the band, learning to play as many instruments as possible. However, I was pretty much known as “the dancer” in the community in which I grew up. I created this “ultimate talent group” with some friends where I was the choreographer.
“The overlooked phrases are my way of pulling and creating something positive out of a track that otherwise is degrading to women.”
Eventually, I wanted to figure out a way to make the music match what I was feeling as a dancer, versus me trying to create moves to an already made song. This led me into the world of producing and remixing. Once people started to see our shows, they always wondered who did the mixes. From that point, it opened up doors to opportunities creating and overseeing musical production for people across the city.
That makes a lot of sense in terms of the pure energy of Bamabounce — that its origins are in serving movement first and not the other way around. It’s definitely a kinetic “body music.” So what first drew you to Baltimore club that far South?
I remember going to a party and the DJ from Atlanta played club tracks like ‘U Big Dummy’ and ‘My Neck, My Back’. These tracks were unlike anything that I had ever heard before here in Alabama. As I was dancing I was thinking to myself, “this is exactly what I’ve been trying to do!”
So after the event I went to the DJ, DJ Truz, and inquired about the track. He informed me that it was called Baltimore club. I rushed home — at this time we had Kazaa — and I did a search for Baltimore club and all these tracks came up. Most were from mix CDs but they were there and I was like, “this is what I want to do!” From that night forward, my goal was to make this sound popular here in the city.
Can you describe the next steps in the birth of Bamabounce?
The birth was in 1999, but it was becoming a full-fledged baby around the summer of 2000. It was at this time that I had fallen in love with Baltimore Club and was actively adapting what I was able to pick up from it and meshing it into what I had been musically doing already. At the same time, this new sound was being created which was a mixture of the essences of Miami bass and Baltimore beats that had caught on with a group of dancers that did what is known as ‘J-setting.’ [Note: J-setting is a hip-hop style of dancing that has vogue elements and roots in the queer scene. Beyoncé famously used the style in her ‘Single Ladies’ video; here’s an example of a team dancing with evident ballroom influence]
While I was fusing all my influences and making and selling Bamabounce mix CDs, they were getting copied and passed along throughout the state and neighboring states, especially through J-Setting scenes, unbeknownst to me. Of course, all of the CDs were branded with my contact information and eventually a club promoter by the name of Anthony Toliver reached out. He had me come down and spin at the Legendary Traxx Atlanta. It was December of 2000, the test run went well, and I was asked to come back for one of the biggest weekends for the club, MLK weekend, 2001. That event was attended by almost all of the J-settes at the time, some whom had traveled from as far as Houston.
At this point in time, I had no idea how big my sound had gotten for these groups of dancers. Once I moved past the house section of my set, and “The Beats” as they call it started playing, the floor, the vibe, everything about the room changed. It was then that I knew that my sound had made an impact, and that this crowd that would be my biggest promoters and listeners.
When it comes to the samples, I usually take parts of the song that are on two ends of the spectrum: either the most common part that everybody knows from the original song, or the hidden parts and phrases that people overlook in the original track. The overlooked phrases are my way of pulling and creating something positive out of a track that otherwise is degrading to women, and in my opinion sheds a negative highlight on what’s going on in the inner cities and those who are stranded in a situation that they aren’t able to remove themselves from.
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It’s no secret that ballroom-club fusion tracks have seen a rise in popularity in the past year or two. Personally, save the rare Bmore ballroom joint like ‘Hot Ha’ by Jonny Blaze, Bamabounce served as my introduction and inspiration for vogue-club hybrid tunes. So what led you to marry those vogue/ballroom sounds with club in Bamabounce?
Because my sound had become so popular with the J-settes and many of them had connections to the voguing houses. [Note: houses are groups of ballroom dancers and producers/DJs which compete against one another in ‘balls’.] I remember receiving an email from Prestige Prodigy, who asked me to make him a “Ha Track” and at this point in time, I had only done one remix of the original Masters at Work tune. So I began really researching vogue, gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of ballroom culture, eventually coming up with the ‘Dramatic, Cunt, Ovah HA’. He loved it, used it, and shared it within the scene.
About six months later, I did a search on YouTube and found several videos with my track playing in the background. Soon, around 2005, the requests start rolling in for more and more ha remixes and that’s pretty much how that got started. Because I didn’t want people to think that this was the only style I made, or that my other club music was my only style, I then began to create the sub-categories for my Bamabounce sound. Although I would do a ha track now and then, I had found a protege in DJ Nakaifma, and he was more into the house and ballroom scene than I was. I began working with and training him on the Bamabounce sound and he took over the Bamabounce Cunt tracks.
In what ways did you set out to make Bamabounce different than Baltimore, Philly, or Jersey club?
The difference between Bamabounce and other club music genres is complicated, but I would go back to what I was stating earlier about how it depends on which track you’re listening to. With Bamabounce, I had so many influences, I had to create sub-categories. So there’s Bamabounce Cunt music, and there’s the Bamabounce Electronic Club Music, also Bamabounce House.
“I knew that I didn’t want to just be stereotyped, or stuck into one genre.”
So you may hear a Bamabounce track and assume it’s a Baltimore club track because of its sound, and you can hear the next track, and think that it’s house with a club music vibe, and the one after that would have you feeling like you’re in a gay night club at 2 AM with folks voguing, dipping, and spinning to “Ha” crashes. The other club genres are a little easier to recognize when you hear them, whereas my sound and the goal of Bamabounce is to transcend different club scenes and nightlife towards a feeling.
Could you quickly touch on the importance of your sexuality on the genre and its influence?
Honestly, my sexuality didn’t play too much of a role in the music that I created. What did was the sexuality of my biggest fans and followers. Because of their loyal support, I made sure that I always created with them in mind, but even then still not letting them be my only inspiration. I knew that I didn’t want to just be stereotyped, or stuck into one genre.
Many queer artists and producers, myself included, have definitely had some difficulty with being pigeonholed into very specific scenes. There’s clearly been a strong revival in the influence of club music in the past few years, obviously Jersey club in particular. What are your opinions on this renewed interest in club music?
I think that this renewed interest is an amazing thing. It opens up the possibility for more people to experience the sound of club music. This helps to bring the club sound from the clubs and streets of their origin to worldwide exposure. In the same way that I honestly love EDM music and I loved it before it was branded “EDM”. It tooks years for this EDM sound to just explode into its own genre and gain worldwide radio play. So when it comes to club music as a whole, I enjoy seeing this renewed interest, and I enjoy knowing that I’m a part of the same movement. I’m always excited to see progress in music, in individuals, in diversity.
Bless you for owning that you like EDM — fuck the haters. What projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m working on a new album, Generation O. I got inspired by a speech Michael Jackson gave at Oxford University, and decided I wanted to create a sound and background for this “Generation O.” Hopefully I can do what I’ve spent my entire musical life trying to do, which is create a change — no matter how small. Inspire people, push people to think outside the box and actually learn when they listen to music.
The Bomb 2012
Somebody Stop Me 2008
Movin’ On Up 09 (Beatdown)
Movin’ On Up 09
Jeanie’s HA Theme
Let The Beat Hit Em’
Waves (Original ECM Remix)
Boogie On Down (Let’s Groove)
Dj Want You Beat It (Beat It)
Pon De HA
Sugur Shane’s Attack (HA)
I Wanna See Face
It’s So Low
When The Day Comes
Starting Somethin’ (Believin’ Mix)
Dj 7’s Vengeance