Basy Tropikalne is a fresh new label out of Wrocław in Poland that began only 12 months ago as a weekly radio show but now has one well received compilation of future tropical beats (Basy Tropikalne #1) and a new tough-as-nails artist release by hot new Lisbon producer DJ Doraemon under it's young belt. I caught up with label boss and DJ Mikolaj Kierski to find out how, why and who...
JT -Hi Mikolaj! What is your background? Poland isn't the most obvious place to expect to find a label releasing Latin American and Kuduro beats!
MK - Hello! Yes, I guess you would not associate Poland with the tropical music but fortunately in our modern world you can have access to releases from all over the world, although it is true that in some cases this access may not be entirely convenient. Anyway, what I think was my first contact with tropical music - and I am talking about 2011 or 2012 now - did not come from very far away. It was the sound created by Irish producer Orlando Fitzgerald who was then using the moniker Orquesta and was making absolutely stunning minimalistic digital cumbia beats. His live album Cycle One (An Exoplanetary Forest) definitely had a huge influence on me and then I started looking for more stuff like this one. Unfortunately, the Orquesta project was terminated at some point later on and Fitzgerald is now known as Orlando Volcano, lives in New York and heads the Escape from Nature label. He didn't move away entirely from the tropical music but focuses on the Caribbean rhythms and the new dancehall now.
The sound of Orquesta opened my eyes to the music from Latin America that I was not earlier aware of. I'm not a DJ or producer myself so it has always been about listening to loads of new music and in particular finding artists that nobody had heard of before. I think the next digital cumbia artist that I knew was Dany F from Colombia but then I also started listening to all kinds of electronic music produced or performed by artists from Latin American countries - I mean guys like Motivado, Siete Catorce and Tony Gallardo or bands Do Not and Laikamorí.
In March 2015 I joined Radio Luz in Wrocław, Poland where I had just moved at that time. This place felt like the perfect environment as Radio Luz presents music that in many cases would never make it to the mainstream broadcasters. In September that year anyone could have come up with an idea for the new Autumn broadcasting schedule so I called in the concept of a radio show with tropical music only which was probably helped by the fact that I had travelled to Peru just few weeks before that. I am really grateful that the radio's responsibles (sic) trusted me and gave me the possibility to start with the show. Initially Basy Tropikalne was meant to be a program focussed exclusively on music from Latin America or influenced by its rhythms but soon it expanded into Africa and all other tropical regions of the world.
JT - Is there much of a scene in Poland for the kind of music that you are promoting?
MK - I do believe that Basy Tropikalne is the only radio show focusing on modern tropical music - at least I do not know about any others. Of course there are world music enthusiasts like Bartosz Gil from Polish Radio Three but I am concentrating on the music of today - or future in some cases - which does not mean that I do not respect their work. We are just doing different things.
There is a growing number of artists in Poland that implement tropical elements to their sound. A fantastic duo RSS B0YS produced an even better album last year based on field recordings recorded by them in Brazil. Wojtek Kucharczyk also takes inspirations from different parts of the world and he even curates one of the stages at the popular Tauron Nowa Muzyka festival where he managed to bring artists from Colombia or Brazil in 2016. Many of the artists that I presented in Basy Tropikalne performed also during last year's Unsound Festival in Kraków where I had the privilege to interview the founders of the Uruguayan Salviatek label. Speaking of Unsound - one of its organisers sometimes DJ's as Rusałka and from time to time, he builds his sets on Gqom exclusively which is crazy. Another guy worth mentioning is Naphta who hosts a show in Radio Luz as well and who is well-known for the tropical references in his productions and selection. There is also a new project called Lua Preta which is made of up one of the most renowned Polish DJs and producers Mentalcut and an Angolan singer Supa Gia G. They are about to release their debut EP via Greek Shango Records. This lineup would not be complete without Wrocław-based DJ Ryan R who is doing a fantastic job of bringing tropical music to parties in different cities in Poland.
It must be said, though, that I have been trying to kick off with my own series of tropical parties that are doing so well in many countries all over Europe but the feedback has been really poor so far. I guess the main problem is connected with the finances, no manager is willing to pay for the kind of music they have never seen being played in their clubs.
JT - You've moved forward a long way in just one year of existing with 50 radio shows and two releases, was there a master plan?
MK - In fact, I did not really think about anything when I started with Basy Tropikalne in October 2015. I was just thinking about preparing every next episode and focusing on doing my research well. To be honest, I had started learning about the whole world of tropical music only when the show had already started. Before that I only thought I knew something. After some time the idea to release my own compilation appeared in my head but I did not know whether I would be really able to make it. I started contacting countless number of artists whom I had played in Basy Tropikalne before so that there is a connection between them and the show. Some of the musicians were really enthusiastic but in general I was not getting many responses. The whole process was taking an extremely long time so I thought that I should just stop trying. Then I received a track from I think 5 or 6 artists and decided to release it like that but then suddenly several producers responded and agreed to join in for this release. Finally - with two remixes coming from European artists - I was able to collect 12 tracks and the compilation proved to be really successful which I did not expect at all! It even ended up as being included in the list of the best compilations of the year by the amazing Sounds and Colours magazine which is a big deal considering how many compilations there are in the tropical music scene. I remember that when I finally clicked the 'publish' button, I was just really happy that I was able to make this release happen because it was almost half a year since I had contacted a first artist about this matter. I did not really think then about what would be going on with the compilation next - but the feedback was, and still actually is, amazing.
JT - How did you manage to find so many unpublished tracks for the Basy Tropikalne #1 compilation?
MK - I contacted many artists and I was basically asking them for any song with only one requirement - that the track is previously unpublished. I thought that only this would make this release a really valuable thing. I realised that it was probably a strong condition but it was something I really cared about and I think I kind of looked up to the amazing Chico Dub's Hy Brazil compilations. Amazingly I was able to obtain the tracklist with the majority of the tracks that had never been published anywhere before which is a sign of how open the artists that I could work with are. There are some songs that had been released before but none of them had been available for free as it is the case of Basy Tropikalne #1 (Latin America). Actually, I am really proud about some tracks as far as this topic is discussed - for example El Traste contributed his track for my compilation first and later into the year it appeared also on his release for Isa GT's Etoro Records.
JT - Your first artist release by DJ Doraemon is a great addition to the futuristic sounds coming out of the Lisbon scene, how did you hook up with him and any plans for other artists from Lisbon or other countries?
MK - I bumped into DJ Doraemon's sound when he released an EP last year for Generation Bass. Around that time Principe published also DJ Marfox' EP and both of those releases contained tracks based on the Tarraxo genre. I remember playing the two songs one after another and saying that I guess DJ Doraemon will be soon producing music for Principe Discos as well so it is quite funny now to realise that I was the next one to release his new music.
At the beginning of this year I was thinking about putting out a new release but I did not want it to be another compilation because I knew how hard it is to coordinate the work of so many artists. So this time I contacted only few people with whom I had a kind of direct contact and Ivan (DJ Doraemon's real name) was immediately interested in the idea of releasing his EP via Basy Tropikalne and - what is more - he had it basically ready. This time it all went pretty fast. I definitely want to publish at least one more thing this year but I think this will wait until Autumn. I do not have any certain ideas in my head right now. As far as this ghetto sound from Lisbon is considered, there are many teenagers producing music in their bedrooms and they do not even realize the value of it. That was the case of South Africa's Gqom and my dream would be to discover a new Gqom one day.
Big props and dzięki to Mikolaj! Make sure you download Basy Tropikalne's releases (either for free or throw him a euro, dollar or pound to keep him moving forward!)
Interview by Ex-Friendly