Is Electro-Swing Missing the Point?

I’ll start by saying that this video – the Ninjammerz performing to Caravan Palace blew my mind on so many levels – a fantastic piece of choreography, their usual amazing dancing and energy, that vast, vast audience… I could go on, but there is no need – just watch it if you haven’t already seen it

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Aside, however, from gems like that – listening to a piece of electro-swing generally frustrates me. Not because of what it is – some of it is actually a lot of fun, but because of what it isn’t. What they generally do is take riffs, samples and soundbytes from classic swing… and slap a club or hip-hop beat over the top of it etc – so you end up with a piece of club music with a more ‘vintage’ sound to it.  This might be a vast over-simplification, but I think it’s the general idea.

Whereas what makes swing such an exciting, incredible musical genre… is the rhythms. So they’re actually throwing away the most important part of the music. It’s understandable – this stuff is hard – Jonathan Stout of Campus Five fame has stated before now that he considers proper swing playing to be “a virtually lost art”, and he would know better than most.

Another characteristic of this genre is that it lacks any of the flow and structure of the classics that we know and love, opting instead for a more choppy unpredictable feel – which can work superbly for choreographies like the one above, but which wouldn’t be a lot of fun for social dancers.

All this not withstanding – imagine, if you will, a twist on this idea, where they take those old techniques and rhythms and musical structures, and recreate them with a modern sound, and modern instruments. it may have been done already, in which case, I want to know about it – but I honestly don’t know whether it can be done. I can’t even quite picture what it would sound like…. but I know I want to hear it.

And dance to it.

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