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Grandpa’s guide to electronic music

No. Progressive house is not a villa for liberals; bass drop doesn’t mean the bottom has fallen out of your world. Electronic music has seeped into pop, rock and other traditional genres over the last decade.

brunch Updated: Feb 23, 2013 18:38 IST
Suprateek Chatterjee

No. Progressive house is not a villa for liberals; bass drop doesn’t mean the bottom has fallen out of your world. Electronic music has seeped into pop, rock and other traditional genres over the last decade. Using electronically generated sounds (from synthesisers, computers or samples of previously recorded music or instruments), this form of music is everywhere today. You’ll hear its most popular avatar, electronic dance music or EDM, at clubs, ghetto pubs and even shopping malls. But like most contemporary music, it has many sub-genres, and new ones get added to the list every year. Actually, every six months!

If the confusion over grindcore and hardcore wasn’t enough, now you have to decipher stuff like Nu Skool and Brostep. So, if you feel like a bit of a fuddy-duddy in the middle of all this, don’t worry. Use our guide to catch up and get with it.

DJ Pearl


The most common sub-genre of EDM. It’s often played at nightclubs and music festivals such as Sunburn. Progressive house is a descendant of house music, an electronic version of disco characterised by steady 4/4 beats and offbeat hi-hats (just say ‘untss untss untss untss’ repeatedly and you’ll get the idea; just try not to do it in public). House tracks generally tend to build up slowly and steadily, leading to an intense climactic chorus. Confident lead line, tight drums and doubled kick drum characterise a solid progressive house track. Like rock music, the word ‘progressive’ simply refers to a different approach to the same genre, with different instrumentation and arrangements. In the case of progressive house, there’s a tendency to make the music sound more dramatic by adding traditional instruments such as piano and a string section (programmed in using keyboards or sampled).

DJ Pearl, 34:

When I started out about 13 years ago, my colleagues and I would introduce each other to different styles of music and artists. At that time, we had chanced upon the earliest proponents of progressive house music artists such as John Digweed, Sasha and Nick Warren and would try and play that style during the less commercial nights at nightclubs. Progressive tracks are usually very long and build gradually with a lot of progression. Today, any big-room music with big crescendos and massive drops is being passed off as progressive house, which has led to a little bit of miseducation amongst the DJs of today.

Pearl is a popular DJ and co-founder of Submerge.


The sound was big in the late ’90s and the early part of the following decade. It has recently blipped to life again in the underground scenes in the UK and USA. You’ll know it by its repetitive 4/4 beats at a tempo of nearly 150 bpm. Expect harsh sounds from retro devices like drum machines with

mid-to-high-range frequencies.

Arjun Vagale, 34:

Techno has made a big comeback in the last two years and I’m really happy to be dabbling in it. The energy and the edginess techno possesses is much required in today’s electronic dance music. A decade ago, it became a little too mainstream, but now it’s found its place as an underground movement.”

Arjun Vagale is DJ-producer, member of techno and progressive house collective Jalebee Cartel.


Dubstep is easily identified by its steady tempo (usually close to 140 beats per minute), a wobbly bass (a low ‘wob-wob-wob’ sort of sound) that keeps threatening to go off-time, and bass drops (a point where there is a sudden change in the rhythm and intensity of a song, usually followed by a heavier bass-line and catcalls from the audience). The genre is pretty popular on India’s independent music scene – the NH7 Weekender had even dedicated a stage only to homegrown dubstep artists. The genre itself was born in the London underground scene in the late ’90s, but found mainstream popularity worldwide only after 2009, after singers such as Britney Spears and Rihanna used influences in their music. And now, with new variations such as the heavier brostep, it’s even found some acceptance amongst rock and metal lovers. Nu metal band Korn’s most recent album, The Path of Totality, has a bit of dubstep in its sound.

Sarvesh Shrivastava, 21:

In late 2008, I’d only heard about dubstep online and from friends abroad, since no one in India was playing it at the time. I downloaded a couple of tracks and was blown away by how bass-heavy and edgy they sounded. It was very fresh and very different from all the other sub-genres of electronic music I’d heard.”

Sarvesh Shrivastava, one-third of Mental Martians, a Mumbai-based drum n bass and dubstep trio.


Everyone in the industry talks about the art of sampling ‘breaks’. But what are they really? It’s just a part in any song when the tune takes a breather, drops down to some exciting drum percussion/groove, and then comes storming back again. Many of these are sampled from ’70s and ’80s funk, rock, jazz songs and obscure tracks. Nu Skool Breaks and Funky Breaks (also commonly called as Breakbeat music) use break beat samples along with other music like techno, electro, drum and bass, funk and hip-hop.

Reji Ravindran

Reji Ravindran:

When I started DJing in ’98, I was into turntablism and scratching. So I had a lot of ‘battle break’ records that contained audio samples, tones and extended loops of breaks. I would practice endlessly on these looped breaks and had always been curious to know about the songs from which these samples came. Since I started playing cross-genre music from 2009, it’s given me a chance to rediscover and play all sorts of breaks – in their original avatar as well as the edgier version.”

Reji Ravindran is a Mumbai-based DJ/Turntablist who dabbles in the genre.

From HT Brunch, February 24
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