Bubble Your A$$ Off: The Global Dance Revolution of a Ground-Breaking Genre

Friday 12.01.2024

On Saturday 3 February, energy bomb De Schuurman will make his debut at WAS. alongside Jensen Interceptor, Razzmic and Violet. It promises to be a celebration of the music genre Bubbling, which sound has long infiltrated the electronic dance scene.

Watching the 2017 documentary ‘Bubbling: Bandje 64‘, one can dive into the history of the genre. Its origins lie with immigrants from the Netherlands Antilles. In the second half of the 20th century, many youngsters hoped to find a better future in the Netherlands but were welcomed with the xenophobic attitude that is unfortunately still characteristic of many Dutchies today. Next to facing discrimination in schools and rejection at job interviews, they were also barred from Dutch nightlife. They had no other option but to organise their own parties, which were from the very start notorious celebrations of life. In the early 1990s, this turned Rotterdam and the Hague into Bubbling hotspots. With founding fathers DJ Moortje and MC Pester at the booth, what started out as epic Antillean parties soon grew into a genre of its own.

Bubbling consists of a melting pot of influences that include dancehall, reggae, and electronic music, creating a sound that’s as diverse as it is irresistible. Watching the 2022 Boiler room set of De Schuurman, the attraction is real. The beats are spicy, the bass is deep, and the overall vibe is pure euphoria. But underlying the genre, is a serious and sometimes grim undertone. As Antillean artists were coping with discrimination and rejection, in the beginning years of the genre, songs were released with unfiltered lyrics that contained not only anger against the Dutch population, but also sexist and homophobic undertones. Add to this the violence with which an evening often ended, and it seems that the freedom the dance floor offered was not for everyone.

When the music took shape, it wasn’t just beats and sounds that made this new genre: it was the moves as well. Bubbling was no Bubbling if there was not a woman bubbling to the sound – and to a man’s front. Watching old clips, I can’t help but feel a certain unease. What is liberating about women barely clothed and twerking upside down because some men shouted into the microphone that they should? Haven’t we had enough of this male gaze? However, it is also a matter of perspective. One of the current views of feminism is that women have every right to own and display their sexuality because it makes them feel good about themselves (think of superwoman Beyoncé), regardless of any man’s opinion. The latter is the vibe that dominates the genre nowadays. Next to that, the floor is no longer used mainly by women, as all genders proudly exhibit their bold moves.

Any objections I or anyone else may have for the beginning period have long since been made irrelevant by a new generation. Bubbling has earned its stripes as a genre that’s constantly evolving. DJs and producers are always pushing boundaries, experimenting with new sounds, and fusing different genres to keep the Bubbling spirit alive and kicking. It has long enjoyed a big stage, as names like Hardwell, Afrojack and DJ Chuckie have made the music accessible to a big audience. This isn’t always appreciated by the OG DJs in the scene, and it is true that when Hardwell, once number one DJ in the world, characterises the genre in the press as the untranslatable Dutch word ‘gezellig’, he painfully neglects all that Bubbling used to stand for. Next to everything that is light and free on the dance floor, it is important to keep history in mind and give credits where credit is due.

One of the things that make Bubbling today so unique is its ability to bring people together on the dance floor. The infectious rhythms are like a magnet, drawing people in from diverse backgrounds to move and groove as one. The night in WAS. will be a celebration of unity through music, as this is exactly what our dance floor was made for.

12.01.2024 | Words by Indira Huliselan