Juke and footwork are musical phenomena which emerged in the 21st century… But in order to understand what they are all about, one has to move a little further back in time. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, dance clubs in New York and Chicago saw the birth of a new music genre. House music emerged out of the tensions between disco, soul, funk, hip-hop and electro. All these sounds resonated in the sets of Ron Hardy, Marshall Jefferson and other godfathers of house.
Regulars at vinyl stores across the world are familiar with the section labelled Chicago house. The music producers from this city created a very particular sound, which blends deep and warm resonance with cool and raw sound. And to put it bluntly – the warm sound developed into deep-house while the aggressive and dirty one echoed into ghetto-house.
And it was this dirty ghetto house sound that juke and footwork evolved from. What is distinct of these 'microgenres' is their syncope rhythm, repetition and very fast tempo (150 bpm and up). They are also 'wild', with a noisy kick, (overly) powerful base, and lyrics that are vulgar and most often refer to sex.
The music grew out of need and in the beginning it was played at dance-offs, hence the name footwork. In 2010, the European publisher Mike Paradinas began to promote it in Europe.
Polish DJ and music critic, Paweł ''Paide'' Dunajko who founded Polish Juke, comments:
My first encounter with the footwork/juke culture was totally unconscious in the beginning. In 2010, I listened to the EP from footwork DJ Nate, Hatas our Motivation. I was completely unaware of what it was. I tried to put my finger on it with some European vocabulary, and abstract hip-hop and dubstep came to my mind.
A different, and more conscious discovery came for me with the iconic set by Addison Groove, which he made for Marry Anne Hobbs. Addison demonstrated the way in which Chicago juke infected European club music. I think that a lot of enthusiasts of dance electronic music felt that this was really a breakthrough moment and a something really fresh that came onto the European scene, which was at the time dominated with dubstep and its various hybrids.
Everybody Loves an 808
Soon afterwards, European and Asian scenes also began hosting first parties and creating productions which directly evoked the Chicago phenomenon. So, what are the traits of this American phenomenon persist on Polish ground? Paide comments:
In the beginning, Polish juke and footwork productions didn't have much in common with the "real" Chicago sound (although I am not sure if it was really supposed to resemble it). We would often just call it "fast dubstep". The breakthrough is these more or less successful attempts came with Everybody Loves an 808, an EP by Łukasz Szyda known as Symbiotic Sounds.
He was the first producer who managed to develop the juke/footwork sound into an original quality of his own. His productions were appreciated by DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn, the two most popular ambassadors of the culture from Chicago.
The Polish Juke platform was created in 2012, and it brings together fans of footwork and it promotes producers whose work is evocative of the Chicago aesthetic. It is run by Paweł ''Paide'' Dunajko, Bartosz Hołoszkiewicz and Mateo ''Synnc'' Kamiński. Paide says
What I was inspired by, and what continues to inspire me is something that I didn't have a chance to hear earlier, something completely new - a mix of rhythm complexity, with a very raw sound and the addition of dance. One could say that footwork is a complete entity, with music and movement mutually defining each other, free of any intellectual superstructure.
Polish Juke have released two albums, which were recorded by local artists - the Footwitch EP from the CO project (Maciej Kujawski, also involved in Mik Musik), and the hit Do They Know Ya, recorded by Mikołaj Krencik, aka Miko. Both records are available for listening for free and on sale through Bandcamp.com
On the 17th of February, the Ghosts Traxx album is due to come out, featuring recordings of 18 Polish juke and footwork producers. A special party kicking off the album's release is scheduled to take place in Kraków on the 21st of February, and it will also open the Juke Me series, conducted by Filip Celen. Polish producers are also noticed overseas. The Juke World Order album vol.1 features 65 tracks, among which are pieces by three Polish producers - KR UFO, Musley and Rhythm Baboon.
Polish Juke is also involved in activities outside of the regular box of promotion and publication. One of the founders, Bartosz Hołoszkiewicz, is a photographer and one of his favorite themes is documentation of the footwork world. He has shot reportage in Canada and Japan, and published his photos in the British HUCK Magazine and Canadian The Gazette. They can also be viewed on his website - Holophoto.pl
Speaking about his travels, Hołoszkiewicz comments:
The encounter with producers and dancers in Osaka and Tokyo was an extraordinary experience. I've never seen such passion and involvement in promoting one's work before in my life. When it comes to future plans, I definitely want to continue documenting the footwork scene, now it's time for Poland and Europe. More and more keeps on happening in the field, and we have the chance of witnessing the formation of a new culture.
Author: Filip Lech, translated by Paulina Schlosser, 6/02/2014,
sources: own material, Polish Juke, Holophoto