Szymon Listewnik (born in Gdańsk) is a music producer, DJ and graphic designer. As an artist he uses the pseudonym Rhythm Baboon. His music can be described as a mix of footwork and juke with elements of techno. When he wants to define his interests broadly, he says simply: ‘bass music’.
Rhythm Baboon is the most important Polish ambassador representing fast-tempo electronic music. Footwork/juke artists use the tempo of 160 beats per minute (in the case of techno, it’s usually more like 130), broken rhythms as well as precisely-sliced samples. As the footwork/juke scene in Poland is still relatively young, each artist is able to leave on it their original imprint. In December 2016, just before the launch of his new album in Sopot, Rhythm Baboon commented on the artists who are part of the Polish Juke crew:
Each of us has his own original way of making music and we have different visions of this colourful, dance music. One of us draws inspiration from jazz, funk or disco, in someone else’s music you can hear hip-hop and jungle, others are in turn fascinated by rave and breakcore, or by acid and techno. Thanks to that diversity and our passionate approach to footwork, we have managed to gain a lot of respect among the best crews in the world, from Chicago to Tokyo.
When in high school (the 1990s: the era of Amiga computers and early PCs), Listewnik and his brother became interested in hip-hop. In one interview, Listewnik mentions that he quickly developed an interest in DJing, while music production seemed secondary to him. Before he gained the status of a patriarch of Polish footwork/juke who makes remixes for and is remixed by the best artists in the genre, he went by the alias Smic. He dumped this pseudonym when he lost interest in breakbeat music.
In spring 2011, as Rhythm Baboon, he released his debut EP Jambah Bongo Dub. The EP was produced by the independent record label Concrete Cut. The cover showing a baboon was designed by the artist himself. As for the music, the EP is packed with pieces pulsating with dub and techno beats, which were filled with tension rather than relaxing, along with a constant fast tempo. In its press, the record label would point out similarities between Rhythm Baboon and British artists such as Shackleton (probably due to the tropical sweltering style of the Polish artist) and Demdike Stare duo, the versatile masters of electronic music.
Rhythm Baboon has become a pillar of the Polish footwork/juke music scene. His mini albums released by Polish Juke and entitled Danzig In Da Ghetto EP (2014), First In Your Heart Remixes EP (2015) and Rhythmwerkz EP (2015) gained him a large number of listeners, not only in Poland. However, it was The Lizard King that was the breakthrough for the artist. Consisting of six pieces, the album was released in autumn 2016 by dynamic Warsaw record label U Know me Records in collaboration with Polish Juke. The Lizard King was advertised as ‘the first Polish footwork vinyl’. An excellent remix by Japanese DJ Fulltono was also included on it. Rhythm Baboon says of his album:
The Lizard King is a manifestation of my ceaseless fascination with Chicago footwork/juke. Most of the pieces were created in my home studio during several sessions, without any specific plan. It was a spontaneous play with sounds and samples, done with complete ease – this made the material more cheerful and more suitable for dancing compared to my previous records.
This intensive and colourful album may seem less poppy than the previous ones, as Rhythm Baboon kept a focus on the rhythm and the bass. The album cover and its title clearly refer to the psychedelic rock from the 1960s and the opening sample of the album to The Doors in particular. And this is only the beginning. The Lizard King is only 22 minutes long, but it is a passionate and wisely-built album.
Single pieces by Rhythm Baboon can be found on compilations such as Mad-Hop Vol. 2, Footwork World Tour or Iberian Juke & Friends. In 2011, together with his brother, Listewnik brought to life the Apomallairi project. Within Apomallairi, already mature artists, they concentrated on techno and house.
Listewnik also designs graphics for other music artists. As Dicewice he designed Cameo EP (2011) for the Jackname Trouble record label, as well as co-designed Strange Sounds And Inconceivable Deeds (2010), the album with which Mikołaj Bugajak (aka Noon) inaugurated Nowe Nagrania (New Records). Listewnik is also the creator (this time as Simo) of the cover of Nothing Left EP by Broken Promises (2014).
2011 – Jambah Bongo Dub EP
2014 – Danzig In Da Ghetto EP
2015 – First In Your Heart Remixes EP
2015 – Rhythmwerkz EP
2016 – The Lizard King
Written by Jacek Świąder, February 2017, Translated by Natalia Cichowska, May 2017