"Ragga" is short for raggamuffin—a disparaging term reclaimed by Jamaican youth, a subgenre of dancehall reggae, and the foundation of the new ragga-jungle monthly Bashment, last held at Lo_Fi Performance Gallery on Fri., Feb. 17. Organized winningly by Capitol Hill record store Zion's Gate, the event was hyped with an e-mail flyer that promised "EXTRA BASSBINS FOR MORE ROOM BOOM!" and included—as other promoters might do well to imitate—an audio mix from supporting DJ Rama. How's that for encouragement?
As usual at the Lo_Fi, Bashment felt like dropping in on your older, cooler friends' loft party. In the tiny front room, locals shook things up (Recess spinning grime following the earlier Run the Road Vol. 2 listening party; Kris Moon with some "boombap and bumpslap") while three hot-stuff bartenders danced along. Dawn Penn's classic "No, No, No" faded into smooth hip-hop as people made their way down a narrow, red-lit hallway into a back room with a small loft perch. Most importantly, the DJ tables are on the floor.
"Anywhere there's a trace of dub, the hippies will flock," said a friend from Austin, not bad-naturedly. This explains the looker sporting waist-length dreadlocks and a "Junglistic Ballistic Mystic" T-shirt. The headlining DJ, Montreal's Krinjah, looked as clean-cut as the audience's other half, and seemed warm and friendly. At one point, he stopped the music to honor Black History Month, saying, "Some DJs don't respect Jamaica . . . I respect Jamaica." Unfortunately, his slow, dubby tribute halted the dance floor. Respect or not, the people want beats, so he brought them back—ricocheting like bullets through the riddim.
As with any jungle, people find unique ways to interpret ragga through dance. Some jerk along in a staccato pogo; others glide in half-time or follow the wobbly bass lines. There are moves perfected from years of raving, and people with moves from outer space, who've given themselves up to the vibe (and perhaps some mild psychedelics).
Most of the vibing happened during local Az-1's turns as he tag-teamed with Krinjah, dropping slower, more traditional ragga like the stuff on his Soundbwoy Murdashot mix. Krinjah played CDJs rather than turntables, but Az-1's girlfriend, Tanya, explained Rane's Scratch Live to me earlier during Rama and Necron99's set. Its USB interface connects tables to a mixer and computer, where songs are stored in the software. Two graphical turntables correspond to the real ones, which manipulate the songs, although the physical records are never changed. It's a boon for DJs with crates too heavy and tracks too hot, though Rane's Web site proclaims, "You'll never have to cut a dubplate again!" Those lazy ragamuffins.