Tuff Bass Collective is a group of three DJs, Airfix Twin, Professor Kinski and Gorimaa, who are determined to raise the profile of reggae music – the whole broad and diversified family of reggae – in Cambodia. The first item of business – apart from the resurrection of all-original band Vibratone – is the establishment of a monthly poolside Sunday Session at The Eighty8 on St 88, just north of Wat Phnom. LengPleng had a chat with Airfix Twin, AKA Iain Donnelly, to explore things further.
“The reggae scene in Cambodia generally has disappeared,” Iain notes. “Meanwhile in Vietnam it’s dramatically increased over the last year or two. They have their VIBE Nation Festival, and they’re now beginning to tag on to a lot of regional tours – if an MC or a DJ is going to Hong Kong or even Thailand, they are getting them over to Vietnam as well.”
For now, the goal is to get something going on a regular basis. “Right from the start we had this idea of at least one Sunday session a month. It suits the music perfectly, you can have people lazing about around a pool – can drop in, go away and come back, or stay all day.”
And they found what Iain describes as the perfect venue, The Eighty8. “It’s got a great covered area, so we can do it year round, even in rainy season, and it’s got a nice pool and a decent sound system. People are welcome to come along with their kids, it’s a family-friendly event. We’d like to be at a stage in six months to a year when we can bring in a guest – if an MC is in the region from Jamaica or Europe or wherever it doesn’t cost too much extra to tag them on.”
The strength of the Tuff Bass Collective lies both in passion and diversity of backgrounds. “The three of us have slightly different taste. A Scotsman, a Frenchman and a German walk into a bar. Jan is very into the digital stuff, and does a lot of remixes, so he’ll probably do some live things. Gorimaa is into slightly different areas. And having eight to ten hours to play with we can really explore the entire 60 years of reggae and dub and ska.”
The excitement in the project springs from Iain’s lifetime love affair with the music. “Early ska was one of my first real musical loves. My older cousin was a rocker and a soul boy – a very strange mix – he was a guitar roadie in the 70s, working with Alex Harvey and Marc Bolan, huge names like that. And he really loved his soul and he really loved his ska and reggae. When I was growing up he gave me a musical education. Hey listen, to this really rare Jamaican seven inch from 1964 – things like that. He also gave me my first joint. All my peers at that time were sniffing glue, and he said if I ever catch you sniffing glue I’m going to put you in hospital. If you want to get off your face come to me and I’ll give you one of these. So I’m quite proud to say I’ve never sniffed glue, thankfully.”
Instead, Iain started DJing at an early age. “Around 15 or 16. Next year is my 40th anniversary of DJing. I had a very eclectic musical education, and never went down the route of only really being into one style of music. I’ve done soul nights, reggae nights, techno nights, acid nights. I used to do a lot of the chill out nights in clubs, where I could be really experimental – one minute be playing some dark Norwegian ambient from a guy who spends all year on an island with no sun for five months of the year, and then could be dropping in Can or Tangerine Dream.”
The Sunday Sessions will take that approach in a reggae style. “Over the months there’ll be world music, South American, African – we’re going to explore a little bit. When you look at the music of the Caribbean, there’s a lot of roots in South America and a lot of roots in Africa, the rhythms and things. The music will vary greatly, so you’ll get everything from early 60s ska through the early roots reggae and right up to the more modern sub-genres, step and dance hall and digital dub. The one thing you won’t hear is Bob Marley. And that’s no offence to Bob Marley. You’re not going to hear No Woman No Cry, although I’m sure somebody will ask for it.”
The first of the monthly Sunday Sessions will commence at 2 pm on Sunday 22 and continue until midnight, also offering Jamaican food and drink promotions.