In a brightly lit bar with pop songs oozing from the speakers, Karl Ross and James Leatham- the brains behind Yangon’s fledgling underground electronic music scene- sip tea and water explaining their latest ventures in Yangon’s underground electronic music scene.Their movement, RUMOURS, held a club night most recently at Roof Alchemy at Yangon International Hotel on Saturday June 3rd.
“The idea was simply to bring good music to the country. There was nothing more complicated than that,” said James, a UK native who works in finance at Koimala Group by day.
The duo is enthusiastic and passionate about what they are doing. They lean forward in their chairs and talk over each other in excited chatter.
RUMOURS is the latest undertaking by Dog & Bone Parties which got off the ground two years ago with a beach party, ‘Sunbox,’ which they organized in partnership Eskala Hotel in Ngwe Saung. They brought bus loads of Yangoners to the seaside for a weekend of poolside partying with international DJs. On reflection, James admits that they made some rookie mistakes – the music was perhaps too niche for the Yangon party-goers and there were some logistical issues that needed ironing out.Three Sunbox events later, however, and the team have improved their strategy with numbers in attendance going from about 70 to over 200.
Now they are taking a step back from Sunbox to readjust their game plan. They will take examples from more established underground music scenes such as that of Thailand where music festivals incorporate a wider range of arts to interest people.“We want to go back to the drawing board and aim to come back with something bigger,” said Karl from Norway who runs a marketing company by day.Meanwhile in Yangon, their recent ‘RUMOURS’ events are a new concept of intimate, invite-only club nights with an objective of delivering high quality music to electronic music enthusiasts in the right setting.
“As with everything in this country, if you try to go ‘off the beaten track’ you’ve got a capacity issue,” said James on the risks of the game.
The events support local up-and-coming local DJs like Yu KT as well as flying in international DJs from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong to spin the decks at their events.“We’re really starting from scratch here and trying to build a new scene. You can’t just push that out and expect everyone to like it,” said Karl.
When Karl came to Yangon and teamed up with James, he brought with him a vision to host boiler room club nights here in Yangon. Now his vision is edging ever closer to reality as they use key boiler room concepts for RUMOURS. They want to have an event where the DJ is part of the party rather that a glorified entity raised on a stage above the other people.
“We want to take the DJ down to be on a personal level with everyone else,” said Karl.
The ethos of boiler rooms, explained James, is that underground music should be accessible to everyone. Good, international class DJs should be accessible to all those who can’t afford to be at the events and festivals so they have the event and stream it all live. Their most common party-goers are expats living in Myanmar who miss high-quality club nights as well as internationally-exposed locals who James says are the most enthusiastic group attending their parties.
“The group of people who are most passionate about what we are doing here are the internationally-exposed locals who are ecstatic to see this happening in their country,” said James.
For Karl, it’s those responses that are particularly rewarding:“The most rewarding part is the positive feedback from people after the events saying ‘thank you for bringing this here to us’,”Their most recent RUMOURS event held in a room below Roof Alchemy was definitely intimate with the DJs set up in the middle of the floor and occasionally having a beer and joining in dancing with those around them. Over an hour of the event was recorded on a camera right by the decks and uploaded on the RUMOURS Facebook page soon after, in typical boiler room style. [The DJ] parties with you. Everyone is there together to have fun. It’s not one guy on a pedestal or in a stadium.”
With the first couple of RUMOURS parties they realized the conventional marketing methods were not useful for their events, bringing in too many people who didn’t appreciate the style of electronic music nor understand the event concept. Instead, Dog & Bone Parties has gone down a more unconventional route of sharing event information via an email list and by word of mouth and ‘pumping rumours down through social channels’ and this has worked surprisingly well.
“One of our biggest difficulties is peoples’ expectations not aligning with the concept of our parties. Some people turn up and expect the usual boom-boom dance music and are not impressed with what we do. So we have had to do some very clever marketing to have the right people attend our events.”
Next on their event agenda is an eight-week Saturday night takeover at The Clubhouse. The Clubhouse – located underground at Kandawgyi Palace Hotel – is one of Yangon’s most exclusive night clubs and it is undergoing a major facelift. The events are set to commence on July 1st.“The owners were very enthusiastic about what we are doing with RUMOURS and they want us to be part of their overhaul,” said James.The Clubhouse is aiming to lead the way in international-quality nightclub experiences in Yangon. According to James and Karl, they are making some exciting changes in style to their club.“We are aiming to fill what is a massive hole in Yangon nightlife which is just a nice place to be in that’s warm and welcoming and well priced.”