Plenty of music docs turn to the past to tell their story. But Bassweight, which charts the rise of dubstep as it gains momentum, could be about to change all that
The annals of music history are full of weighty documentaries, from Ages of Rock to Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. But what if you want to look to the future rather than the past?
This month sees the release of Bassweight, marketed as “the first feature-length dubstep documentary”. It speaks to some of the genre’s main players, including Mary Anne Hobbs, Skream, Benga and Kode 9, about the origins of dubstep and where it’s going.
The emphasis is not so much on dubstep’s current mainstream success as to how it will grow from here. Director Suridh Hassan believes that making the documentary while the genre is still on the rise is important: “It’s so much more satisfying for the viewer to be involved as they feel something is emerging. To understand the mentality and context of the people and scene, at the time, rather than finding it out in some retrospective, will always win hands down for me.”
It’s a viewpoint shared by producer Ryo Sananda: “Music scenes develop so quickly and morph so fast, it’s much more interesting to document the formative stages. With the way info flows through the internet, a scene can emerge, blow up and dissolve into something else so quick. You can lose a lot of the magic when it reaches the mainstream so to document the rise, when you’re in the rise, is always going to be more interesting.”
A documentary with this concept of “looking forward” is a welcome move for anyone who has ever searched through archives of early beats or faceless MCs. Cameras and YouTube clips are a staple at raves and clubs, but there has always been a need for more official documentation. However, Bassweight isn’t the first documentary to be filmed as an underground scene explodes. Diplo’s baile funk doc, Favela On Blast, deserves a mention, and 2003 grime doc Wot Do You Call It asked the likes of Wiley about a sound so fresh it didn’t even have a name yet. Elsewhere, Radio 1’s 2007 Lamacq Live feature, The New Step, explored what was then known as “the Croydon sound”, looking into the embryonic growth of sub low, grime and dubstep.
Great as these docs were, none had the reach that Bassweight looks set to have. And far from merely being more evidence of our accelerated culture, Bassweight could mark an important shift in how breaking-music scenes are presented. It’s time to give music fans a chance to look forward, not back, at the scenes they love.