Despite mash-up, hip-hop and house being the dominant dance genres in town, drum ‘n’ bass (or d&b) has always had a devoted following in Hong Kong. Magnetic Soul is one of the most enduring names on the d&b circuit, with a history that stretches back eight years – an eternity for Hong Kong’s ephemeral nightlife scene. The original line-up has seen a few changes but core members Cookie, Terence ‘Saiyan’, Mandy and Johnathan are still going strong, and host their sweaty Magnetic Soul events most months.
“I’d just moved here from London, where I’d been going to all the weekly d&b nights,” explains Cookie, “and really there were only a couple of d&b DJs here in Hong Kong. Then I met up with a bunch of like-minded guys and girls and we started to scope out some venues around town to hold a d&b night.”
That those nights became an enduring feature of Hong Kong’s nascent underground scene is testimony to Magnetic Soul’s commitment. And from those early days, the underground scene has taken off with a number of other crews promoting other heavy bass nights such as jungle, reggae, dubstep as well as d&b.
Over time the crowd has changed as well. “When I first started playing d&b, the crowd was almost all expat,” says Johnathan, a Hong Kong native. “But these days, more and more local Hong Kong kids are coming to our nights and discovering our sound.” Johnathan admits that it was his Welsh wife, Lauren, who really introduced him to d&b. “My wife Lauren was moving house, and she was playing all this old jungle and d&b while she was packing. I was wowed and I just fell in love with it,” he laughs.
Though the Hong Kong scene is small, when Mandy and Terence briefly moved to China, they discovered a thriving d&b and jungle scene. “Honestly, people in China are much more experimental with their music,” says Mandy,”And they’re more willing to try something new. Just go to Shelter in Shanghai – they play incredible music there.” For Ross, an MC from the UK and a recent addition to the crew, Asia is a great place to be a DJ. “In the UK, everyone’s competing to get their names on a flyer, and a lot of untalented DJs get a name just by knowing a couple of promoters. Here in Hong Kong, I think that if you have talent, people are really willing to give you a chance.”
Despite the difficulties of being an independent promoter in Hong Kong, Magnetic Soul has seen real success, recently hosting the first Outlook Festival in Hong Kong, and that’s because they take their music seriously. “We focus on quality performers, and our crowd appreciates that. These days, it’s a bit more serious than just getting drunk with your friends. People are coming for the music, to learn about music and that’s the real difference now.”