Last summer I had the privilege to visit Amsterdam, Holland during a mid-summer weekend that happened to host a couple great music festivals. I had an amazing time attending the Applesap festival, a free Hip Hop festival in a park which had guests from the U.S. the U.K. and plenty of local acts that got the crowd movin'.
One group that really caught my attention just off of the reaction they incited in the crowd was local rappers Zwart Licht. Their style drew from American Hip Hop and U.K. Grime and Dubstep, and they had the crowd going mad.
Dubstep Mosh Pit:
Hip Hop Hand Waving:
Amsterdam really intrigued me. From the outside it seems like such an egalitarian society, and their liberal views on many societal issues is refreshing. The city seemed more racially mixed and culturally international than many of the other European cities I was visiting. The combination of the good festival vibes, a little sun, and a little something else Amsterdam is known for, sent me into a romantic haze about the potential of urban Dutch society, and the U.S.'s inability to overcome its racial obsessions. Yet I know that they still have some of the same problems endemic to a lot of European societies, including a surging right-wing movement, and the marginalization of immigrant communities.
I was reminded by my experience in Amsterdam after seeing the following video in a post on Black Amsterdam:
Biljmer Breakz is a group from one of Amsterdam's low income "projects." The Biljmer area is apparently a melting pot of immigrant culture the two largest groups being from Suriname and Curacao. The area suffers from the same image issues as many low income urban areas with a large concentration of minority populations, including a reputation for crime, gentrification, and community displacement (and an Israeli plane flying into one of the buildings? Crazy!) The use of Spanish in the first verse really got my attention, here's an interesting explanation from that post:
Although they both have the same Dutch colonial background, the biggest difference between the two groups is that the Surinamese are more English Caribbean and the Antilleans are much more Latino.
They also speak a different language. Surinamese people speak Sranan Tongo (Surinam tongue), a Dutch/English creole language with an African structure. The Dutch Antilleans speak Papiamento, a more Spanish language.
The clip is called “Dit is wat ik wil” (This is what I want). In de the video they speak Dutch, Papiamento, and Sranang Tongo.
Pas op, pas op = Watch out, watch out (Dutch)
I've noticed a strong influence of the U.S. and U.K. urban culture on youth in Amsterdam and there seems to be a strong intention to reflect the realities of those larger countries with a (longer?) history of reverse colonization. A quick youtube surf of music videos points to an interest in street violence depicted in a lot of American rap. It's interesting to see what is popular today amongst certain subcultures in Holland, because to me, the most intriguing influence that comes out in youth Dutch youth culture is their unique take on music from the Caribbean region, a genre of music called Bubbling. I didn't see any Bubbling at the Applesap festival, but I did see it at an electronic music festival the night before, although it was much more commercialized version, leaning towards the dreaded Euro Techno side of things. I'll probably get into Bubbling at some point here, but if you can't wait, visit my homie Dave Quam's blog, which goes deep into exploring the cultural conversation between the Dutch Caribbean diaspora and its homelands.