For an entire month I listened to raggatek, an offshoot of hardtek and hardcore style of music to explore the effects on my mind, body and the people around me.
This article is the result of a quasi-scientific experiment on the effects of this obscure, extremely fast paced style of electronic music. We get some intriguing results.
Before we dive in, what is raggatek?
Raggatek is a type of tekno (yes, tekno with a ‘K’) a type of hardcore music with BPMs reaching frightening speeds of 190 BPM. This type of music is one of the many branches of hardcore music that spawned off gabber and hardstyle of the 90s.
In 2008, raggatek is born, the result of merging hardtek with elements of reggae and dancehall. Today it’s growing in popularity as ravers seek ever faster and harder types of electronic music.
Ok, but what does it sound like?
Raggatek is a mix of dark reggae vocals, jungle samples and reggae rhythms over 4×4 beats.
A typical track builds quickly to 190 BPM and continues for a bit before being interrupted by periods of calm where the vocals take over. Sprinkled with a few breakbeats, a typical track will allow for another short-lived build, quickly degenerating into utter madness.
For those who wish to know what raggatek sounds like, I’ve fashioned a handy Spotify playlist to get you going – click here to add it to your Spotify playlists.
Raggatek, cousin of tekno (not techno)
The first time I read tekno I wasn’t sure if it was a typo or a different spelling in another language. It was only when my Italian friends explained the difference that it made sense.
Tekno refers to hardcore and the free tekno movement. It’s a subculture that celebrates illegal soundsystem raves held in the countryside or abandoned locales, where all can rave wild and free until people fall over, or the riot police come to tear it all down and start a battle with a stimulant fueled youth.
Raggatek owns its existence to tekno culture and it’s many soundsystems (both legal and illegal) around the world.
Digging to find information leads me down a few roads. Some roads that I wish I hadn’t taken and others that I’m so glad I discovered.
Beginning my journey of raggatek
I’m not sure from where I heard raggatek for the first time, but when I did, I knew I had discovered a new musical obsession. Especially when I found a whole community behind it.
So, my initial findings confirm that raggatek is certainly all about weed and soundsystem culture.
Of course, being influenced by reggae culture, it is not surprising at all. It’s a common reoccurring theme in the music, the videos, the message, and everything else.
How did I get here? The answer is Vandal
In short, Vandal is the reason I am here.
Vandal and Guigoo may have kicked off raggatek in 2008, but I only caught on a few years ago. I heard a track of his and said, “wait, pull that up” and since then I’ve been hooked.
Founder of Kaotik Soundsystem, Vandal was inspired by the FreeTekno culture in Europe and the Free Parties he saw over the years and the result was an expression of passion and creativity for reggae and rave. Looking on YouTube, there’s a few videos showing him playing out to a crowd of zombie punters that look like they’ve spent the entire night in front of those 3-meter-tall speakers.
Raggatek isn’t for everyone
Why listen to music when you can’t share it? My natural instinct is to play new music to my family and friends. However, I get a lot of resistance:
“What are we listening to?”
“Can we please change the raggatek, bro”
“Stop listening to raggatek”
Strange things begin to happen
I head back to the apartment to start writing this article. Wielding a pair of noise cancelling Bose headphones, I hammer on into the night, writing with full on raggatek. Discovering a few other artists late at night is a fantastic way to stay up into the wee hours of the morning.
It’s 2:30AM and I still intend to wake up early. I cut the raggatek and without transition, go straight to bed. My body is still vibrating with incessant bass. It’s almost like the music is still going although I’m laying still.
Inside my mind a rubber ball goes off the walls of my head. Regardless, I breathe slower and manage to sleep. The next morning, I wake up in shock. Dark, psychotic dreams have invaded my mind, ones I don’t wish to share with the public.
Perhaps I should interpret these dreams as a sign to stop listening to raggatek.
My immediate reaction is to do the exact opposite. I mean, I had already committed and found artists like Mandidextrous and Billx – so I soldier on into the unknown.
Risking my life for raggatek
Cruising in the car is a place I love to listen to new music. It’s already a few weeks into my experiment and driving across Malta, windows down, I’m blasting raggatek for those who don’t want to hear.
The sun is out and it’s a beautiful day to be driving about. There is a sharp turn ahead and I don’t hesitate to take it aggressively, egged on by the music throbbing from my speakers.
Before the turn, a midsized SUV pokes out into the road, nailing my car in the back bumper. Like a pit maneuver from a police car in GTA, he spins me out and I screech to an abrupt stop. While there were no injuries and only slight damage to my car, raggatek undeniably played a role in this.
Discovering raggatek in Milan
Living in Malta, Milan is never too far to visit. It’s a city that has long cultivating countercurrent culture.
Continuing to document my month of raggatek listening from Milan’s Brera district, by chance I take a gander at where Vandal will be touring. Going through the list I see he has a date at Club 44 in Milan on the 10th of October – the night of my brother’s graduation.
It’s like it was meant to be.
Fast forward to 2:45AM, my brother and I are leaving our Italian friends at the bar singing and causing a public disturbance, receiving flak from the owner. While a taxi home for them is in sight, our night is far from over.
We stumble out of the cab southeast of the city and find ourselves locking eyes with a guy covered in face tattoos. Initially gruff, the bouncer changes his demeanor when we show him our tickets purchased online and happily shows us the entrance to the club with a laser pointer.
There we find, sprawling on the club terrace outside, the late-night creatures of Milan’s underground.
Through the cigarette smoke, we make it inside, and are met with a wall of pulsating sound. Once we opened that door, everything changed.
Living and breathing a Vandal show
The show is fantastic. We soak up a new culture, open our minds and sacrifice our ear drums in the name of exploration.
(by the way, don’t sacrifice your eardrums – we recommend these ear plugs from Loop)
We get Vandal for an hour and a half from 3:00 to 4:30AM and he plays for us his famous tracks mixed with a few that I’m not familiar with.
“Rolling Paper” is so well received he plays it twice!
There’s lots of mad jumping, much high fiving and a healthy amount of moshing. The Milanese crowd is super friendly and my brother and I, new fish in a school of raggatek, love it.
As the night goes on the pace gets faster. There was a point in time where I look at my brother and we both laugh, totally at a loss at how to move to this hardcore sound. Looking around, the crowd gesticulating and frothing like an agitated sea, the strobe lights giving us only half of the story as we glitch forwards and back.
By 4:35 AM, Vandal takes a bow and that’s it – the experiment has run full circle.
The next day we wake up with our ears ringing, but our hearts happy. After a month of research, discovery and challenges, the raggatek event is a culmination of this intense period. The joy of finding and experiencing the niche is just as good as introducing my brother to this obscure subculture.
A few of my findings:
- Raggatek is a fantastic blend of uplifting and dark underground sounds
- Don’t listen to raggatek behind the wheel of a motor vehicle
- Don’t ever forget ear protection– if you really love music you will protect your hearing
- That being said, put yourself in front of real speakers to truly understand and appreciate this kind of music
- The tekno and raggatek listening communities are a nice bunch – give their events a chance. In fact, broaden your horizons and give any music a chance, you never know what you’re going to find
- Raggatek and other hard styles of music are growing in popularity
My next steps?
Continuing to explore and listen to raggatek at a festival or even better, at a rave, in its natural environment.
That’s because raggatek’s original home is the great outdoors. It’s where you can stomp in the mud, breathe fresh air and feel the power of this music deep in your chest.
Follow us as we dive into the underworld
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