Inspiration and information can hit you at any time and it can come from any place. Take the case Akshu, a 28 year-old beatmaker from Jammu & Kashmir, India…
“My introduction to breakbeats?” he smiles. “I actually heard the Funky Drummer break in the intro of the Powerpuff Girls song!”
Since that childhood revelation, Akshu has remained animated about broken beats ever since. 20 years later he’s smashing out his debut jungle EP – Brace For Impact – an EP that rattles, bangs, slaps and shocks like he was brought up in Bristol years before his time. A powerful hit to the senses, sculpted with vivid and intense intention, what makes it even more fascinating is the fact he only discovered jungle during lockdown.
Take a listen before we go any further…
“I have a bit of a history for digging into things,” explains Akshu who spent extended periods in isolation, protected from a scary reality of life in Kashmir at the time. “The 90’s were turbulent times for Jammu and Kashmir. The political unrest still has a deep impact on everyone living here. I grew up moving around between Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh back then. I was privileged enough to be protected and isolated from the external atmosphere but one couldn’t help but feel the chaos around. Making friends with local children in the playgrounds, I was exposed to a different version of reality. A reality filled with horrifying tales of the ordeals other kids my age and their families went through.”
As a means of escapism from this often brutal reality, over the years Akshu explored all kinds of flavours and forms of music. A nonstop voyage of discovery, the Powerpuff Girls were followed by his cousins in New York who put him on to hip-hop years before his local friends got into it.
“I was the weird kid in school,” he grins. “I was in school writing rhymes and people were like, ‘What is up with you? Why are you writing this shit? What is this shit? They’re just saying words over drums.’ Now of course everyone here is a hip-hop fan.”
Akshu’s love of hip-hop remains strong but his voyage didn’t stop there. Delving deeper and deeper in the breakbeat realm, he’s struck gold in numerous places. Firstly there’s his Minding Your Business show on Indian streaming radio Boxout FM. Each episode joining dots between soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop and many other worldly grooves, his odysseys essentially tell the tale of hip-hop, sampling and breakbeat culture from the roots to the present day. But it’s his recent exploration into jungle that’s really hit the inspiration spot.
“Drum & bass and jungle came to me at a time when I needed something new,” he tells 1 More Thing. “I’d hurt my back and was bedridden for a bit. I was just lying down with my laptop on my stomach trying to make beats. Very bored and frustrated. So I switched up the BPMs looking for more higher energy stuff and it led me to jungle. I was like, ‘Woah what is this shit? I need to make this!’”
An old school Peshay studio set was the deal sealer; enlightening him to the art of luminaries such as Photek, Bizzy B and Source Direct, Akshu felt born again. “It was a completely different universe. It still sounds fresh and futuristic even now,” he gushes. “It’s just so many different styles coming together. There was no set format. They were bringing in techno, ragga, dub, soul and hip-hop influences, among many. It was this meeting point of all these things.”
“How jungle has sounded throughout the years has been a direct outcome of the accessible technology at the times,” Akshu continues. “From trackers to 12 bit samplers, the sound evolved as the technology did. The Akai pitch stretch still makes me go, ‘woah’ and sounds like the most futuristic thing even to this day.”
Inspired and informed, Akshu’s main mission is to now put his own twist and his own heritage on the jungle sound. Creatively he’s on a mission to show how accessible production can be and how the idea hold much more value than any amount of kit you’re using. “I want to show it’s accessible. You don’t need all this kit, all these VSTs, all this hardware. If you have a laptop and headphones you can do this,” he explains. “I feel like everyone has gear accumulation syndrome and getting that next bit of kit will be the answer to your problems… It won’t!”
Wise words. But for Akshu the most important part of this stage of his creative journey is to ensure he’s representing his roots and adding to the conversation with his unique voice. “It’s important for me to make music that’s authentic to my life experience,” he considers. “Eventually you get to this point where you understand what you want to do and sound like. For progress, one has to deviate from the norm. Maybe me doing this would inspire someone from where I’m from to do something way greater than I could ever do.”