Electro-swing - Tonight we're going to party like it's 1929

Electro-swing, mixing Noughties beats with Twenties jazz, is the latest craze to hit the clubs and festivals. Rahul Verma gets in a flap

A skinny man wearing a monocle, tailcoat, cravat, brogues and pink Lycra leggings struts across stage, nodding to Ella Fitzgerald. As the First Lady of Song's flawless tones give way to thundering drum'n'bass, the young man explodes into a frenzy of scatting and comedy dancing. The audience, made up of ladies in flapper dresses, fascinators, and feather boas, and chaps with waxed moustaches, bowler hats and smoking jackets, whoops and roars in delight.

Welcome to The Correspondents' live show, and to electro-swing, a blossoming, micro-club-scene fusing the music of the 1920s to 1940s, (swing, jazz, big band) with electro, drum'n'bass, house, dubstep and even hip-hop. And this summer it's coming to a festival near you, having already become a word-of-mouth sensation at Glastonbury, Bestival, Big Chill and Secret Garden Party last year.

In club terms, electro-swing isn't as established as, say, burlesque, but in our socially networked age no scene remains hush-hush for long. It's already filtering into the mainstream. Last summer Gramophonedzie's show-stopping, Ibiza-house anthem "Why Don't You", sampling the husky 1940s jazz icon Peggy Lee, peaked at No 12 in the UK while Australians Yolanda Be Cool topped the charts in Britain, Denmark, Holland and Sweden, with "We Speak No Americano", a jaunty house hit built around 1940s Neapolitan jazz.

The Correspondents and Gramophonedzie share a passion both for electronic dance music and for jazz and swing, but only hit upon fusing the two in recent years.

"There wasn't a premeditated idea to mix swing with current music. I've always been a huge fan of jazz and my journeys through sampling eventually took me back to swing and rhythm and blues", explains Mr Chuckles, The Correspondents' DJ/producer.

"I've been making house for 10 years, and was exploring music to sample. I'm really fond of jazz, blues and swing, that's the main reason I sampled Peggy Lee – plus my girlfriend really likes the original song "Why Don't You Do Right?", explains Belgrade-based Marko "Gramophonedzie" Milicevic. "Swing and jazz is really fast, it was made for clubs and dancing, the only difference is it was made many years ago. There are songs by Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong you can play in clubs today with a slight tweak."

Why does the union of dance music of eras separated by 70 years work so well? "Swing and R'n'B are the dance pop music of their eras, so there's an obvious synergy," notes Mr Chuckles.

"In my teens I listened to nothing but drum'n'bass, particularly the jazzy end of it. I broadened my taste and found swing to be surprisingly similar to the former obsession," adds Correspondents' front man Mr Bruce.

Nick Hollywood is the suave impresario nurturing electro-swing in Britain: he has curated two compilations (White Mink: Black Cotton) on Freshly Squeezed (the label behind The Correspondents' debut EP), introduced electro-swing to festivals, and tends its grassroots through monthly nights in Brighton and London and a Facebook page.

Electro-swing's popularity relates to today's tough economic conditions, which echo troubled financial times in the 1930s, says Hollywood. "Electro-swing samples music from between the World Wars and the Great Depression, and today's turbulence is a parallel. The attitude then was, 'hey let's forget about that and party,' and that spirit seems right for now. People seem to connect with the hedonism, escapism and glamour".

Electro-swing also feeds into contemporary clubland's penchant for revisiting the flamboyant nightlife of yesteryear – over any weekend in the UK you're likely to find burlesque cabaret, 1950s rock'n'roll'n'bowling nights, and 1920s Prohibition-themed nights with pop-up speakeasies serving alcohol in teacups. The broader trend for vintage fashion and a growing interest in the quintessential English gentleman (see the magazine The Chap, and www.thechap.net), suggest that electro-swing's time is now.

"The vintage fashion and burlesque revival definitely has something to do with electro-swing's popularity, but there's also the escapist nature of delivering yourself into a different era for a night", reckons Mr Chuckles.

Carefree escapism, stepping back in time when we're obsessed with the future, glamour, and visual spectacle make for an alluring, vivacious alternative to monochrome electronic music – which is often focused on a DJ, dark room, and heads-down dancing. Electro-swing, on the other hand, sees the audience as stars or part of the experience. Dressing up in period garb is a great ice-breaker, making for a social experience for twenty-, thirty- and forty-something hedonists.

Rob da Bank was inspired to broadcast an electro-swing special on Radio 1 after seeing its popularity grow steadily at his festival, Bestival.

"Electro-swing has been at Bestival in some form or another for five years – at first it didn't have a name. I understood it from the off and pushed it at Bestival, and gradually more people have got it and it's taken off", he explains. "It's got happy vibes, which is much needed as traditional electronic dance music can be so serious. To have dance music with fun, humour and bounce really works. It's propulsive and makes you want to get up and dance – in festival and club terms it's fantastic".

Modern music that samples early 20th-century music isn't new. But whereas Jive Bunny's late-1980s cut-and-shut medleys, and Doop's mid-1990s Charleston-house, reek of novelty, electro-swing's executions are charming, respectful and easy on the ear. Importantly, today's remixes of retro music are centred on a genuine club scene, which is snowballing in the UK, Europe, and beyond.

Stockholm swing-hop crew The Movits are national treasures and have an unlikely American following after appearing on comedy show The Colbert Report. Meanwhile, Parisian electro-swingers Caravan Palace (with more than three million YouTube views) saw their album peak at No 11 in France and remain in the charts for 68 consecutive weeks – Rihanna and Adele eat your heart out.

"In Europe electro-swing's absolutely huge, and the commercial side of it, with Caravan Palace who are household names in France, is massive," observes da Bank. "It's also big in Germany and Eastern Europe. The UK's more of a discerning market so it will be tricky to break on a mainstream level. We're not as swinging or funky as France. That might mean it will stay a cool club, and festival, scene. Which is no bad thing."

So what's in store for electro-swing? Unlike the economy, dynamic growth: The Correspondents are midway through a 35-date tour across eight countries, while Hollywood has once again secured a major presence at Glastonbury and Bestival, and continues to host monthly nights in Brighton and London. The first Electro Swing Festival, over Easter weekend, brought bands including 11-strong Fat 45, French swing-rap crew Algorythmik, DJs mixing electro-swing with racy black-and-white visuals, and unsung scene pioneer Chris Tofu, plus a gramophone/78s disco and dance lessons, to Shoreditch's Book Club.

The Correspondents hope to explore more mind-boggling, hip-shaking fusions. "Electro-swing will have some surprises – Chucks is throwing boogie-woogie, Afro beat and dubstep into the cauldron", says Mr Bruce. Da Bank feels electro-swing is at the beginning of its curve. "It's fresh and versatile – you can have electro, drum'n'bass, or hip-hop behind it. It can be mixed with anything, so it will cross over into other scenes too – we're really only at the start of electro-swing".

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin