New Beat Belgium

Belgium hooked into the international house-craze of the late 1980's in a unique way : by developing an own brand of house, called New Beat. This monotonous discotheque dance-music, powered by a slow and heavy beat, combined the new elements of house-music with elements which existed in Belgian music for a number of years. These were the industrial and underground electrowave bands Front 242 , Poesie Noire , A Split Second and The Neon Judgement .

The New Beat - DJ's inspired themselves by the sound spectrum which was developed by these bands and started producing records at a high rate (and a low tempo ;-) ) Numerous new-beat hits were the consequence. Among which "Move your ass and feel the beat"

Plastic Bertrand . All these records managed to produce sales only dreamt of by regular Belgian musicians. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For a moment Belgium was at the forefront of the dance-revolution and about the hippest place on earth. It lasted only a few months though, when New Beat was replaced with newer fashions like acid-house etc... The new-beat-craze however had brought a lot of musicians to the dance scene, which later on resulted in successes like Technotronic , Two Unlimited , Praga Khan
and Cubic. The highest selling group of that wave of New-beat groups were Confetti's. This company of DJ's of the Antwerp-based club "Confetti's", with a waiter of the club as a singer, scored international hits with "The sound of C..", "C-day" and "C in China". OR 101 Rock To The Beat
A nice footnote in the "New Beat"-craze was the counter-reaction by the "traditional" rock-musicians in the form of the charming single "Ol' time religion ... so sad" by "the Sam Cooke Singers" of Leuven that was made a radio-hit by frustrated radio-producers. The lyrics : "so sad they like this new beat, their feet don't dance on nothing else no more". New Beat originated in Belgium and gained worldwide exposure briefly in the late nineteen eighties as all eyes in the worlds then fledgling dance community homed in to Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels. Characteristically New Beat tracks were between 95 bpm and 115 bpm. Tracks were often repetitive with heart stopping bass and explosive percussion. Originally the style was started by accident as DJ Marc Grouls played the maxi version of "flesh"
by A Split Second at 33rpm instead of 45rpm. Ronnie Harmsen (Fat Ronnie) was the originator when he then began to spin Maxi Singles at 33rpm instead of the stated 45rpm in several Antwerp clubs. People liked the slowed down versions and the scene was born. Influenced by this slowed down sound musicians started making records which were spun at clubs in the Belgian region. The two most famous clubs became the "Boccaccio ,in Destelbergen, Ghent and the "Acienne Belgique" in Brussels. Clubbers from around the Lowlands and the UK flooded into both clubs to hear the latest New Beat sounds Taking its influence from Electronic Body Music, Detroit Techno and Acid House. New Beat musicians threw all styles into the melting pot and were never afraid to experiment. Antler Records were the first record label to take this new style seriously. Founded in the early 1980's Antler was best known for releasing industrial music. In 1987 it merged with Subway Records
to form Antler Subway becoming one of the biggest supporters of New Beat Music. Other labels were quick to follow including R&S
and Music Man. It was Subway though who became the biggest advocates of the genre releasing the now legenadary "Take" series of releases which gathered the best tracks from the scene on its compilations.
This music was not however destined to remain as just an underground trend. Soon hits emerged and New Beat began to take over the Belgian pop charts. The UK music press at the time picked up on the genre and the NME devoted a front page feature to this new Belgian sound and Music Express also ran a feature The decline of the genre happened when the larger labels decided to cash in on New Beat and make some money. A genre which was properly started in 1987 was by 1990 collapsing. Many citing the commercial new beat version of Rocco Granata's "marina" as being the defining moment when the scene was all but over and the energy lost. That said some spectacular hits did emerge from the genre non bigger than Technotronic's "pump up the jam" written by Jo Bogaert. The orginal version had no vocals but was heavily infuenced by the New Beat sound and was mostly ignored. With the famously added vocal the remix version ended up in the top reaches of the USA and British charts and made its now reclusive creator from Aalst a millionaire. New Beat began to fracture into sub genres of its own, there was 'Hard Beat', where the sound was harder and dirtier typified by the early work of Lords Of Acid, Miss Nicky Trax and Zsa Zsa Laboum.
'Acid Beat' was another genre which was born, the sound was again dirty, the acid was usually sampled TB-303 basslines with overlayed sex and film samples. The Belgian sound had come a long way from its mistake ridden beginnings to the top of the American and UK Charts. Its influences on electronic music were far and wide. Many people have been touched by the sound of New Beat and cite New Beat as being influential in their work. From Carl Craig to the Prodigy, Orbital to the Chemical Brothers, even Autechre, all have been influenced by New Beat. The KLF
brought it overground and into the charts with their New Beat influenced trance classics. You can even trace New Beat stylings in many genres of today's electronic music. Yet to this day this style is still not given any real praise from the dance community and has been ignored and virtually forgotten. No creative value has been placed on this music. Whereas you see classic acid nights and techno nights you seldom see any New Beat nights. New Beat was the sound of Belgium between 1987 and 1990 and was at the cutting edge of creativity in electronic music at that time alongside the much lauded scenes in Detroit and Chicago. It holds a special place in in the minds of those who were touched by the sound.

Special Thanks to The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives & BELGIAN NEW-BEAT