DJ Simon Green, aka Bonobo Barakas, has often talked about himself as being technically homeless, in the sense that he has toured so much in recent years he has been without fixed address for long stretches of time.
Simon simply wanders the globe, not unlike the way a bead of sweat meanders down a toddler’s forehead as it races to escape a mall, stopping here and there when it hits a pore.
For Bonobo, some nights its all about his live solo DJ sets in smaller clubs around the world, while other nights its about putting on shows with his ample-sized band, a multi-person ensemble consisting of strings, horns, guitars, keyboards, and more.
Ah yes, the man simply known as Bonobo has played everywhere there is for a DJ of his stature to play, sometimes playing smaller intimate shows and other times larger scale multi-media extravaganzas. His recent Northern Borders DVD chronicles a good chunk of his recent exploits.
Where Is Home?
For some, this sense of constant displacement might be too much. Most bands or touring musicians eventually head back to home base to regroup. For some musicians – in particular DJ’s – it is a nomadic life.
For Simon Green, he has described his constant touring as “a never ending holiday”, which is a nice way to put it. For him, he has said that DJ’ing is his home, which is a strong statement which actually warms our hearts to hear it. The idea that music itself can be home is, in its own way, reassuring. Home is where the heart is, as they say.
A Quick Look Back
Simon has been part of the fiercely indie Ninja Tune record label for over a decade, joining up with them in 2003 and at the same time releasing Dial “M” For Monkey, his first of many releases with that label, although it was by no means his first musical excursion.
The Bonobo moniker traces its origins back to the song “Terrapin” from 1999 on the Tru Thoughts U.K.-based indie label, which was his first official release in Simon’s long and illustrious career as a music maker. In this track, you can hear the musical affections for the things that will soon become his calling cards. More on those shortly – first, hear the track downbeat electronica’s favorite son produced himself and be magically whisked away to that year before Y2K sent us all screaming back to the dark ages, where we could truly find our inner bonobos once again!
Give An Ape A Turntable…
Many fans of electronic music from around the globe might only be familiar with Bonobo through his recorded albums – The North Borders, Days To Come, and Black Sands to name but a few… but Simon Green is a seasoned live DJ through and through, and his live sets are very much talked about among fans and fellow DJs alike.
Part of the reason we think Bonobo has such a strong reputation as a DJ is not because he tries to work the crowd into a frenzy with shamelessly overplayed hooks. No. Simon Green is a thinking person’s DJ, with a true sense of originality. He has his own tastes in sound, and he brings them to the table whenever he puts on a show. People actually come to hear this man put sounds together, in his own way. For the ears, it is a feast of sound. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t put on a show, but the main thing is that the music is the spectacle…
When he gets in front of a crowd, Simon remains his calm and collected self. He doesn’t resort to hamming it up – rather, he focuses solely on the music and lets it speak for him. Watch Bonobo below, performing at the Boiler Room to hear what we mean. As per usual, its a mean set, and the people dig it.
Ape For Bass
One thing to note about Bonobo’s sound, both on record and live, is his impeccable sense of low end. He himself is an electric bass aficionado, and particularly enamoured with the Music Man StingRay, and the boy can sure play.
During his live DJ sets, his overall control of the sound is what gets people moving, with a focus on both fine-ass basslines, and signature atmospherics. Simon has surely learned the art of multi-tasking on stage, and, like any wise musician, he acknowledges that a really good bass part with the right tone is really the key to a song.
Dig this performance of Bonobo playing his song “Sapphire” live on KCRW (L.A. radio) and check out some of his bass tendencies.
Bonobo Studio Albums / Enter The Sound Scape
While saying that DJ’ing is really his first love and “default”, Simon AKA Bonobo’s studio albums ought not be ignored, the latest of which is called Migration and has the release date of January 13th, 2017.
Here is Bonobo’s latest single, called Kerala, which once again captures the dreamlike and hypnotic qualities that have always been trademarks of Simon’s work. The smooth production, the delicate instrumentation, the keen attention to sonic details, and the innovation found in the video you will find below are all familiar signposts in Bonobo’s musical realm.
Down Tempo’s Favorite Son
If you have spent any time listening to a Bonobo album, you can immediately hear how it unifies many of Simon’s loves – if we may be permitted to speculate on those for a moment – including that sense of dislocation in the most pleasant of ways or the “never ending holiday”, as well as his love of beats, loops, and different types of samples. That said, Bonobo’s music is not always a serious rave up. The rhythms are often slow and sensual, with tinges of sadness and mourning that are just too strong – on record, Bonobo is more often after party music for the thinking raver. You can, of course, dance to it, or you can just relax…………………..
If you are new to Bonobo’s work, check out this album called Sweetness – a melancholic classic for the ages that is one of our favorites.
Beyond these paltry words we’ve said already, we might say to anyone preparing to tune in to the Bonobo wavelength that there is a worshipfulness of grooves and rhythms that is quite evident and bares repeated listens. There is always a very familiar human element to Bonobo’s music, with percussion that harkens to tribal sounds, ambient noises that speak to nature, and voices that literally speak to the listener at certain times. It is very human music, while also having a grand sense of atmosphere which makes you feel lighter than air. Alive in your own skin as an individual person, but suddenly connected to the rest of existence and riding the pulse, outside of time.
Or, if you’re looking for musical descriptors that you can tell your friend, Bonobo’s Wiki page calls his music thusly: electronica, trip hop, acid jazz, chillwave, downtempo, soul. All of which are fair enough.
Watch Bonobo’s What’s In My Bag episode below.