The Jungle Beat: Creating electronic beats in the Malaysian Rainforest

The environment can have a profound effect on the way we create music. It can change the way you feel, break old routines, and move you into a space you never thought you’d go to. It too, can inform a musician’s approach to their art.

Few would pick the rainforest as the first place to test this theory, but an opportunity to do just that, at an electronic beat-making workshop in the jungles outside of Kuala Lumpur, is hard to refuse.

Picture luscious green hills and tropical trees that wave in the breeze. That’s the backdrop to DETOUR Asia’s SoundLab, where artists from around the world meet to make electronic music against the croaks and cries of the frogs and lizards outside.

The studio is set among the wooden huts of a rainforest resort. Drum kits, guitars, bass amps, a Prophet, and a Moog are paired with simple wooden furniture and wide decks with worthy views. Beat-making here goes on long into the night, yet no one seems to wake sapped. The surroundings are invigorating: the rich natural sights and sounds captured on long strolls through the jungle provide samples and inspiration.The songs that waft through the halls have a raw energy to them that prompts many improvisational moments from the musicians and singers.

At the nearby Sora House, with its minimalist white floors and loft-like ceiling and thick jungle foliage draped across the balcony, artists dabble in deeper, ambient creations using laptops and headphones. They also gather field recordings to use in their work, capturing them late at night, lying in their beds, listening to the sound of the jungle outside. By layering those recordings with harmonies and beats, the artists find a way to make a sound out of silence.

Inside Soundlab’s musical jungle hut

“Drum kits, guitars, bass amps, a Prophet, and a Moog are paired with simple wooden furniture and wide decks with worthy views.”

When the workshop ends, the musicians exhibit their work at Feeka, a gallery in Malaysia’s sprawling capital. It’s a reasonable drive away, and having spent ten days immersed in flora and fauna, the concrete jungle can have a dizzying effect—after returning to the resort following the successful exhibition, no one stays up making music that night.

In a way, it mirrors regular city life for most of the musicians, whose creative output can at times be compromised by the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

In that sense, the environment at SoundLab has an invaluable effect on their process. It gives artists the time and space to explore new ideas—bringing nature into the studio lets new sounds free.

Thanks, Detour Asia, for sharing the rhythm of the jungle with us. Find out more about the agency and the SoundLab workshops here. The SoundLab workshop was a collaboration between Detour Asia, BorderMovement and the Goethe Institut.

The Malaysian edition of Soundlab took place at the beautiful Dusun, which kept the artists inspired with its breathtaking views.

To keep the tunes beating on, delve into the vast collection of FvF Mixtapes.

Text: Vanessa Fernandez
Photography:Lisanne Schulze

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