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Remembering Bamboo Musik

It’s been over a month since Bamboo Musik played its last song. But although the lights have come on and the smoke has receded up the Mercat basement stairs, the memory remains. Mostly in the candle wax we’re still picking out of our best funeral...
Photos by Tin Nguyen.

It's been over a month since Bamboo Musik played its last song. But although the lights have come on and the smoke has receded up the Mercat basement stairs to the Queen Vic market organic produce aisle, the memory remains. Mostly in the candle wax we're still picking out of our best funeral attire.

Conceived by Rohan Bell-Towers and Misha Hollenbach in 2009, Bamboo Musik had four blissful years on the Melbourne EDM scene.


It stood apart from other regular nights—not just about the music, but also the people, props, posters, and most of all the dancing. It inspired the type of loyalty reserved for places you can arrive to at midnight and suddenly realize it's 7AM and you're enjoying a post-club espresso and croissant. Like all great parties, the regulars became family, and every date was be anticipated for months in advance.

Over the years, Rohan and Misha have hosted Kenji Takimi (Crue-L), Lovefingers (ESP), Maxmillion Dunbar (Future Times/RVNG/L.I.E.S), and Michael Kucyk (Noise In My Head); as well entertaining an impressive number of top quality party themes. My personal favourites include: Renaissance Fair, the Stock Exchange, Pelican Nights, and Priority Delivery—dress as a postman, dance on mailing box podiums.

The last stand was a somber affair, complete with incense-led funeral procession of core devotees in mourning outfits, to a candle-lit altar where DJs Dick Cheese and Roman Wafers led us out for one final boogie.

I spoke to Rohan about his party memories and post Bamboo life as he leapfrogged from Berlin to Moscow and finally London, where he has sadly moved. The EDM spoilt British better appreciate him.

THUMP: So how did Bamboo actually begin?
Rohan Bell-Towers:The birth of Bamboo was the combination of two things: ever since we first met, Misha and I have talked about and shared similar ideas in music—naturally we started DJing together and eventually became okay at it.


What kind of ideas?
Energy, feeling, tempo, genre, and the importance of dancing. Occasionally people would ask me if we ever practiced, which was definitely not the case. Sometimes there would be a little communication pre-party, "I'm feeling funky, I'm feeling tough," but that was about it.

How did it evolve from two mates learning to DJ, to a party institution?
Our mutual friend Amelia had recently enjoyed some party promotions success with her role in WOMB and thought that together we'd be able to pull off throwing a decent party. Through another mutual friend we were introduced to the Mercat, which had recently undergone a "change in management", we set a date and tried our luck.

Do you remember much about the first one?
From memory not so many people came to the first party—I'd say around 75. Over half of these 75 would attend party after party making for a strong core vibe. Sure, you'll make friends if you throw a cool party, but you've gotta have a core group who care and enjoy what you're doing in the first place.

How was it different to anything else going on in Melbourne at the time? Do you think it filled a gap?
The only real gap the party filled was it being a place where Misha and myself could DJ for a long duration in a nightclub. I think that most people would agree that Bamboo Musik was not regular club play—so that's a niche in itself.

The first one didn't have a theme, how did that tradition evolve?
The first party may have had a theme, but it wasn't very well articulated. More defined themes came about from the second party onwards; partially to give some direction to the flyers, partially to distract from that we were essentially throwing the same party. Don't get me wrong, a couple of the themes were really fun like Renaissance Fair, but after a few years of themed parties it's like, "Do I really want to be throwing a themed party? Is that really me?" Around this time the flyers became more stripped back often missing important information like who was DJing or where it was being held.


How did the party change over the four years?
If anything Bamboo shifted from being a trendy party where people take photos to something a little more club: younger club kids coming along, more intense music and later nights. Either that or it became trendy to be a young club kid and people began to realise that the excessive use of smoke machine simply made it too hard to get a good shot.

In retrospect what are the true Boo' anthems?
I named a track from one of my 12" releases "Theme From Bamboo Musik", but it kinda never really lived up to its name in the club. This really stupid song held the number one position of last track of the night for several years, it dropped off for a little while and then returned for the last song of the last party. When that cheesy melody kicked in for the last time it was super emotional.

It's funny, Misha had a few tracks that he always played at the parties but I have no idea of the titles. The same probably goes for Misha with my bag. When we play back to back in the club we don't really talk, we just play. One record each, one after another, for hours on end. I guess we communicated with our records.

Are you sad to close this chapter?
Of course I'm sad, but it was nice going out on top. The final party was very well attended.

Are there any plans for resurrection?
For sure the Bamboo Musik DJs will DJ again, but it won't be a Bamboo Musik party so to speak.