'Ritmos Bastardos' Film Tells the Tale of Zizek's Buenos Aires Underground Club Night

Daniel Forstein
Label founders Nim, Villa Diamante and Grant C. Dull photographed in 2014.

It’s 2006 and a Buenos Aires underground club night is named after philosopher Slavoj Žižek, whose Slovenian last name has no association to the Spanish language. His use of contemporary references within his philosophies, however, somewhat mirrored what Diego, aka Villa Diamante, one of three founders of Zizek & ZZK Records, was envisioning: to blend different genres in no order and with no formula with the goal to revolutionize the dance floor.

“It was somewhat of an inside joke between Villa, Nim and I,” Grant C. Dull, another co-founder of Zizek & ZZK Records, tells Billboard. “Slavoj Žižek was kind of a rock star in Argentina at the time. He had a few presentations, dated a lingerie model, so the fame around his name already existed, especially around intellectuals and film experts. When Villa proposed the name, we liked the aesthetics and phonetics of the word, and with Žižek’s background and the urgency of a name, it was a unanimous agreement.”

13 years after its inception, ZZK Films released Ritmos Bastardos (Bastard Rhythms) on Monday (Sept. 30), directed by Argentinian Pablo Mensi. The film is a chronicle that rescues the tales ranging from the ancestral roots of Latin American music to the most urban and international experimental sounds since the first weekly party. 

The avant-garde movement -- which emerged in 2000 in the backrooms of Tijuana, Bogotá and Santiago, and took form a few years later in Buenos Aires’ underground culture -- became a boundless exploration of the mestizo rhythms of Latin America; a mix of popular music, freestyle, danceable and unprejudiced sounds. "Bastard pop,” as Diamente called it, fused Missy Elliott with Damas Gratis, mashing up old Argentine chacareras with Baltimore Club music, with dubstep.

The Zizek weekly party drew inspiration from the Dutch artist and musician Dick Verdult, who goes by the moniker Dick El Demasiado (Dick Too Much), and his Festicumex that launched in Buenos Aires in 2003. “Dick or any of the first protagonists of the movement didn’t really envision it lasting as long as it has or becoming this global phenomenon,” Dull adds. “When we started the club night in 2006, my vision of working in Buenos Aires and its artists was always to put them on a global scale. I first launched a website of the city highlighting what was happening at the time with bilingual content, so we spoke to the locals, the porteños and gained and international audience immediately.”

The Zizek club night was a three-part conception between American Dull, and Argentinians Diamante and Nim, the third founder. Argentina was enduring a distressful socioeconomic period, thus some persuasion was needed to fulfill the plan. “I was kind of the weird expat in Argentina which never said no to anything and brought in the ‘never say die-American-work ethic’ that I grew up in,” Dull remembers. “The fact that in Argentina you really don’t know if the next day the economy is going to bottom out was a concern.” It didn’t take long, though, for Diamante and Nim to jump on board. The artists trailed. Chancha Via Circuito, Fauna, Remolón, Frikstailers, and Mati Zundel are just among the few original music club night producers and performers. 

The connection with Diplo followed, who became the headliner of Zizek’s first sold-out anniversary party on Oct. 2007 –with 1,000 in attendance. “I loved Diplo’s exploration of Brazilian baile funk,” Dull adds. “He was performing in Buenos Aires, so I reached out to him. A friend of mine from the band Fantasma was working in Villa 20, a slum neighborhood in the outskirts of Buenos Aires so we went there, had a street asado and listened to cumbia all night long. We also went to a bailanta, a cumbia club of 3,000 crowd. That was the beginning of our friendship.”

Two years in for the mashed-up club night to stand on its own and the birth of ZZK Records was inevitable. “Once the label was conceived in 2008 we were not only running the club night every week, we started touring and putting albums out,” Dull continues. “I took the label under my wings and Villa and Nim handled the club nights.”

From a pocket of Argentine producers and acts in 2008 to an international cluster in 2009, ZZK Records delved into unknown ground and fused an mix of global sounds and cross-genre experimenters with Latin American beats, particularly “digital cumbia,” as coined by Diamante. “The underground international connection was immediate,” adds Dull. “Half of the producers in our second album, ZZK Sound Vol. 2 (2009), were international.”

Uproot Andy from New York, Ghislain Poirier  from Montreal, Sonido del Principe from Holland, Zonora Point from Chile, Douster from France were just some of the international presence which showed the weight the sound had behind it. Newcomers Nicola Cruz, Mateo Kingman and Montoya are just a few of the second wave acts who have performed in the mammoth Coachella, Roskilde, Sonar, Fuji Rock, Mutek and Lollapalooza festivals.

“Luckily and thanks to the advent of digital, the story is quite well documented, even with a cheap digital camera from 2006,” Mensi tells Billboard about Ritmos Bastardos.  “That pixelated image speaks of that time. We still have some gem that will appear later; we are still expanding on the journey within a sociocultural viewpoint.”

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