Gabber (//; Dutch: [ˈxɑbər]), is a style of electronic music and a subgenre of hardcore techno. It is characterised by fast beats and samples, and was developed in Rotterdam in the 1990s by producers like Paul Elstak. Seminal early labels were Rotterdam Records, Mokum Records, and Industrial Strength Recordings. The word "gabber" comes from Amsterdam Bargoens slang and means "friend".
|Cultural origins||Early 1990s, Netherlands (Rotterdam)|
|Derivative forms||Mainstream hardcore|
|Early hardcore, mainstream hardcore|
Gabber and its subculture became highly popular in the Netherlands, eventually becoming part of mainstream culture in the 1990s. The music quickly spread to London and the Midwestern United States. After falling out of fashion, it became popular again in the 2000s and once more in the late 2010s.
Gabber, also known as gabba, early hardcore, or Rotterdam hardcore, is a style of electronic music and a subgenre of hardcore techno. It was derived from acid house, techno and New Beat in the early 1990s. The musical style is described as "a relentless mix of superfast BPMs, distorted kickdrums, and roared vocals". The music is typically 180 to 190 beats per minute with samples taken from films or other tracks.
The word "gabber" comes from an Amsterdam Bargoens slang based on the Hebrew chaver) meaning "mate" or "friend". An Amsterdam DJ was asked about the hard Rotterdam scene and said "They're just a bunch of gabbers having fun". Having heard this, Paul Elstak etched in the vinyl on the first Euromasters record (released through Rotterdam Records in 1992), "Gabber zijn is geen schande!" ("It's not a disgrace to be a gabber!"). The word gained popularity in the Rotterdam music scene and people started to call themselves "gabbers".
Influential early labels were DJ Paul Elstak's Rotterdam Records, Mokum Records in Amsterdam, and Lenny Dee's New York based Industrial Strength Recordings. Alongside Elstak and Dee, other early artists included Marc Acardipane, The Prophet, and Rotterdam Termination Source.
Elstak and DJ Rob organised parties first at Parkzicht in Rotterdam and when the numbers attending increased they moved to the Energiehal. ID&T later organised Thunderdome parties for up to 40,000 people. When the sound spread to London in the mid-1990s, Dead by Dawn parties at the 121 Centre in Brixton played gabba, speedcore, and noise. In the Midwestern United States, gabber inspired the foundation of the label Drop Bass Network.
The popularity of gabber created a youth subculture in the Netherlands. Fashion-wise, gabber ravers wore tracksuits, bomber jackets, and Nike Air Max shoes. Tennis tracksuits from the Italian fashion label L’Alpina were prized. Most men shaved their heads bald, while women braided their hair and shaved the sides. Drug use was common, with ecstasy and speed the popular choice.
Later the look became blouses and short skirts for women. Men wore polo shirts and shirts with jeans and army boots, with a racist minority wearing the Lonsdale brand because of its connection to right-wing extremism. Gabber also had a small following in the German neo-Nazi fringe movement. In order to repudiate the connection, labels and artists began to release anti-fascist and anti-racist statements. Some examples includes "Chosen Anthem (Against Racism)" by DJ Chosen Few, "Die Nazi Scum" by Party Animals featuring MC Rob Gee, "Time to Make a Stand" by United Hardcore and "Fuck the Nazism" by Hellcore. Mokum Records made its slogan (printed on all records): "Hardcore united against fascism and racism" and in addition some gabber producers are people of colour such as Dark Raver, Paul Elstak, and Loftgroover. When gabber became popular again in the 2000s, Dutch neo-Nazis attempted to capitalise on it but their structures were short-lived.
By the mid-1990s, gabber had become part of mainstream culture in the Netherlands. Billboard magazine called it the country's "first homegrown youth culture" in 1997. Its popularity also led to parody tracks such as Gabber Piet's "Hakke & Zage" which drew on the theme tune of the Peppi & Kokki children's television show. The name also referred to hakken, the style of gabber dancing characterised by fast leg movements which had become popular. Gabber fans were angered by the commercialisation of their scene and Gabber Piet was fired from his job at ID&T. His album Love U Hardcore attempted to make amends but it did not sell well.
In the late 2010s, gabber experienced another resurgence with artists such as Nina Kraviz and groups such as Boiler Room welcoming harder and faster beats again. Thunderdome organised a party to celebrate 25 years of hardcore at the Jaarbeurs congress centre in Utrecht. It was attended by 40,000 ravers.
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