Que Bajo Records: Global Dance Music That Sounds Like Home

PHOTO: Geko Jones and Uproot Andy, the DJ duo behind Que Bajo records.Zulu Padilla
Geko Jones and Uproot Andy, the DJ duo behind Que Bajo records.

For those in New York who like to party and have a taste for global roots music, the names Uproot Andy and Geko Jones conjure up the following image: a sweaty, wee-hours-of-the-morning dance party, curly locks and limbs flying through the air, while a tasty combination of traditional Latin music and heavy club beats bangs from the speakers.

Since its founding five years ago, the DJ duo’s Que Bajo?! party has been the premium club night for underground Latin dance music. It’s the kind of party where you’ll hear electronic cumbia mashed up with a vintage Wu-Tang verse, or where Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente” spontaneously disintegrates into a heady trap break. It’s where ancestral folk traditions, Latin pop culture and cutting-edge electronic trends come together, and for many young Latinos navigating all sorts of different worlds, it sounds like home.

Now, Andy and Geko are taking the Que Bajo concept to new places with Que Bajo Records, a digital music label dedicated to making the kinds of sounds that you’d hear at Que Bajo available to wider audiences. This week, they’ve put out their second release¬, Worldwide Ting Vol. 2 , available for free download on the Que Bajo website. It’s a collection of six dance floor-ready remixes by Uproot Andy, with source music ranging from French Caribbean pop to Colombian salsa, heavily altered with fat synthesizers and drums.

“The idea behind Que Bajo Record is that we’ve been on the front lines of the global bass scene remixing music and getting exclusives for the party, but didn’t have an outlet for them,” says Geko Jones. Since many of the tunes remixed by Andy and Geko are old recordings from around the developing world, they say tracking down and securing rights to sell the remixes could be near impossible. Instead, they decided to give them away for free, but with a philosophy of making sure the original artist always gets credit. “We want people who like the remixes to be able to go and find out more about the original artist,” says Uproot Andy (Andy Gillis). “I’m not just using it as a sample to make hip-hop or house or whatever. Usually if I’m remixing music it’s because I love it and want people to hear it.”

The origins of Que Bajo reach back to 2007, when Uproot Andy and Geko Jones (Roberto Fernandez) met one night out in New York City. Geko was handing a flyer that piqued Andy’s interest. He was throwing a regular party called New York Tropical at the time with DJ /rupture and Matt Shadetek < /a>, playing club music from around the world.

Meanwhile, Andy was spinning similar stuff at the storied Mehanata Bulgaria Bar and tinkering around with electronic cumbia remixes. The two instantly bonded over a mutual love for Afro-Colombian music. “He really knows his stuff, and I didn’t have anybody to talk to about all this music that I was digging for. It was really nice to find someone share my enthusiasm,” recalls Geko.

They soon decided to partner up and start a party. “I was making all this music and didn’t know where to play it, and there’s all this other music that we love being made in Latin America that wasn’t represented in New York nightlife,” says Andy. “We thought: ‘there’s got to be a market for this.’”

They threw the first Que Bajo?! in 2008, on the eve of Obama’s election, at a little place in Brooklyn. (Andy recalls playing “Si dios fuera negro” by Roberto Angeró after election results came in.) The concept was to create a space for underground Latin electronic music, as well as sounds from places like Colombia, Peru and Mexico, providing an alternative to straightforward salsa and reggaeton that dominated the Latin club scene in New York. It caught on quick, and soon Que Bajo?! was regularly packing Manhattan clubs like APT and Santos Party House.

Now, five years in, Que Bajo?! has evolved past its original Latin focus. “We don’t want to settle for it to just be a Latin party because we have love for music from all over the world,” says Andy. “It established itself as a Latin identity thing to a big degree but it’s also grown to a more diverse night, both in the music that we play and in who comes to the party.”

A listen to Worldwide Ting Vol. 2 confirms that Que Bajo is casting a globe-sized musical net. The album begins with remix of “America” by rapper K’Naan that samples a golden-age Ethiopian jazz tune, then moving to a dembow-heavy salsa remix before jumping to a synth-laden reworking of a pop song from Guadeloupe. In the rest of the album, Andy touches on Algerian raï, Mexican cumbia sonidera and music from Brazil’s Northeast region.

According to Geko, future releases from Que Bajo Records will be less of a “world tour” and focus on specific regions or styles—first up are plans to feature Suriname and Angola. The pair isn’t directly profiting from the releases, so for now, it’s really all about creating a way to get the Que Bajo sound out there into the world. “I know I should be working on an original music album I can sell,” says Andy. “But the fact is I can’t stop making these remixes. You just get a moment of inspiration and you do it. And I’m always inspired by something.”