The crucial instrument in popular music and at the same time the least exposed is the bass. Listeners usually don’t pay much attention to the bass line in a song but rather perceive it as the (fat, strong, groovy) lowermost sound to which they move their bottoms. This is because it is easier for the human ear to concentrate on higher voices/ frequencies; the lower ones are usually perceived subconsciously. On the other hand, not hearing the bass line is also a sign of a good arrangement. The bass guitar is both, a rhytmical and melodical instrument and functions as a glue between the rhythm and the melody as well as accompanies other musical segments in a composition. A bass player therefore needs to have a good knowledge of both and if he/she succeeds to make a good bass line it usually affects the entire song, it becomes seemingly imperceptible and makes the song work as a whole. Bass players also don’t mind being at the back of the stage, they understand their important role so their goal is to focus on playing the instrument and making the bass line as fluent as possible to give a strong base other instruments/vocals can lean on.
However, some players deserve more attention! Not for their arresting looks with ray ban sun glasses and a cheesy smile but rather for their playing which speaks for itself as well as for their extensive array of recorded examples and collaborations. Here I am presenting some fellow musicians from my region, bass players that are still active (except one) accompanied with some audio examples. I apologize for not mentioning any girls in this article but it seems in my country they prefer other instruments to the robust bass. Nevertheless, there are a number of young female bass players in the world that seem to know very well what they are doing.
Let’s start with Jani Hace. He has colaborated with almost every musician in the country or, better said nobody would in the least mind collaborating with him. His playlist is long, his style versatile, his understanding of genres wide; his bass lines often stand out (almost as solo compositions) even if melted into one with the arrangement. He has been on the scene for more than 30 years. His playing varies from double stroke technique, slap style to using pick. Let’s listen to one of his collaborations:
Nikola Sekulovič is also a veteran on the Slovenian music scene. Playing in bands Demolition group, Dan D, Borghesia, Laibach he is known to some of the biggest stages in the world. His style is unique, his understanding of the music scene is rich and has led him to start the managing business. Someone who is a manager and at the same time possesses complete technical mastery of his instrument is a very promising combination for the overall scene. Please, God, we need more of them. Here is an example of a song made for the movie Sladke Sanje (Sweet Dreams) where the bass line is also to blame that the song has become one of the country’s evergreens.
VIS Mesecina – Twist
Let’s move to the next bassist Jan Gregorka, where a comparison of his playing with the sound of the automatic gun is necessary. I am talking about Artbeaters’ composition of the song Fractals:
Though left-handed bass player Jan Gregorka is familiar with the right-handed bass guitar and one can not easily detect the difference unless looking directly under his fingers or listening very closely. Let’s just move on not to get some bass fever.
The next name on our list is Tadej Kampl. I have seen him playing live a number of times and I must say his fingers are nimble; his knowledge of the finger techniques tells about hours of practice and the result is playing more abroad than at home. His domicile is in jazz but his collaborations expand to popular genres as well. Try to catch this man live and I am sure his appealing nature as well as his playful style will not leave you unmoved.
Tadej Kampl – Life Is Good (Album)
Let’s move to the field of improvisation for a while. The next three guys – Jošt Drašler, Tomaž Grom, Tierno Diallo – have decided not just to play conventional bass lines in songs but also to develop their own approach to music. When playing solo arrangements the musician becomes the artist in a newly concepted music field, usually with the discovering purpose; each musician approaches music in his own way.
Tomaž Grom writes music for the theatre, films and solo performances; during his years of composing he has invented a representative style that has lead him to collaborations with different people and musical paths. One of them was to make reinterpretations of songs for children with children. Here is one of these interesting approaches:
Jošt Drašler’s approach is similar to Grom’s although he more often plays in bigger assemblies – up to twenty people – where improvisation is an even more difficult task if the end result is not to be too confusing for the listener.
Improvisation rule number one is listening, especially others; one with sharpened ears is Tierno Diallo. Together with his approach to playing, he presents a mesmerizing combination you could listen to for hours, even when he is playing alone. For years Tierno has been the organizer of jam sessions in Rog, squatting place in Ljubljana, where he received the title of the most open-minded organizer in town. Sound for him has no limits and no mistakes. He has mastered his own rhytmical technique – difficult to follow by means of counting, easier by simply feeling.
Tierno’s improvisations are easy to find on the cobbled streets in Ljubljana and difficult to get online; here I present an example of his playing in a group he collaborated with:
Nejc Kržič started his career on the alternative scene and later started collaborating with fellow musicians on a bigger scale. He is fully involved also in music production and has expanded his knowledge to other bass instruments – mono-synth synthesizers. Playing his instrument from a very young age he has the bass in his veins the same way African children learn their dance moves; making almost undetectable bass lines. One of his earlier examples:
Damir Vintar is one of the self-taught players on the scene. It seems he has adjusted to one simple rule – follow the best bass players in the world and then become one of the best yourself. You have to catch Damir improvising at some jam session where he is most convincing. Here is one example recorded in a studio:
The Invisible Intelligence – Full Album
Sandi Kragelj used to be the bass player of Heavy Les Wanted, one of the first funk bands in the country and still one of the best. What this guy has been doing after 1996 is a mystery but it would come as no surprise to learn he has been abducted by aliens to investigate his mysterious finger technique. Let’s check some rare online example of his band:
I will conclude here with the BASSics from my region; but there are many more to mention for sure. Check them live if you can, bring some bass to life and stay tuned, ’cause there are new ones to come.