As the island fights to retain its musical integrity, against a rising tide of soulless, sequenced beats, a Monty Python styled Knight of the old Balearic Order has produced a track that has brought a fresh sound to the dance floors of Ibiza this summer. The unlikely hero is Balearic chill out master, Kenneth Bager, whose unreleased track, Steel Of Drums featuring Jez Phunk, is receiving plenty of support from the trendy techno soirees such as Dixon’s Transmoderna at Pacha and the Tale Of Us hosted Afterlife party at Hi. The track is a walk on the wild side for Bager, better know for his more deconstructed, down tempo work and it is the follow up to last seasons “more clubby” rework single, Farmacia, which launched his collaboration with Ibiza DJ, Jez Phunk. Steel Of Drums, thanks to its Caribbean steel infusion and a refreshingly simple breakdown, is proving a popular hit in Ibiza and with little competition about this year, he has in his hands, a contender for track of the summer.
For those either too young, or not interested in the off camino dusty roads of eccentric creativity, Kenneth Bager is regarded as an influential promoter during the early days of the Balearic scene in Ibiza, along with Jose Padilla, Alfredo, DJ Pipi and Enigma. The 57 year old Dane, creator of the respected, Music For Dreams label, and producer of the award winning debut album, Fragments From A Space Cadet, has worked with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Moby, The Shamen, Dr Alban, KLF, Sven Vath, The Orb and film composer Micheal Nyman. As a guitar player, he performed live at Ku (now Privilege) and Space with the Dr Baker Band, which was very popular in Spain back in the early nineties releasing hit tracks such as the classic rave anthem Kaos and Reality. Pete Tong called him “Denmark’s original Space Cadet” and The Guardian described Bager as “Chris Moyles, Timmy Mallet and The Pope all rolled into one unctuously demotic character” so its no surprise that he found a natural home in Ibiza in the early eighties just when the whole Balearic scene was finding roots in its iron rich red soil.
Bager arrived on the island from Denmark after running clubs in Copenhagen, well before the British led E invasion bloomed at Amnesia in 87. At that time, Ibiza was a popular Scandinavian holiday destination and Bagers eccentric free spirit and experience in the music industry, was welcomed on the burgeoning Balearic scene. He opened well connected doors to the outside world and invited the movers and shakers of the industry to the island to sample its hedonistic delights and witness the birth of the Balearic movement. Back then Frankfurt, was the Ibiza of its day miusically and all the DJ’s that arrived on the island and helped shape the Balearic genre, traveled via Germany or South America. Many of the iconic Balearic DJ’s will list Bager as an important figure in the early devlompent of the genre.
So nearly five decades on from that golden era of Balearic creativity, Bager is still influencing DJ’s such as Dixon and Áme with a piece of music that feels very much part of old Ibiza, a musical identity the island really needs to retain and encourage before its lost behind the big production screens, masks and pyrotechnics of modern music culture. Below is video footage of Bager playing Amnesia with his band Dr Baker in 91, just as new sound pollution laws were being introduced that forced clubs to erect roofs over the dance floors, a move that bankrupted the owners of Ku and signaled the beginning of end, of the free hippy era on the island.