In St Andrews, there is no doubt that there are a variety of music collectives and events constantly going on, and it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming as events blend together – should you should be buying tickets for OneDirection Bop or Throwbacks at the Vic, Welly Ball or Opening Ball, Down to Funk or Szentek? You could always text your friends to coordinate and figure that out, but to help manage the chaos of all of the collectives and events going on, I’m here to give you the inside scoop on BPM – a unique and wonderful event group in St Andrews. In this article, I’m going to give you the background of who the group is, what they do, and what they want to share with the world. I hope that by the end you like them as much as I do!
BPM is a music collective that plays Hip Hop, Grime, RnB, Afrobeats, Reggeaton, Amapiano, Jungle, UK Garage and many other genres that aren’t heard anywhere else in St Andrews. The collective was started in St Andrews in 2017 by a group from London who missed the music they loved as it felt like many St Andrews nights were dominated by Pop, House, and EDM. BPM is one of the older collectives in this town with its 6 years of incredible nights; post-COVID, their opening night sold out so fast they had to make another event the night after. The collective has grown as the founders have moved back to London after graduating and are continuing events there while spreading their message to places around the world including Barcelona, Paris, China, Japan, New York, and Brazil. Luckily, we still get to experience this world-wide group in our own town. BPM frequently puts on events at the Vic while also delving into a new fashion line and music management as well. The committee is an incredibly bright and interesting group that comes from different majors, years, and places from all over the world – Malawi, Dubai, London, Russia, Glasgow, Uganda, Pakistan, Miami, and Malaysia, to name a few – to bring their talents together in their fascinating projects.
“Welcome home!” Ian Twebaze, the current Head of BPM, laughs after saying it, realising that he also just inadvertently used the name of their first event in a conversation. We have just been talking about how relaxed and inviting a BPM meeting feels, even for an outsider like me interviewing the group. Abbie Elkan, who works on Outreach, worked hard to make me feel included and connected to the group, so I could learn all about them as individuals building BPM. The atmosphere of camaraderie is one the team continuously works on replicating in their incredible events in St Andrews. In fact, many members of the group told me how they spent their first BPM event in some part alone after losing friends in the crowd, but they nevertheless had a great time because of the welcoming energy in the room. Jannah Babar, the “BPM mom” who works on Operations, gives her wholesome scoop on the environment of events:
“I think there’s this whole stigma with music collectives because you know you dress up, you want to look your best, act your best, and you can drop that front when you walk through those BPM doors…You can smile! You can be yourself!… It’s a safe space…It’s literally about genuinely, humility, and having fun.”
For all the girls in the group, it’s a place to support each other and make new friends, especially, as they note, in The Vic girls’ bathroom. Anoushka Ranjit, who works on Promotion, follows up on what Jannah says from her view:
“As a woman in a clubbing experience…there’s just something safe about BPM. You see girls running the front door, you see women as you go up, our social media rep, our videographer. There are so many women on the team as well…You’re welcomed by both men and women. As a woman, you feel safe.”
To the committee, BPM is a lifestyle. It was a sentiment replicated throughout my conversations with them; BPM isn’t work, it’s a manifestation of each member’s creativity in collaboration. Every person is so passionate about the music they share, they know the background and history to the movements that define the art. They like to pick up on new trends in these genres of music and play them at their events for the St Andrews community. This is part of the BPM message that Ian shares:
“[BPM is] the industry leader in creativity and ideas. We like to stay ahead of the curve. We end up setting the scene on…what the standard is. We need to do that by always thinking out of the box and thinking how can we do something the best way and in a way that hasn’t been done before…we do our own take.”
Ian describes how St Andrews, as a small and relatively chill town, is a blank canvas to create interesting new events. He calls it a “test run market” because it doesn’t have quite the pressure that a big city might, so as a group of college students, it’s a way to explore creatively without the added pressure. It makes joining the group an enticing proposition for anyone hoping to showcase their ideas to an open-minded community hoping to push music and art to its boundaries.
One of the most common things that I heard from the BPM committee was that it was a family. And yes, I’m sure many groups like to describe themselves as such, but having seen the way each member interacts, I can tell it’s true. For example in their meetings, Anoushka explains, “Meetings aren’t meetings, they’re chats.” Jannah goes on that there is food and music, and often they spend hours just talking and enjoying each other’s company rather than feeling like they have to constantly stick to an agenda. Part of their family atmosphere showed as the older members of the group continually commended the younger members for their fresh ideas throughout our conversation; you could see the pride in the faces of the former and the excitement glowing on the latter. It’s a cycle of inspiration that Prince Chikoma, one of the DJs, describes as a postgrad on the team who has been with the collective since his first year, “Creatively,…I got inspired by the boys who ran BPM. I’d like to do that to somebody…When I see the people younger than me being inspired it’s kind of a full circle moment.” Reece Harriot, as Creative Director and a DJ in his 2nd year, displayed a lot of the up-and-coming talent within the group in his vision for the events of the year.
Each event plays into a larger storyline of love and maturity, which Reece has crafted. Three Books divide the events into sections; these Books are entitled – in order – “The Beginning,” “Fruit from the Tree,” and “Redemption Song.” Book 1 begins with four BPM events: Welcome Home, Root and Vine, Ohana, and Thirteen (XIII). During this portion, the protagonist learns pure love through their home and family life. The second story follows corruption through temptation of sexual desire, told through the events Babylon, Half Time, and completed in their Valentine’s Day event, Coup de Grâce. The final story, which will be exciting to watch play out over the next few months, is when the protagonist realizes they should go back to their roots through radiance and healthy love rather than that which they experience in Book 2. Their most recent event, Redemption began Book 3 and to lead up to the last event which will be the final farewell. Although they could give no spoilers, the committee assured me it will not be an event to miss. In understanding the year-long story, the description of these events tells the tale, so I highly recommend reading along. For example, Reece explains their Valentine’s Day event, “Coup de Grâce means kiss of death…for Valentine’s Day, it’s a final part of the corruption, but then also brings a new beginning out of that.” He leaves it open, “how people interpret that is up to them.” Jannah brings his musings into the larger BPM message, “I think that just ties into the whole concept we were telling you about how each person can add their own individuality and creativity in a way that you’d probably never even imagine, even just through the titles of BPM, there’s a whole depth to it. There’s a whole storyline that you don’t really see unless you want to.”
BPM was kind enough to invite me to attend Coup de Grâce to experience the event for myself and learn more about what makes this collective so unique. The event was hosted at The Vic and the atmosphere was perfect for the classy, sexy vibe of the event. Rose petals were strewn across the flower, the lights were low and red, and each person was given a rose of their own at the door. The energy was electric, which Rory MacLean, one of the DJs, explained to me is in part due to the unique style of music the collective plays since all those in attendance have a shared love of BPM’s soundtracks. Even if they were strung along with a friend, Anoushka shares, “[The] people [who] don’t even know the song…they’re still vibing because the energy BPM brings is so different to anything else you’re gonna get here.” And you can observe the excitement for the music promoted through the innovative boiler room set up. Surrounding the booth, people make eye contact and dance together unlike many other nights I’ve observed where people largely keep to their set group of friends. This works between the audience and the DJ as well. “Someone could be at the front and then you start eye contact and then you start dancing with them and they get hype as well,” Prince shares. Reece explains this takes away the feeling of separation and concert feeling of many events while BPM enjoys being “part of the people.” The boiler room style also adds a good challenge for the DJs in interacting with the audience. Rory tells me, “The full scale of DJing is reacting to the crowd in the moment because you have no idea who is going to walk through the door…I don’t know what you like”. It seems part of the challenge of DJing is seeing what gets the crowd excited and anticipating how to tease that excitement throughout the night. BPM never comes into the night with a set performance order or knowing precisely what they are going to play. It’s part of the creativity and expertise that makes the group unique.
For the future of BPM, the group tells me they are hoping to recruit more female DJs. Reece explains BPM wants to make this move because “half the DJs at home that are female are better than men…literally going down to BPM events in London, the best DJs there are female.” As they listen to Reece the entire committee nods along, murmuring their agreement. Right now, their lineup is composed of 4 male DJs, but going to the event, I talked to many girls on the team who were already eagerly learning. If you are a girl with some DJing work to share, this is your sign to reach out! But even if you are just looking for a recommendation of a must-do night in St Andrews, you have to try out a BPM night for yourself. I promise it’s one of those nights that will stick out in your mind for all of the incredible vibes the committee puts into their work. Follow them on Instagram and look out for all the new events they are planning for St Andrews!