by Christopher Kelly
6 min

Underground cultures across the globe are more connected than ever. The arrival of the internet forged a new network of international creatives that expanded the scope of inspiration to a worldwide scale. No longer are musicians, artists, or designers limited to looking inward within their local communities for influences and muses, instead access to information revolutionised the way creatives collaborate and think – enabling them to now look outward on a vast horizon buzzing with cultural commonalities, creative ingenuity and opportunities. 

Within this new circuit lies a string of ‘special relationships’, epicentres of innovation that have developed a mutual understanding and appreciation for each other’s way of creating, because of their similarities or despite their differences. In this series, we will look at how cities like Tokyo, Amsterdam, New York, London, Berlin and Seoul continue to influence and feed each other’s underground underbellies whilst analysing the creatives, corporations and timeless characters that first forged these connections. First up – Amsterdam x London.

The first pillar that props up the UK X Netherlands cultural connection is a shared love of music and raving. Although historically speaking the BPM rate that buzzes beneath both cities’ surfaces has varied between the two as Dutch culture formed a more considerable affinity for the taste of Techno, the mutual euphoric attitudes to post-apocalyptic-esque parties first sparked a two-way transfer of DJs, records and rhymes. In the ’80 and ’90 Amsterdam was a haven for squatters and ramshackle raves that underpinned the city’s first expeditions into an underground culture as we perceive it today. Soundtracking this hedonistic chapter in Dutch history were countless best of British bands like The Pet Shop Boys, Culture Club and Queen – forming the first cultural ties between the dancehalls of Dam and the late-night lounges of London. 

Creativity is by no means a one-way street despite our often UK-centric way of viewing global music trends. The first wave of Dutch artists to make a mark in modern UK music were prog-rock artists like Focus, Van Halen or Venus and Eurodance heavyweights like The Vengaboys, 2UNLIMITED, Alice Deejay or Junkie XL. This symbiotic relationship is particularly evident with the rise of EDM in the early 2000s and the UK-wide acceptance of Dutch DJ dominance established by artists like Armin Van Buuren, Afrojack and Tiesto

Today, Dutch artists continue to impact the audio aesthetic of UK club culture whilst also appearing on countless festival lineups. Martin Garrix, Natalie La Rose, Hardwell & Frenna are all staples within a growing list of contemporary Amsterdam artists flying the flag at the best and biggest events across Britain. All the while UK stars like Dave, Stormzy and particularly Central Cee continue to shut down whole segments of Amsterdam any time they are spotted out and about. 

Perhaps the most important cultural commonality between London & Amsterdam is the shared love of creating industry-leading streetwear brands. Patta has been one of the most important cultural exports to arise in Amsterdam over the last few decades, acting as a de facto ambassador for the city on an international streetwear stage. Patta perfectly embodies the London x Amsterdam connection as their creative approach straddles both cities – making their first move to a new international brick-and-mortar location in London. Patta even acknowledged the unusual symmetry in the streetwear subculture between London and Amsterdam in their recent Nike partnership campaign titled THE WAVE – describing themselves as having a pivotal “affinity with the streetwear, nightlife and music scene in the UK”. 

In more recent years, Daily Paper has followed in Patta’s well-worn footsteps by finding a home in the Drill and UK Grime scene. Most recently, Unknown T joined Daily Paper as the face of their most recent collaboration with Beats, tying their brand’s identity to an artist that personifies the London spirit. However, this decision was by no means a first for the brand as it comes exactly a year after Daily Paper launched their London store and the start of their UNITE series – an old-school ode to the special relationship between the two capitals. Ghetts, Enny, BDE X FLEX and Elheist formed the foundations of the brand’s arrival in London, marking the merger of two identities – Daily Paper & UK Hip-Hop – that seemed interconnected from the start. 

Creativity cannot exist in a vacuum. The relationship between Amsterdam & London has birthed some of the brightest stars of our era and those passed as creatives from either country know they can rely on the other to rock with their creations no matter what. As European cities continue to compete against the behemoth’s cultural exports of the US, these ‘special relationships’ are becoming more and more important for the success of independent business and artistry. So next time you are in Amsterdam, look beyond the red light and the windmills because the music on the radio and the creps on the street just might be coming to a neighbourhood near you next.

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