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the bokoumbe breakbeats

In 1800s Europe, Van Hoovernaas and his contemporaries made techno with their mechanical drum machines while, in the USA, scientists like Atkins, May, Saunderson and Fowlkes were enlarging and amplifying gramophones to broadcast techno recorded on wax cylinders.

James Soame's approach was very different: through his network of contacts in the British scientific, diplomatic and military communities, Soame assembled an unparalleled collection of kick drums, offbeat highs, funky-ass basslines, trip-out pads and the like. Towards the end of his life Soame began to develop a peculiarly British form of techno, created by combining his many specimens in intricate configurations. Soame's work was notable for the presence of his many breakbeats, of which he was greatly proud.

Our superb display of 16-19th century Bokoumbe breakbeats, housed in the temperature- and humidity-controlled Howlett Gallery, was compiled from Soame's collection and is a highlight of any visit to the Museum.

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