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Hardbag was a genre of electronic dance music popular in the mid-1990s. Having evolved out of the handbag house scene in 1993-1994, the genre enjoyed massive, albeit brief, popularity, with several hardbag releases achieving positions in the upper echelons of the UK chart. It was at the time sometimes confused with Nu-NRG, yet the styles were discernibly different.
"Don't You Want Me" by Felix is largely considered to be the track that launched the hardbag explosion. Produced by Rollo Armstrong of Faithless, Red Jerry and Felix, "Don't You Want Me" was released in 1992, scoring a Top 10 placing on the UK singles chart.
The popularity of the hardbag genre reached its zenith in 1995 with releases by Candy Girls, Rollo & Sister Bliss and Mrs Wood all crossing over into the mainstream. Indeed, the sound began to meld with happy hardcore, evident on tracks such as "Forever young" by Interactive and "Rainbow Islands"- Seb.
The two most influential exponents of the sound were Dutch producer Patrick Prins (who, recording a variety of aliases, scored several large UK club and chart hits such as "Bits + pieces" - Artemesia) and the late Tony De Vit, whose hardbag composition "Burning Up" is still considered one of the definitive examples of the genre. Another great presence in the hardbag scene was Red Jerry, former head of Hooj Choons. Other influential producers include Sister Bliss and Paul Masterson, the latter of whom diversified hardbag remixes to incorporate hi-nrg elements
By early 1997 the hardbag craze had died down, and the sound began involving into what was to eventually become UK hard house. Labels such as Tripoli Trax expounded this sound via releases such as "Bells of revolution" by Lemon 8 and "Raise your hands" by Knuckleheadz.
The following releases are considered classic examples of the genre:
- 1992: Don't You Want Me - Felix (Deconstruction label, UK #6)
- 1994: La luna - The Ethics (produced by Patrick Prins) (Effective label, UK #13)
- 1994: Crayzy man - Blast (Media label, UK #22)
- 1994: The Ultimate - Antic (Hooj Choons, UK #71)
- 1995: Burning Up - Tony De Vit (:VC: label, UK #25)
- 1995: Hooked - 99th Floor Elevators feat. Tony De Vit (Labello Dance, UK #28)
- 1995: To the Limit - Tony De Vit (:VC: label, UK #44)
- 1995: Play this House - BB Club (Positiva label, UK #65)
- 1995: Bits + Pieces - Artemesia (Hooj Choons, UK #46)
- 1995: Let's Whip it up - Sleaze Sisters Feat. Vicki Shepard (UK #46)
- 1995: Listen to the Rhythm Flow - Diva Rhythms (Tripoli Trax)
- 1995: Fee fi fo fum - Candy Girls (:VC: label, UK #23)
- 1995: Wham Bam - Candy Girls (:VC: label, UK #20)
- 1995: Oh!What a World - Sister Bliss (Go! Beat label, UK #40)
- 1995: U Girls - Nush (:VC: label, UK #15)
- 1995: Passion - Amen UK (Deconstruction label, UK #15)
- 1995: Joanna - Mrs Wood (React label, #34; Joanna was remixed by Sash! in 1997, peaking at #31)
- 1996: Forever Young (Red Jerry remix - Interactive, UK #28)
- Brown, Jonathan (Thursday, 6 September 2007). "Everything you ever wanted to know about (BUT WERE TOO OLD TO ASK)". The Independent. "Hardbag: Loved-up clubbers who liked to put their hands in the air as part of the life-affirming Handbag scene of the early 1990s were forced to step up the pace when Rollo and Sister Bliss blended the genre with Hardcore to bring a new grittiness to the dancefloor"
- Fritz, Jimi (1999). Rave Culture, an insider's overview. Smallfry Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 0-9685721-0-3. "Hardbag- The same roots as handbag but less commercial and cheesy. Similar to hard house, hardbag has a much heavier beat than handbag and there are generally no vocals."
- Dent, Susie (2006). Fanboys and Overdogs: The Language Report. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 118. ISBN 0-19-280676-9. "Some genre names were apparently coined as a joke but have stuck, for example handbag, a form of house music characterised by its catchy melodies and upbeat mood. It took its name from the image of women who dance in a circle with their handbags at their feet, intending to be suggestive of the music's unsophisticated, crowd-pleasing quality. So established has it become that it has given rise to a more techno-influenced offshoot, Hardbag."
- Timeless Preview - The History of the UK Hard House scene
- Bidder, Sean (1999). The Rough Guide to House Music. Rough Guides. p. 154. ISBN 1-85828-432-5. "Dickens began trading under the moniker Red Jerry and Hooj Choons established itself as one of Britain's most consistently successful handbag and hardbag labels."