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Belgian New Beat, or simply New Beat, was an underground subculture and musical scene in Belgium throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It particularly flourished in Antwerp and Brussels, and later became really popular in the rest of western Europe. Belgian New Beat is often associated with the R&S Records Label, which played an important role on popularizing this genre. Artists and bands such as Confetti's, Lords of Acid, and Front 242 were some of the most well known pioneers of New Beat, producing songs that combined elements of Techno, House, and Industrial music. This movement was part of Belgium's three main Rave-related scenes. It started with the Popcorn musical scene in the 1960s, and then evolved throughout the years into two other musical genres: Belgian Acid House and New Beat itself. Although nowadays New Beat fell out of popularity, it still played a very important role on the creation of other musical genres, such as Hardcore Techno, Gabber, Acid Techno, Acid Trance, and mant other musical genres, as well as Rave culture as a whole.


Cultural Context[]

"Belgium. The battlefield of Europe. The place where in 1815, Napoleon would meet his defeat. The battle of Waterloo would become the foundation of modern Europe, and although this battle would be proved to be historical, Napoleon was hardly the first to seek rule over the territory that would later become: Belgium. To conquer Europe, one had to go through Belgium, and to keep the war-torn nations apart, a buffer had to be created, and so in 1830, Belgium was founded. A country for a people who had been conquered so often that they didn't care who's in charge anymore. They just do as they had always done; work the land, work hard, and then... party harder!" ― The Sound of Belgium Documentary



An example of what a typical Popcorn party looked like.

The Popcorn movement surged as a completely underground Belgian phenomenon in the 1960s. It was a youth subculture characterized by its distinctive fashion, music preferences involving Disco, Funk, Soul music, and their social attitudes. Popcorn music was primarily played in clubs and dance halls, providing a lively and energetic atmosphere for partygoers. Belgians would Cha Cha dance to underground Jazz and Soul music, socialize, date, consume alcohol and have fun. Although this movement was especially popular in the Flemish region, the unity of the Flemish and Walloon people was highly valued, as well as partying hard. The most commonly used musical instrument was the organ. It shares many similiarities with the British Northern Soul movement. It has been described as the last truly underground scene in Europe by historians[1], in fact the movement is still so unknown nowadays that it has almost completely gone 'under the radar'. Although it may sound weird, this music genre was named after the "popcorn" food because it was heavily inspired by Rhythm & Blues and Soul music from the United States. Popcorn music eventually declined as New beat and Acid House emerged in the 1980s. However, it experienced a revival in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

New Beat & Acid House[]

The origins of the New Beat movement can be traced back to the Belgian nightclub scenes that surged during the 1980s. DJs and producers began experimenting with different styles of music, blending elements of electronic music with slower tempos and incorporating new creative sampling styles. This resulted in a distinct sound that started being called "New Beat". New Beat music was characterized by its dark and industrial sound, often using heavy basslines, synthesizers and distorted vocals. It was like a transitional point between the happier EDM subgenres that were popular at the time and Hardcore music. The slow tempo of New Beat songs allowed for a more hypnotic and atmospheric experience on the dance floor. New Beat music quickly gained an huge fanbase in Belgium, with nightclubs like Boccaccio and Fuse becoming hotspots for enthusiasts of this emerging genre. The New Beat movement wasn't limited to its musical scene: it also impacted the sense of fashion and youth culture in Belgium. The New Beat scene slowly developed its distinctive fashion style which included elements such as eccentric accessories and Goth-inspired fashion. Belgian New Beat gained international attention in the late 1980s when songs like "The Sound of C" by Confetti's and "Pump Up the Jam" by Technotronic became global hits. New Beat's popularity spreaded to other parts of Europe, with the genre gaining popularity in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain. In the 1990s, New Beat's popularity started to decline due to the rise of other Electronic musical genres such as Trance or Hardcore Techno, however its legacy was carried over as influence on other genres.


New Beat imagery mainly consists of the Smiley face symbol, which is still associated with this musical genre to this day, especially by nostalgic adults from western Europe. Images of faces censored with a Smiley face over them are also commonly used. References to Belgian culture are common and respectivily black, yellow and red are the most used colours as well, as they are the colours of the Belgian flag.


New Beat Fashion[]

The fashion associated with this scene is mainly attributed to the New Beat movement during the late 1980s[2]. It was inspired by churches and Gothic fashion, with the main colours used being black, white and sometimes yellow. The clothing was meant to be provocative as well, taking inspiration from bondage fashion with elements such as leather and fishnets. The most iconic motifs seen on New Beat outfits were the Smiley face and gravestone portraits (otherwhise called 'Bomma badges'). Given the latter, Bomma badges were oval ceramic portraits you could find in gravestones. As described by Idriz Jossa, one of the most iconic fashion designers of this movement, it was supposed to be extravagant and absurd but also 'nostalgic', in the sense that it's not the photo of a deceased person but a 'step back in time'. The Bomma badge became so fashionable that young people started stealing the emblems from cemeteries so they could wear them as necklaces. The clothing was mainly unisex and made with black lingerie fabric. Other common characteristics of New Beat outfits were:

  • Cycling shorts
  • Knee socks
  • Bowler hats with crosses
  • Golden corsets
  • Heavy black shoes
  • Black priest chasubles
  • Religious imagery such as the Virgin Mary
  • Accessories: Bomma badges, Smiley pins, crosses
  • Black veils (mostly for women)
  • Black rimmed eyes and bright red lipstick (for women)
  • Outfits revealing the chest (for men)



Popcorn is a Belgian musical genre and dance style originating in the late 1960s. People would dance to slowed down, fairly underground Soul and Jazz songs. In the 1970s, it reached peak popularity and formed its own subculture inspired by R&B, soul, funk and pop dances. The music was underground, midtempo and rejected commercial and mainstream music. During the 1970s, new elements were added to the subculture, such as Cha Cha dancing, Italian crooners and Flemish singers. Its name comes from Dancing the Popcorn in Vrasene. Today there's also Popcorn revivalists and a new generation of Popcorn music fans, attracting attention in weekly parties in Belgium. It differs from the British genre Northern Soul in tempo, style and origin, but share many similiarities.

Acid House[]

Acid House is a subgenre of Electronic Dance Music that originated in the mid-1980s in Chicago, Illinois (USA), however it also gained important attention throughout Belgium and the United Kingdom, as well as the rest of western Europe. It is characterized by its distinctive sound, which is often described as raw, repetitive, and hypnotic. Acid house music played a significant role in the development of electronic dance music as a whole and has had a lasting impact on various genres and subcultures.

New Beat[]

New Beat is a Belgian musical genre which fuses elements of New Wave, Hi-NRG, Electronic Body Music and Hip-Hop. It is considered the precursor of Hardcore Techno music and it also heavily influenced Gabber and Belgian Techno music. It became really popular throughout western Europe during the 1980s and 1990s, spawning its very own Rave culture.


Musical Artists[]

  • Amnesia
  • Cherrymoon Trax
  • Confetti's
  • Erotic Dissidents
  • Fatal Error
  • Lords of Acid
  • Phantasia
  • Rhythm Device
  • T99
  • Tragic Error






Cover Arts[]