If broken beat is to gain a foothold in America, it will likely happen through SunTzu Sound's indefatigable efforts. But they have a tough challenge ahead of them. The West London-bred dance movement hasn't translated well to American audiences. Its often-convoluted, complex rhythms and rampant eclecticism make broken beat a slippery genre to grasp--and not easy dance to, either.

"I think broken beat will continue to grow and hopefully get as large as the drum 'n' bass scene," says SunTzu member J-Justice. "But it definitely won't happen as quickly. It's harder to grab people's attention these days. In order for broken beat to build, two things need to happen: A new crop of producers needs to emerge, especially within the U.S. So far, 90 percent of the music is still being created by the producers who kick started the whole thing back in the mid-'90s. Secondly, more artists need to put together live sets. People have gotten tired of the DJ thing. Live elements that spark attraction [are] needed to keep people on their toes."

Inspired by Sun Tzu's ancient text The Art of War, the six-strong Seattle collective of DJs, producers, and promoters began in late 2002 when DJs J-Justice and AC Lewis met and bonded at I-Spy's SIL2K experimental-music night. Since then, SunTzu has launched several nights at area clubs, including Nation and the Baltic Room. The crew--which includes Atlee, conga player Jayson Powell, Mikey, and Vancouver mover and shaker Dr. J--now rules Saturday nights at the Capitol Hill Jai Thai. Their wide-ranging DJ sets aim to locate the rich common ground among broken beat, hiphop, downtempo, deep house, old and new soul, and old and new jazz (check the SunTzu radio show at www.flux.fm). SunTzu have also been crucial in booking broken-beat stars like Titonton Duvante, Jazzanova, and Bugz in the Attic.

While attendance at SunTzu's Future Soul weekly at the Baltic Room was disappointing, Justice remains hopeful about this music's chance to break here.

"People definitely don't know much about our scene, but once we get them on the dance floor, they love it. As much as people like to think that they are opened-minded about music, they really aren't when it comes to [dancing]. So our eclectic sound is sometimes a hard sell. As more of the producers get bigger like Jazzanova and Bugz in the Attic, it will be easier for people to relate to us and look toward us for a good time because they will have heard [the producers] on the radio or read about them in a magazine."

What attracted SunTzu to broken beat?

"I think we all share a love for soulful music. It has a very organic feel with plenty of funk. Its beats are more complicated and challenging than the typical 4/4 house beat. Plus, it feels good to be a part of something new. Like we're part of an army supporting this new scene. It gives us some responsibility and a place in its history." DAVE SEGAL

SunTzu plays The Stranger's Genius Award party with Bugz in the Attic and Sientific American Fri Oct 15. Western Bridge, Fourth Ave S, 9 pm-2 am, 21+, free. For more info go to www.thestranger.com/genius and www.suntzusound.com.

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