In the world today so much of our energy is spent focusing on our differences. We’re so quick to attack people who look different than us, are from different places than us or even just have different opinions. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to have conversations and understand each other. Something I’ve learned from travelling around the world is that no matter where you go, people come together in two places: over a meal and on the dancefloor. Food and dance music bring us together to share our cultures, create a dialogue and build communities. And those things are more important than ever right now.
Food has been linked to dance music since the the modern club night was conceived in 1970s New York City. At David Mancuso’s Loft parties, the DJ was secondary; more important was an inclusive and comfortable place to dance. Wholesome food was one of the essential elements, and a meal was always served. The food was provided by guests in a pot-luck style and eating the meal together allowed partygoers to chat and get to know each other in a setting other than the dancefloor. This tradition continues today at the Loft parties that Mancuso’s disciples throw in New York and around the world, and in the many genres of dance music that were born from the ashes of disco.
After disco, house music is another foundation of much of today’s dance music. The name of the genre is said to have come from record shops labelling records that Frankie Knuckles played at The Warehouse in Chicago as ‘house’ records, but the definition of the word house says much more about the culture created by the music. When a house is a home it’s a place where a family or group of people live together, eat together and become a community. A house can also be a religious community that occupies a particular building. House music, and so many genres of dance music that have come since, tap into the importance of community gathering spaces, giving people a place to spend time together, break bread and dance, creating a sense of belonging to something bigger. Over the past two decades that something bigger has grown to include a community and entire industry of dance music lovers, promoters and producers that reaches right around the globe.
In today’s global nightlife culture an essential ritual is the artist dinner, a chance before a gig to sit down with artists, promoters and friends and share a meal. It might not sound like a big deal, but when you’ve been on the road for days, weeks or even months, having this chance to take a break, eat delicious food and connect with people can be vital. Not only are these dinners a chance to get to know other artists and make lifelong connections, but they also build camaraderie between the people organising the event and the artists. The dinner table is a powerful place to cross cultural boundaries and artist dinners turn the dynamic of a party from a business transaction into working together to create culture, which then translates into a positive, safe dancefloor.
This tradition of artist dinners has led to a generation of artists who have had the privilege of trying food and learning about cultures around the world. Many have made a much deeper connection with food and cooking, not only by making more meals at home, but participating in events like the ADE Cook Off and Traktor Cookery School. Some are even launching their own restaurants or brands like Seth Troxler’s Smokey Tails and Richie Hawtin’s ENTER.Sake.
For me, it’s impossible to ignore the parallels between DJing and making electronic music and cooking and making food. It would be irresponsible for us as members of this international dance music community not to appreciate the influence that we have. We can learn about each other and create safe spaces by making our dinner tables, dancefloors and communities inclusive of anyone. We can make a positive impact on the earth by being more conscious of what we eat and the impact it has on our environment. And most importantly we can shape the culture around us by creating, cooking, dancing and sharing the power of this community that we are so lucky to be a part of. Like our good friend Seth says, ‘food, like music, is the foundation of life and culture.’ It’s hard not to agree.
Nona Hendryx ‘Keep Funkin’ produced by Soul Clap is out now on Soul Clap Records