Politics and dance music are intertwined and there's nothing you can do about it - Comment - Mixmag

Politics and dance music are intertwined and there's nothing you can do about it

Telling DJs to "stick to the tunes" kind of misses the point of dance music entirely

  • Words: Patrick Hinton | Illustration: Vassilis Skandalis
  • 15 February 2017
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Often this outlook seems to be predicated on not wanting a conflation of sources of entertainment and political commentary. Comments such as “stick to music” carry the intrinsic message that “I come to you for your art/for your DJing /for your specialised skill that entertains me, and nothing else.” Dance music and politics, however, are intrinsically interlinked.

I recognise that the political landscape, especially now, can be a draining, depressing proposition, and why people would have the desire to find sanctuary in the pursuits they enjoy. But trying to reduce scene players into opinionless robots that exist only to please through their work with no scope for public identities goes against the values the music was built on. It’s a culture that rose out of overtly political situations, with protest and the value of freedom in its DNA.

Vocal samples like “house is a feeling” may have become played out to the point of no return, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is the language of resistance, capturing the raw spirit of The Warehouse, the queer Chicago nightclub and refuge for oppressed minorities to safely express themselves that birthed the genre. No amount of by-numbers SoundCloud producers trying to recontextualise this to refer to summertime rooftop parties and overpriced cocktails will change that. Indeed, a gay club at Glastonbury – founded a decade ago to create a space for LGBTI at the festival – is currently the UK's best venue. And a gay club in Berlin is considered the best in the world.

Techno’s origins in Detroit and its early adoption by struggling black communities suffering through urban decay, such as the Underground Resistance who utilised the sound to convey their struggle and overcome oppression, also means the genre is steeped in political context. “Techno is a movement. It is a revolution,” declared core UR member Robert Hood during his 2014 RBMA lecture, faltering on the precipice of tears while reflecting on the music’s life-changing impact.

Talking about police violence in America and the politicised nature of his most recent album 'American Intelligence', fellow Detroit-based pioneer Theo Parrish told Mixmag: "That's something I've got to teach my son as he gets older. That's a conversation my parents didn't have to have with me. They didn't tell me, 'Be careful son, the police might think you have a gun when you reach for your wallet.'"

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