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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This isn’t to say that people must engage in political discourse. But there’s a wilful, privileged ignorance in actively trying to shut down forthright voices so you can enjoy all this music without having to concern yourself with wider issues. It corrupts the music’s ingrained values, and turns the people attempting this into oppressors themselves.

And even as house and techno have become increasingly whitewashed and Eurocentric, politics is still closely intertwined with the global dance music scene in a myriad of ways beyond social matters. For anyone who just enjoys the music for going out and dancing, in the least it’s still illogical to rail against politics because of the controlling impact authorities can have on clubland.

Sydney’s nightlife has been suffocated for three years now in the face of the New South Wales state’s draconian lockout laws. Until 2015, it was illegal to dance in all Japanese clubs post-midnight, which had been legislation for 67 years.

The UK has also had a drawn out battle with institutions of power clamping down on partying. There was the 1994 Criminal Justice Bill which banned gatherings on private land “for the express purpose of listening to music typified by the excessive repetition of a number of beats”, and fabric’s close shave with permanent closure last year on the back of a decision made by a licensing board of elected local government officials. The overturning of this verdict was also almost certainly influenced by the weight of protest that arose from the scene.

Further recent political interference includes the effect that Brexit and the plummeting pound is having on the UK, with Sirin Kale recently investigating how the cost of making, experiencing and curating music is soaring in this in-depth feature. Yet this account of real world, inescapable impact still drew comments like “Leave politics out of music...and just get on with making music!” on the Mixmag Facebook page, as if ignoring the facts will position you in a vacuum outside of capitalism in which studio gear is provided free of charge, and festival tickets and flights to Croatia are handed out to anyone who “just cares about the music”. Paula Temple cogently spoke about the hierarchies in place in the world and in music that cast this attitude as indefensible in our January Gold feature, noting the need to overcome structural violence.

No matter how disinterested you are in politics, if you want to be involved in dance music, an acceptance of this link must be made, because the connection will continue, and the work of activist artists, labels, collectives and publications in amplifying and combatting issues remains vital. Instead of trying to fight this, we should be fighting to support it. So next time a mercenary promoter announces an insipid tropical house day party with drinks deals, catch me in the comments shouting “Keep apathy out of dance music!”

Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter

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