Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Punk R&B" and the silencing of Freedom- Reaction to AfroPop's "Midwest Electric: The Story of Chicago House and Detroit Techno"

Detroit Techno group - Underground Resistance

Midwest Electric: The Story of Chicago House and Detroit Techno by Afropop Worldwide

With genres like Kuduro and South African House, and the turn towards House templates for UK Funky and Future Garage in the UK, and pretty much every mainstream Black artist in the U.S. doing House music (listened to Chris Brown lately)... House and Techno is the music of inspiration right now. Afropop Worldwide does a beautiful piece on Detroit Techno and Chicago House. They draw the connections between these 80s born, 70s influenced, genres and today's Juke and Footwork movements. They tackle the notion of race and electronic dance music... bridging the two and showing these supposedly "colorblind" musics as extensions of the Afro-Music diaspora. Plus, the show connects these genres to Europe and South Africa, showing a cultural imperialism, or transnationalism, taking place.

Techno and House = Open-minded Black music

What I enjoyed most was the comments from Underground Resistance of the denial of Black roots of Techno and House, in order to accommodate the colorblind, mainstream, and white masses; juxtaposed with House's mantra of family vibes, the groove, and moving your body. I agree with UR's statement as its of utmost importance to recognize the Afro roots of the genres. I do argue that it is highly possible (and has been done) that you can create a genre that speaks to various identity groups, and still maintain an identity-specific origin, which House represents. 

 House/Techno vs. Hip Hop: Racism all over again

I also enjoyed how Hip Hop took on an adversarial role as radio stations were eaten up by national syndicates and heralded as the "new voice of Black/urban culture". Such as stance is interesting to me as we can easily compare the "future," "otherworldly," "outerspace" and "everybody come together" of Techno and House, and compare to the "represent', "my hood", "where I'm from," street journalism in Hip Hop. I would even argue that the negligence of House and Techno as legitimate members of the disaspora, and the embrace of Hip Hop, is an act of racism in which elements of the ills of society can only be spoken of by African Americans and Latinos, whereas poor people trying to escape, leave, and find a new world through otherworldly sounds are muted and ignored. We can't have poor black folks making Juan Atkins's "UFO's" because it would be a recognition of the capacity of the poor to rise, and the labor force needed to fill those jobs middle and upper class do not want to sweat for. A wonderful quote was "Techno and House are R&B gone Punk, DIY (do it yourself)... having a community to build by its own means is just a scary thought... Instead, lets celebrate the music where the artists only speak of plights and not solutions...

U.S. ignorance of its own

The last piece that caught my eye is the observation that the U.S. still does not want to embrace or acknowledge House and Techno, history and all, as part of its musical cannon. It's an irony that genres of such creativity and simple pounding groove can be highly misunderstood by its own citizens. This brings to mind the need for contradiction and complexity to eradicate stereotypes. DC Go-go, Baltimore Club, Chicago Footwork, Bay Area Hyphy, etc. are vital components to the American electronic/dance/black/urban aesthetic as they keep Hip Hop in check and complicate the functions and subject matter of people of color in direct combat against racist attempts to box in our notion of what is American. Many young folk do not know much about these genres, referring them as just Dance music made for white people. I encourage you all to take a listen and see for yourself that 4/4 beats and acid sounds, which spawned Rave and Electronic movements, are just as much ours as Hip Hop, Jazz, and Blues... its Punk R&B.

1 comment:

Jesse said...

Yes Hugo! When you gonna start doin AfroPop style audiodocs???