When I was over in Australia last November I was interviewed by Gilles Peterson for his series ‘The Psychology Of DJing’ as part of the Sydney Electronic Music Conference. It was an interview that covered many aspects of my career, much of which I’ve spoken about on numerous occasions previously. However, there was a different context to this – most of the time the interviewer is much younger than me, so they didn’t personally experience the times I’m talking about and the way things worked back then in the specialist areas of black music, whereas Gilles comes from the same roots as me, part of the next wave of DJs that followed-on from the Jazz-Funk era, when I first emerged on the specialist scene.
Tag Archives | Jazz
Memphis born Earth Wind & Fire founder Maurice White died in Los Angeles on Wednesday – he was 74 and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease since the late 1980s. White was the bands co-lead singer (with Philip Bailey), their main songwriter and their producer.
Just finished a captivating and, to my mind, long overdue book, which covers the history of black music in the capital spanning (almost) 100 years, the recently published ‘Sounds Like London’. By bringing all the threads together, its author, Lloyd Bradley has made a telling contribution to our understanding of how British black music evolved, following the lineage of its direct influences in the Caribbean and Africa, in juxtaposition with the impact of African-American innovation throughout the 20th century.
During recent times I’ve been intrigued to hear about the growing schism on the House scene here in the UK, brought about by the introduction, primarily by young black dancers, of ‘foot shuffling’ (aka ‘cutting shapes’), an increasingly popular style of dancing that has been met with much hostility in certain quarters, and, somewhat bizarrely, resulted in shufflers being banned from some clubs for dancing in this way. The accusation is that not only do they take up too much dancefloor space, but there’s a general ‘moodiness’ with regards to their attitude. Although it no longer seems to be online, there was even an ‘Anti Foot Shuffling Campaign’ page on Facebook, with some of the posts suggesting underlying issues of racism. As one person commented, “It’s not that all these people on here hate shufflers, they just don’t like fact that black people are into House music now.” Although this comment may be well intentioned, it’s also somewhat misguided given there are, and always have been, plenty of black people in the UK who are big into House – it’s just that their presence is usually to be found away from the mainstream, in more specialist avenues like the Deep and Soulful House scenes. Furthermore, some of the older black crowd are also resistant to this new wave of shuffling, so to present it as a purely black / white issue would be wrong.
Daft Punk are sitting pretty at the top of the UK singles chart for the first time. The track in question, ‘Get Lucky’, taken from their forthcoming album, ‘Random Access Memories’, came as something of a surprise, for instead of hitching itself to the current EDM juggernaut that’s sweeping America, the French duo have completely bucked the trend by drawing their influence from Disco, featuring its most celebrated guitarist, the great Nile Rodgers of the Chic Organisation (as well as R&B vocalist, Pharrell Williams). A media sensation, it’s everywhere at the moment – on the radio, on the TV, in the clubs and, of course, all over the internet, becoming the most streamed new release in Spotify history. It’s already been re-edited by a whole host of DJs and is pretty much nailed on to be the single of the summer.
Last month I was over in Chicago chilling out in my hotel room ahead of my first gig in the city, at Smart Bar, a venue with a rich tradition, which opened back in 1982. Chicago is, of course, along with Detroit, Philadelphia and New York, revered as a key US city when it comes to the evolution of dance culture (and, indeed, black culture, with, way before House, a deep heritage in Rhythm & Blues, Blues and Jazz, dating right back to the ‘great migration’ of black workers from the southern states, beginning just over 100 years ago).
Whilst DJ obsessives in this country could tell you the minutia with regards to New York’s celebrated club culture of the ’70s, I’m often surprised to find that they know precious little about what was happening here in the UK at the same time David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Larry Levan and the other NY legends of the ’70s were bringing Disco to the fore. Maybe they think that there wasn’t much happening here, and that UK DJs were simply following the US lead, whilst, to the contrary, nothing could be further from the truth – go back into the ’70s, before Disco hit its stride, and you’ll find hugely influential figures including Ian Levine, Colin Curtis and Les Spaine in the North, Chris Hill, Bob Jones and George Power in the South – DJs with a wealth of knowledge between them, who made their mark on popular culture here at root level. These are giants, upon the shoulders of which subsequent generations of British DJs stand, whether they know it or not.
LABEL: GO! DISCS
This Sunday (April 1st) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:
Looking deeper into Folk and Country music has been a case of overcoming the final prejudice in many respects. These were always genres I shied away from, even though I’ve happily cherry picked tracks that I’ve liked along the way. I suppose I dismissed Folk as antiquated, and Country as over-sentimental, and although I’ve had a basic understanding of their roles in shaping popular music, I’ve never had the inclination to look beneath the surface. Until more recently that is.