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An ode to Detroit…..or not

Written by: 28 June 2008 One Comment

Over the last few weeks, as happens following every DEMF, the inevitable arguments seemed to have flared up again about the roots of techno and the part Detroit plays in the overall scheme of electronic music. To summarize the argument, it basically holds that Detroit should be recognised as the home of techno and without Detroit, there wouldn’t be techno.

If you want to really get into it, there is an interesting 4 part writeup at mnmlssg, with 4 somewhat differing viewpoints on the subject. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

My take on it? To be honest the argument pisses me off more than anything else. Not so much as in being on one side or the other, more around the fact that people seem to be so hung up on the question itself. Don’t get me wrong, knowing how you got to ‘your’ sound is vitally important, it helps you define who you are and how you got to this point…..but history is history, not something you need to get so hung up on and/or cling to so strongly that it leaves you paralyzed and incapable of moving forward.

Its one thing loving a particular sound, it is another to limit yourself to that sound and only that exact sound. Pigeon holes are for narrow minded rednecks. Music should never be narrow minded.

Detroit definitely deserves its credit…..its where this high tech soul music started out, hell its even where the term “techno” got coined (Juan Atkins used the word to describe the sound to a reporter). People should know where it came from and should know the names of those that were at the forefront, pulling together all those soul, jazz & funk elements and combining them in new ways with futuristic robotic & machine based sounds to make this new thing called t-e-c-h-n-o.

Does this mean that we have to acknowledge Detroit as a vitally important place for this electronic music thing. Hell YES!

Does this mean we all have to keep listening to the same records 20 years on? FUCK NO.

From my standpoint, I have nothing but respect for Detroit, the music that came out of Detroit and the influence it has on everything I listen to today. For the last 3 years in a row, I’ve tried to organise a pilgrimage to Detroit for the Detroit Electronic Music Festival without any luck (it will happen……hopefully before the lineup looks something like “Moby b2b with Chemical Brothers and Jeff on Sax”). But that said, do we really need to be so stuck in the past that we can only listen to something that comes out of a single geographic area? Wasn’t the whole idea behind techno to create futuristic music that crossed boundaries and moved us all forward? Do we really need to take continual potshots at those outside of Detroit, and slag them off as crackers that don’t understand the music? Do we really need to be arguing about this at all?

Not quite sure what the point of this rambling post was, but I’m glad I got it off my chest.

For those that haven’t seen it, I’d thoroughly recommend watching the High Tech Soul documentary which looks at the roots of techno and the history of Detroit. There is also the Universal Techno documentary which you can see over here.

One Comment »

  • Benny said:

    Yes Ninja – you should go to Detroit!

    Interesting posts over on mnmlssg. I personally agree with your stance, Detroit definitely deserves recognition as the home of techno and there have been some great producers from Detroit in the past and today – but the exciting thing to me about music (Techno or otherwise) is the way it evolves and hits up against other genres – Detroit should be a reference point not a straightjacket!

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