The dance and house music scene, once flourishing in Black communities, is now predominantly white. A scene once centered in queer Black night clubs in Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles, now overrun by white clubs, white DJs, and white producers. There’s undoubtedly been a dramatic decline in Black representation in electronic music.
There are such strong historical Black roots in house and techno, in garage and jungle, in juke and footwork. Yet we have allowed the electronic music scene to shift away from the foundations of the first pioneers. The queer Black club scene of the mid-1980s, over the last few decades, isn’t the same. It’s gotten to where racial inequality and injustice are deeply engrained at many levels.
White-Washed And Out of Touch
When you look at the electronic music scene today, the unequal representation of Black and Brown communities is clear. The modern club scene, becoming detached from the Black origins of electronic dance music. Everything from the club and rave scene, to the festival scene, to promotion and circulation of artists and music—white-washed.
Following the early dance music days, the white electronic scene has formed a habit of perpetually appropriating the cultures of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.) They’ve taken the foundational sounds of Black and Brown music and made profits in a scene that favors heterosexual, white, male artists.
Not to say that every white producer and DJ is intentionally or maliciously fueling the issue of racial inequality in the music scene. There is deep systemic racism both in and out of the music scene. We have a lot of work to do as a society. And the role of white artists should be to acknowledge, understand, and pay homage to the origins of their sounds. They should create spaces for diversity and equality to promote Black representation.
The Heart of Electronic Music
At the heart of the electronic music scene are the first Black experimental disc jockeys and Black auditory pioneers. Right at the epicenter of the dance club experience is the queer Black club scene. Their focus was purely on inclusion and expression. At the heart of our modern house and techno experience, is Black and Brown culture.
Now you see festival and event lineups with 95% white artists. As well as lists of “top electronic artists” largely occupied by white males. Record labels and bookings are often dictated by wealthy white men. These are patterns within the industry that show a disregard for the foundations of the queer Black architects of the club and dance music scene.
Reparations In The Club and Dance Scene
Again, there’s so much work for us to do. Whether you’re looking through the lens of the music industry or not, changes need to be made. It is time to illuminate and educate on the historical patterns of racial injustices in American society and the house and techno scene.
The inner-city house and techno scene of the mid-1980s was a place for queer, Black expression. It was a place of refuge where Black sounds and culture were supreme. The modern club scene has gone away from those Black origins.
Rave Reparations, a Los Angeles-based group, coalition, or “social experiment,” is aiming to reconnect the scene back to its Black roots. They’re building upon the inclusive nature of the scene by connecting BIPOC, LGBQA+, femme, and other marginalized artists, to Make Techno Black Again.
Like many other inner-city club scenes, the current electronic music scene in Los Angeles has become predominantly white. Everything from circulating music, to the club scene, to festival and event lineups—all severely lacking in racial diversity. The scene has lost touch with its Black disco, house, and techno roots.
Rave Reparations is a monthly radio show, unpacking the divide of marginalized groups in the club scene. They are calling on the support of white artists and promoters and ravers to push for change. They’re urging them to use the influence that white electronic music producers and DJs have for good. With the power that white-run record labels and promoters have, change can be made.
Educate, Be The Change And Don’t Forget About Electronic Music’s Black Roots
Through an understanding of the historical and harmful whitewashing of BIPOC sound and culture, we can work to be better. By spreading and fueling the movement for equality and racial justice, in and out of the electronic music scene, we can be the change.
Support BIPOC, queer, and femme artists. Educate yourself on the history of racial injustice and inequality in America and in the club scene. Use your power to hold safe and inclusive spaces in the rave, club, and festival environments. And never forget the queer Black auditory architects of the mid-1980s that pioneered the electronic music scene.