By Chester Cornford
I overheard a conversation on the subway between two friends. One, a sort of vagabond punk-wannabe-stereotype with a stupid colour of hair was having a go at his pal (a well-dressed, well-meaning looking type) for his music ‘not meaning anything, where’s the message?’ His pal was unable to provide an answer to defend his music taste – later to be revealed as techno and house music. If he had only managed to travel into the future and read this column – then he would have been able to wipe the smug look off that pierced face.
As Gilles Peterson said in a conversation with Danilo Plessow (Motor City Drum Ensemble), “there’s nothing political about going to Berghain”. And he’s right; there isn’t. The conversation continues with an overriding critique that a lot of modern day dance music doesn’t have a message and a subliminal message suggesting that the youth of today just don’t care about current affairs. We’re all too busy going down Sub Club and shaking our hips instead of our fists.
Firstly, I don’t think that’s a fair argument to be generalised on a whole worldwide dance floor. Scotland, at the moment, is going through an obvious period of political energy regardless of political stance.
Secondly, the dance music we listen to today stems from disco, which is hard to see in a non-empowering way. While the lyrics of disco hits may not scream out as obviously anti-establishment as, say, the words of Joe Strummer, disco was a bonding of black expression, female dance floor empowerment and gay body liberation. Dance music has a solid claim to activism through its history, just as many modern day bands hail back to their influences from the 70s.
But most crucially, it doesn’t have to have a message. The world is indeed, a grim and scary place. Many things need challenging and addressed through protest, cultural resistance and angry voices. And if a bit of the dancing on the weekend serves as an escape from the terrors of the 21st century – so be it. We can get our politics elsewhere; it doesn’t need to come from the dance floor.
A further topic I’ve heard a lot is about Jamie XX’s no show at La Cheetah for the In Colour tour after party because he was, apparently, too wrecked. Almost as good as the time Skream was supposedly spotted at a Numbers party at the same venue having an exceptionally good time before tweeting his fans that he was sorry he couldn’t play at a gig in England that night due to “circumstances out his control.” Know your limits, DJs!
You should attend: 13/11: La Cheetah’s 2nd Birthday pt. II w/ Objekt & Alex Smoke (Live) (4AM License) Objekt blew my mind away at Dimensions festival. Expect hard-hitting beats ranging from the intelligent to the club bangers. Alex Smoke live set is also a spectacle to see and hear. Advance tickets: £10 on Resident Advisor.
28/11: Subculture presents Steffi & Telford. Panorama bar resident and all-round superstar of underground dance music, Steffi takes to the best basement on Jamaica Street. Telford in support. Advance tickets: £10 on Resident Advisor.
You should buy: Craigie Knowes Presents The First Annual Fundraiser (War Child). Charity EP with legends such as Move D, the Burrell Connection and Bicep all contributing. While charity EPs can usually feel a bit soggy, this goes above and beyond all expectation. 9/10. Out soon on Craigie Knowes as 2×12”. All proceeds to the War Child charity.