Electronic music has become a dominant force globally in the music industry and has even witnessed a quantum surge in popularity over the past few years in India. In part, the digital upheaval is primarily responsible for making dance music more accessible to the masses along with major music festivals such as Sunburn, VH1 Supersonic, Bacardi Nh 7 and Magnetic Fields.The festivals have also been assisted with burgeoning local clubbing environments that now cater to a large palette of sonic tastes. In some ways, the transition that is taking place here is quite similar to what was happening in the 1980’s in the United States. The rejection of commercialized music that was being flooded into an already saturated market back then, bears some resemblance to our country currently.
Let’s take a look at the evolution and metamorphosis of a genre of music that, through the years has wielded itself as a double edged sword in two ways by being a means to freedom of expression and by being packaged and sold as a catalogued product to the masses.
Tracing the origins :
The days of spiritual awakenings in the 1970s had a profound impact on the lineage of world music history. The growth of psychedelic rock and disco during this period was also a sign of a new generation of musicians and artists breaking the conceived boundaries of aural possibilities. This was what fueled the German experimental band - ‘Kraftwerk’ founded by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1969 in Düsseldorf as they released the first ever electronic pop record called ‘Autobahn. The records success also spurred the introduction of new analog electronic equipment such as sampling machines, drum machines and synthesizers and gave birth to the disco and funk revolution in the late ‘70s which laid the foundation for house and techno music.
The Rise of House and Techno :
The cities of Detroit and Chicago in the United states of America proved to be decisive incubators for a scene still in its infancy. The near-death of disco in the early ‘80s spawned the rise of House music. DJs such as the late Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan and Marshall Jefferson paved the way as their vision saw them transform soul, funk and R&B into “Warehouse music” that brought together a divided community of LGBTs, Latin-Americans and Blacks. Drum machines and synthesizers soon replaced the traditional musical instruments which ushered a new era in electronic music production. This heralded the rise of House Music as a means of breaking away from the pretentious structures of society. This also gave rise to the two major sub-genres of house music namely Acid House and Deep House.
The end of the late ‘80s also saw the first wave of DJs and producers from Detroit such as Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Eddie Fowlkes who further expanded the horizons of electronic music by producing raw, edgy and often more stripped down pieces of music that are now broadly known as “Techno”.
Diversification and Consolidation :
The entire decade proceeding this saw an immense explosion in the diversification of the genre. Acid Techno served as inspirations for heavier harder styles of music and the sound now travelled across continents and made its way into Europe. The United Kingdom saw the rise of Drum & Bass, Jungle, Dubstep and Trap. In France, legends such as Laurent Garnier interpreted house and techno in their own unique way and in India these genres led to the birth and discovery of Psy-Trance. In turn, ‘Psy’ ( As people call it in short ) greatly influenced the growth of Euphoric/Euro Trance in the Netherlands. There weren’t many restrictions and the drawing boards were open to anyone who was willing to experiment. As technology evolved and improved, so did the various styles and derivatives of electronic music which led to them being broadly included in the often used term ‘Electronic Dance Music’ or EDM. It is safe to say that EDM does not stand for commercial house/pop music as it is usually made out to be.
Dance Music in India Today :
Today, the rise of super-festivals, online music streaming sites and a smattering of clubs across the country can only bode well for the genre. Several homegrown talents are also crossing seas and exploring unchartered foreign waters. The recent forays by the world-renowned Boiler Room parties in India as well, have helped in making the international community stand up and take notice.
India is now well positioned to become the world’s largest dance music destination and we cannot wait for it!