Detroit Techno developed in 1980s Detroit, influenced musically by funk, European techno sounds the likes of Kraftwerk, and the dance music of Detroit's nightclubs. Although electronic music is today mostly populated by white artists, its origins are firmly placed in the Black culture of Detroit. Thematically, the genre has always had firm ties to Afrofuturism: from the sounds of Juan Atkins, Richard Davis, Derrick May or Kevin Saunderson; George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic; the influences of Sun Ra's 1950s Afrofuturist visions; all the way to the group Drexciya and their epic mythos of the underwater Drexciyan race, whether with the overt political messages of early releases or the implicit ones of Underground Resistance, Detroit Techno has always exemplified one thing:
Music is a tool for liberation.
Even though at the beginning the genre was tied to expressions of Black middle-class experiences, Detroit's influence rapidly changed this. Now, Detroit Techno is the voice of a city, a community, and a vision.
Detroit Techno is more than simply a genre of music - this is the sound of a city, of a community, and of a vision. Born in Detroit, the genre is soaked with the city's history of Black resistance. With Afrofuturist themes, imagery and sounds, Detroit Techno explores racial oppression, colonialism and the imagined futures of its Black community.
Cybotron – "Techno City"
The 1984 sound of Richard Davis
Model 500 – "No U.F.Os"
Juan Atkins, a father of Detroit Techno, in 1985
Jeff Mills – "The Bells"
Into the future, yet in the rough reality of 1996 Detroit
Why the Inspiration in Funk?
Because, as George Clinton put it, "Funk is anything you need to be when it needs to be that." In other words, funk already brought all the good connections - as the sound of Black communities, funk emerged as a genre in the 1960s through a combination of soul, jazz, and R&B. The groovy music carried by downbeat basslines and hypnotic chords later became one of the music genres accompanying the social transformation of the Black Panthers - and found an inspired follower in Detroit Techno.
Detroit Ruins – or Afrofuturistic Architecture
For a one-hour exploration of Detroit, Afrofuturism, Drexciya and much more, click below to listen to Neil Drumming's podcast:
Afrofuturism possibly first came into electronic music through house music of Chicago - but in Detroit the connection and the sound was developed. Why?
"The harsh industrial landscape of Detroit made it a perfect breeding ground for Afrofuturistic motifs," Charles Olisanekwu explains. "The barren, desolate surroundings that resulted from economic downturn recall the alien, unfamiliar locations present in so many sci-fi novels." But it is not only that: Detroit is also a living city, brimming with Black culture and, as the former mayoral candidate Ingrid LaFleur calls it, "a spiritual center of Black US American identity, home to artistic visionaries and brutal socioeconomic conditions alike." Today, Detroit is still 85% Black, and Afrofuturism is still thriving - Ingrid LaFleur herself curated an amazing exhibition displaying the vibrant creativity and powerful messages right from the heart of Detroit.
Check out the Exhibition Manifest Destiny
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The material on this page was compiled, created, and arranged by Monika Ciemiega and Serena Nicolaci.