Our latest segment ‘Lead In: A House music guide’ intends to explore and describe the vibrant facets of both, the dominant and the upcoming sub-genres of electronic music as well as influential artists who have contributed to the evolution of that particular style.
For the uninitiated, the electronic music multiverse is a vast, exciting and head-spinning cauldron of various musical styles and moods that come together to form the biggest musical phenomenon since Rap & Hip-Hop. It is crucial and especially important for beginner DJs who are starting out to have their finger on the pulse of the industry. This is crucial to artists as it helps them understand their favorite genre’s dancefloor sensibilities, helps with music discovery and also enables them to identify trends within the genre itself.
Having said that, it is only normal that we begin with a genre that changed the way we looked at the clubs & discotheques forever and started it all – House Music.
‘House music’ as the name suggests first appeared in the early 1980’s in the non-descript warehouses and clubs of Chicago in the United States during the post-disco era. It played a hugely influential role culturally and economically in the music industry and changed the definition of ‘Dance music’ entirely. The music style was pioneered by the late Frankie Knuckles who is often regarded as the godfather of house music along with legends such as Ron Hardy and Marshall Jefferson.
“I wasn’t even into dance music before I went to the Music Box (where Ron Hard used to play),” he laughs. “I was into rock and roll. We would get drunk and listen to rock and roll. We didn’t give a f***, we were like ‘Disco Sucks!‘ and all that. I hated dance music ‘cos I couldn’t dance. I thought dance music was kind of wimpy, until I heard Ron Hardy at the Music Box volume.”
The genre launched itself into prominence after gaining huge popularity and radio airplay in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe before imitating the effect back home in Detroit and New York from where it spread to all corners of the globe.
You can learn more the origins of house music by watching Parts 1 & 2 this great documentary called ‘I was there when‘.
House Music is characterized by repetitive 4X4 beats that serve as an undercarriage on top of which vocals, leads, basslines and other musical elements are layered onto and added. The genre was hugely influenced by the disco along with a generous tinge of punk and industrial styles as well. Early compositions were mostly fast-paced, happy, funky, soulful and upbeat.
As the genre evolved over a period of time it evolved into sub-categories that also had a huge impact on the spread in popularity of electronic music across the world. Acid House, deep house, tech house, microhouse, nu-disco and probably the most well-known interpretation of the genre – progressive house are stand out examples of the versatility of house music today.
In 2018, there are countless house music DJs and producers that you can follow and discover. However, there are also legendary artists that have released timeless music over the year. Here are five artists that we think you need to listen to if you haven’t already :
1. Frankie Knuckles :
A Grammy award winner and often considered to be the messiah and originator of house music, Frankie’s contribution to House is immense.
From throwing down legendary parties at the ‘Warehouse’ to releasing smash hits like ‘Your Love’, his music aesthetic spread across continents. It is no surprise that the former president of America Barack Obama recognized him as a ‘Trailblazer’ after his death in 2014 and honored his contributions to American culture and music.
2. Ron Hardy :
Often considered to be the only rival to Frankie’s throne, Ron Hardy was the brains behind the Chicago phenom ‘The Muzic Box’.
Armed with two turntables, a mixer, and a reel to reel tape deck ( that he used to play tracks backward with ), Ron was considered to be a DJ extraordinaire. Even though he left the world at a young age of 33, his contributions to the growth of house music are priceless.
3. Marshall Jefferson :
Originally a producer with universal recording studios, Marshall Jefferson is also regarded as one of the most important contributors to the Chicago scene. He is credited with producing and releasing one of the most seminal house music records of all time ‘Move your body’.
That’s not all, Marshall is a key force behind the rise of another form of house termed ‘acid house’ along with Adonis & Phuture.
4. Larry Heard :
Larry Heard is the leader and one of the founding members of another hugely successful house music triad called Fingers inc. His work in the Mid to the late 80’s is in the same vein as Frankie & Co. at the time although he was not as prolific with the band as he was under his solo alter-ego Mr.Fingers.
Larry’s compositions are smooth and deep rollers with soulful vocals and long instrumental passages.
5. Lil Louis :
Also known as DJ Marvin Burns, Lil Louis was probably the first artist to have a track featured on the Billboard Top #100 pop charts.
His original ‘French Kiss’ is among an endless list of excellent releases that made it to record shops, radio stations and DJ consoles across Europe and eventually the world. Unfortunately, in 2015, a freak accident at Sankey’s in Manchester left Lil Louis with a permanent hearing loss in his left ear that cut short his DJ career.
Along with the artists, labels have played an extremely positive role in enforcing the need to put out authentic house music. There are a countless number of great house labels that existested back then and do so even now. Here are a few who have been dishing out quality music for DJs and listeners around the world that we think you really need to follow :
1. Trax Records:
Founded by Larry Sherman and Jesse Saunders, Trax records is widely regarded as one of the most path-breaking record labels to have existed in the 80’s through to the 90’s in Chicago and is still releasing records even today. They are credited with also playing a very influential role in the birth, proliferation, and spread of acid house music and culture.
Label artists : Frankie Knuckles & Jamie Principle, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Adonis, Roy Davis Jr, Marcus Mixx.
2. Peacefrog Records:
Unlike their counterparts, Peacefrog records are a label that originated in London. Part of the second wave of house music labels with distinct European roots, the imprint has released house, acid, breaks, Indie and pop music under the same banner due to common musical sensibilities.
Label artists : The likes of Kenny Larkin, Moodyman, Ron Trent, Luke Slater, Mandar and Robert hood have released on Peacefrog over the years.
Interestingly, the hugely talented Indian duo from Kolkata ‘Parek and SIngh’ have also released on this label.
3. Rush hour recordings:
it’s safe to say that Rush hour recordings and anything related to house music goes hand-in-hand in 2018. The label was established in the Netherlands in 1997 primarily to export dutch-house and electronic music to the west and other parts of Europe. Gradually, Rush hour grew in popularity and their music reached the platters of numerous turntables. Today they are a respected global house music institution with a massive catalog of releases that you can dig into.
Label artists: Carl Craig, Tom Trago, Awanto 3, Xosar, Kink, Ron Trent
4. Freerange Records:
Founded by Jamie Odell AKA Jimpster and his good friend Tom Roberts. The label was founded and based in the United Kingdom primarily for the duo to release their own interpretations of House music in 1997. Since then Freerange has racked up a series of impressive 12″ cuts with a dollop of contemporary influences. Definitely one of the most widely searched house music labels out there right now.
Label artists: Jimpster, Milton Jackson, Tucillo, Soul of Hex
Beatworx studio also interviewed Jimpster for an ‘Information exchange’ last year.
Check it out here: https://goo.gl/XngeCV
5. Cajual/Relief Records:
There are few music collectives and/or labels with as much longevity, quality and relevance today as that of Green Velvet’s ‘Cajual’ imprint and it’s sub-labels ‘Relief’ and ‘Circuit’. The group released over 300 dance EPs and singles throughout their 24-year history and is one of the most celebrated house music labels worldwide today. Famous Derrick Carter was also an employee of the label during the 90’s.
Label artists: Derrick Carter, Jamie Principle, Glenn Underground, Johnny Fiasco, Boo Williams
Straight from the horse’s mouth, here are some more tunes that these veteran Indian DJs have picked out for you to add to your playlist. Enjoy the ride!
Pawas picks Herbert’s ‘People that make the music’ released on Phono in 1996.
SNAD selects Daphne’s ‘When you love someone’, released on Maxi records in 1993.
Pramod Sippy aka Sindhi Curry picks George Benson’s ‘Give me the night’ released on Warner Brothers records in 1980.
Hamza picks ‘Espala’ by the French producer – Traumer, released on Gettraum in 2017.
Unnayanaa picks one of his own, ‘Dhool’ released on Something in the water in 2014.
An avid lover of electronic music since 2008 , A content contributer at Border Movement blog & one half of Twokid Wickid and my two cents on music culture in India.