The Black Contribution to Electronic Music

In this July 21, 2013 file photograph, Frankie Knuckles performs at the Lovebox Weekender, Victoria Park, London. Knuckles, house music "godfather," died March 31, 2014, at age 59. (Derren Nugent/UPPA/Zuma Press/MCT)

Kraftwerk has been called many names the Beatles of Electronic Music, the most influential band and whatever admirable you may use to honour them. What is undisputed though, is their lasting impact on electronic music.

As a German band beginning in the 70s, their peculiar techno style and unique sound gathered them worldwide recognition. Kraftwerk are widely credited as the pioneers and innovators of electronic music.

Modern acts such as Miley Cyrus, Coldplay, Ciara, Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes have sampled Kraftwerk’s songs. Before the 2010s. Popular history of electronic music, like most tales of the past is whitewashed, but, significant in the history of electronic dance music (EDM) is the contribution of black artists, most of whom are gay black men.

It’s important to recognise their work and praise them for their participation in the creation and development of electronic dance music.

Here’s a look at some black artists who helped promote EDM.

Green Velvet

Green Velvet (Curtis Alan Jones) is also known as Cajmere, Geo Vogt, Half Pint, Curan Stone, and Gino Vittori. Born and raised in Chicago, Jones was well on his way to living his life as a chemical engineer. After completing his engineering degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, he moved back to Chicago in 1991. A year later, he founded a record label, Cajual Records. His music career took off and every few years, Green Velvet drops new albums, mixes or E.Ps.

Frankie Knuckles

Often called the “The Godfather of House Music”, Frankie Knuckles (Francis Warren Nicholls, Jr.) is popularly attributed to the creation of house music. Born in the Bronx in the 50s, Knuckles became a disco goer in his teens. Shortly after his move to Chicago in the 1970s, he started to work as a DJ at The Warehouse, a nightclub which eventually became the birthplace of his sound and style.

While he passed away in 2014, Knuckles is remembered for classics and remixes such as  “Your Love”(1986) and “Baby Wants to Ride”(1987); “Tears”(1989), with Satoshi Tomiiee and Robert Owens; “The Whistle Song”(1991); and his remixes of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”(1989), Sounds of Blackness’s “The Pressure” (1992), and Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind” (2008).

Ron Hardy

After Knuckles left The Warehouse in 1982, Hardy took over at The Warehouse’s new location named “The Music Box.” With a predominantly gay audience at The Music Box, Hardy played house music adding his personal touch. Although he died in 1992, Ron Hardy may be the only contender for Knuckles’ status as the  Godfather of Chicago House Music.

Juan Atkins

Juan Owen Atkins performed under the names of Model 500 and Infiniti. He was also associated with groups like The Belleville Three, Cybotron and Borderland. With his father working as a concert promoter, Atkins was exposed to the world of music at a very young age. The 1982 track ‘Clear’ recorded by Atkins and Rick Davis as Cybotron, is often considered the first proto-techno track. He has been described as “the original pioneer of Detroit techno.”

With many other black artists creating work forming part of the EDM genre, it’s important, whenever we hear of them, to highlight them, share their work and make their contributions known.

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