Say the word Clubbing to anyone these days, and the first thing that usually springs to mind is a gathering of intoxicated people at night time in a large space, with low lights and loud rhythmical music . Although the actual setting is a bit different nowadays, if you compare it with our tribal/nomad past who took place thousands of years ago, the fundamental principle still remains the same.
It is the primal need for communal intimacy governed by the rhythm of the drum and the ingestion of psychosomatic substances. Just as our ancestors were looking to connect in this manner with the spirit world, we are all modern day spirit chasers who are looking to connect with others around us, in a quest to search for something meaningful, away from the daily grind of conventional society.
One can safely say that primordial clubbing is responsible for the invention of the first drum and therefore, rhythmic music. This is how far back our relationship with the beat of the drum goes as the need for intimacy and recreation produced the first musical instruments. In prehistoric times, these type of gatherings existed to increase the sense of community and bring everyone together under the stars and the drum was the glue, bonding everyone together.
And to go a little bit deeper, our love affair with rhythm came to be essential to life and gives purpose to the universe. Everything has a rhythm, from the heartbeat in your body to the Earth's circle around the sun and the seasons.
As we left the nomadic lifestyle behind us following the invention of farming, so came the building of the first villages, towns and cities (otherwise know as civilisations). It is historically evident that the ancient Egyptians, and later Greeks and Romans, continued the ritualistic relationship with the drums and out of that period of “clubbing” became what seems to be the basis of western music which exists in many different forms to this day .
This is an entry from wikipedia showing how we still use the same principles in modern music: Music was an important part of social and cultural life in Ancient Greece. Musicians and singers played a prominent role in Greek theater. Mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration, and spiritual ceremonies. Instruments included the double-reed aulos and a plucked string instrument, the lyre, principally the special kind called a kithara. Music was an important part of education, and boys were taught music starting at age six. Greek musical literacy created a flowering of music development. Greek music theory included the Greek musical modes, that eventually became the basis for Western religious and classical music.
Upon the age of Christianity and organised religion, the setting changed as it fitted with what was happening to society at that point in time but the need still remained the same (although intoxication got replaced by God!) . We were still gathered under one roof to connect spiritually with God and each other and from the chantings and timeless pieces of the monks and their choirs, came the wonderful world of Classical music !
Back then, composing a piece commissioned by the church was like signing a 3 album multimillion dollar deal with EMI! So , again , the need to add a soundtrack to connect communally , produced a cultural impact which will resonate throughout the centuries.
As we move forward in time , we see the emergence of saloons in the US and public houses in Europe where working class folk music has it's roots . A few decades later , at the early stages of the 20th century , alcohol was outlawed in the US and the first illegal underground clubs came about as a reaction to authority . These small unassuming smoke filled spaces became the nurturing cradle of a whole new way of human, expression through music , and Jazz was born . Although one might say that authoritarian crushing of people's fun flirts with ideas such as fascism , this single factor was responsible for the creation and cultural impact the Jazz scene had on the world stage.
The pattern of creation of new musical styles didn't stop there. Now imagine you have just landed in a field full of hippies in late 60's America , having taken the last tab of acid and realised that the revolution was short lived as the world wasn't ready to join hands and sing Kumbaya.
The state took matters in it's hands and diluted the hippie movement with mathematical accuracy. As a result , the hippies went underground and their mentality of free love and no taboos morphed into the first gay and lesbian dance clubs . The phenomenon Disco arrived in it's full glory and with it came a period of musical renaissance. The disco era was then watered down as films such as Saturday Night Fever were released , bringing Disco to the masses with all the consequences that followed (vinyl record and book burnings and a vicious hate campaign from the mainstream US media).
One might say that this was the end of an era for the youth movement and the non conformist attitude towards authority, but we all know that out of the ashes of the Disco period, we saw the emergence of nightclubs such as the Warehouse club in Chicago, the Paradise Garage in New York and the Music Institute in Detroit. There, the deprived minorities of (mainly) black and Hispanic origin showcased this new sound made by machines characterised by the emphasis on rhythm. These first clubs are responsible not only for the phenomenon that Dance Music is today but most importantly (in my opinion) for creating something that reconnects with our tribal ancestral past more than any other musical style in the history of humanity.
What Dance Music has given to the world is the ability to live an experience that has been embedded in our DNA for thousands of years. One of the reasons it became so successful is because society made us feel disconnected to one another so Dance Music gave us a subconscious need to reconnect. Self absorption and self obsession are unnatural aspects of our psyche and materialised out of a society that imprisons the human spirit and quality underground clubs helped to rid such attitudes that have no real value and place in our lives. I am a strong believer that in today's society, these kind of shelters and places of creativity and free thinking are as important as schools and hospitals and we have evolved for millennia to arrive at this point in time.
Since the explosion of EDM , we have seen attitudes change and move away from the purist ideology of “all you need is a good soundsystem and a quality selection of beats in order to live a heighten experience with your friends” . This is where the “unnatural” part of the title of this article and the evolution of clubbing comes alive!
Although there are still amazing underground venues all around the planet that follow the traditional values of Dance Music (and therefore the primordial need to connect with each other) , there is a dangerous infection from a school of thought that wants the dj to be a celebrated mega star , living a rock n roll lifestyle. A 2012 summer documentary on Channel 4 in the UK called “How clubbing changed the world” portrayed the EDM explosion as a natural follow up from our humble beginnings in the 80's but this couldn't be more wrong.
We have evolved over the centuries to exploit the part of us that wants to connect with others through music and not to worship the DJ just like a rap singer or a rock star. This idol loving is the kind of mainstream mentality that has no place in Dance Music, as the notion of being humble and moderate are aspects of human nature that should be respected and loved. The evolutionary pattern of clubbing has showed us that Underground establishments have made an unprecedented cultural impact on humanity (especially in the last century or so) and THEY are the cradles of creativity, not the offices of multinational advertising companies, housed on the top floor of a skyscraper.
Just because EDM has become so successful over the last 5 years, that doesn't mean that it has a valued cultural impact . Success is not something we should look up to but creativity and morality is!!
Please allow me to give you an example : MacDonald's is a very successful company , feeding the world by the billions and if you compare it with The Fat Duck restaurant of British Chef Heston Blumenthal , it is thousands of times richer . But who is selling the best food? Isn't MacDonald’s a place where you find cheaply produced fast food and The Fat Duck one of the best restaurants in the world? Size and success have nothing to do with quality and the bigger you go, the less you have to worry about quality and the more you have to think about profits (thus disregarding centuries of evolution in nutrition)... But profits don't give birth to creativity in our world, so moving away from the traditional values of Dance Music is akin leaving one of the best restaurants in the world to go to MacDonald’s for a triple big mac with gigantic fries...
It just doesn't make any sense and this is why Dance Music and quality clubbing needs to remain focused on tradition.
I am hopeful about the future and I believe that I am not a dying voice in the midst of the mainstream cacophony of today's music industry. There are thousands of people who share this ideology and we are never going to go away. I just think that instead of picking high profile bitching fights with EDM producers, it would be much more constructive if we are not scared to raise such difficult and uncomfortable philosophical questions on the conference panels of our industry.
It is time we leave the cheap phrases like “EDM is shit” and “my kind of House Music is the right one” and concentrate to pass on our traditional values through education and rational thinking. The new generation of clubbers needs to find out why the true spirit of Dance Music is so rewarding and how it goes back thousands of years to the days of the tribal rituals in the jungle clearings. If we are not brave enough to address these issues because of the fear of appearing politically incorrect, then we will have no-one left to blame...
Stathis is a Greek dj and producer, residing in the UK. His involvement with the scene goes back to the mid 90's and he is most known for his 2 residencies at Cavo Paradiso in Mykonos, Rhythmatic in London and has released music in the past with Azuli, Harlem and Blackwiz records amongst others. He is currently working In the studio with labels such as Memoria, Moscow and Body Parts, with scheduled releases coming out in March and April. He has worked at a variety of positions over the years on fields such as artist booking, promoting, record shops, marketing and distribution and has an inside view of the industry and the changes that have occurred since he got involved in the scene.
|Stathis Lazarides Online|