We celebrate Pride by looking at the impact gay culture has on dance music | Soundspace

We celebrate Pride by looking at the impact gay culture has on dance music

pride, belfast, LGBT, juan atkins, frankie knuckles, larry levan, paris is burning

“There is always a point in the party where I wouldn’t say I have people in the palm of my hands, but when there is a point in the evening… if you have ever been to any great party, you know when the room becomes one.”

The founder of Chicago house said that. The club environment has always been a place of unity and togetherness; a place where people of any gender, sexuality or race can unite within a safe haven populated by infectious movement and good vibes.

The history of the soundtrack to many a night is firmly rooted within the LGBT community. House, disco and garage were all founded amongst gay or transgender people, but more often than not the queer roots of the music we love are forgotten.

Newcomers to the dance music scene are predominantly white and straight. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, we’re talking about togetherness after all. What is important is that the origins of the music we adore are remembered.

It’s Pride tomorrow, and we at Soundspace thought this would be a great opportunity to pay tribute to the roots of the soundscapes that dictate our lives. We’ve taken a look at the rise and fall of Disco, Detroit’s Chicago influence and 70’s ballroom culture; a concept that provided an escape to an alternative, extravagant dimension from within a harsh concrete jungle.

pride, belfast, LGBT, juan atkins, frankie knuckles, larry levan, paris is burning

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The Rise and Fall of Disco

In the 1970’s those belonging to diverse communities came together to create an area of vibrance and safety in a world dominated by ignorance and oppressiveness. The sound radiating from this was a glorious concoction of soul, funk and Latin; a concoction that when consumed resulted in a fever. Disco was born.

Most histories begin with the story of David Mancuso and his loft. The loft was to be the setting for many parties held in Manhattan that consisted of complete diversity and unification.

Word began to spread and clubs began to take notice of the fever sweeping through Lower Manhattan. Late in the 70’s the popularity of disco rocketed. Disco fever infected the mainstream clubs and before long it was getting some serious radio play, leading to middle class white communities being exposed to this new sound for the first time, a time when Donna Summer and Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage where at their peak.

Disco was everywhere. It’s not a bad thing that it became accessible to everyone. No one likes the guy who hates everything as soon as it becomes ‘cool’, but in crossing over the mainstream river the original connection with queer, black and Latin communities was washed away.

All good things must come to an end, and so disco ventured into a graveyard polluted by the fads and scenes of yesterday. All of a sudden the queer, black and Latin roots of the concept were remembered, but this time they were used for hate.

Records were smashed. “Disco Sucks” became visible on windows and car bumper stickers. Disco had seemed to die a death. It would be harsh to pin the entire homicidal blame on the mainstream, but a lack of respect and remembrance for the genres origins are the reasons for its untimely demise. Little did they know how fiercely popular the genre would again become.

Disco was a place where those who felt they couldn’t express themselves or their sexuality could finally do so. It’s almost a fuck you to society that this expression was ongoing within the boundaries of normal society. A positive space within a negative environment.


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