July, 2014 / Author:

211-28-TRACING-THE-RAINBOW-through-the-roots-of-electronic-dance-music
Nathan Zahn, executive director of MEMETIC. Photo by Jabez Wray

Club culture and electronic music have definitely come a long way since the early days of disco, where both genres are rooted. Decades before fist pumping and neon-clad frat bros typified electronic dance music, the scene was far more diverse demographically and far less visible. Attempts to document the rise of club culture and its music often overlook the central role that GLBT* community members played in their inception. New York and San Francisco are often cited as the birthplaces of disco, the godfather of electronic music. Without a doubt, disco’s roots are very queer, as it was the first genre with openly out lyrics. The early disco scenes of the ‘70s and ‘80s were places where different marginalized groups could get together and have a good time together, an atmosphere that continued on in its successor—house music. “The house music scene in general was very inclusive and invited people of all walks of life to dance together without judgment. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, members of the LGBT community and more danced together at these nights. This was a huge part of the electronic music scene’s early success and appeal—openness and no judgment,” said Nathan Zahn, executive director of Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition of Technology, Innovation & Creativity (MEMETIC).

As with most trends, things took a while to catch on in Winnipeg. Nathan Zahn said the party scene, including Winnipeg raves and club nights, started a couple years after the Second Summer of Love, a name given to the period in 1988 and 1989 in London when acid music started to take off. “By 1991 enough people had travelled to the U.K. and come back to Winnipeg to spread the word of these new parties,” said Zahn. When underground electronic music (rave music) started taking off, there was already a thriving dance music community in the GLBT* scene in Winnipeg. “A large number of the first attendees and organizers of those events in Winnipeg were LGBT as they were the ‘early adopters’ of this dance music scene,” he said. “Over time the scene has grown, but it still managed to maintain an inclusiveness and openness that is not as common at a typical mainstream top 40 commercial night.” Local DJ and producer Derrol Bear (DJ UFO, Nikki Volan) recounted his initiation into the scene back in the ‘90s. “What drew me to the electronic scene at young age was how accepting the crowd was. As a queer teenager I felt it from the get go,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to fit in with a crowd like that. The electronic dance movement has become more than just a scene, it’s a lifestyle that I am proud to be a part of and helped shape within our city.”

It would seem that like all the big musical genres before it, electronic music is undergoing the same process of commercialization they all have suffered; yesterday’s Nickelbacks have given way to the Aviciis and Steve Aokis of today. While it does arguably raise the level of acceptance of electronic music among the general population, it appears to be doing so at the cost of its soul and authenticity. That being said, there will always be progressive, future-forward individuals looking to have a good time in a judgment-free space. We are just witnessing the inevitable at work as the scenes grow and stratify into their own offshoots. Let the hetero white jocks have their open-air festivals and cheap plastic trinkets. We know where the real party is. Let us know about your experience being GLBT* in the electronic music scene by emailing OutWords at editor@outwords.ca, posting on our Facebook page or by tweeting us @ OutWords. Find DJ Volan on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/t_204/v6 and Nathan Zahn at https://soundcloud.com/nathan-zahn.

F014 MEME IESTIVAL

If you’re looking for great free music at The Cube and fun parties, go to the Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition of Technology, Innovation & Creativity (MEMETIC or MEME) festival this year from Aug. 14 to 17.

Featured performances at the internationally recognized festival include Detroit legend Kevin Saunderson, Montreal duo Blond:ish and New York musician and studio wizard The Spy From Cairo (or Moreno Visini). There’s also a full-day workshop where music industry professionals ranging from composers to producers reveal their tools and tricks of the trade.

Now in its fourth year, MEME attracts more than 10,000 people and is dedicated to the development of digital creativity in sound, music and audio-visual art. For more on MEME and for a list of events, visit www.memetic.ca.


–Miles McEnery is the social media editor for OutWords.

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