The popular culture of the Americans has influenced other culturesaround the world for many years. Each day, one can witness how theAmerican culture has impacted the way we do things. Techno music isamong the most influential music genres that has enabled thediffusion of the American culture and identity in other parts of theworld. Techno is a type of electronic dance music, which was inventedby three artists in Detroit, Michigan, in the US in the 1980s. Inparticular, the word techno was used to refer to a specific musicgenre in 1988. Since then, techno has developed gradually with morepeople accepting it, and over the past decade, the US has seen anextraordinary renaissance of this music genre (Constant, 2016).Techno weaves and entangles with the cultural and social identity, aswell as, the issues of race, gender, class and sexuality amongothers.
Atkins, May and Saunderson, who were high school friends, pioneeredthe invention and growth of techno music in the ‘social clubs’ ofBelleville in Detroit (Sicko, 2010). The modern-day issues of race,class and sexuality, which are associated with techno music has itsroots in the 1980s as the three ‘inventors’ tried to merge thesounds of Italo-disco and synthpop with funk to come up with a newtune. The music fans were mainly the middle class people andparticularly those who were marginalized because they were gays,lesbians or transgender people. Techno was considered an illegalunderground movement that violated the cultural norms, and thiscontinued until the late 1990s when people started to recognize themusic genre (Reynolds, 2012).
Techno and Racial Relations
Issues of race can be traced in the origins of the technobeats, which were borrowed from Europe, and then popularized byUK-based media companies such as the Virgin Records. Today, theassociation of techno music with the urban culture of theAfrican-Americans is not that popular because of the perception thattechno is a European music genre for the Whites. Despite, theinvention of techno music by middle class youth of African descent,the audience have continued to ignore their contribution and passedtheir regards to the White European youth. The masses tend to upholdthese perceptions because techno was first commercially promoted inthe US in the 1990s as a new beat imported from Europe.
In his book entitled, Energy Flash, Simon Reynoldsrecounts that the early techno musicians were notconcerned much about whether their dance and styles was attributed tothe music for the Blacks or not (Reynolds, 2012). Instead, theypromoted race consciousness in that the issues of race wereirrelevant to their lyrics and style. Unlike the other music genressuch as the hip-hop and country music, techno aimed at going beyond‘blackness’ and promote racial equality. However, it is notablethat in the modern world, techno is associated with the whites andnot the Black people, who indeed invented it.
Techno Music and Sexuality
In his forthcoming book, Out Come The Freaks: Electronic DanceMusic And The Making Of Detroit After Motown, Gholz puts acrossthat sexuality played a significant role in developing techno musicgenre in the 1980s. He even goes further to show that techno didn’tstart with the three pioneers but with a DJ known as Morris Mitchellin 1971. Mitchell organized disco events that attracted lots of fanssince the town people had never had such an experience. The aspect ofsexuality can be linked to the fact that these disco clubs wereturned to gay-clubs in the weekends to empower this marginalizedgroup in Detroit (Reynolds, 2012).
The association of techno music with the LGBT community did not endin the 1980s but, it continued until the early 2000s since gay DJscould play techno music in the local clubs of Detroit and otherCities in the US and UK. Since 2000, a younger generation of technoDJs, label mangers and event promoters has emerged to carry on thespirit of their forefathers. Artists such as Adriel Thornton andCurtis Lipscomb organize events that serve and promote the LGBTcommunity of Detroit and other cities around the world. Researchshows that most of the techno music scenes and styles that foundedthe modern-day music genres such as house, disco and garage, wereclosely linked to the ethnic and racial minorities, as well as, thelesbians, gays and transgender people.
Issues of homosexuality are also evident in the modern scene oftechno music because a famous UK-Club called Berghain recently held afundraising event meant to promote diversity and particularly, theLGBT community. The DJs from England and Italy played hard music to acrowd full of shirtless gay men and tiny women wearing tiny clothes.During this same week of September 2015, similar events were held inNew York, Munich, Zurich and San Francisco with an aim of promotingthe rights of the gay community (Constant, 2016). The event promotersand DJs remind the crowd that techno was born in the LGBT communityand thus they must try hard to preserve their heritage. It is,therefore, evident that techno music promotes homosexuality amongstthe youth who attend such events, which usually run for 24 hours.
During such events, the ticket money collected is used to fundLGBT-rights organizations, which are active in many parts of theworld to enhance awareness and appreciation of the marginalized LGBTcommunity (Constant, 2016). For example, the Berghain held the eventat a time when Russia had passed the legislation to curbhomosexuality since it is considered a non-traditional sexualbehavior that violates the moral values of the society. The new waveof people fighting for their LGBT rights should be viewed as amovement that is underpinned by techno music. The club culture todayhas shifted from the heterosexual behaviors to homosexual behaviorssince the techno music industry is ever changing in aspects of style,lyrics and performance.
Techno musicians and venue staff also commit crimes by indulging theyoung people into drugs and homosexuality. Initially, these sexualacts were led by gay youth men, but, as time went by, lesbian womenjoined the crusade that was considered an underground resistancemovement of Detroit. In clubs and events that are hosted by gay mentoday, even mature people engage in these sexual acts and the currenttrend in techno music industry resembles that of the ancient Britishrave culture (Constant, 2016). It is notable that the music genrespans across the genders because most of the fans are both young menand women.
Techno Music and Social Classes
The books of the history of electronic dance music written byauthors such as Simon Reynolds and Dan Sicko indicates that the cityof Detroit was a middle class community that sought to counterpartthe Chicago’s working class group. The authors add that the peoplefrom Detroit were sexually-restrained sober and ‘serious’ whiletheir counterparts indulged themselves into drugs and immoral sexualbehaviors such as prostitution. However, the authors’ main focus isto show that techno music is associated with the middle classpopulation of the Blacks, who mainly worked in car manufacturingcompanies (Sicko, 2010). After working in the garages for many hoursa day, they formed exclusive ‘social clubs’ that visited danceparties in the local pubs in Detroit. These felt oppressed by peoplefrom the working and high social classes, and thereby supportedtechno music as an avenue for expressing their anger and disguise tothe outer world. Today, most techno music fans are middle class menand women who are either self-employed or depend on theirlowly-paying jobs.
Another form of identity that is attributed to techno is the issueof ideological differences from the rest of the community. Forexample, raves began appearing in London in the 1990s after they hadflourished in the US cities for a decade. Most of the organizers ofthese events made their money by illegally dodging the British lawslicensing the music industry. Sometimes, the location of the eventwas a secret only known to the fans of techno music, and it appearsthat the musicians and event promoters had ideological differencesfrom the rest of the society. They believed that the LGBT communityshould be recognized as a unique group with different moral valuesfrom the others. Thus, their illegal acts such as drug abuse andhomosexuality were an outpour of their anger for being marginalizedfor ages. Their quest for recognition and liberation has continued upto date whereby they support LGBT-rights organizations not to promotetechno music but, to fight for their gay rights (Constant, 2016).
Constant, James. The Day We Lost the Beat: Techno’s JourneyFrom Detroit to Berlin. Diss: Georgetown University, 2016.Internet Resource.
Reynolds, Simon. Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Musicand Dance Culture. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2012. Print.
Sicko, Dan. Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk.Detroit, Mich: Wayne State University Press, 2010. Print.