Tuesday 8 January 2013

Why I Love House Music Part One:History Of House Music



I remember when I first heard it I didn't find it very appealing, actually, despite it's resembelance to Disco... I didn't like it really. I could never have imagined I'd one day be writing a blog on how I Love House Music, but here we are 24 years later and the love is as fresh as always. Before House I was into Hip Hop (back in High School at the time) and that coupled with Funk and R & B was what the majority of "urban" teens listened to. We grew up on our parents formula of James Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, and Donna Summer, most of us can remember the Sugar hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and countless more setting the stage for a love of nothing but Hip Hop & R&B.
Growing up in Scarborough and with 680 CFTR being the closest thing to a music station worth listening to... (that I could receive on my little clock radio) it was hard to keep up with the latest Eric B. & Rakim track, and as such 70's and 80's rock was very much impressed upon my music sense (although it was better than listening to nothing, it was kind of like hearing a commercial jingle then having it stuck in your head... for ther rest of your life) and the only time I would get to listen to Funk (now called "Old School") was when I would spend the weekend at my cousins house. I found I could even digest (for the most part) some New Wave, as it did get a lot of airplay, but house music was another story.
Most of us who once found the beat too repetitive, the vocals too short and repetitive, were quickly won over after hearing house music played loud in a club environment (my friends and I anyway) and finding more and more hip hop artists like Chub Rock, Big Daddy Kane, Jungle Brothers and Heavy D popularizing the subgenre Hip House, our love for HouseMusic grew. 

With the circulation of the latest bootleg underground house cassette tapes, regular airplay on one or two College/University Radio stations Saturday nights with Deadly Headly (can't recall the station) and 88.1 CKLN late, late Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons with Djs playing tracks with artists from NYC, Chicago and Detroit laying down soulful and inspiring vocals which blended perfectly with everything else going on in a single track (from classic flute, piano or orchestral instruments, to jazzy guitar or electronic/synthesiser funk-type sound) it became clear House Music was here to stay. 

My love for house music grew after the first dance, and that love was for life with my first radio-edited tape sowing the seeds of my interest in Beat Mixing. 
Twenty five years ago an older gentleman asked what kind of music I listened to. I told him I listened to House Music. He asked "hell's music?" I actually had to air trace the shape of a house for him to comprehend House being a new form of music. Today the average older gentleman may not only know what House Music is (although these days  has been stuffed under the "allmusic" umbrella and is more commonly referred to as electronica in the mainstream) chances are he would know what House music is (actually, chances are just as good he himself is a listener) 

Unlike 25 years ago, House Music in no longer just for the denizens of the  underground. It's in the mainstream, it's global, and it's enhanced nearly all other genres of popular music. There are major events and festivals world wide and Electronica (House) is widely used in commercials, TV shows and Feature films (not bad for a form of music once considered to be nothing more than the latest fad in the decade of one hit wonders)


Origins of the term the term "House Music" is widely cited to have originated as a reference to a Chicago nightclub called The Warehouse, which was patronized primarily by black and Latino men who came to dance to music played by the club's resident DJ Frankie Knuckles.

After the Warehouse closed in 1983, the crowds went to his new club, The Power Plant. Knuckles remarks that the first time he recalls the term "House Music" as applicable to the new form of dance music was upon seeing "we play house music" on a sign in the window of a bar on Chicago's South Side.

South-Side Chicago DJ Leonard "Remix" Roy, in a self-published statement claims he put such a sign in a tavern window because it was where he played music that one might find in one's home (in his case, it referred to his mother's soul & disco records, which he worked into his sets)

Chip E.'s 1985 recording "It's House" may also have helped to define this new form of electronic music. (Chip E. lends credence to the Knuckles association, claiming the name came from methods of labelling records at the Importes Etc. record store, where he worked in the early 1980s) Music Knuckles played at the Warehouse nightclub were labelled in the store "As Heard At The Warehouse", which was shortened to simply "House". Patrons later asked for new music for the bins, which Chip E. implies was a demand the shop tried to meet by stocking newer local club hits.
Regardless of it's true origins, then name "House" went from a regional catch-all term for dance music that was once synonymous with older disco music to a global phenomenon quite in line with digital format.
There has been much speculation as to what U.S. City House Music owes it's true origins, but according to some sources, this genre of electronic dance music may have originated in Chicago in the very late 70's (with Knuckles blending of classic disco with "Euro pop"/New Wave at the Warehouse)

New York’s "Paradise Garage", which promoted European music, had broken the barriers of race and sexual preference (for House Music was in part targeted towards the Black and Gay community).
With the Warehouse club being primarily frequented by black and gay people, when Frankie Knuckles was asked by an interviewer "Why do you think that is?" Frankie Knuckles replied "I think there was a lot that the audience could relate to, lyrically. Plus, the artists that did so many of the vocal performances were raised in church. Coupled with the energy, it all just made familiar sense to the crowd."

Regarding the appeal of House Music, the Godfather of House Music went on to say "Like so many things that were born through gay culture, straight people tapped into it, embraced it, and made it their own, thereby crossing it over into the mainstream. Sometimes it isn’t necessary to draw a picture to get someone to understand what it is. Some things that come into this world naturally find their place. House music is one of those things."

Before The Warehouse opened, there had been clubs strictly designed to segregate race. However, The Warehouse did not make any difference between Blacks, Hispanics, or Whites; gay or straight, the main interest was simply the vibe of the music. And the music was as diverse as the clients.

By the early 80's it was clear House Music was the first direct descendant of disco. By comparison House Music was a "deeper", more "raw" sound designed to make people dance (more individually unlike couples in the Disco Days) Disco had already produced the first records to be aimed specifically at DJs with extended 12" versions that included long percussion breaks for mixing purposes.

Songs like The Peech Boys "Don’t Make Me Wait" (a record that has been continually sampled over the last two decades) took things in a different direction with their sparse, synthesised sounds that introduced dub effects and drop-outs that had never been heard before. It was initially popularised circa 1984 in Chicago but quickly fanned out to other major cities such as Boston, Detroit, London, Manchester, Miami, Montreal, Paris and Toronto.

It then began to influence popular music in Europe, with songs such as "House Nation" by House Master Boyz and the Rude Boy Of House (1987) and "Doctorin' The House" by Coldcut (1988) in the pop charts. Since the early to mid-1990s, House Music has been infused in mainstream pop and dance music worldwide (the House "beat" and style has been grafted in the latest version of Euro/Dance genre and is almost indistinguishable to the ear unfamiliar with underground House)

After enjoying significant underground and club-based success in North America from the mid 80's onwards, House Music emerged into the UK mainstream pop market in the mid-to-late 80s. It's popularity quickly followed in the rest of Europe (with the revamp of Euro/Dance) in the early 90's, then it became a global phenomenon from the early-to-mid 90s onwards. With it's use in several films through the mid to late 90's, it proved to be a commercially successful genre and a more mainstream pop-based variation (Trance-Germany) grew increasingly popular in Europe and North America (with a second Eruo revamp more closely mimicking Transe)



Early House Music was generally dance-based music characterised by repetitive 4/4 beats, rhythms centred around drum machines, off-beat hi-hat cymbals, and synthesized basslines. While House displayed several characteristics similar to Disco music, it was more electronic and minimalistic, and the structured music's focus around a repetitive rhythm seemed more important than the song itself. House music today, while keeping several of these core elements, notably the prominent kick drum on every beat, varies a lot in style and influence, ranging from the soulful and atmospheric deep house to the more minimalistic Tech house, dreamy Trance to bumpy Progressive, making House Music quite possibly the most versatile form of music today.

Electronically generated sounds and samples of recordings from genres such as classical, blues, disco, funk, hip hop, rock, soul and synth pop are often added to the foundation of the drum beat, synth bass line and kick drum. House songs may also include disco, soul, or gospel vocals and additional percussion, accapella and even speaches (ie. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech or George W. Bush's "We got im" speech) 
Today, House is a more uptempo music for dancing which generally ranges between 120 and 135 bpm (a bit faster compared to the early years of house) The common element of House is still a prominent kick drum on every beat (also known as a four-on-the-floor beat) the kick drum augmented by various kick fills and extended dropouts. The drum track is filled out with hi-hat cymbal-patterns that nearly always include a hi-hat on quaver off-beats between each kick, and a snare drum or clap sound on beats two and four of every bar. In lay terms... House Music, like today's listener has become far more complex and sophisticated.

Artists like Björk, Madonna and Janet Jackson, and groups such as U2 and C&C Music Factory incorporated the genre into their work. Groups like "Inner City" had significant success crossing between underground and mainstream with hits like "Big Fun" and "Do You Love What You Feel". After enjoying significant success in the early to mid-90s, House Music grew even larger during the massively controversial Rave period (1996–2001) also referred to as the second wave of what's now called Progressive house.

The genre has remained popular and fused into other popular sub genres almost too numerous to mention (tech house, tribal house, techno, Garage, Salsa (Latin House) Trance, Progressive, Warehouse, Rotterdam... ect.) House Music remains popular in both clubs and in the mainstream pop scene while still maintaining a strong foothold in underground scenes across the globe.
One of the early anthemic tunes, "Promised Land" by Joe Smooth, was covered and charted within a week by the Style Council. Europeans embraced house and began booking legendary American house DJs to play at the big clubs, such as Ministry of Sound, whose resident, Justin Berkmann brought in Larry Levan.
The House Music scene in Uk cities such as Birmingham and London were also provided with many underground Pirate Radio stations and DJs alike which helped bolster an already contagious music genre that was still relatively ignored by the mainstream. The earliest and influential UK house and techno record labels such as Warp Records and Network Records (otherwise known as Kool Kat records) helped introduce American and later Italian dance music to Britain as well as promoting select UK dance music acts.
But house was also being developed on Ibiza, although no house artists or labels were coming from this tiny island at the time. By the mid-1980s a distinct Balearic mix of house was discernible.

Several clubs like Amnesia with DJ Alfredo were playing a mix of rock, pop, disco and house. These clubs, fueled by their distinctive sound and Ecstasy, began to have an influence on the British scene. By late 1987, DJs like Trevor Fung, Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling were bringing the Ibiza sound to UK clubs like the Hacienda in Manchester, and in London clubs such as Shoom in Southwark, Heaven, Future and Spectrum.
In the U.S., the music was being developed to create a more sophisticated sound, moving beyond just drum loops and short samples. In Chicago, Marshall Jefferson had formed the house group Ten City with Byron Burke, Byron Stingily & Herb Lawson. The group was signed by Atlantic Records and released the album Foundation in 1989, which became the group's only album to cross over, peaking at No. 49 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

New York–based performers such as Mateo & Matos and Blaze had slickly produced disco house tracks. In Detroit a proto-techno music sound began to emerge with the recordings of Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson.
Tony Wilson, (the manager of the "Factory" nightclub) also promoted acid house culture on his weekly TV show. The Midlands also embraced the late 80's house scene with illegal parties and more legal dance clubs such as The Hummingbird.
HOUSE late 80s–early 90s

Building in New York City where the Paradise Garage nightclub was located back in America the scene had still not progressed beyond a small number of clubs in Chicago, Detroit, and New York. However, many independent Chicago-based record labels were making appearances on the Dance Chart with their releases. In the UK, any house song released by a Chicago-based label was routinely considered a must play at many clubs playing house music.

Paradise Garage in New York City was still a top club. The emergence of Todd Terry, a pioneer of the genre, was important in America. His cover of Class Action's Larry Levan mixed "Weekend" demonstrated the continuum from the underground disco to a new house sound with hip-hop influences evident in the quicker sampling and the more rugged bass-line.
The early 90's additionally saw the rise in mainstream US popularity for house music. Madonna released the house single "Vogue" in 1990, which became an international hit single and topped the US charts and is credited as helping to bring house music mainstream.
Influential gospel/R&B-influenced Aly-us released "Time Passes On" in 1993 (Strictly Rhythm), then later, "Follow Me" which received radio airplay as well as being played in clubs. Another U.S. hit which received radio play was the single "Time for the Perculator" by Cajmere, which became the prototype of ghetto house sub-genre. Cajmere started the Cajual and Relief labels (amongst others). By the early 1990s artists such as Cajmere himself (under that name as well as Green Velvet and as producer for Dajae), DJ Sneak, Glenn Underground and others did many recordings. The 1990s saw new Chicago house artists emerge such as DJ Funk, who operates a Chicago house record label called Dance Mania. Ghetto house and acid house were other house music styles that were also started in Chicago.

Electronica includes a wide range of contemporary electronic music designed for a wide range of uses, including foreground listening, some forms of dancing, and background music for other activities. Unlike electronic dance music not all examples of electronica are necessarily made for dancing. In the United States genres such as techno, downtempo, and ambient are among those encompassed by the umbrella term, entering the American mainstream from "alternative" or "underground" venues during the late 1990s.
Allmusic categorises electronica as a top-level genre on their main page, where they state that electronica includes danceable grooves to music for headphones and chillout areas.

Electronica has grown to influence mainstream crossover recordings. Electronic sounds  became key to the mainstream pop and rock sounds of the 1980s. Since the adoption of "electronica" in the 1990s to refer to more underground music with an electronic aesthetic, elements of modern electronica have been adopted by many popular artists in mainstream music. Making it more palatable to the mainstream listener.


It is of little doubt the use of "Electronica/Techno/Progressive in films such as Sneakers, Swordfish, Blade and the Matrix did a lot to bring this once unknown and ignored music form into the spot light. Generally speaking, for the purposes of excercise and weight training, House's uptempo 125 -130 bpm is perfect for the serious body shaper. It can be heard in various mid and hard sell commercials trying to tie thei product or service to the high energy and perceived movement the sound of House Music imbibes.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed August 10, 2005 to be "House Unity Day" in Chicago, in celebration of the "21st anniversary of house music" (actually the 21st anniversary of the founding of Trax Records, an independent Chicago-based house label). The proclamation recognized Chicago as the original home of house music and that the music's original creators "were inspired by the love of their city, with the dream that someday their music would spread a message of peace and unity throughout the world". DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, Paul Johnson and Mickey Oliver celebrated the proclamation at the Summer Dance Series, an event organized by Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs.

August 26th 2004, then State Senator Barack Obama shook the hand of Frankie Knuckles (the Godfather of House Music) and christened the Chicago street where the legendary Warehouse once stood… "Frankie Knuckles Way”, it was almost 30 years since Frankie had put his first record on in that famous nightclub.

It was during the 2000's that became firmly established, both in the underground and as part of the pop market, and labels such as Defected Records, Roule and Om were at the forefront of championing the emerging sound.

 In the mid-2000s, fusion genres such as electro house and fidget house emerged. This fusion is apparent in the crossover of musical styles by artists such as Dennis Ferrer's production style having evolved from the New York soulful house scene and Booka Shade's roots in techno. DJs today can be heard blending all sub-genres of house as many of the best musical elements are shared across these sub-genres. Electro house is still popular in Australia, Europe and North America, where the Electro House scene has produced acts which are popular touring the world e.g. Dirty South, Tommy Trash, The Potbelleez and The Aston Shuffle.
Today, innovative House Music is celebrated and showcased at British Columbia's Shambhala Music Festival and at major industry sponsored events like Miami's Winter Music Conference. House Music can now even be heard in the Middle East in cities such as Dubai & Abu Dhabi on national radio Station Radio 1 “Club Anthems” show presented by Greg Stainer and at events like Creamfields.

Tomorrowland 2012 took place between from July 27–29, 2012, at the De Schorre National Park in Boom, Belgium. The line-up consisted of 400 DJs, such as
Skrillex, Avicii, Marco Bailey, Skazi, David Guetta, The Nervo Twins, Hardwell, Swedish House Mafia, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, Carl Cox, The Bloody Beetroots, Paul van Dyk, Martin Solveig, Chuckie, Fatboy Slim and Pendulum playing on fifteen stages each day. 180,000 people from over 75 countries around the world were in attendance, with 35,000 of them staying in Dreamville. Because of the enormous success of Tomorrowland and the fact that it is a Belgian festival, ID&T decided to give Belgians an exclusive chance with a pre-sale (80,000 of the 180,000 tickets) on March 24. In less than one day, all of the tickets sold out and at some moments there were 2,000,000 people on the online waiting list. The worldwide sale started April 7. Within two hours, the other 100,000 tickets sold out. In addition to regular tickets, Tomorrowland partnered with Brussels Airlines to provide exclusive travel packages from over 15 cities around the world. Other highlights of the festival were the Cloud Rider, the highest mobile Ferris wheel in Europe, and the fact that 25 air-flights were organised to bring spectators to the festival.

As of the late 2000s, house influenced music retains widespread popularity in clubs throughout the world. House Music has also seen a comeback into the mainstream with producers like Daft Punk, David Guetta, Stardust, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, Avicii, Fedde Le Grand, Benny Benassi, and Dada Life bringing eurodance-infused house tracks back to the US Top 40 charts.
A new generation of house music DJs has experienced a growing fan base from the mid 2000s onwards. Examples of these DJs include but are not limited to Afrojack, Avicii, Axwell, Bingo Players, David Guetta, Deadmau5, Digitalism, Eric Prydz, Kaskade, Laidback Luke, Madeon, Mat Zo, Porter Robinson, Sasha, Steve Aoki, Sebastian Ingrosso, Swedish House Mafia, Tiësto, Hardwell and Wolfgang Gartner. Only, the following is much larger, access more expansive (the House listener today no longer has to drive across town to a record store specializing in DJ Music and Dj Equipment sales/rentals or wait for their friends older brother to return from a trip to NYC with the latest bootleg tape in the bag. Today's House Music listener can get the latest track, from the latest Dj/Producer, and even follow a specific label in seconds or minutes all with the click of the mouse.

Not too shabby for music once considered a fad.

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    1. I've loved House since 1987, it was my pleasure to write, thanks for commenting

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  7. Thank you for sharing your ideas and this information! I never really thought of why they called it house music. I love it