Modern Moves team member Dr. Elina Djebbari attended the 3rd Meeting of African Studies in France at Sciences-Po Bordeaux from June 30-July 2. In a panel organised by Denis-Constant Martin, she gave a paper exploring lines of enquiry of her new research agenda within Modern Moves: “Cuban music in Africa: the creation of a ‘modern african music’ at Independence” (“La musique cubaine en Afrique : la création d’une “musique africaine moderne” aux Indépendances”)
There was zero chance I’d miss a house music party in an abandoned warehouse in Shoreditch, especially not one fronted by Berghain/Panorama Bar resident DJ Tama Sumo. Her set, which went into the wee hours of the morning, spanned house music gems, disco, funk, and boy did she work us all through the night. It was so hot in there.
Photo courtesy of Kirk Everett
There are plenty of folks out there who think that people who have an interest in fashion have nothing powerful or intelligent to say. Fashion and style are too superfluous to merit any real attention, they scoff.
But this theory overlooks the fact that we live in a social world dominated by appearances and first impressions, as the great sociologist Erving Goffman spent his career theorizing. When we get dressed in the morning for a job interview or a date as for a night on the town, we are putting on first impressions. People who say they don’t care about style still live in the same appearance-focused world as everybody else, so “not caring” about fashion is still a fashion choice.
My second or third day in London — I’ve been here about two months now — I was on the night bus going to who even knows what club when I saw these two fabulous black women and they were dressed to impress. They were definitely “turning looks,” and I wanted to be wherever they were going because it was probably going to be fabulous.
At one point two guys got on the bus, looked at these two apparitions of sartorial beauty and sassed, “There’s a lot of fierce looks going on right here!,” snapping their fingers and feeling overjoyed with emotion.
Having a great style is on the one hand about expressing oneself and expressing a type of self-love, but on the other it’s also a way of connecting to someone emotionally, even if just for a few seconds, and even if you don’t say a word to them.
For me, this is the real work (werk? were? work!) of style. Running into a person with a great sense of self-presentation produces a range of reactions in us, and I always find people’s reactions to amazing style an interesting place to think about the power style has for us as for the wearer.
Anyway, style is effervescent, transformative and has the power to change the dynamics of a room — or a sidewalk. MADISON
On Saturday, May 31, the Modern Moves team attended a VIP reception at the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora at The Place, London, a venue that Namron Yarrum, OBE, helped launch in the 1970s.
Over the past few weeks the Modern Moves team has been busy percolating dance floors and drum circles in various scenes all over London. We worked the dance floor at NUMBI: A Night of Afro-Futurism, where Ananya, Elina and me competed for best dance moves. We were completely covered in sweat by the end of the night. It’s funny because when we got to the venue nobody was dancing — the center of the room was empty. Obviously as dance fanatics we felt that being in a party full of good music and good company where nobody was dancing would simply not do.
As usual we took it to ourselves to get the party started. Anything for research!
A few days later, over in Hoxton, we went to AfroKarib, a day-long festival of Haitian music, food, dance, and drink, where the drum circles were even more beautiful and intense. It was a little slice of Haiti in East London.
For my part I’ve been going to a lot of techno-oriented parties, primarily in Dalston, Elephant & Castle, Shoreditch and King’s Cross. One thing that strikes me as a fascinating linkage between the worlds of machine created drum beats, like those typically found on techno and house dance floors, and the more real-time drumming like we’ve experienced in drum circles, is how in both scenes, people love being close to the source of the beat, whether it is mechanical or human.
In a drum circle you use the body to dance in a call-and-response to the beats a drummer is offering. There’s an intricate synergy between the dancer and the drummer — the heavier the beats, the more we are entranced.
What I’ve noticed on the techno and house floor is that people love to stand right in front of the subwoofer, or next to a speaker tower, such that they are so close to the sound source it’s like they’re trying to climb in. They’re possessed by the beat, the repetitious sound of the kick drum producing in them feelings of euphoria and ecstasy.
Drum circles, kick drums, sound systems.
Marry this with the fact that techno and house music are so beat focused that when a sound system is good — really good — the bass isn’t tonal as much as it is a feeling. You feel deep bass inside of you and it adds an invisible thickness or weight to the dance floor.
The connection between afro diasporic drum circles, sound systems, and the way bass and drums impact our bodies on the dance floor is one topic I am really curious to unpack even more as a way to understand why everyone loves a drop.
– MADISON MOORE