When I was in graduate school I spent nearly all of my free time in New York City. If I wasn’t in coursework then I was in the train to the city or I was coming back from the city, usually because I’d been pumping through nightclubs in the East Village. There was always a last train from New Haven, around midnight, and a first train back, usually around 5am. It didn’t go unnoticed among my cohort, who regularly asked me, with an erudite yet judgemental tone, how I was able to find the time to do all my seminar work and go to New York City so much. The implication, of course, was that I wasn’t working hard enough, that I didn’t take graduate school or academia seriously because I always found my way to the party.
At the time, I didn’t realize that nightlife and club culture would eventually become my research project or that the narrative of pleasure versus the perceived torment of real intellectual labor would power the conversation about night worlds. So I got the idea to propose a special junior seminar for undergraduates about nightlife culture in New York City. The course was a hit. My students loved it, they loved the guest speakers I brought to campus, and they loved the field trips we took as part of the course.
Things got a bit more complicated, though, when the gossip tabloids got a whiff of the seminar, splashing it across headlines around the internet, including the Daily Mail, dragging my name as well as the University’s into the mud. I even got emails from prominent alumni who shamed me for teaching such nonsense and for me bringing the University’s name into the mud myself. And that’s when I realised that I was onto something with nightlife. There are a number of ways to study history, culture, social change, race, gender and sexuality, and the nightclub is one place to do it.
In certain academic circles, the pursuit of nightlife is seen as being all fun and no research, like I imagine some of the people I knew in grad school felt about what I was doing. The work is doubly unserious and unrigorous if it does not come from an identifiable archive or library holding. You’re not supposed to be having so much fun. This sentiment is less so in places like performance studies, American Studies and queer of color studies, where researchers of nightlife are actually on the rise. But as with any scholarship about the margins, which flips a canon on its head, the hardest task is proving you’re right and proving you’re right. I agree with Jack Halberstam’s notion of “low” theory, which he sees as an undoing of the traditional canon or archive, a privileging of “low” culture over high culture.
Fear and condemnation of nightlife is real and stretches from the church to city hall, and from your parents to the media. More than that, it’s a fear that reaches across time and space. In the early 20th century, for instance, a young New York girl called Eugenia Kelly was arrested after a weekend getaway upstate because her mother thought she partied too hard. Can you imagine? Mrs. Kelly actually wanted to have her daughter institutionalised because she partied a bit too much.
The reality is that morality and government actors have long pressured against urban nightlife and club culture. In Sydney, Australia, as one clear example, the current right wing government has installed a range of “lockout laws” to combat what it sees as nightlife fueled violence in its central business district. The lockout laws are simple: in the central business district, where a majority of the clubs are, no one can enter a venue after 1:30 am and alcohol is not served past 3am, though you can stay on until 5am.
The laws are killing the local night time economy and led to a massive Keep Sydney Open march and demonstration that I attended on February 21. At the rally, local venue owners, musicians and party people spoke openly against the puritanical anti-club laws and about the value of the club scene. The Government sees clubs as hotbeds of drugs, sex and violence, but for the folks gathered there that day, nightlife was about creative expression and creative community.
To punch up the link between pleasure and morals, many attendees at the rally dressed like Puritans.
Pleasure reminds us of our humanity. It’s proof that not only are we in a body but that we are also a body, with feelings, drives and desires that fall outside of what’s prescribed to us. It’s also a reminder that we are not machines. Marxist critics Adorno and Horkheimer believed that the only reason culture has entertainment is to distract us from the fact that we have to go to work again in a few more hours. It’s a pessimistic viewpoint, but I actually think they’re right. That’s why part of the magic and pleasure of nightlife is how it goes against the capitalist impulse to work and be productive.
It´s not possible to write a series on houses of African music for dancing in Lisbon without giving a special place to the most emblematic and internationally known place: B.leza, the survivor of the tradition of live music. Following the tradition that started in the seventies with Bana´s place, live music is the main raison-d´être of this mythical house.
The name chosen, “B.leza”, has an extraordinary symbolic meaning for Cape Verdean music: B.leza is the artistic name of Francisco Xavier da Cruz (1905-1958), a composer and musician who inspired the musical genre called morna (Cidra, 2010a). His house became the meeting point of artists, and he trusted in Bana to keep by heart his last poems (Cidra, 2010b). If we take into account that Alcides, Bana´s son, is one of the co-owners, we can understand how strong and deep is the relationship of B.Leza to the transnational links between Cape Verde and Portugal.
For all these reasons and more, B.leza can be considered an institution in Lisbon and it deserves an in-depth ethnography: the symbolism of the space, the artists that wrote the history of music, the personages that circulated and still can be found there, the dancing bodies that still respond to the ritual call of music… If we look carefully at B.leza´s dancefloor, we can see how all this long and deep history is embodied through the most pleasant and smooth of movements.
The tradition of live music in Lisbon
Bana was probably the first musician who opened a space in Lisbon for displaying his art and inviting other artists to play. It was in 1976, and the first name given to it was “Novo Mundo”, that later gave place to “Monte Cara” (Cidra, 2010b, INET-MD). Its final name was “Enclave”, the most remembered nowadays. Anyway, it was popularly known as “Bana” on behalf of the famous owner´s name. He put together live music, food and a dancefloor: this formula met with great success. Other well-known artists opened live music venues, such as Tito Paris and Dany Silva. In this context, José Manuel Saudade e Silva, a Portuguese gentleman who worked as a lawyer, fell in love with African music and enjoyed socializing with musicians. One day, he decided to gather some friends to open a new space devoted to this music and dance culture: in 1987 the dance club Baile was born in the ballroom of an ancient palace (XVI century) to give it new life. We are speaking about the emblematic Palácio Almada de Carvalhais. Previously, it had hosted the mythical Noites Longas (Long Nights) organized by Zé de Guiné, one of the fathers of Lisbon´s African nightlife. Among the legends that circulate around the dancing rooms, it is said that it was the place where Marquês de Pombal designed the reconstruction of the city of Lisbon in the eighteenth century! It was some years later, in 1995, that the house would be reopened with a new name: B.leza was born to become an icon that is still alive today.
B.leza, an icon of African-ness in Lisbon
Those who were lucky to live during those times describe the old days with emotion and agree that there are no words to define what it meant: the ancient candelabras hanging from the high ceiling, the corridors where you could find the big stars of African music chatting and smoking, the impressive dancefloor, the mix of solemnity and decadence because of the passing of the years, and the magic of the ambience. It was the meeting point for artists of every genre and intellectuals, and it became the university of African music and culture for those who were interested in it. All the big names of African music played in B.leza: Bana, Bonga, Justino Delgado, Tabanka Djaz, Tito Paris, Don Kikas, Sara Tavares, Lura, Nancy Vieira, just to name a few. DJ Sabura, one of the DJs that you can find there making people happy every Sunday, speaks about the old B.leza as his place of initiation into dance:
“B.leza is a cultural icon of African-ness in Portugal, in Lisbon (…) It was a place that had a mysticism that transpired the walls. There were verses written on the walls, there were red giant candelabras of high value, there was a dancefloor in darkened wood, there was a giant ceiling (…) and apart from the main hall, there were all those narrow corridors where people went to smoke and chat. It was a place where you could find painters, writers, singers, musicians, everyone spoke about it…it was a really special place, and it had a spectacular energy. Everyone was there, look, my initiation into dance took place there, with the friends I met at B.leza.” (Interview with DJ Sabura)
Nevertheless, it was not only about music: from the first day, the vocation of the house was the promotion of African culture (and not only) in all its dimensions: there were also poetry recitations, film exhibitions, visual art exhibitions, and more. Although it has always been open to art from all PALOPs, Brazil, and beyond, B.leza’s fame rests on its special relationship with Cape Verde, to the point that the President of Cámara Municipal de Lisboa (local government of the city) said once that the house can be considered “one more island of Cape Verde”. The owners insist that B.leza is not a disco: it is a house of culture. In fact, the first thing that strikes any lover of African culture is that the house offers a luxury cultural programme for inexpensive (sometimes even merely symbolic) prices.
B.leza, a love story
If we go to the dancefloor, we can read this message on the wall: “In 1995, B.leza was born from a love story. In the noble hall of Almada Carvalhais Palace, the music from Cape Verde danced in Lisbon. Recognising the city as a natural space of encounter of the people that History joined together, B.leza hosted artists from Mozambique, Angola, Brazil and many others that made of the stage the pretext for life to take place. The Palace closed but the history didn´t end. B.leza (re)encounters now the river Tejo and its audience to receive old friends with a new house, and sing the poetry and magic of lusophone culture with them. Good evening, welcome to B.leza!”
What is this love story that this welcoming message tells us about? An interview with Sofia, one of the co-owners of the place, leads us to the answer. The magic of D. Jose Manuel Saudade e Silva´s dream was imperilled when he unfortunately passed away in 1994. It was then when his two daughters, Sofia and Magdalena, two strong-minded and determined Portuguese ladies, decided to carry on with their father´s dream as an act of love for him. The musician Alcides (Bana´s son) joined them in the adventure. And they succeeded, there´s no doubt! Now we know the mysterious love story that the walls of today’s B.leza tell us about…
The opening of B.leza was kind of a risky adventure, as the two ladies were quite young and they didn´t have much experience in the field. They didn´t know whether the house would come to life again. The inaugural night was a difficult moment for them. Fortunately, the success went beyond expectations. This is the way Sofia, one of the current co-owners of B.leza, remembers that day:
“We opened in 1995, with a bit of fear because it was something new for us to some extent (…) it was kind of surprising how it became so successful (…) Baile had been falling down in its final years, and we wanted to do something that represented a continuity while making it also clear that there had been a change. (…) I remember the inauguration day, it was 21st December 1995, we went back home to change clothes and come back, and before I phoned Fernanda, a lady that worked there with us in that time. I asked her: “how is it going, Fernanda, how is the house now?” because I was afraid that nobody would come in, those anxieties…she said: “girl, come quickly or you won´t be able to get in”. It was absolutely crowded, things went just great.” (Interview with Sofia co-owner of B.leza)
Exiled from the palace
Unfortunately, nowadays we cannot experience a night in the palace because the owner finally decided to sell the property and B.leza´s soul had to pack up and look for another home. The search was hard, as it was rather difficult to find a new place that could keep up with such high standards. During the period between 2007 and 2012, trying not to leave the B.leza community homeless, the co-owners organized parties that they called B.leza itinerante (itinerant B.leza) in diverse places such as Teatro de São Luis, Teatro da Luz, Maxime or Teatro do Bairro. After some years roaming around the city, B.leza found its new home: an industrial block beside the river Tejo. How to invoke the spirits of the ancient iconic B.leza in a cold and empty diaphanous industrial box with metal serpents running on the ceiling? The staff worked hard to feed the imagination of their loyal members and help them get over the trauma of palace exile.
“Our idea was bringing some elements that could bring people back to the former B.leza. (…) This space was too modern, too cold, and we tried to find elements that could bring in a bit of warmth and a bit of history to the place. So we went to look for velvet for the curtains in a warm colour (…) and old furniture (…) And it seems that we made it, because people say: “oh, those candelabras are from the former B.leza” and they are not! But we got to build that bridge.” (Interview with Sofia, co-owner of B.leza)
Yes, if we go to nowadays´ B.leza, we don´t find ourselves in a palace. Anyway, we shouldn´t feel sad about it because the crystal wall that looks at the Tejo provides us with other kind of luxuries. For example, while dancing in a Sunday matinée we may be amazed by a sight like this one.
As the sun goes down, the lights that let see the silhouette of the bridge 25th April remind the dancers that critical episode in the history of Portugal that changed definitely the destiny of former Portuguese colonies. On the left of the bridge, the illuminated Christo Redentor (Redeeming Christ) seems to look at B.leza and protect the dancing community with his opened arms.
During the day, the walls recently re-painted in deep pink make the new B.leza impossible to remain unseen in a walk by the shore of Tejo in the area of Cais do Sodré. There´s no doubt you will find it if you´re looking for it!
But the most important ritual space is the stage: here the resident band plays every Friday and Saturday, and the living legends and new artists of the Portuguese-speaking countries (and beyond) jump on to display their art. The resident band of B.leza makes people dance every Friday and Saturday: Vaiss Dias (guitar), Cao Paris (drums), Paló Figuereido (bass), Kalú Ferreira (keyboards) and Calú Moreira (voice).
On Sunday there is an extremely popular Matinée that starts with a dance workshop by some of the best-known teachers of Lisbon, followed by a session guided by DJ Oceano and DJ Sabura.
The organizer of these dancing Matinées is Magda, an incredibly nice and busy young woman (originally from Poland) and a source of never-ending original ideas for new events. She combines her role as producer of music and dance events with her role as doctoral researcher on African music at ISCTE (University of Lisbon).
She was responsible for some extremely interesting activities, including a series of colloquia with the main kizomba teachers of Lisbon. Another initiative that she developed and deserves special attention was the series of workshops named Kizomba comElas (Kizomba with them, a feminine “them”) that intended to bring under the spotlight the work of these female teachers that are usually regarded as secondary actresses in a context where male dancers rule.
B.leza, the democratic dancefloor
One of the most striking aspects of this house is the extraordinary heterogeneity of its clientele. The dancefloor is inhabited by people of all ages, colours, looks, social classes, professions, origins and lifestyles. Indeed, this openness and diversity is one of the main characteristics of B.leza, and it is so because the politics for entering are not restrictive:
“We let everyone in, we don´t have any dress code to get in, people come as they want. If you come from the beach and you wear flip-flops, you get in wearing flip-flops. If you want to come with a shiny dress from head to toe… you just come as you want to come, as you like to come and as you have money to do it (…) There are car parkers, who got some coins today and come to drink their cup of red wine and dance all the night long and everything is ok, or even ministers, judges, the prince of Monaco came here one year ago to dance as any other client, Robert De Niro, Catherine de Neuve…everyone as long as they want to have fun are allowed in.” (Interview with Sofia, co-owner of B.leza)
In this way, the dancefloor becomes a democratic ritual space where social inequalities of everyday life are temporarily suspended. In the words of the classical author Victor Turner, the hierarchical social structure becomes a horizontal communitas during the ritual (Turner 1967). At B.leza nights, the time of the dance is the moment to dream of a better world where everyone is the same…
Cidra, Rui (2010a) “B.leza”. In Castelo-Branco, Salwa (dir.) Enciclopédia da Música em Portugal no século XX A-C. Lisboa: Temas e Debates/Círculo de Leitores.
Cidra, Rui (2010b) “Bana”. In Castelo-Branco, Salwa (dir.) Enciclopédia da Música em Portugal no século XX A-C. Lisboa: Temas e Debates/Círculo de Leitores.
Turner, Victor (1969) The Ritual Process. Structure and Anti-structure. New York: Cornell University Press.
Livia Jiménez Sedano is currently member of INET-MD (Instituto de Etnomusicologia-Centro de Estudos em Música e Danca) and her work is being funded by FCT (Fundação para a Ciencia e Tecnologia) of Portugal. She is a collaborator of the Modern Moves Project and will become a full member in September 2015.
After last week’s visit to one of the classical African houses of Lisbon, A Lontra, today I propose taking us to a newer one. The landscape of houses for dancing African music in Lisbon is so dynamic, and the craze for dance is so strong that we can find new clubs opening even in the hardest times of financial crisis in Portugal. A good example of this is Kalema Club: each disco has its own personality, and Kalema attracted my attention from the first time I stepped into the house.
Kalema Club is a warm and welcoming house with a capacity of a bit more than 100 people. It is situated in the northern zone of Lisbon, at Avenida Frei Miguel Contreiras 18C. The golden and earthy colours of the lights and furniture, the comfortable sofas where you can sit freely and the non-huge but crowded dancefloor make you feel at home since the moment you arrive.
Whenever you decide to go to the bar and ask for a drink, you will always find the beautiful smile of Zanatt, barwoman and co-owner of the club with Ricardo Rodrigues.
One night in Kalema: ethnographic description
“Raluca, the promotor of Friday nights of Kalema Club is waiting at the door to welcome us with her shiny smile as we arrive. She is a really nice Romanian young woman who became a lover of African music in Lisbon. As she has great social skills, she has been recently included in the team of promotors of Fridays nights in Kalema. It means that we are on her guestlist and she invites us to sit on her table. The security man gives us a paper card of consumption. This is the most extended system in this kind of clubs in Lisbon: you don´t need to pay when you enter, and everything you ask for will be marked on your card. To anyone who is used to pay right in the moment of serving, this card system makes you feel that you are not spending money at all (until the moment of leaving, of course!). Before you leave, you pay the total amount and your card is stamped. This is the proof of payment that you must show to the security staff to be allowed to leave.
After crossing the entrance door, as you go downstairs you can feel the beats of kizomba reverberating closer with each step. Once at the level of the dancefloor, we go to the table where some friends are sitting. After being introduced to the rest through the smile-and-kiss ritual, we can sit down as part of the group. We can now be considered part of the collective social subject “our table”. I look around and see that all the sofas are occupied by groups of people that chat together and lean their drinks on the tables beside. Everyone is dressed in a weekend fashion, in varying degrees of formality that don´t go to the extremes (neither suits-and-ties, nor sport shoes-and-jeans). All the tables and sofas are oriented looking at the dancefloor and, as the space is not big, it is possible to observe almost every corner from any seat. The dancefloor is never totally empty but never totally packed up, leaving space for dancing without accidents. Most people come back to their original tables of reference after each dance.” (Fieldwork Diary)
This continuous cycle of going to the dancefloor when favourite songs are played and coming back “home” afterwards made me remember what I had witnessed in other African houses such as Mwangolé or Sussussu. But…this is not what I was used to see in any of the typical kizomba parties I have attended here in Lisbon…
The riddle of Kalema
Kalema became a mystery for me since the first night I went there: I was very curious about was what I perceived as a striking mix of ambiences. As far as I have witnessed in my fieldwork until today, in a “typical African disco” of the old style (80s and 90s), we will find people drinking and chatting in groups sitting on sofas beside tables around a dancefloor. Most of the time they will be talking and watching people dance (what is usually called convívio), and only in certain special moments they will jump on the dancefloor. By contrast, in the houses and parties that kizomba school people prefer, most of the time they are not sitting: instead, they are dancing or standing around the dancefloor, so that chatting and drinking is much of a secondary activity. In these contexts (such as Barrio Latino on Thursdays or, more recently, B.leza on Sundays), chairs and sofas become an obstacle for the dance or an improvised bengaleiro (place to leave their coats and bags). Apparently, Kalema broke that rule: being frequented by a mix of kizomba school people and Africans, all of them shared the habit of sitting on the sofas in groups and talking. Why? What was going on? I decided to resolve this intriguing fact that made Kalema such a special place. An interview with the co-owners, Ricardo Rodrigues and Zanatt, finally led me to the answer.
History of Kalema
Kalema Club opened just a few years ago, the 8th November of 2013, as Ricardo remembered immediately. The place already existed, and it was known as Terra da Música. To give it a new life, it was essential to change the name, the decoration, and the ambience. Interestingly, Ricardo spent a part of his life in Cape Verde and opened a house that called RClub. He used to go to another disco that was called Kalema, and the name inspired him. “Kalema” is the name given to a strong swell that beats the Western African coast (what could be considered a metaphor for the emotional state in which people get into through dancing.) Apart from the beautiful sound of the word, one of the reasons why Ricardo chose this name is because, according to him, we can find this term everywhere in the PALOPs: a general reference of Portuguese-speaking Africa that is not specific of any country. In this way, it could make people from diverse African countries feel identified with it. The two co-owners are well knowers of the African nights of Lisbon: Zanatt, from São Tomé, has lived in Lisbon for a long time, and Ricardo, Portuguese, has a quite interesting history of relations with Africa. Their intention was opening up a new African disco with a special personality that could make it different from the others. The boom of kizomba changed their plans: school kizomba lovers started to come and introduced their social rules. As the house started receiving more and more clients of this kind, it became an unexpected social mix and it had to adapt to the needs of both types of public: a good balance of recent hits and old music, a combination of living-room-like space with kizomba workshops some nights. As a result, today we can find a quite interesting mix of nightclub cultures, social rules and dance styles that develop through crossed influences in a small-medium space.
Nevertheless, these cultural diversity provide with some difficulties to keep everyone happy. The first key point is the music: how can the DJ guide such a heterogeneous community through the night?
For this reason, the solution found was the following: Kalema offers the possibility of experiencing a night more focused on kizomba on Fridays and a more “African night” on Saturday. At this moment, on Friday night we can find some of the DJs most appreciated in the world of kizomba schools and festivals joining DJ Klaus, the resident DJ. On Saturday, the invited DJs are specialists in African audiences; for example, DJ Zauzito was there for a noite do semba (semba night).
Summing up, if you go on Friday, you may find a kizomba workshop or a show by a well-known teacher; if you go on Saturday, you may find something more similar to the nostalgic African discos of the 80s and 90s. Or you may find a surprise, as new realities are being created every weekend. What are the new shapes that African-ness is taking in Lisbon´s nights? Are we helping the blending of social groups and night cultures through the love for music and dance? The answers are waiting on the dancefloor of discos like Kalema in the next years, starting from tonight. We´d better not miss it!
Livia Jiménez Sedano is currently member of INET-MD (Instituto de Etnomusicologia-Centro de Estudos em Música e Danca) and her work is being funded by FCT (Fundação para a Ciencia e Tecnologia) of Portugal. She is a collaborator of Modern Moves Project and will become a full member on September 2015.
When people ask me how I became interested in the intersection of nightlife, fashion and popular culture I always tell them that the whole time I was a doctoral student at Yale I split my time between seminars on literary theory and dancing at Mr. Black — when that gay basement den was still a secret black door on Broadway. I read Benjamin on the train to New York City and got coffee for my editors at Condé Nast, the international magazine empire that publishes Vogue and The New Yorker. For me it has always been a challenge to differentiate the nerdy aspect of my personality — the side that is always thinking, analyzing, historicizing, looking for cultural patterns — from the side that loves gossip, fabulous clothes, dancing, and having fun. With the help of my dissertation committee I learned how to bring both sides together.
To me the most interesting academic work bridges the gap between theory and practice, between high theory and what Jack Halberstam has called “low theory,” or theories informed by “low” cultural productions. Great conversations happen when scholars move out of the ivory tower and talk with artists, musicians, dancers and other cultural producers. You have to mix the high with the low — it’s my intellectual philosophy.
That was the idea behind “Music, Fashion and the Power of Queer Nightlife,” a panel I put together for this year’s American Studies Association Annual Meeting on “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain in the Post-American Century” in Los Angeles. At the end of the day I wanted to create a space where scholars could talk about their various expertise in nightlife and club culture and I wanted DJs and party promoters to talk about their interest and expertise in nightlife to see where things emerged. Scholars spend so much time analyzing culture that many of us forget about the cultural producers we’re writing about.
A few weeks prior I led a similar conversation right here in London titled In the Mix: DJs, Dance Floors, Diasporas,” a panel with Benjamin Lebrave, Willy Vertueux and John Armstrong, three DJs with specialties in the Afro dance floor. As part of the Arts and Humanities Festival at King’s College London, the panel touched on the history of the dance floor, the DJ as an artist and provided colorful details about what it means to be a DJ on the Afro dance floor.
This was, again, an attempt to create a space that is inside and outside of academia, a space where artists and academics could come together and share their ideas about the dance floor.
As a scholar of performance and performance studies I know that making a piece or producing a piece of theater offers a different kind of knowing. Close reading and analysis of visual, sonic or literary texts can only offer us one kind of theory. But when you get in there and get your hands dirty, when you’re producing your own cultural productions, whatever shape they take, you’re armed with a wholly different type of knowledge and expertise. The way you create a cultural production is it’s own type of theory.
I put my experience producing experimental performances and club events to use when I choreographed IN THE DARK, an underground techno and house music dance party that took place in Hoxton and was part of this year’s Arts and Humanities Festival. With top talent coming from Ø [Phase], The Black Madonna and Edvardas Rut, the dance party was my take on the theory of the event, a subject that has been touched by everyone from Alan Kaprow to Brian Massumi.
I thought if I booked top DJs that everyone and their grandchildren would come to the event. Much to my surprise, and for the first time in my 5 years of producing events, student’s were interested but not really that interested. I was told by one student newspaper representative that they wouldn’t cover the event or promote it beforehand because “it wasn’t newsworthy,” and there was no press release sent out because higher ups at the University felt that it could be bad press and did not “want to end up in the Daily Mail.” This is even as the University fully supported and encouraged every aspect of the event.
The irony of this for me is that I have actually already been in the Daily Mail for my nightlife-meets-academic antics. In the Fall of 2011 I taught an undergraduate seminar on club culture when I was still a graduate student at Yale that made the international airways. I got emails from Yale donors telling me it was shameful that I dragged Yale’s name through the mud with a course like the one I was teaching. So here I was again, three years later, faced with a parallel situation.
Though the party did not go off without problems — it was my first thing in London and dealing with a roster of high profile artists — I thought it was a great success. The DJs where phenomenal. Everybody had fun and I could instantly see what I would do differently the next time. I saw where all my mistakes were.
As I continue with Modern Moves I have several more ideas for experimental performance pieces that will bridge the gap between academia and nightlife, one of which emerged directly out of my experience with IN THE DARK. If you really want to produce a theory of nightlife, and if you really want to understand how nightlife works, to me it is as important to study and spent time on dance floors as it is to produce dance floors. That’s where the theory lies.
The thing I love most about going clubbing is the anticipation that comes before actually putting a single pump in the venue itself. What are you going to wear! What music will you blast while you get ready! Clubs are real-time fantasy lands where music, sound and space come together as one. I always think about the booming, rattling sound a club makes, the anticipatory muffled bass you hear on the outside at the door as you make your way inside, I think of this as a clubs’ heartbeat. (Boots and pants and boots and pants and boots and pants. Say it aloud.) It’s the kind of sound that makes you excited about the weekend.
Here are 7 dance songs — or club heartbeats — that are currently preoccupying my brain space. See if you can make it through these songs without getting your groove on. You know what they say — it’s five o’clock somewhere.
1.”I Got Werk,” Moodyman
Moodyman is an American DJ and producer who is keen on retaining an distinctively black sound on techno and house music. “I Got Werk” is one of those tracks that makes you want to jive instantly.
2. “Kymestry,” Damon Bell
Damon Bell is an California-based producer and DJ whose genre-bending sounds draw from a variety of musical genres, from afro-beat to house and soul.
3. “Life Cycle,” Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills is one of the most iconic DJs on the global techno circuit. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, where techno was invented by three black youths who wanted to create a type of “high-tech soul,” Mills is particularly known for his minimal sound. “Life Cycle” is one of those tracks you imagine blasting at you in an illegal party basement somewhere.
4. “Multiply,” Terrence Dixon
Like Jeff Mills, Terrence Dixon is also known for his minimal techno palette, with sounds focusing primarily on mood and hypnotic, repetitive melody than on beat. I love this track in particular because it reminds me of minimalist composers like Philip Glass.
5. “Distane,” Psyk
When people say that techno is hard to listen to it’s because techno can often sound too repetitive, which to some can make the stuff feel like it has no “groove” in it. Those people would probably point to a track like this one by Psyk, a Spanish DJ and producer, where over the entire six-minute long track nothing really happens. The thing is, sometimes to really enjoy techno you have to pry yourself away from the idea that “something is supposed to happen” and instead focus on the beats and how the beats impact your body.
6. “Mind of Mars,” Rødhåd
I’ve been completely obsessed with this Rødhåd track since I discovered it a few days ago. Anyone who knows me knows I love minor keys. This track is in D# minor, so check. What does it for me is the way the beat feels slow and relentless with melodic arpeggiations on top of the beat.
7. “Do You Wanna Funk?,” Sylvester
I’ve always got Sylvester on my mind, that beautiful black queer diva who produced some of the most iconic disco tracks. “Do You Wanna Funk” is, of course, a play on words, funk being the type of soulful dance music that makes you want to get on your feet. And then there’s that other F-word, which sometimes goes hand-in-hand with dance music.