Taking the dancefloor in its totality as complex cultural space, it seems almost counter-intuitive that discourses around electronic dance music appear resistant to overtly political concerns. What is at play – not only in the sonic expression, but in the multifarious actions and interactions which make up nightlife – seems to have a different reception depending on who you ask. On the one hand, the larger electronic dance music community might have you believe that the dancefloor is a utopian space of carefree escapism, where “all that matters is the music” and identity politics is passé. On the other hand, the mainstream narrative of the dancefloor’s unity not only invisibilises dance music’s origins in LGBT and black and brown communities, but the lived experiences of queer and trans* people and people of colour demonstrate a continued marginalisation by a dominant white, heteronormative ideology.
How does this supposed neutrality manifest itself and what are the potentials of nightlife and electronic dance music cultures in overcoming this stubborn hangover of the musical sublime? Given the current political climate of right-wing populism, how is it possible for artists and musicians to call for and/or enact political change? Since 2015, NON Worldwide have engaged in a politicised intervention in electronic dance music aiming to “[disrupt] the colonial venacular of sound” forging an “ongoing exploration of Pan-African identity in the twenty-first century.” Framing their collective sonic practices as a push to decolonise dancefloors, their work is positioned within the histories of musical communication Paul Gilroy notably traced in the transatlantic diaspora in Black Atlantic – Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993).
This panel takes NON’s work as just one example of how music and art can reclaim spaces – real and virtual – and probes into related areas of voguing, performance art, and other areas of electronic music. In examining the specificities of black and brown diasporic, queer and trans* identities of these scenes, the discussion aims to unpack how strategies of resistance and perhaps vested political action can be realised. Conceiving the “dancefloor” broadly across these various realms, what potentials exist today to work towards decolonising musical or artistic cultures?
Spirits @ work: Nkisi is an ambassador of new world music and a co-founder of NON, the politically charged collective championing cutting-edge sounds from Africa and the African diaspora. Raised in Belgium and currently based in London, Melika Ngombe Kolongo has been dubbed "a synthesist of new hardcore sounds."
Diana Arce is an artist and researcher. Her latest project, White Guilt Clean Up, is about dismantling white privilege and supremacy via providing online and offline services to individuals and groups.
madison moore is a cultural critic, DJ and performance-maker. His work touches pop culture, queer studies, nightlife, sound, media, visual culture and contemporary art, and blurs the lines between scholarship and artistic practice.
Aérea Negrot is a multi-purpose, long-lasting singer-producer-DJ-composer-performer in a bottle. She has crafted her own unique approach, combining technoid grooves, operatic vocals and abstracted pop, allowing her various disciplines to overlap into something delightfully demented, bursting with personality, nimbly leaning toward the future while still keeping one pinky-toe in the traditions of classicism.
Mic Oala is a cultural producer & creative consultant based in Berlin who works internationally at the intersection of politics, music, fashion, art. After their degree in marketing & communications, Mic proceeded working in several international agencies until founding micoala | creative consulting in 2008.
Catapulted into the public consciousness by Beth Ditto, Kiddy Smile seeks to spread the retro love via his beats, all of which he produces, sings and sometimes even raps over himself.
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