From Disco to Drum and Bass
People have been dancing since the dawn of time. But dance music has never been so popular or so quick to change as it is today. Modern dance music really began in the mid-1970s, with the disco craze. Disco songs used a traditional singing style, but added a strong rhythm (backbeat). Along with the new music came a change in fashion. Trousers, often large and brightly coloured, were worn by both men and women as they were easier to dance in. Although instantly popular with the rich, disco was largely played in expensive clubs and meant little to those with less money. Hip-hop disc jockeys (DJs) in New York used disco records to lay down a rhythm, but added rapidly spoken words instead of singing. These rappers wanted to talk about real life on the street, and the problems faced by poor, urban, young blacks. Their clothes were sporty, relaxed and practical. Disco and hip-hop, together with advances in technology, have given birth to dozens of forms of dance music over the last twenty years. Even such bizarre styles as 'trancecore', 'drum and bass' and 'ambient' can be traced back to combinations of disco and hip-hop.
In the mid-1980s a new style called House music came out of Chicago, USA. Like hip-hop, it grew out of disco songs, but it carried a much stronger, faster drum-beat. House music was much less political than hip-hop and, probably because of that, became very popular worldwide. In dance clubs in America and Europe, DJs distorted the songs even further using new electronic devices like drum machines. The new sound, acid house, is still very common around the world. The global symbol of acid house is a yellow smiley face. A recent extension of house music is garage, which returns to the soulful vocals of disco but is backed by the modern acid house electronic sound.
Dancing becomes illegal
As dance music became more popular, it left the dance clubs and moved outside. Large dances, called raves, sprang up all over Europe in abandoned factories or isolated country fields. At the same time, the introduction of a new drug called Ecstasy began to trouble the authorities. Although it has been proven to damage the memory of long-term users, Ecstasy was thought to be the perfect dance drug. Instead of dealing with the drug problem, the British Government changed the law to make raves illegal. Fighting against these tough new laws, New Age travellers (sometimes called ‘crusties’) made dance music political again. Dance music formed the background to numerous demonstrations, ecological protests and illegal raves in the early 1990s.
Dance music continued to change. From Detroit came techno, with its harsh, artificial drum beats. Although American in origin, techno was influenced by European bands from the early 1980s such as Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. As time went on, dance music contained less and less original material played on traditional instruments, such as drums, pianos or guitars. The vocals or bassline of an earlier hit record may be sampled’, and used in a new record. This caused many legal problems in the 1980s, with the original artist demanding money from the new band. Nowadays sampling is very common, even in pop records. Much of modern dance music is generated entirely within electronic sound machines or even computers. A number one record can now be produced by just one person in their bedroom. You don’t even need to be able to read music! This creative freedom has meant that dance music has exploded into many different styles. Popular at the moment are laid-back trip-hop (like Massive Attack); rock/dance (like The Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers); and speed garage (Armand van Helden) from the dance clubs of Spanish resort Ibiza.
The biggest names in dance
Disco: Gloria Gaynor, Earth, Wind and Fire, The BeeGees
Hip-hop: Public Enemy, Run DMC, The Beastie Boys
House music: S’Express, Bomb the Bass, 808 State
Techno: K Foundation, The Shamen, Daft Punk Trip-hop:
Tricky, Leftfield, Massive Attack