Black Culture and Musical Institutions in Detroit’s Early Electronic Music Culture

 Ownership and commodification were two main elements associated with Detroit’s electronic music. Detroit’s electronic music had an everlasting effect on interdisciplinary communities across the globe. Yet, the concept of ownership was heavily debated. The complexity arises when elements of an entire genre is decided to be maintained and owned by people. Instead of grouping an entire style of music and framing it inside “African-American culture” critics wanted to grant ownership of Detroit Techno according to the context of the city. Questions from Detroit technologists are formed when there is no acknowledgment of the influence of African-Americans in Detroit Techno music, although the population in Detroit was 82% Black. “I don’t recall any other people in Detroit during the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s creating or dancing to this type of music other than Black people” replied “Mad” Mike Banks. Banks witnessed the first wave of Detroit techno during the ‘70’s and ‘80’s and fathered the second generation of Detroit techno in the ‘90’s. The first people to make Detroit Techno were Black, played by Detroit DJs and radios, and it was celebrated by Black crowds at cabarets, gay and straight clubs, block parties and BBQ’s.


During the 1970s and 1980s time, disco and progressive music came through Detroit in the hands of Ken Collier who had his own night club called Heaven where he was the DJ. Ken Collier and Heaven were significant to to the development of electronic music in Detroit. Those who went to Heaven described their time there as something they had never experienced before. A primary tenet of Detroit’s music stemmed from the belief in the power of music and its universality. In addition to Ken Collier and Heaven another important tenet of Detroit’s musical history is radio. Charles “Electrifying Mojo” Johnson and Jeff Mills as the Wizard are key people in Detroit’s radio in the 70s. The radio inspired listeners to look at their lives through music differently.

By: Autumn Simmons & Christina Flakes

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