Posts Tagged 'Detroit'

Movement in Detroit

       Love and blessings to all my friends and family. I hope you are all vibin’ and thrivin’. Here is the latest installment of my musical adventure travelogue.
       This wild and intense wake up call to Love we call life works in the most mysterious of ways. After spending time sorting out family affairs in North Carolina I had an unexpected but fortuitous change of travel directions. I had planned to bounce around down South for a while but travel exhaustion, diminishing funds, and the need to help my ailing father relocate to Chicago pulled me back to the Midwest. My brother turned me on to what was formerly called the Detroit Electronic Music Festival which was now called Movement. Since I was headed that way I made it a destination and still cannot believe what I saw happen there.
        Movement is a large and fairly high profile event that draws electronic music fans from all over our Planet to the birthplace of techno. For anyone that does not know, it was in the underground clubs of Detroit where artists like Derrick May revolutionized modern music making and gave birth to techno. In the past this event has been run by a big production company that has over commercialized it and alienated many of the artists/fans in the process. This year the city decided to put it back into the hands of the local music community when Derrick May himself stepped up and fronted $65,000 of his own bucks to help throw it down proper. He brought in his own production crew, formed a second one to help, called amazing artists from all over, and put together the most raging throw down of modern electronic music I have ever seen. I got to meet this brother and he was the coolest cat I have met in a long time. He is so in it for the Love as were all the other great people who pulled this puppy off. It was so obvious. The combination of vibe, energy, acts booked, setting, and concept made for an absolutely amazing event.
       Movement took place in this perfectly weird post modern abstract industrial semi-subterranean riverside joint called Hart Plaza. It had four separate stages equipped with amazing sound systems designed to vibrationally realign the bejesus out of any out of tune molecule in the area. In addition to this there were sub stages and booths overflowing with great DJ’s, underground fashion designers, cutting edge record labels, turntable demos and duels, film makers, production companies, political info, food and who knows what else. Detroit is a deep underground scene and the networking at Movement was intense. Never have I been handed so many fliers for things that actually looked like I shouldn’t miss them. Almost every DJ, booth, or stage had its own unique vision of modern music. Wherever I went some enlightened future reality seemed to be beaming back its consciousness to me through the most futuristic music I have ever heard.
       What New Orleans Jazzfest is to Southern roots music, jazz, and the jam band scene, Movement is to modern urban and electronic music. It was not just a techno thing-One was surrounded by new soul, hip Hop, electro-funk, jazztronica, drum and bass, down tempo, IDM, dub, spoken word, and any style of music you have ever heard played by a good DJ plus ten more you didn’t know existed. This thing felt like a cross between an atomic hip hop house party, a ghetto Rave, a funk uprising, a riverfront music festival, a future fashion show, an out of control block party, a music business networking conference and a cultural revolution. Movement reminded me of the raw street energy you see in Old School Hip Hop films like Wild Style. It had the spirit of an Urban Burning Man. A Bumbershoot with Balls. An Electric Mardi Gras. D-town is funky to the bone and this thang was out to prove it.
       One of the coolest things about Movement was how indredibly inclusive it was. Unlike many music festivals it was totally free. Where as most Music festivals tend to financially exclude the urban poor, Movement was a priced right party. The inner city of Detroit really knows how to get it on and has serious steam to let off. Movement felt like some kind of transdimensional ghetto party pressure release valve. I have never seen such a harmonious, diverse, and highly energized integration of ages, races, incomes, cultural backgrounds, and musical tastes throwing down so damn hard before. Vast quantities of Hip Hoppers, Funkateers, Jazz Freaks, Ravers, Rastas, Hippies, Punks, Goths, and Rockers all mingled at this unified party. I saw cops dancing(a lot). Little 5 year old black kids inventing the break dances of the future egged on by the love and energy of hundreds of people. I saw break dance circles spontaneously forming of virgin breakers who collectively encouraged each other to bust out any freaky move they could. Everybody was throwin’ down and pushin’ each other to take it to the next level of freaky funky freedom.
       From Motown to Funkadelic to Brothers from Another Planet, Detroit has always pushed the Soul envelope. Detroit has a gritty, industrial edge, a hard attitude and an intense energy. The music and people reflect it and at Movement this vibe was so perfectly channeled that I did not see a fight, argument, or hint of violence the entire time I was there. In fact the thought of it seemed ridiculous. I saw so many people who seemed to be being deeply healed by the spirit of Love contained within the music and community at the event. You could see the positivity and communal bond in people’s eyes.
It was amazing to be in an atmosphere where so many people were expressing themselves so freely through dance. I have been to plenty of good Raves over the years and even some amazing things like Burning Man that thrive on the freedom and expression of dance. But Movement had this pronounced and profound African American influence that took electronic music to another level. The techno I heard in Detroit is incredibly African in its spirit, and this is what I feel has been missing in so much of the modern electronic music out there. Much of what I heard at Movement has more in common with Ancient African tribal drumming than with the commercial techno we hear on the radio.
       Movement transcended the concept of “music festival”. There was a point at which All was motion and all were dancing, the young with the old, the black with the white, the gay with the straight, chicos and chicas. The awareness of where I was dissolved and I stepped into a timeless space of pure energy that has opened up to musical communities for thousands of years. Each individual was an energetic expression of the whole, and  what was happening was a singular expression of unified energy. I felt I could have been anywhere-a gypsy camp, an African village, or a Native American pow wow. I knew what I was witnessing was not so much modern electronic music but the ancient power of music to create a true experience of unified community.
       In all my musical experiences and studies of ethnomusicology I have seen repeating patterns of how music empowers and enables a sense of spiritual community amongst those involved in the creation of the music. Creation of the music in this sense means anyone dancing, singing, clapping, listening, or otherwise participating and contributing to the energy of the music. When enough people whole heartedly throw themselves into the music in this way, the music and experience of connected community take on a life of their own.
       Movement revealed to me the intense potential of the Electronic dance culture and enlightened hip hop music to fill the communal void currently missing in our “entertainment”(very different from music in my opinion) obsessed culture. What I heard was simultaneously global and urban, futuristic and primitive. Both the Dance culture and hip hop(at their purest and least commercial) is founded uppon audience participation with the role of the DJ being closer to that of ritual initiator than that of entertainer. The emphasis is less on being entertained than on contributing to the overall experience. Real Music is not spectator entertainment-it is participatory communal expression and creation. Movement though was more than this truth expressed. It was a sonic blue print for what hip hop, soul, funk, jazz, and electronica have in common and how they are collectively fusing into entirely new modes of mind/booty liberation. These forms are really begginning to merge and when they do those afraid to dance had better put on some funky ass rollerskates. Such a sight would be right at home at the Movement festival.
       The stages were consciously created to feature diverse forms of electronic music. My favorite was definitly the High Tech Soul stage which featured new soul, live jazztronica, future funk, and hip hop. Show highlights included keyboardist/vocalist Amp Fiddler from P-funk/Prince doing an absolutely inspired set of future Soul with an 8 piece band. His set seamlessly combined soul vocals, funk grooves, electronic textures, jazz vibes, and incredible group chemistry. Amp is setting a new standard for modern groove music that should not be missed. Another great project Amp played in was the Reese project, a Live jazztronica funk ensemble. This was seriously soulful and funky club music with a live edge and straight up soul sister vocals.
       Pevin Everett was another artist mixing new soul, jazz, latin, and electronic dance music. He had a smoking band and is definitely an artist to watch. His integration of jazzy latin samba and Soul was espescially hip. Also breaking ground was The Detroit Experiment. This was a jazz-funk hybrid that featured Amp, members of the Blackbyrds, Detroit DJ fixture Carl Craig, and the elite of the vibrant Detroit Jazz scene. They tied the freedom and experimentalism of old school Detroit Jazz, funk influenced grooves, and new school electronica overtones into a tight ass funky knot. Smooth. Speaking of smooth Niko Marks Cosmology was a solid act that was a live electronic Soul fusion group. They had a gospel quality with a dance club club aesthetic. They should be heatin’ it up so watch out.
There were a million great DJ’s I saw but the one I liked the most was Reggie Dokes. I don’t know where he gets his shit but the set I saw was pure funk concentrate. Some of it sounded like New Orleans house music with unbelievably bad ass horn lines. Other solid DJ bets were Francois K and Rich Medina. The best thing about the music at Movement was the depth and diversity of it. There was so much upcoming young funky talent with such original and unique concepts that one couldn’t help but get excited about tomorrow’s music. I can honestly say that the Movement festival revealed to me both the coming future and the eternal past of the Living Soul of Music.