Musica Elettronica

The History of Electro Music

Musica Elettronica: Following the decline of disco music in the late 1970s, various funk artists such as Zapp & Roger began experimenting with talk boxes and the use of heavier, more distinctive beats. Boogie played a role during the formative years of electro, notably “Feels Good” by Electra (Emergency – EMDS-6527), the post-disco production “You’re the One for Me” by D. Train (Prelude – PRL D 621), and the Eric Matthew/Darryl Payne productions “Thanks to You” by Sinnamon (Becket – BKD 508), and “On A Journey (I Sing The Funk Electric)” by Electrik Funk (Prelude – PRL D 541).

Robert Moog

Electro eventually emerged as a fusion of different styles, including funk, boogie combined with German and Japanese electropop, in addition to influences from the futurism of Alvin Toffler, martial arts films, and video game music. The genre’s immediate forebearers included Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO).

In 1980, YMO was the first band to utilize the TR-808 programmable drum machine.  That same year, YMO member Ryuichi Sakamoto released “Riot in Lagos”, which is regarded as an early example of electro music, and is credited for having anticipated the beats and sounds of electro.[22] The song’s influence can be seen in the work of later pioneering electro artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and Mantronix.

In 1982, Bronx based producer Afrika Bambaataa released the seminal track “Planet Rock”, which contained elements of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” (from the album of the same name) and “Numbers” (from Kraftwerk’s 1981 Computer World album), as well as Yellow Magic Orchestra songs such as “Riot in Lagos” (from Sakamoto’s 1980 album B-2 Unit). “Planet Rock” is widely regarded as a turning point in the electro genre, “like a light being switched on.” [14][24] Another groundbreaking record, released that year, Nunk by Warp 9 utilized “imagery drawn from computer games, video, cartoons, sci-fi and hip hop slanguage.”  That same year, although remaining unreleased, a pre-Def Jam Russell Simmons produced Bruce Haack’s proto hip-hop single “Party Machine” at a studio in Philadelphia. 1982, proved a prolific year in electro with releases by artists including Planet Patrol, Warp 9, Man Parrish, George Clinton (Computer Games), Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Tyrone Brunson, The Jonzun Crew and Whodini.

In 1983, Hashim created the influential electro funk tune “Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)” which became Cutting Record’s first release in November 1983.[25] At the time Hashim was influenced by Man Parrish’s “Hip Hop, Be Bop”, Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”.[26] “Al-Nafyish” was later included in Playgroup’s compilation album Kings of Electro (2007), alongside other electro classics such as Sakamoto’s “Riot in Lagos”.[27] Also in 1983, Herbie Hancock, in collaboration with Grand Mixer D.ST, released the hit single “Rockit”.

Bambaataa and groups like Planet Patrol, Jonzun Crew, Mantronix, Newcleus, Warp 9 and Juan Atkins’ Detroit-based group Cybotron went on to influence the genres of Detroit techno, ghettotech, breakbeat, drum and bass and electroclash. Early producers in the electro genre (notably Arthur Baker,[28] John Robie and Shep Pettibone) later featured prominently in the Latin Freestyle (or simply “Freestyle”) movement, along with Lotti Golden and Richard Scher (the producer/writers of Warp 9) fusing electro, funk, and hip hop with elements of Latin music.[14] Detroit techno DJ Eddie Fowlkes shaped a style called electro-soul, which was characterized by a predominant bass line and a chopped up electro breakbeat contrasted with soulful male vocals.[29] Kurtis Mantronik’s electro-soul productions for Joyce Sims presaged new jack swing’s combination of hip hop and soul elements.[30]

By the late 1980s, the genre had declined because of the anchoring of rap to the hip hop culture.[31] Baker, Pettibone, Golden and Scher enjoyed robust careers well into the house era, eluding the “genre trap” to successfully produce mainstream artists.

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