Where would popular music, especially dance music, be without the contribution of Black people and other people of colour? We may never know, but one thing’s for certain: much of the music we all love, play and dance to would not exist without pioneering Black artists, DJs and producers.
“We all need to do more to tackle under-representation and racial discrimination within the music industry.”
Let’s focus specifically on dance music culture because that is Juno Download’s focus. From the 1960s onwards, Black Americans developed and championed a succession of essential dancefloor styles, from soul, funk and disco, to hip-hop, house and techno. From the 1980s onwards, Britain’s Black communities played a leading role in the foundation of countless new variations of dance music, from bleep techno, hardcore and jungle, to drum & bass, UK garage, dubstep and grime.
While there is recognition that people of colour, and those from other marginalised groups such as the LGBTQI++ community, laid the foundations for today’s global dance music culture, this is rarely celebrated in any meaningful way. In fact, their contributions have sometimes been whitewashed both within the music industry and the music press. Books and documentaries on dance music history often choose to focus more on the popularisation and commercialisation of dance music by white DJs and producers who gained inspiration from Black pioneers, thus distorting the true history while playing down the role of people of colour.
“Britain’s Black communities played a leading role in the foundation of countless new variations of dance music, from bleep techno, hardcore and jungle, to drum & bass, UK garage, dubstep and grime.”
The brutal and illegal killing of George Floyd in May 2020, and the subsequent growth of the Black Lives Matter campaign sparked some serious soul searching within society, and within the music industry in particular. There is a realisation that we all have a duty to do more, not only to celebrate the Black pioneers who birthed dance music culture as we know it today, but also to actively support and promote today’s Black creators. More potently, we all need to do more to tackle under-representation and racial discrimination within the music industry.
This month, to coincide with Black History Month in the UK, Juno Download will be doing just that. Firstly, our Label Focus features will showcase a swathe of essential Black-owned record labels, including BBE, Big Dada, Inner City Dance and Function Records, while the coveted Label of the Month spot will be taken by Demuir’s Purveyor Undergroud. In addition, our Artists’ Spotlight page will profile some remarkable Black artists – Sinistarr, DJ Minx, Marcus Visionary, and Demuir included – while hosting Tru Thoughts’ Robert Luis on our monthly podcast, along with a mix by WheelUp.
Moreover, as we aim to further commit to the cause, we've recently partnered with Black Artists Database to provide more ways to support and buy from Black artists, producers, and labels from their database.“Our work at B.A.D is centred around ensuring recognition for the pioneers of electronic dance music and amplifying the work of current innovators within our creative community across the diaspora. We’re excited to be entering into this partnership with Juno Download, in addition to our existing partnership with Juno Records. We appreciate the importance of celebrating events like Black History Month, however we hope that initiatives such as this will be part of a much wider movement of continued progressive, and sustainable, change within the electronic music industry and beyond.” - Oscar N. Atanga, B.A.D Partnerships & Strategy Lead.