By Jonas Andersson
"Blacktronica is not a club, it's a movement...."
....asserts Charlie Dark, retired B-boy, former member of Attica Blues, nowadays gone solo producer and remixer and, one of the leading forces behind the London-based, genre-bending Blacktronica movement.
He continues: "This movement is born out of frustration, really." Bitterly he recounts his own major label experience with Attica Blues: "A lot of black musicians in the UK are constrained by the music industry to make music only made to sound like what is popular in America: Hip-hop, R'n'B, and so on. Carbon-copied music."
Mass appeal black music truly has been in a way hijacked in the 21st century. You turn on the TV: what do you see? MTV clowns, corporate culture, brainwashed propaganda. Musicians that claim to speak for all of us but actually only blabber for themselves, on how much money or how big dicks they say they have. We need other places to turn to find innovation.
Blacktronica provides an oasis. 'From Coltrane to Carl Craig - because there is more to black music than Hip-hop and R'n'B.' as it says on the flyer, this is a place for us to listen rather than stand amazed by gold chains and sports cars.
So, around two years ago, he and other people around the world, caught in pockets of non-compromise and dissent toward the major label hegemony, decided pursuing a whole new thing. Blacktronica has been running for a year and a half, with a bi-monthly workshop and club at the London's ICA, a compilation album in the making, and an impressive fanzine in the back-catalogue.
Charlie describes the movement very much as a groundwork for creating a forum to teach people where the music comes from, the roots. There are plans for visiting community centres and doing workshops. "Electronic music is often created through isolation, through grassroots culture, but there are lots of other factors behind the music, societal forces. The idea with Blacktronica is to inspire and teach people to innovate."
Not dismissing the amazing productions in the American Hip-hop mainstream, such as Neptunes and others, Charlie focuses his criticism at the British music industry. "There are too few people interested in music left within the British music industry," he points out. In America, there still are people understanding the music, not the money, left in the industry. and there are specialised major label subdivisions. In the UK, the music is forced to go underground. a lot of things are happening at the moment: UK Garage is going darkside again, with sparse 8 bar music, new technological gadgets, MP3 mixtapes spread through fibre-optics.
Technology that gives us new possibilities to intercept the industry. At the same time, things are still hard if you're left struggling on your own. "London is like a sponge that sucks up culture from around the world and regurgitates it in its own way, but at the same time it's really slow, because of the lack of infrastructure. That's why we have to create our own infrastructure," he concludes.
So Blacktronica was born, to ignite innovation and divulge what's happening in the global electronic underground. Down here you're inclined to hear anything, as long as it's (somewhat) black. Ragga-fuelled technological beats next to 30th century Hip-hop next to rubber dang disco. With monster tracks such as Cousin Cockroachs' seminal 'This ain't Tom & Jerry', Seiji's anthem 'Loose Lips', and the offerings of former Attica Blues man Tony Nwachukwu on the genre boundary-pushing 'Won / Too' EP and his recent release as The Wach, Blacktronica is truly holding the fort when it comes to musical originality.
"The way different types of music are perceived makes a lot of difference to what gets recognised," Charlie explains. Young people today can't connect to Techno, because it's something from the past, and very much because of the media definition of it; a field full of kids with raver masks on and a beat 100 miles an hour dancing crazy. "But then you play them Carl Craig," Dark continues, "and something is changed." Connotations of music are rarely corresponding to the real thing. In a similar way, black dance music might be perceived by outside onlookers, even readers of this webzine, as one-dimensional, in certain ways less innovative as the musical auteurs of 'Intelligent Dance Music', which of course is complete bollocks.
Blacktronica is here to help change all this.
"For some bizarre reason, I missed this entirely during its run at the ICA. The central London location of the venue should have made things easier. But for the life of me can't remember why I never bothered. Strange."