As a lover of house music, it’s imperative that you study the history of the music you’ve come to love. Forme, my relationship with house has always been one driven by the past. When I first fell in love with the sounds of house, I made sure to study the history, the evolution, and develop a fondess for the classics.
In the midst of my constant research and development of comprehending why house music is so amazing, I’ve come to watch three documentaries that have provided thought-provoking insight into the evolution of house and club culture.
The three documentaries that I highly recommend you watch (and read about on my blog) are: Pump Up the Volume (history of house music), Paris is Burning (a film about vogue culture), and my latest discovery, a riveting 2003 British documentary, MAESTRO.
MAESTRO is a film I stumbled upon about a few days ago in the midst of a search about the house music scene in San Francisco. I’m planning on checking out the scene, and if things can fall into place, maybe leave Los Angeles and move up to SF. More on that later. But yes, as I was saying, I discovered this insatiable documentary and watched the entire film on YouTube.
Now I know that I mentioned I was doing a search about the scene in San Francisco, but the film is actually about the evolution of the “underground” house music scene and club culture in New York City during the late 70s and 80s. My fellow house junkies and dance music lovers know what I’m talking about; Larry Levan‘s presence at the Paradise Garage and David Mancuso‘s The Loft.
I’m not going to spoil every moment of the film, so you should watch the entire film (uploaded by We Mean Disco) for yourself. It’s a powerful documentary that shows the influence of the legend himself, Larry Levan. And it also shows the influence of David Mancuso, another great legend who pioneered “invitation-only” parties in NYC, which helped cultivate the club scene. Both of the men are legends, along with Frankie Knuckles.
The film has rare footage of Levan spinning, Mancuso, and it features great commentary that truly reminds me why I love house music and the club culture. House is a universal language that has a way of uniting everyone, especially those who are in the struggle and just need a release. Without Paradise Garage and The Loft, house wouldn’t have held the impact it does today within the “underground” club culture.
As I always like to quote, Eddie Amador’s famous lyrics, ”not everyone understands house music, it’s a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing…” And my theory on that statement is simply this, in order to truly understand house music, you have to allow yourself to gain a fundamental appreciation of disco, classic house, and fall in love with the evolution of the genre I’ve come to declare a lifestyle.
House music: it’s a way of life, an atmospheric experience of beats and a community of unity.
If there is one thing I wish I knew how to do, that thing would be vogueing. Man, I so wish I knew how to vogue! I mean, I think I could learn, but I’m always so in the moment and then I’m like “oh shoot, I should have watched YouTube and learned some basic vogue moves.” Well maybe this year, I will learn how to vogue. But there is so much to learn, but luckily Javier Ninja shows us how it’s done.
From the legendary House of Ninja, which is iconically associated with the legend Willi Ninja, the fabulous Javier Ninja is known for his insane vogueing skills. Simply type his name in YouTube and you’ll be amazed by what you see; perhaps fits of jealousy will settle in. Argh, I want to vogue! But in order to truly learn how to vogue, you have to understand what vogue is.
There is an art form behind vogue and their are so many different styles (new, old, waacking, etc) and Javier Ninja took some time out at Waackfest 2011 to discuss all things vogue. It’s a great Vogue 101 for those who love vogue culture or those who want to learn more. Either way, watch it! Javier Ninja is fabulous!
Not too long ago I did a blog post on the history of house music and a documentary that I highly recommend people watch. It’s important to truly understand the history of the things you love, so if you appreciate house as much as I do, then be sure to check out my blog post on the documentary Pump Up the Volume: The History of House.
Since I’m such a huge fan of house music and the vibe of universal love within the house community, I’m a huge advocate of learning the history of the culture. But for those of you who may or may not know the history of house, a large portion of the culture began with the LGBT community. Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, and many other prominent figures in the community were openly gay men who just wanted to spread the love of good music. So that’s one of the reasons why I get really upset when I meet people that are anti-gay and just so close-minded to the community; acting as if those who are in the LGBT are weird, gross, and should be ostracized or treated like crap. That’s not cool.
This stigma associated with house, vogueing, and the LGBT isn’t just prevalent in our current society, but it’s been around since the early foundations of house music. Not only has it been around since the creation of house, but also since the creation of the ballroom subculture. It’s easy to think that this hatred & ambiguity is just around today, but the documentary film Paris Is Burning reminded me that the stigma of “gay culture” has been around since the early 80s.
The documentary Paris Is Burning is a riveting film that was released in 1990. Throughout the course of the documentary, filmmaker Jennie Livingston gives viewers an insight on the gay culture and the evolution of “houses.” If you know anything about vogue-ing and the gay community, then you’ll know that within the community their is a subculture that hosts “balls.” At these balls usually different “houses” -groups of gay men that are “family”-compete against other houses. But it’s not just about the rivalries amongst the houses. The ballroom events are a place for openly gay men (including transgenders, transexuals) to come into an environment where they can feel accepted, feel at home, and show off their “assets” that might not be so celebrated in the straight world. What I mean is, they can dress up and flaunt themselves as women or anything they want to be, and its okay. At the balls, your at home. It’s a safe haven.
Even though I’m a straight female, I’m a huge fan of the vogueing culture. I mean, it is definitely apart of the early days of house music and a lot of the ballroom events play house, so I can’t hate on it. It just wouldn’t be right. I may not be good at the art of vogue, but I still appreciate the culture & love learning the history of it. And Paris Is Burning gave me even more insight on the history of vogue. It was amazing to see the legendary Willi Ninja, the mother of House of Ninja (he passed away in 2006) and hear him explaining how he first got started vogue-ing.
The documentary is absolutely fierce! Of course it focuses on vogue-ing, but the film brings together all aspects of the underground ballroom culture during the 80s. It’s a refreshing look at the Black & Latino gay community in New York during the early 80s, and how the balls were a place for them to feel at home. Of course there was the usual drama & rivalries between the houses, but there was still a sense of community that bonded everyone together.