By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Over 100,000 attendees gathered in Hart Plaza during Memorial Day weekend in Detroit for the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival. The three-day event is regarded as one of the country’s best music festivals and one of the world’s largest for electronic music.
Presented by Detroit promoter Paxahau, the festival was once again a success in bringing the futuristic sounds of the world to the city credited for revolutionizing the one of the most important music genres of today — house/techno.
Movement was an example of the impact that music has had over the world, with attendees and artists flying in from all parts of the globe to participate. The popularity and longevity of the festival, which evolved from the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival in Hart Plaza in 2000, is a testament to the respect given to Detroit — the home base for many of electronic music’s most influential pioneers.
“A lot of people used to come to Detroit 20 years ago to license our music,” Eddie “Flashin’” Fowlkes, a Detroit techno legend who performed on Sunday evening, told The Michigan Citizen. “That was the moving factor for this to pop off, because of the music that we did.”
“When we were doing it, our clientele was people in Detroit, which was Black, and Chicago and New York,” said Fowlkes, who began his career as a DJ while still in high school. He released his first record in 1986. “When I put my first record out at that time, Public Enemy put their first record out, and that was the beginning of rap music taking away our financial ability to sustain in about four or five states to sell our product. And then the distributors started selling it in Europe.”
Fowlkes said they couldn’t sell their music because most young people wanted hip hop. “That created a whole new market for us in the rest of the world, to be honest, which is good,” he said.
Cornelius Harris, record label manager for Underground Resistance, one of Detroit’s most legendary techno groups, was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit on Friday, May 23 to discuss the global influence of Detroit electronic music at the Detroit-Berlin Connection Conference. He explains many in Detroit miss the worldwide connection people have to the music, because it is less popular in the city than overseas.
“There are people who need to be inspired, who need that kind of support, who would love the idea of being able to interact with folks across the Atlantic Ocean,” said Harris. “But they don’t know this is even an option. In order for us to have an effect, for this connection between Detroit and Berlin to really do something, I think it’s essential we make certain this is something the city as a whole is aware of.”
Mike Huckaby, who has performed as a DJ and conducted workshops on Detroit techno music at universities globally, explained at the Detroit-Berlin conference the city’s advantage for artists developing their craft.
“Living in Detroit as an artist, there’s nothing to do here but make music,” said Huckaby. “That’s all you do, you pack your bags for your next gig. In Berlin, there’s too many things to do, you can spend a whole week networking from Monday to Sunday, partying and doing some really productive things, but here, your concentration to create the music that comes from this place is not necessarily broken up, and there are not that many distractions. That turns out to be a good thing for Detroit.”
Detroit Techno Militia, which has become one of the city’s most visible techno music collectives, has placed itself on the frontlines of the global legacy of Detroit techno music. DJ Seoul and T.Linder of the crew explain their group’s name is a statement to their dedication in preserving the legacy of the city’s connection to the music.
“Other people around the world felt the same way we did about (Detroit techno), really militant about it, like ‘it’s mine; I love it,’” says DJ Seoul. “The name is bigger than any one of us, and everyone’s a part of it.”
“All of our major influences come from here in Detroit,” said T.Linder. “We’ve had some of the best teachers in the world playing at local clubs and bars and backyard barbeques. “We’ve met so many people all around the world that share that same passion.”
Hugh Cleal of Golf Clap, currently one of the city’s most popular groups, realized his passion for the music when he began throwing rave parties in the 1990s. He has seen first-hand how the fan base for electronic music has grown over the years, becoming an eclectic meeting point for generations of fans.
“Out here it’s really talent driven,” said Cleal, who performed Sunday. “It’s a much more knowledgeable city as far as music is concerned, because it’s been passed down from generation to generation. A lot of the kids out nowadays, their brothers and sisters were the ones who started taking them to parties when they were young or getting them exposed and turned on to music at a very young age.”
The 2014 Movement Electronic Music Festival once again broke records for attendance, proving the festival’s true strength is the opportunity for the world to come and pay homage to the future sounds of the Motor City.