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A Brief History of House Music

Before EDM was a ‘thing’ in mainstream music, house music was a major home for dance fans. Born out of disco music, the new musical phenomenon was first created and accepted in Chicago, Illinois.

In the early 80’s, disco music was slowly dying off but young, innovative musicians were already working on a new, updated version of the sound. With a 4/4 beat, drum machines, offbeat hi-hats and synth bass, this new house music was like a modern, minimalistic version of disco music. A key element to the genre was the fact it was also heavily repetitive.

The label of ‘house music’ was originally coined by The Warehouse, a club in Chicago’s Southside, where it’s also said that one of the resident DJ’s Frankie Knuckles created the sound by mixing disco hits with Eurobeat pop. This traces as far back to the late 70’s.

The idea behind this genre was that by creating a deeper and rawer sound than disco, people would be more inclined to dance. It was created by DJs, primarily in the African American community, in order to fill their dancefloors.

And it proved to be a successful sound that people were interested in hearing, so many of the local house music artists in Chicago like Larry Levan, Ron Hardy and Walter Gibbons, who were used to producing independent 12” records, soon found themselves landing major record deals.

These pioneers in Chicago saw their new style of music spreading to the rest of the US (in particular, the ever-hip New York), Europe and Australia by the end of 1985. From this point onwards, the genre had become more mainstream, and even found its way into pop and dance music charts worldwide. Even artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson started to incorporate house sounds into their big hits.

The UK embraced house music from the late 80’s, discovering the music via party island Ibiza. In 1986, three house hits made the top 10:  Farley’s “Jackmaster” Funk ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’, Raze’s ‘Jack The Groove’ and Steve “Silk” Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body’.

However the UK was also responsible for Acid House, which was born around the same time as house music in the US. There are conflicts over which has influenced the other, but the main difference at that time was that Acid House, as well as being more synonymously associated with drugs and a particular lifestyle, allowed the white folks to dance.

Major hits like MARRS’ ‘Pump Up The Volume’ in the late 80’s sealed house music’s mainstream success in the UK and saw a new wave of artists in this genre appearing, including Yazz, Coldcut and Krush. This led to the music’s heyday period, both in the UK and US, from the very late 80’s into the mid 90’s.

House music then developed many sub-genres, including deep house, micro house, euro house, tech house and electro house, giving the whole genre a wider appeal. Nowadays all of the above fall under the massively broad category of electronic dance music (EDM).

Although house music saw its prime back in the 90’s, the genre has had something of a revival over the last decade. In 2005, the Mayor of Chicago pronounced August 10th as House Unity Day. The day fell on the 21st anniversary of major Chicago house label Trax Records.

And from then until now, vocal house has seen a huge growth. Thanks to huge artists like Daft Punk, Steve Aoki, Deadmou5, Fedde le Grande and Armin van Helden, house music saw a return to chart success and mainstream pop acceptance once again.

Another offset – progressive Swedish house – also emerged, with Swedish DJs like Avicii and Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso (AKA Swedish House Mafia) taking the charts by storm and hosting large-scale dance events in stadiums and fields from 2010 onwards.

As well as moulding the EDM genre into popular music, these acts along with major DJs like Calvin Harris (We Found Love), David Guetta (When Love Takes Over) and Kid Cudi (Memories) have saw a return to the traditional house roots, taking the genre almost full swing.

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