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Hidden Diversity in Electronic Music

DJ's turntable
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Electronic music has been described by some as a surface-level genre of music; however, it depends on what you’re listening to.  Electronic music is an umbrella term for music that incorporates electronic elements, but many artists promote change and diversity through it. Three artists represent this in their music and stay close to their roots.

DJ Arca:  

Arca was born in Caracas, Venezuela to a wealthy family.  From a young age, Arca knew that he was a homosexual, a social taboo in Venezuela. He never felt truly comfortable or safe in his home country which is what inspired him to begin making music.

DJ Arca (via Instagram)
DJ Arca (via Instagram)

He moved to London in his late teens to become a DJ. After gaining a cult following for his signature industrial hip hop sounds and his avant-garde performances, he began collaborating with artists like FKA twigs, Kelela and Kanye West.

As his sound matured and developed, the South American influences mixed with Western electronics became more apparent.  His self-titled third studio album sees Arca using his own vocals on the tracks, all of which are sung in Spanish. Slight hints of salsa and tango flavor these songs so well, that despite the album’s harsh and scary synths, it brings the listener an emotional connection.

Bjork:

Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Bjork is one of the most celebrated voices in music.  She is often regarded as one of the trailblazers of electronic music and is credited with helping it gain popularity in the late 90s.

(Bjork via Instagram)
(Bjork via Instagram)

She moved to London to explore more musical textures than what she had in Iceland which consisted of string instruments and flutes.  She trained herself how to use electronic instruments and began blending the strings and flutes of her culture’s traditional music with programmed beats to create something new.

Iceland is central to everything the Bjork does. Growing up, she said, “I always saw music as a physical environment. When I would walk home from school, I would hum and walk up the road. The hill reminded me of a musical verse while the top of the hill was the chorus.  It was interesting to me because it showed me music can be so much more than sound, it can be physical and visual too.”

SOPHIE:

SOPHIE was one of the most sought-after record producers in electronic music prior to her death in January 2021.  She worked in the lines of pop with Charli XCX and the avant garde with artists like Let’s Eat Grandma.  Her music has been described as hyperkinetic, glossy, watery and squeaky.

SOPHIE at Ladyland Festival
SOPHIE (CC BY 3.0)

SOPHIE was openly transgender and one of the only trans women working in the music industry. In her career beginnings, she never showed her face, manipulated her voice in interviews and left most of her artistry open to mystery.

In 2018, SOPHIE released her debut single, “It’s Okay to Cry” with a music video. It was the first time SOPHIE revealed her identity and the first time she sang on her own track. It was a bold statement for electronic music and broke new ground for trans people in music.

Sam Clayton, a trans man living in Fort Collins, Colo., USA said while SOPHIE was alive, “I think it’s great that we have SOPHIE because it’s rare to find a trans artist that makes good music that trans people can connect to. She talks about things we go through everyday and it’s refreshing to hear.”

Electronic music may be written off by some as shallow and bland, but certain artists make the genre flow with diversity. Whether it be clashing cultural sounds together, bringing their backgrounds into music or even changing the culture within music, electronic music is a lot deeper than one may think.

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7 comments

  1. I found this article really interesting because I actually have a lot of friends who are international students who have introduced me to electronic dance music. I have noticed that a lot of the artists are from all around the world. I think its cool that these artists have been influenced by different cultures they have experienced. These different sounds end up in their music and I think that is really cool. This music is played all over the world so we get a chance to hear bits of music from other cultures as well.

  2. I have always been a fan of the electronic music genre that never fails to hype you up. Clubs and parties are never complete without great music and dancing. This article gave me great insight into the personal stories of DJ’s and artists. Diversity affects the music they produce, people drawing from their backgrounds, their own cultural practices, and more. It would be an amazing opportunity to see some of these in concert, looking for cultural cues that differ in the genre.

  3. This article was very relatable to me as I am very involved in the culture that electronic music brings, including the fashion. I have an Etsy shop in which I create rave jewelry to spread my art to others. The rave community of electronic music has taught me to love and accept everyone. A phrase in the culture is “PLUR” which stands for peace, love, unity, and respect. The community stands to be diverse and accept all, and this article emphasizes how artists involved in the community spread acceptance through embracing their diversity. I like how the article and author emphasized that electronic music can have a bad reputation but . I would have liked to see more detail into the community’s negative connotations and how the culture is misrepresented, as its entire community stands for the acceptance of all. Possibly, adding more about how the community and rave culture would help emphasize how not just the artists try to spread acceptance, but so do the listeners of electronic music. There is a much bigger community working to spread love and accept all cultures, races, genders, and all people. I mostly enjoyed how the article was diverse in showcasing artists from across the world, as I wasn’t familiar with them and their mission to spread acceptance and diversity. Overall, this article did a good job at embracing the culture of electronic music despite its bad reputation, and how it’s more about just the music but about changing the world through the love and acceptance of all.

  4. I found this article very relatable because I am very involved in the culture that electronic music brings, including fashion, I have an Etsy shop in which I create jewelry to spread my love and art to others. A huge thing the community stands for is love and acceptance for all. A phrase that rave culture stands for is “PLUR” which means, peace, love, unity, and respect. This article did a good job at highlighting how artists are embracing their diversity and showing who they are to spread acceptance and love to everyone. A huge thing the electronic music community taught me was to love and accept everyone, all races, genders, cultures, all people. I would have liked to see more detail in the article on not just the artists but the listeners of electronic music and how they too, are working to spread love and accept all by embracing who they are. I like how the article pointed out how despite the negative connotations of the music, the community and culture of the music stand for so much more. Overall, the article did a great job at showing the true meaning of electronic music and what it stands for

  5. This article brings light to a very interesting contrast! I don’t listen to a lot of electronic music – I personally think it can be a bit bland, and many of it sounds the same to me. However, after reading this article, I’ve come to realize that this is not the case. I think it’s so cool that although all these artists fall under one musical category, they all have very different backgrounds. It definitely contrasts with the stigma that “all electronic music sounds the same” that I previously believed. I also never realized how many different cultural aspects are present in electronic music. Next time I’m listening to electronic music, I’ll definitely pay closer attention, because I am sure now that they definitely do not sound “all the same.”

  6. I have never been a big fan of electronic music, mainly because I always thought that it all sounded very similar. This article has made me realize that I have most likely only experienced electronic music from a narrow, American perspective when there are actually many other styles of electronic music that exist around the world.

  7. Electronic music, as a concept, is very interesting. The idea that the genre is bland or unoriginal is easily countered with artist like Bjork, SOPHIE, and DJ Arca. I imagine, for example, that the same accusations were made about rock in the late 60s and early 70’s. Bands like Led Zeppelin and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, both of which are now highly renowned in the world of music after migrating to the United States from England, and vise versa, must have had these same accusations thrown their way by those who thought rock was unoriginal. The mixing of culture and experience in music is what often makes it great. Most people would never look at The Beatles and say that the melding of traditional cultural sounds – North American, Indian, and Mexican, to name a few – took away from their style and legacy. Your article gives a solid take on electronic music and the blending of sounds that can be found throughout the genre.

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