Few people know that house music was created in Chicago as a reinvention of disco. Even less people know that Techno was originally created in Detroit by black producers and DJs. These artists were originally influenced by European electronic artists like Kraftwerk who used synthesizers but their resulting music still remained tied to previous African American dance rhythms.
These new producers weren’t musically trained and didn’t have an orchestral ensemble at their disposal. Unlike the disco and soul producers before them, they created whole pieces of music from the comfort of their bedrooms or home studios. Since they didn’t need to spend money on musicians, they were able to work on their own, piecing together whatever sounds ignited their imagination. In this way, the live instruments in disco were traded in for electronic sounds. And from this exchange, the atmosphere of the music became something completely different.
Techno brought images of science fiction worlds and far out galaxies. But it still managed to retain the cool of young, black America. Originally the basslines in Detroit Techno were rhythmic and rounded. If you really listen to the patterns of the basslines, you can hear the similarities to Disco — its musical ancestor. In the high end, the synths spread their electronic wings and fly above the low tones, a memory of the string instruments or flutes in disco. Unlike house songs, typically there weren’t any vocalists or vocal samples. The instrumentals were supposed to speak for themselves. The general four to the floor structure at 140bpm could make the listener want to dance, but it could also make them fall deep into thought. This new type of music represented the endless possibilities of what music could become.
As I found myself mesmerised by the genre, one particular artist stood out, Omar‑S. Like most of our favourite artists, my fascination had as much to do with his character as with the music itself. He seemed to come to the scene with the confidence of a hip-hop artist. For example the names of a couple of his albums are ‘It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do it’ and ‘The Best’. Almost against the anti-ego code of dance producers, there are pictures of him standing next to his expensive cars. If this weren’t enough, apparently Omar S used to be a street racer.
But in some way, this macho persona and show-boating seems to be a sort of subtle joke. This is because the resulting tracks are so far from the bravado he portrays. The music he creates is both deep and thoughtful but with a simplicity that makes its expression genuine. His emphasis is not on layering many sounds but focusing instead on choosing the perfect tones to fit the puzzle. He uses warm pads, retro bass synths and old school drum machines to create music that is a unique blend of both house and techno.
While many producers from the earlier generations have adapted their sound by using the latest software, Omar‑S openly resists this trend. He says that he simply has no interest in it. To ears that are unaccustomed to the old Detroit drum patterns, the fluttering high-hats will sound irritating. His recent releases sound like they could have come out in the 90’s. Many will just turn the music off, not interested in understanding the warmth of the music that he has created. But Omar‑S clearly does not care, it is their loss. He does little to advertise or market himself and has comparatively low record sales.
But there is a reason why Omar‑S is such a well-respected DJ within the dance world. He does not mess about with gimmicks. The most important thing for him is the music itself. In this contemporary world of artists who need continual affirmation, Omar‑S is the exception to the rule. His creations come from the heart, uncompromised by anyone. To aspiring dance producers like myself, he is a reminder of the roots of the genre. That we should make music without a thought of what other’s will think. So as I look back on his work I think to myself, ‘keep doing what you’re doing Omar‑S, ‘The Best’’!
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