Posts Tagged ‘funky house music’


January 28, 2018



Friday nights in January beckon bone-numbing chills, but tonight’s warmth is piped through an immense boombox sandwiched between storefronts on the “Edge” of downtown. What scenes as more than a weekend get down serves two-fold. Proceeds collected at the door will donate to the MS foundation-courtesy Real Chicks Rock -and a born-day celebration for one of Atlanta’s own.

Downstairs, in the belly of the beast-The Music Room-gracious hugs are exchanged for small talk. Already, the bar is lit; house heads, the LGBTQ com, millennials, and baby-boomers, are in swing at thirty minutes till midnight. Love and happiness dance in the air. To the fable of Julie McKnight’s “Bittersweet Love Affair.” “It’s All About Me,” she croons over the Jay “Sinister” and Louie Vega instrumentation. The lyrics are candor this party is all about a certain special someone.

A she-entourage huddles behind a black curtain that drapes the DJ stage. “Haaaaaaappy Biiiiiirthday,” voices belt in harmonious charm that stirs into Stevie Wonder’s soulful rendition. The party’s second music selector, Tora Torres eyes the women singing and honoring the party’s queen Debbie Graham. A.K.A. DJ Deb smiles graciously, before she bows to blow out the single candle on the black & white iced cake that will be sliced and circumnavigate to dancers with feet in mid-shuffle and flaying arms, drunk girls stumbling in stilettos posing for selfies and the, there-always-has-to-be-that-one, girl who whispers a request into the ear of DJ Minx. “We don’t play that here,” Minx mouths.

DJ Deb knows how to throw herself a birthday bash. She invites only the best. Her crew. Her family. Her sistas. Known to slay dance floor’s across the world. The Kingston, Jamaica native provides the she-power for Atlanta’s soulful house music market. Her love for reggae, disco, soul, and classics keeps her in-demand, but her love for house music and the diversity within the genre makes this party a must-attend. Those in the know, arrived early, for Deb’s birthday set, and are ready for an Atlanta/Detroit beat down.


Detroit’s Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale stands tandem her laptop, with purpose and poise to bring heat. Onstage, her crew sports black tees with the “Godfather” logo replaced with the moniker the “Godmother of House.”

Her moniker she proudly has worn for 30 years. To have Detroit’s undisputed first female DJ play adds grandeur of delight. To say music is in her majesty’s blood is understated. The “Godmother of House” is music.

“Beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lamb, rams, hogs, dogs.” It’s not often that you here Pastor Shirley Cesar rapping over a four-on-the-floor. It takes gall to play the viral smash #younameit challenge to house heads. But this is how the “D” gets down. The “Godmother of House” does not back down from any challenge. Besides the Pastor Shirley Cesar never sounded so defined.

It’s “Yellow Bodack” that causes jaws to drop and fists to fly. Cardi B rapping, “Look I Don’t Dance Now, I Make Money Moves” over Sunburst Band’s “Journey to the Sun” elevates the sonic. When the Dennis Ferrer Remix is allowed to play in full, feet dance off pings and pongs that leap off metallic rungs. As drums fuse into soul-claps and electronic sputters churn gospel chants. Karizma’s, “Work it Out ,” that samples the fore-mentioned and Dr. Charles G. Hayes and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir’s, “Jesus Can Work It Out,” brings the bang. The room explodes. This is peak time music for a peak time crowd.


Days ahead of a recent major awards show, a university published a music report that detailed the lack of women representation as music producers and women songwriters in the music industry. The numbers were dismal if not disgusting. Only now imagine women working in the house music/electronic music genre as music DJs, music producers, and music songwriters and the numbers are far lower, significantly depressing. Although, women are at the forefront as recording artists, primarily vocalists, barely as rappers, their musical contribution behind the scenes go unsung. Hence, Jennifer Witcher, she envisioned change. Inspired by Detroit’s DJ/producer boy’s club, the Detroit Music Institute; Jennifer sought representation as a female DJ. Years later, she crafted Women On Wax . Formed in 1996, a collective of Detroit female DJ’s who graced the decks to show their skills were par, if not better than the boys. In 2001, Women On Wax now a recording label showcased top-tier talented female vocalists and distinctive music releases many of whom resided in the Motor City. Ever since, Jennifer A.K.A. DJ Minx has become a titan in the house/techno world as a calling card for the rights and representation of women DJs/producers/songwriters.

Where the “Godmother” leaves her soul on the dance floor; the “First Lady of House” takes her mass of huddled warriors into subterranean funky beats of powerhouse bliss. Track after track delivers jolts, almost to the chagrin of ringing eardrums as the volume increases to an uncomfortable pitch.   Minx, like her hometown Detroit, has a sound that’s raw. There are grooves. The beats go deep. The beat goes hard. Minx plays for keeps.

The Connection-Behind the Groove triumphed with its all-star lineup of black girl magic. A rarity these days on DJ rosters. Local and global representation for DJ’s who are woman are all too lacking on massive fronts. #Powertothepoles and #metoo marks a watershed moment in this wrinkle of time. #Timesup!!!-For the invisibility of women in the electronic age of music. Women. Seize the moment!  The decks are yours to narrate your grooves.

We applaud you. 

Words: aj dance



March 28, 2015


00:23 EST

The Break Up

Sojourn down a flight of stairs into the mouth of the cavernous. Welcome to a basement that wipes grime off its brow. Dark, dingy, and dank. The space has charisma and it speaks with charm. No selfies. No photobombs. No videography. Washington D.C.’s U Street Music Hall forbids.

A golden haze hangs across the smoke-free room. LEDs emit lights of magenta turned emerald that play cat and mice over shadows of ball caps and mops of hair that bop up and down in slow motion. Behind the postured mass are the bodies whose feet spin in circles and feet sway left to right. Missing are the breakers with their cropped circles as they fall to the floor to showoff hand stands with their legs spinning in the air ready to take out a limb. The only danger present is the bar destined inebriated slamming into bodies in motion. “Excuse you?”

A dancer’s jazz shoes stick to the ground. The wooden floor is already covered with libations. Within seconds a hooded figure bent over scurries by as a rat in daylight. He is a savior. In his hand, he holds a bottle of baby powder. The floor candy spills across the wooden titles in a snake formation. Thank you Jesus!!!

“Wheeeweeee!!!” A swarm of approval erupts from the mouths of many. A thump and percussions introduces “The Break Up” before a lo-fi punch kicks the drum. In the background the crowd sings, “You stole my love” in repeated refrain. In the foreground the sonics sound muffled. A move closer to the hanging speaker cabinet reveals a low hum. To swindle is to cheat by fraud or deceit and tonight Detroit Swindle is being robbed of a superior sound system.

 A fuzzy recollect

Detroit is a musical nucleus. The Motor City’s influence stretches from Leeds to Amsterdam to Stuttgart. Its grip ignites lads to monogram the “D” into their stage moniker. Detroit Swindle’s Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets is such. It is tempting to label the awesome twosome as studio producers first, label owners second and touring DJs third. After all, the Amsterdam natives met in a club, one Deejaying and the other manning the acoustics. Thereafter, their rise to fame is a fuzzy recollect. “I don’t know,” a release on this label and that label placed them on DJs radars. “Maybe,” it was their debut “Boxed Out” that won critical acclaims with its cross-genre pollination. The question begs, is their any originality to this duo or is it all a formula calculated by a sharking music executive to keep pace with EDM trends?

In a relatively short time, 2012 to be exact, Lars and Maarten have swindled their way into the hearts of the underground house music market. They too have built a solid following of house enthusiasts. As evidenced by the panoply of bomber jackets, graphic Tees, joggers and skinny denim bottled in 1200 square feet between two performances stages in the music hall. Onstage behind the music decks, Detroit Swindle are unrecognizable, no hipster hair or pornstache. Their appearance is cloned; both are dressed in black tees and trucker caps, a far cry from their leopard print costumes. In the nation’s capital their dress is conservative but not their playlist. Maarten, who plays less, plays the best songs. When he appears center stage, which he rarely does throughout the party, he packs a more soulful punch to Lars’ funky tech. He even elicits the speakers to emit a fuller sound as a groovy bass line plays. Under Lars helm the mixing missteps, cold cuts and beat slamming, that later evens out to a steady flow.

Tonight, Derrick Carter should feel cheated more than Moodymann. The soul of Chicago’s Southside disco mixed with Chicago’s North side’s hi-energy represents. Layered beats that stick to the bones and disco loops that uplift outstretch hours of pleasure. Take, KHLHI “Percussions (Four Tet).” The music crescendos and drops but does not annoy. Beats sound interchangeable. This is track music for track heads. Dubbed vocals from soul giants that should play out into full versus with sing-along hooks never materialize. Robbing the crowd of hearing First Choice fully sing “Double Cross” is a punishable offense.             

 02:00 EST

The Magic Hour

When “Ccccc’monnn’ (s)” and “Wwwwill yooou leave with me(s)?” are stretched into long drawls from future politicians who stand several inches shorter than their blonde-haired counterparts, their departing time has arrived that makes way for the experienced dancers to play.   The magic hour begins.

There dances the good ole’ buddy, a former dance instructor, retired night-lifer, who throws his arms into the air and wobbles his legs as if paying homage to Janet Jackson, to his left a house dancer dressed in all black, sticks her derriere out and twerks before she sidesteps to the right as her friend shakes hands with an out-of-town stranger and says,” You’ve got dancing skills.”

Their bodies groove to Chicago’s K-Alexi’s “The Dancer” where the Ian Pooley Remix drops to 124 beats per minute of minimal thumps and spacey grooves. Gwen McCrae’s “Keep This Fire Burning” (The Revenge Need II Edit) emerges as the party’s hell yeah! The feel good slow burner lifts dancing feet off the floor but only as far as the inferior sound quality allows. Detroit Swindle continues their pilferage on Heist Recordings, their label imprint, with its latest release from Barme & Hamo’s “The Parish Rumors.” Finally, Lars pays homage to his group’s namesake, Detroit’s Terrance Parker on “Love’s Got Me High.” A song and sight most appropriately illustrated by the guy in his wheelchair swaying his torso around in circles, flapping his arms and hands in the air with his head cocked towards the ceiling. His visage says it all. “This is the power of house music.” A fact that will attest Detroit Swindle’s staying power for years to come.

Detroit Swindle

words: aj dance

illustration: aj art


March 1, 2015


Derrick Carter & His Flock of Retired Ravers

2300 CST 

I’m A House Gangsta

Playing a game of “excuse me(s)” while trying not to step on sneakers takes balance and observation. Brushing shoulders and bumping against tatted biceps is the only way to maneuver through T-shirts that read, “I’m A House Gangsta” and “Nashville.” Watch out! Dance circle front and center. A group of six bodies stands in a circumference as if they are mother hens protecting their offspring from outsiders. Within their love nest, a dancer sporting a red Mohawk performs an asymmetric handstand. Into view, a six-foot frame slides three feet as people jump to avoid the whirlwind. Positioned left stage is a hand raver, with one limb, showing off his skills like it’s a badge of honor. As additional b-boys and one b-girl arrive the circle grows and snakes towards the room’s epicenter. Burly hugs, smooches on the cheeks, and handshakes fill the void. As one out-of-towner eloquently explains, “Brown. White. Old. Young. Tall. Short. Fat. Skinny. Beautiful. Ugly. Look at the diversity in this place.”

 Nash Vegas

“They say Nashville has a house music scene. But this is not our deep house,” discovers another out-of-town dancer.

How correct! This is not NYC. Not even Atlanta. To make such assumptions would be gravely ill. This is Nash Vegas! Its electronic soul pumps funky house music through its veins. And tonight, the music speaks its funky sermon into a microphone as it shows off its swag underneath the spotlight.

“How many people traveled from Florida? Ohio? Memphis? Atlanta?” The Back to the Basics M.C. yells into the house microphone. The crowd of old friends, old frenemies, and old associates roars with every location announced. The faces of fine lines and focused stares are retired ravers, house junkies of the 1990’s; the last great decade, a time when wide-legged pants, tongue-piercings and dyed roots ruled the world.

 If Back To The Basics has its say then tonight is underground house music’s rebirth, dancing towards the edge of a revival. What better conductors than Nashville’s DJ Sammie tagging with Kentucky’s Trevor Lamont to reignite a movement? A slim Lamont, showing a salt and pepper goatee, works the room as he plays Derrick May’s “Strings of Life.” The Detroit techno anthem sets dancing feet ablaze. Dressed in a white tee and white cap is Sammie who follows with Black Science Orchestra’s “New Jersey Deep.” The Funkanova’s “Wood, Brass & Steel” sample is immediately recognizable and continues to elevate the party’s status. While Sammie takes the more funky approach, Trevor stirs the pot with laden soul as both pave the way for their successor.    

 24:00 CST

Liquid Spirit

If DJ Sammie and Trevor Lamont are disciples then Derrick Carter is Derrick Christ. And the club on 2nd Avenue is church. The place of worship does lack advertised amenities like valet parking, a VIP bar, and why must bottled water take thirty minutes to receive at the bar? DC’s followers, they affectionately call him, do care but they are too consumed with god worship that straddles the atmosphere. As the evangelist of house music appears on stage, he takes his place. At his altar, a pentagon shaped performance stage is where dozens of gathered parishioners clap their hands. Their blinding smiles replace the flashes of electronic devices; their outstretched hands replace fist pumps. This is the face of Generation X. And tonight, “Babysitters are making money.”

DC rolls up his sleeves. A revelation of tats travels down both forearms to his wrists. His ten fingers steadily grip the controls of knobs and buttons. His visage reads he is about to let his flock have it!

Hailing from suburbia Chicago, WESTSIDE! The tale of Derrick Carter sings an all too familiar verse, at age nine plays music at a family reunion, gets a job at a record store, produces music, starts a recording label, plays Europe and becomes a celebrated DJ who tours the world. The DC sound scribbles a unique signature that leaves dance floors satiated: faster BPMs, heart-pulsating four-on-the-floors, and looped vocals. All key ingredients of fun music.

After all, Derrick puts the fun in funky house. Derrick does not bring the party: Derrick is the party. He is all too willing to serenade his followers with the best. White labels of Eryka Badu’s “On and On” and Faith Evans “You Gets No Love” ring the alarm. Both divas belt over repurposed thumps in Derrick’s musical sermon. A sermon that includes secular visuals. Don’t hate on the dancing dominatrix dressed in head to toe black; a head wrap, dress, fishnets and stilettos, or she will take her whip and pleasure you with pain.

DC does not play safe. He will offend. Just #derphouse. All the while, he tells the truth by playing the music people never imagined they ever wanted to experience. Take, Gregory Porter’s “Liquid Spirit.” In a move unprecedented in Carter’s sermons, the tempo slows to a mid-crawl of Sunday morning handclaps with a soulful bump. “Clap Your Hands Now” Porter commands: happy hands follows suit.       

While sipping a liquid spirit, a damsel in distress stands nearby. She has “The Blues” and not because the AFTC (DJ Spen American Poetic Remix) instrumental blasts into the soundsphere. “He bought me here on a date and he knows everyone in here. I just want to dance, but he is too busy talking to everyone.”

After all, this is a family reunion, a den of retired ravers, and the wrong place to bring your first and probably last date.

Then the young siren turns around, throws her drink up in the air, and does a funky kick with her legs as Whitney Houston sings, “Love Will Save The Day.”

“FWEEEEEEEEEEET!” The dancing Dominatrix blows her whistle to the music that time travels back to the late 1980’s. Derrick shows love to his hometown house heroes Ralphi Rosario featuring Xavier’s “You Used to Hold Me,” and Cajmere featuring DaJae’s “Brighter Days” (Underground Goodies Mix). By the time Robert Owen proclaims “Bring Down The Walls,” the sound becomes a muddied hodgepodge.  

DC does not play straight: mixing in one track and riding out the melody on another track. Much is said in a DC sermon. Beats scurry over here. Melodies scatter over there. A bit of madness pursues. His is a narrative conceptually focused with woven textures and erupting elements. If not distributed through the proper sound channels, the mix can sound discomforting and discombobulating. When dancing behind a speaker that muffles the mids, Beyonce raps, “Chocked on a bone when the bone slid deeper.” How sad because HNNY’s “Sneeze” is actually a game changer.

At the intersection where French vanilla, from E-Cigarettes, and sweat scent the air, several dancers have gathered in front of the speaker cabinets for greater sound clarity. It works. Don Armando’s “Deputy of Love” (2nd Avenue Remix) sounds intelligent and at the moment “dynamite!” Too bad dancing feet hesitate to glide over the corn-syrup surface that sticks to the rubber soles like glue. However, the goo does not hinder the red Mohawk dancer who is still dancing in the cropped circle. His arm movement’s pop, and his chest locks to the late Loleatta Holloway’s “Hit & Run” vocal a cappella as his crew watches from the sidelines.  


Nicest Club in America

“Nashville!” Let’s give it up for Derrick Carter.” The Back to Basics MC shouts to perhaps the nicest club in America. As Nashville’s DJ Mindub and Terry Grant assume musical directives, Derrick head nods and waves to the packed house. For the past two hours he never verbally acknowledges the crowd beyond means of playing music. An address that is most comforting for die-hard house heads. After all, in Derrick’s kingdom the music is the message that speaks a million words.



The next morning, sitting at the dinning table with a best friend and her parents over breakfast, their friend asks? “So, where do you go to church?”

I softly mutter, “Last night we were at church.”

words: aj dance

illustration: aj art


November 17, 2014

Legends of House Techno meets acid house

Legends of House

Legend 1: Kevin Saunderson


 “You can’t smoke cigarettes in here.”

“Yes you can.”

“But I really thought you couldn’t…..”

“Yep.  You really can.”

“C’mon you are killing me.”

“Actually, you’re thinking of the “drum” crowd that doesn’t smoke when they dance here.” 


“Made In Detroit” tees, plaid shirts and black-rimmed specs canvas the room.  College students fist pump adjacent parents: sparse faces of ecru and olive dot among vast pallid visages.  Behind a black column, a bearded hipster sets his glass of liquor on the floor.  Underneath the smoky haze and pulsating strobe lights that leaves the floor green, a sea of pearly white pupils stare at a stage.  Missing are electric guitars, live drums kits, synths and a hairy mop with plucked lips screaming into a microphone.  Instead two CD players, a mixer and equalizer are the instruments of choice.  Behind the arsenal stands a figure-tall, dark, and dressed in black.  He is who everyone in attendance is ready to experience. 

A four-on-the-floor thumps at full volume before disappearing into the dark.  Warm pads springs to life.  Like the prodigal son, classic house comes leaping home.  Many appear, by the lack of fist pumps, to be vaguely familiar.  Only the dancing is fully engaged.  Time travels back to baggy pants and PLURs: the bygone years of Generation X’s rave soundtrack.  If classic chords beckon feet to move, warm vocals commands mouths to sing,  “Your Love.”  Mouths mimic lyrics, as to say, if memory serves correctly, I used to know every word to this track.  The legendary DJ opens his musical mantra with his back catalog that proves he shines with the great.    

Lest you are unfamiliar and fail to understand the significance, let us dust off the pages of techno music’s biography.   Kevin Saunderson was born, and up to age 9 bred in Brooklyn, NY.  His family then traded sights of the Brooklyn Bridge for the Ambassador Bridge having moved west, Midwest, to suburbia Detroit.  Kevin’s high school years proved pivotal as he connected with music enthusiasts Juan Atkins and Derek May without knowing they would soon craft the blueprint for an underground movement.  After a short stint as a college football player, Kevin departed sports to pursue his love music.  Thus, he became an in-demand DJ who traveled the world.  The label imprint KMS-Kevin Maurice Saunderson-established him as a burgeoning music producer of a distinguished electronic camp.  It was his group, Inner City that created a cult following with vocal techno “Big Fun” and “Good Life” fame. Fast forward to present day, Kevin Saunderson is revered as one of the founding fathers, pioneers and pillars of techno music. 

Kiddie-corner the room the bald DJ stands hunched over shiny hardware.  His black tee brushes against knobs and faders.  His fingers flip CDs, press buttons, and slides switches in a single take. The maestro preps to deliver his best scenario: a repertoire of genre-defining sounds. Deep house sojourns on The Journeymen’s “Close to Me”, deep tech on Culoe De Song’s “Y.O.U.D.,” vocal house croons, “I Need You” that stirs the crowd to realize they need Kevin Saunderson just as much, Andrez “Based On A True Story” (Dub Mix) stomps across the cement floor, “Chicago” that Northside funky house sound causes bodies to writhe in jackin’ jolts, “Detroit,” Kevin’s hood, as in Detroit Techno plays at 135 BPMs and higher as Ovenous & Atjazz’s “Soldiers” speaks over marching drums.  Kevin takes a step back.  He beams a blinding smile.  He is having too much fun.  His stacked frame sways from left to right to his mental metronome.  Suddenly the sounds of recognizable synths sweep the soundscape.  It’s the song that made Kevin and Inner City household names “Good Life,” (Techno Mix) a worthy dose of tech-soul that closes out the set.

Scores of hands ripple the air as a body triple spins and jump upwards.  Not one soul is musically immune to bouts of satisfaction.  This is the music that beckons discerning electronic music lovers journey from Florida and Tennessee.  Local neo-technoites and EDM enthusiasts were schooled on the humble beginnings of a global massive front.  The fifty-years young DJ educated the crowd.  In return he receives a heartfelt dancing ovation with thundering handclaps. 

Meanwhile the drink that the bearded hipster previously set on the ground falls sideways on the cement.  Pieces of sharp glass swim everywhere.  Aw great, a sticky dance floor.  Damn, no one thought to bring the baby powder.

Check out Legend of House 2: DJ Pierre

Words by AJ Dance

MARK FARINA 28.12.13

December 29, 2013

Mark Farina


On the final Saturday night of the year, the weather out doors is entirely too cold, too wet and too rainy.  Mother Nature’s dramatics is enough to keep people indoors, buried underneath blankets.  However, there is one person who can command people, from across the city, out of town and even out of state, to brave the wintery bliss; to trek through puddles of water and be drenched in rain, to assemble together under one roof.  The individual……… will be revealed later.      

If ever there is a house music, or funky house music, prohibition this will be the gathering place.  A makeshift bookshelf in the back of pizzeria is strangely out of place.  Truly, there is more than meets the eye.  At the painted encasing one utters a password.  A smart looking gatekeeper pushes up his framed spectacles against his shaved head.  He carefully examines the guest list.  Suddenly, he radiates a bright beam of whites that blind like a deer caught in headlights.  His tatted sleeve leads to his hand which scratches off names on his clip board.  The ecstatic guests are now permitted entry without cover charge.  Step underneath the clandestine threshold.  Be amazed by the backroom for guests to partake of beloved booze, spirited conversations and dirty dancing.  Shoes are stepped on.  The fur of wool jackets and bare shoulders are brushed against as the spirited journey towards the front of the room.  Nothing says bar time like hearing the ringing of cash registers open and close.  The liquor pours freely.  The liquor pours frequently.  The face of President Alexander Hamilton exchanges hands.  A tweed vest and baby blue colored button-up dress shirt darts back and forth between liquor shelves.  The bearded bartender is dressed damper enough to bartend at a five-star establishment.  In the midst of several brunettes engaged in laughter, there he stands, at the rustic bar.  The man who the people have come to see the legendary DJ, Mr…….   

Mark Farina is a world-renowned DJ/producer who needs no introduction.  The San Fran king of funky swing is no stranger to the city, having played in town a few months prior.  However, the affable star has never played a secret show in the city, in a room that has a prohibition era feel with its hanging lamps, blue painted walls, and wooden floor.  

Mark, with drink in hand, breaks for the makeshift wood DJ compartment at the front of the room.  Dressed in a black Gramaphone LTD 2843 N. Clark, Chicago, IL tee, he cues Chic’s “I Want Your Love.”  Nineteen seventy-nine disco morphs into “onze, onze, onze,” house music.  The pulse of the party picks up pace.  All are happy.  Dancing feet rush center room for prime-real estate which is occupied by a blonde bombshell wearing black-rim glasses performing squats while a guy sporting black headphones hogs corner space.  Someone should hang a no vacancy sign.  However, everything is all good.  Love is in the air.  There is love for the dancers, music, the guest DJ and especially for the organizers of this rare treat.

Forty-eight hours earlier event promoter Lil’ Steven, who lives and is in Santa Fe, created the last minute word-of-mouth soiree.  The event was hushed.  The location was hushed.  There was absolutely to be no posting of the event on any Internet social networking sites.  If so the exclusive shindig would be entirely cancelled.  A glance around the room reveals the darling machines that assisted Lil Steven’s execution.  There is Houseb4titties texting, “A Okay.”  The Mrs. Rachel Pryor Hoffman provides hostess duties to Mark.  Event coordinator, Jory Johnson, AKA DJ Sublime, is nowhere to be found but his presence is felt.  Restaurateur Ryan Baker dances back and forth, playing hype man.  From Macon, GA, Tim provided three CDJs for Mark to helm.  Even former Twijit Recordings, Daniel Gresham shows face.  DJs from old appear along side DJs of the new guard.  Honestly, this many house alumni have not gathered in the same room for ages.  This is a house head reunion.

Meanwhile, Mark continues to show-off his Epicurean taste of the finest house.  There is swing house with its gravitating push and pull.  Sprinkled between funky house gems are diamonds like Teddy Pendergrass.   But the party’s spotlight falls on one Midwest metropolis.  Chi-town’s Peven Everett’s “Stuck” kick starts vocal house.   The Windy City’s Lil Louis, under the moniker of Black Magic, “Freedom (Make It Funky),” blows the house down.  “I have this record on vinyl.  I brought this song at the record store that I used to work at over twenty years ago,” testifies one native Chicago house head.  Her pearly whites hang suspended from ear to ear as Jamie Principle’s raps, “Baby Wants To Ride.”  The Frankie Knuckles produced classic is not only one of house music’s early international hits but a Chicago house mainstay.  “Is It All Over My Face?”  The music disappears as the crowd yells, “Hell Yeah,” just the way Chicago audiences sing.  The Loose Joints classic has the crowd, “Love Dancing.”   Just as the hits keep coming, so do the drinks.  Mark toasts a cheer.  The bubbly must place Farina in x-rated mood.  The room is smoking hot, and not just from the glowing amber of cancer sticks spewing a chocking stench into the air.  The Mary Jane kicks into high gear.  BT Express’ “Peace Pipe” gets everyone so high people appear wanting to dance on the walls.  By now everyone is playful and falling over one another.  Handshakes, high-fives and hugs become norms.  Suddenly, Mark drops the bass, fades the mids and tweaks the highs.  His ten fingers dance across the mixer’s cues.  The music builds to a heightened anticipation.  The crowd stands on the edge of their toes.  But, Mr. DJ takes his time.  The crowd continues to wait with extreme eagerness.  This one man show puts a hurt on the people.  Ready and steady his right index finger and thumb slowly pulls the cross fader.  And then he….BAMS!  Mark smacks the crowd with the Nightcrawlers “Push The Feeling On.”  The MK Dub with chopped vocals causes the crowd to go apeshit.  Mark does it again.  He has a knack for teasing the audience.  Hands fist pump.  Mouths sing the melody.  Bodies burst into sporadic fits of dance rage.  Even, a dance circle crops in the center of the room.  B-boys turned B-men wearing ball caps and checkered plaids, hand spin and freeze.  Their bodies, stuck in mid air.  Spectators cheer on the acrobatic stunts.         


Sadly, the time has come to bid our great friend, adieu.  He must move on to greener pastures and play his alterative guise for an eclectic crowd across town.  Not before he leaves, he takes the microphone and utters a muffled thank you and a goodbye.  If that is what he says.   Nobody seems to mind; everyone must be wasted.   

This party was straight-up blue lights in the basement. The mushroom jazz curator paid homage to his Chicago roots.  The majority old school playlist would make Southside Chicago proud.    Suffice to say, seventies disco, eighties soul and early house music is the architect that has built Mark Farina’s house.   After all, Mark Farina can move away from Chicago but you can’t take the Chicago out of Mark Farina.    


February 17, 2013

Where is the Love? 

The City That Abandoned Funky House

Bye bye.  The city’s funky house music days are done.  For a city that is too busy partying, it sure does know how to kill a scene.  Namely, funky house music, the sub-genre of house music.  For those that missed funky house music’s obituary and its home-going service in this city, please, read on.


Our beloved funky house music transitioned to the heavens.  The music that once captured devoted hearts and lifelong fans in this city may be gone but its memories will never be forgotten.


Funky house music was the life of the party.  However, its sound was no one-man show but a contemporary that was influenced by the unexpected.  Its friends; boogie, disco, funk and R n B all contributed to its song.  Vocals, television theme shows and rap lyrics performed its message.    Funky’s love for electronic synthesizers, heavy samples and soulful bass lines defined its character and established its charisma. 

Birthed on Chicago’s North Side during the decade of excess, funky house was one of house music’s many children-ghetto house, juke house and acid house-to birth during the cities electronica renaissance. The noughties secured funky house music’s global popularity thanks, in part, to the westward expansion of Chicago’s house music DJs and America’s rave culture.  Funky hosue music continued its reign throughout the close of the twentieth century and into the early twenty-first century until it retreated into fragmented territories. 

Funky house music lived; edgy, energetically, vibrantly and full of life.  It paid no relevance to playing it safe or ever slowing down.  Its heartbeat pumped at 125 to 130 beats per minute.  Its pulse marched to the beat of its own drum loops of build-ups and breaks downs that resembled a kick-ass rollercoaster ride of drama.  This rollercoaster ride of drama is what kept many of players out dancing all night and playing its song till the wee hours of the morning light.  Much can be said for its demise however, one fact is certain, funky house music was loved.  Its sound is survived by parent house music and siblings, soulful house, and deep house. 


The funeral service schedule: 

Cory Benoit & William Caldwell 9 pm

Silk Wolf 10 pm

Mike Zarin 11 pm

Charles Feelgood 12 am

Cory Benoit & William Caldwell 2am till close


The Funeral Service

Can you hear the music?  When the single frame door with a putrid black paint job opened, an upbeat melody with pronounced four counts announced its presence.  The merry melody escaped captivity.  It blew outdoors where it froze in below freezing temperatures on the coldest night of the year of the snake.   

Up the stairs, “Please Stand By,” pass the lovely money collector, “Hi!!!”, pass the ID checker, “Yes, I’m older than 21” and around the corner…..

Startled!?!  The scene appeared to be a funeral that no one bothered to attend.  What happened?  Invites were distributed.  Social media websites visibly  promoted the event.  Yet, the faces of family expected to show played ghost.  The majority of the few faces, present, appeared frighteningly unfamiliar.  Had funky house music a mistress with relatives no one knew?  Damn funeral surprises.  Not surprisingly, the few supporters in attendance were scattered across the room. Only a handful bothered to dance.  A quick head count revealed only twenty bodies on the dance floor.  Throughout the room, the empty pockets of space outnumbered the guests.  

The stage was set.  Literally.  The sound system had moved from the catacomb in the room’s rear to center stage, in the front of the room, sitting in a coffin on a table.  The change of set-up occurred to accommodate two 18 speaker bottoms and a fog machine.  The fog machine sprayed the room as a faint whiff of carcinogens roamed by.  Shining underneath one of the two disco balls, the position of the coffin proved noteworthy.  Funky house music seemed to nod with approval.  Additional space onstage meant greater crowd intimacy and allowed the crowd greater voyeurism.

 DJ Mike Zarin, dressed in vintage 4Deep garb, rocked the casket of equipment energetically with a funky house tribute not heard from him since his early 4Deep days playing at Connect parties.  How appropriate, Tranzlife’s “Heart Attack” played soundtrack to the grief- stricken fiasco.  At least two supporters tried to make the best of the situation, responding with handclaps and out of this world dance moves.    


The hour hand ticked ever so closer to midnight.  The bug that buzzes with excitement dropped dead.   Without hype and little fanfare, the event’s guest headliner appeared onstage wearing a suave black leather jacket that would later come off to reveal two sleeves of tribal tats.  The man appeared armed and dangerous. 

The guest DJ, from southern California, bio reads like a champion of funky proportions.  The “Time To Get Ill” mixtape producer is responsible for putting funky house music on the map in the east coast cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C. alongside then partner DJ Scott Henry during house music’s heyday in the 1990’s.  His production and remix credits include a who’s who list in the electronic dance world that spans decades and garnered hundreds of fans.

Currently, his name is Charles Feelgood, yet a few remembered when he was simply, “Feelgood.”  To make the people feel good is what the maestro set out to do.  For the two hours that followed, Charles Feelgood would deliver nothing short than a stellar musical eulogy to his soul buddy number one, funky house.   

Enter the band Rufus & vocalist Chaka Kahn singing “Any Love” that partied over a bed of sliced disco house that ascended to heavenly heights.  A few that recognized the classic showed love with vocal praise.  Jamaroquai stopped by. The blue-eyed soul delivered the funk with “All Good In The Hood.”   Bay area bred, Oakland, CA fed, DJ Mes provided disco-drenched beats that bumped and wobbled not only the subwoofers, but dancing feet.  Rescue’s mega-hit, “Every Freakin’ Day,” that samples 1990’s R n B legends, Jodeci’s, “Every Freakin’ Night” proved too predictable during the tribute.  Feelgood’s D.C. buddies, 95 North’s alias, Johnny Corporate stopped by.  Their song “Sunday Shoutin,’” that samples Atlanta’s own Brick, “Living From The Mind,” put the church into the house.  People shouted and danced.  This spectacle would generate the most action the dance floor would see for the rest of the night.    Stop!  The four-on-the-floor gave way for a slower urban groove as guitar strings plucked over softer drums.  The red carpet was rolled out and the velvet rope pulled back for reality television’s latest diva, Toni Braxton’s “You’re Makin Me High.”  The 1995 Atlanta-brewed jam felt underappreciated and went unnoticed.  The dance floor’s census dropped, twelve to five.  Feelgood brought his hype men.  A man, standing over six feet, stood onstage and played music director with animated arm thrusts leading the crowd to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do.”  The 1982 scorcher, and the party’s “That’s my song,” played at high speeds, minus a house beat, with the song’s original drums and percussions left intact.  Certain segments of the song were looped for dramatic effects.  The re-edits only miss, Dizzy Gillespie’s arousing trumpet solo.     Again disco, George Benson’s “Give Me The Night” (Instrumental), constructed the groove to funky house beats.  Orchestra strings and blaring trumpets dotted the landscape of funky house’s grandmother the late, disco.  Fragmented vocals sliced in syncopated sound bites created a heated disco chant.  Basically, Diana Ross’ vocals sung “Burnin” over and over and over again.  Next Feelgood dropped the music to allow the vocals to play.  This is a DJ’s non-verbal cue for the audience to sing along.  The late Whitney Houston sung. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody/With Somebody Who Loves Me.”  The dispersing crowd showed no love.  More or less they seemed clueless.  The late icon, MJ’s chops were chopped on “Rock With You.”  The song was a floor burner equipped with hard core analog thumps that played proud and loud but Mike’s vocals abruptly disappeared without any reason.    Teddy Pendergrass “Get Up, Get Down” uplifted the party.  The late legend sang, “Do You Want To Party?” 


Over walked a drunken female.  “C’mon dance,” she slurred.  By the end of Feelgood’s set her ass would smack the wooden dance floor.  Oops.  Yes, everyone would see it.  And sorry, no one would care to help her up.             

By two am, the handful of scattered few danced around like there was no problem or care in the world.  Actually, everyone felt good and drunk.  One person took being intoxicated too far; a woman dressed in a black blouse with black lace trimmings and blue denim had her head smashed down on the table asleep.  Sign of the times: funky house music was dead, at least in this city.         

Somewhere in the arms of time, the motto: for the love of funky house music, died.  As one pallbearer stated, “We tried.”  In the city too busy complaining, “Where is the funky house music and I feel like some funky house music tonight,” all one can do is to try.  Sadly, in the end trying was not enough.  The music sub-genre that once carried, through life’s joys and pains, on its back a family of loved supporters, dancers and DJs bothered not to show face or support.  Guess they bothered not to read the writing on the wall.          

Words and photography by AJ Dance   


July 1, 2011


Photography by Maggie May

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Photography by Luis V and AJ Dance for DEG

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Photograph one by Maria P Sanders/All other photographaphs by Luis V for DEG