At any time, innumerable people are enjoying electronic music. It’s hard to imagine that a mere decade ago techno was thought of as an underground movement.
In the early 1980s a group of pioneers in Detroit started merging the noises of synthpop and Italo-disco with funk. Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson were school friends who enjoyed dance parties where the music encompassed Kraftwerk and Parliament. They listened to a top radio DJ, The Electrifying Mojo, who put on European imports as well as Prince and the B-52’s. In the early 80s Atkins and Richard Davies, aka 3070, began releasing records under the name of Cybotron and Techno was born.
Around the same era, the infant hip-hop group gained elements of Kraftwerk’s music, because of DJs like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, and invented electro. Electro depended heavily on synthesized beats and computery vocoder voices. In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa used the melody from Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express,” blended it with the recognisable beat from Kraftwerk’s “Numbers,” and wrote the anthem “Planet Rock.” Electro created the concept of the funky computer. MCs rapped over the music, and breakdancers began a new culture in towns where electro reigned. It can be heard at many festivals.
Techno, electro, and house were accessible because of new, cheap technology. The Roland TR-808, a programmable drum machine brought out in late 1980, created the distinctive sound for the whole electro genre and was utilised in countless early techno tracks. 1981’s Roland TB-303 mini-keyboard was used to make squelchy basslines once people found the odd sounds that emerged from some knob twiddling.