There is a new 20-minute documentary out called Black to Techno and to be frank it is a stunning snapshot of the Detroit techno scene that reclaims the black origins of the genre’s innovative spirit and soul. Featuring a combination of vintage film and original footage, director Jenn Nkiru‘s film explores the roles played by history, technology, geography and race in the emergence of techno music.
The film was commissioned by Frieze and Gucci as part of their Second Summer of Love series. From New York’s underground culture to to the rise of UK acid house in the ’80s, the films give the directors the artistic license to tell the stories of the various music scenes that ignited social and cultural revolution around the world before the turn of the century.
Nkiru describes her directing approach as “cosmic archaeology” – unearthing bits of information she finds and putting them back together. The question she hopes the resulting film will answer is: “How can we become more familiar with ideas that are from our past?”
Narrated by beatjazz musician Onyx Ashanti, the film paints a unique picture of the Motor City’s perilous auto industry and “what it means to be in tune with the machine.” The film also features three of Detroits best female DJs – Stacy Hale, Minx, and DJ Hieroglyphics – spinning in an auto factory surrounded by bundles of raw material and animatronic machines.
Paying homage to Detroit legends such as Juan Atkins, J Dilla, Underground Resistance, Electrifying Mojo, Drexciya and more, the film begins to flip back and forth between Detroit and Berlin to show how the Motor City’s newfound sound had a major impact on German culture during the end of the Cold War.
As for Nkiru’s connection to techno, she says, “I had been thinking about afrofuturism and the overlaps to techno. I describe techno as a resulting sound. It’s a result of its environment, the geopolitical landscape, its legacy, its history, its geography all go into its making. It could not be created anywhere else. I want to look at techno not just as a sonic gesture, but as a geopolitical, anthropological gesture.”