Decolonizing Electronic Music: Why It Matters

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


How can we decolonize electronic music? Why does it matter? In this blog post, we’ll explore these questions and more.

What is electronic music?

Electronic music is a genre of music that is made with the use of electronic instruments and sound recordings. It has been a part of our lives for over a century, and it has continued to evolve as technology advances.

The first electronic instruments were invented in the early 1800s, and they were used to create experimental and avant-garde music. In the early 1900s, composers like Olivier Messiaen and Edgar Varèse began to experiment with electronic music, using early synthesizers and other electronic devices. In the 1960s, electronic music became more popular, as artists like Brian Eno and Kraftwerk began to experiment with new sounds.

Today, electronic music is more popular than ever before. It is often used in mainstream pop music, as well as in dance music and other genres. Electronic music has also been used in video games, movies, and television shows.

With its history of innovation and popularity, electronic music has had a significant impact on our culture. However, there has been little discussion of the role that race plays in electronic music. This is particularly troubling given the recent increase in xenophobic and racist attitudes around the world.

Electronic music has been shaped by people of color from its very beginnings. African American composers like Scott Joplin and James P. Johnson were pioneers of early ragtime and jazz piano styles that would go on to influence electronic dance music genres like house and techno. Jamaican producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby pioneered dub reggae techniques that would be adopted by artists like British producer Brian Eno and American hip hop producer Dr. Dre.

More recently, people of color have continued to shape the sound of electronic music through their contributions to genres like grime (a type of UK hip hop), footwork (a type of Chicago house),trap (a type of Southern hip hop),and baile funk (a type of Brazilian dance music). While people of color have been instrumental in the development of electronic music, they are often excluded from discussions about the genre. This is part of a larger pattern of erasure that takes place within many mainstream musical genres

Where did electronic music come from?

Electronic music is often thought of as a relatively new genre, but its origins can be traced back to the 19th century. In 1876, Elisha Gray invented the Musical Telegraph, which was used to send musical signals over telegraph wires. This early form of electronic music was based on technology that was already in use for other purposes, such as communication and transportation.

The next significant development in the history of electronic music came in 1897, with the invention of the theremin. This instrument was played without physical contact, using an electromagnetic field to control sound. The theremin was used by a number of early 20th-century composers, including Sergei Prokofiev and Herbert Eimert.

In the 1920s, several composers began experimenting with new ways to create sounds electronically. One of the most important figures in this period was German composer Paul Hindemith, who worked with Oskar Sala to develop the trautonium. This instrument was used extensively by Hindemith in his composition “Requiem for Those Who Died at Sea.”

In the 1930s, American composer John Cage developed a technique known as “prepared piano,” in which objects are placed on or between the strings of a piano to create new timbres and sounds. This technique was used extensively by Cage in his composition “Sonatas and Interludes.”

The first commercial electronic instruments were introduced in the 1950s. These included the Theremin, Ondes Martenot, and trautonium. These early instruments were used by a number artists and composers who sought to expand the sonic palette available to them.

One of the most important figures in early electronic music was Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, who wrote a number of influential works for electronic instruments, including “Musica ricercata” and “Continuum.” Other important composers from this period include Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio.

The 1960s saw further developments in electronic music technology, with the introduction of synthesizers and other electronic keyboards. These new instruments allowed composers to create more complex sounds and textures. Important works from this period include Stockhausen’s “Kontakte” and Pierre Boulez’s “Pli selon pli.”

The 1970s saw a renewed interest in experimental music, with composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass exploring minimalism. This period also saw the rise of disco and other popular genres that made use of synthesizers and other electronic instruments. By the end of the decade, electronic music had become a mainstream genre.

Who creates electronic music?

There is no one answer to this question, as electronic music is created by musicians all over the world. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of electronic musicians are white and come from Western countries. This lack of diversity can be traced back to the history of electronic music, which began in the early 20th century with white European and North American scientists and composers.

While electronic music has become more diverse in recent years, we still have a long way to go in terms of decolonizing the genre. This process is important for two main reasons: first, it will help create a more inclusive and representative electronic music scene; and second, it will allow for a wider range of stories and experiences to be told through this type of music.

There are many ways to decolonize electronic music, but some key initiatives include supporting diverse artists, booking more diverse lineups at festivals and clubs, and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups to learn about and create electronic music. We must also continue to have open and honest conversations about race and privilege within the electronic music community. Only by working together can we build a truly diverse and inclusive scene.

What are the benefits of electronic music?

There are many benefits of electronic music, but perhaps the most important is that it can help to decolonize our minds.

For too long, we have been conditioned to think of music as something that must be created with traditional acoustic instruments. This is a eurocentric view that has its roots in colonialism. By expanding our definition of what music is, we can begin to see the world in a more inclusive and equitable way.

Electronic music can also help to break down barriers between people of different cultures. In a world that is often divided by race, ethnicity, and nationality, electronic music reminds us that we are all connected through the universal language of sound.

What are the challenges of electronic music?

Electronic music, like any other genre, is not without its challenges. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, some worry that the human element of music is being lost. Others argue that electronic music is simply a new form of expression, and that it offers new opportunities for creativity and innovation.

There is also the question of race and representation. When most people think of electronic music, they think of white, male DJs and producers. This has led to a feeling among some people of color that electronic music is not for them.

These are all valid concerns, but they should not stop us from enjoying and creating electronic music. With a little effort, we can decolonize electronic music and make it more inclusive for everyone.

How can electronic music be decolonized?

In recent years, electronic music has become increasingly popular all over the world. However, the history of electronic music often tells a different story. This music was developed primarily in the West by white men, and as a result, it often reflects Western values and perspectives. For example, many early electronic composeres used technology to create music that was abstract and mechanistic, rather than emotional or humanistic.

Now, some musicians and scholars are working to decolonize electronic music. This means creating music that is more inclusive of non-Western perspectives and values. It can also mean using technology to create music that is more humanistic and emotional. In this way, decolonizing electronic music can help us create a more diverse and equitable world.

Why is decolonizing electronic music important?

In a world where the music industry is still very much dominated by Western ideas, values, and aesthetics, it’s more important than ever to start decolonizing electronic music.

Decolonizing electronic music means moving away from the Eurocentric and white supremacist assumptions that have long been embedded in the genre, and instead centering the experiences of marginalized people – namely, people of color and Indigenous people.

There are a number of reasons why decolonizing electronic music is important. First and foremost, it’s a way of acknowledging and honoring the contributions of people of color and Indigenous people to the genre. Electronic music would not exist without their innovative sounds and styles, yet they have often been excluded from the narrative.

Second, decolonizing electronic music is a way of making the genre more inclusive and representative of the world we live in today. By elevating the voices of marginalized producers, we can create a more diverse and varied landscape of electronic music that reflects our reality.

Third, decolonizing electronic music is a way of pushing back against the erasure of marginalized communities in popular culture. In recent years, there has been a worrying trend of gentrification in electronic music, as white producers appropriate increasingly diverse sounds for commercial gain while displacing the very communities that created them. This process of cultural appropriation silences marginalized voices and perpetuates systemic inequality.

Finally, decolonizing electronic music is essential for the future sustainability of the genre. As our world becomes increasingly divided along lines of race, class, and culture, it’s more important than ever to create spaces that celebrate diversity instead of reinforcing exclusivity. By decolonizing electronic music, we can ensure that it remains a genre for everyone – not just those with privilege.

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