FILM: ‘House Music Movie’ Explores the Underground
Nightlife photographer Muema diligently chronicles underground art, music and culture via the informative and entertaining BounceFM.com blog, which he regularly updates with video, photos, music and interviews. In this exclusive with Tania Fuentez Media, he reflects on the role House music has played in his life as he nears completion of what is shaping up to be an important documentary project now under the working title, “House Music Movie.”
NOTE: All photos courtesy of MuemaPhoto.com
TFM: What is the driving force behind “House Music Movie” and when did you decide it was time to do something like this on House music?
Muema: While growing up in New York City, local radio was a significant part of my life. Late nights were spent listening to WBLS, live mixes from Bentleys, the 98.7 Kiss MasterMix Dance Party, 92 WKTU and the legendary Tony Humphries. At the time, I did not quite know what the music was except for the fact that it was different and that it made me dance. A number of unforgettable experiences shaped my appreciation for and love of dance and subsequently House music.
Among the first was me taking the Dayline in the 1980s _ a nine-hour cruise up and down the Hudson River. Seated several rows ahead of us was a troupe of young people in parachute pants and dance shoes (probably Capezios). Once the boat set sail, their ghetto blaster was turned on. To songs (now considered anthems) such as “A-E-I-O-U (I Sometimes Cry)” to “Silent Morning” (by Noel) the young dancers did moves I’d never seen before and I was mesmerized. From the Webo dance to floor work, the dancers were light on their feet and one with the music. Later I learned that this was the era when House and freestyle were considered to be in the same league.
In college, the student council put on a one-off event in February. I don’t recall who the DJ was, but the music was amazing. One song was so unforgettable; I had to run to the DJ booth to ask what was playing, the song: “Koro Koro” by No Smoke (“Koro Koro” IS THE SHIT!). From this point on, I was hooked. My friend explained to me, “This is House music.” During this period and soon thereafter, Tony Humphries’ weekly radio show set the musical standard for a generation of youth. The quest was to have multiple 90 minute cassettes ready (metal of course for better quality) to capture the musical messiah’s latest offerings. During the week these tapes would be played over and over and over again celebrating the choons that Tony delivered. These tapes then became valuable currency that I’d barter with friends in London for colorful nightclub flyers and pirate radio recordings.
At the same time, Greenwich Village became a mecca for House music. Stores along 8th Street and Broadway (e.g. Unique) stocked hip club fashions. There was even a store called HOUSE which have a very brief life on East 7th Street. The real gems were STACKS of nightclub flyers found by the door and on the floor of these retail shops. These scraps of paper were CNN for the underground, providing valuable information of the who, what, where and when of house culture: who is the DJ, what party, where will it take place and when. DJs would set up a boombox and sell mixtapes on the sidewalks of 6th Avenue near 8th Street and Broadway from Astor Place down to Houston Street. For $10 you got 60-90 minutes of bliss. The plan was to look at the playlist and try to identify at least one song or artist you knew and hope the rest would be amazing.
Fast forward to 2005, I get the idea to make a movie on House music. In 2008, I started filming. In 2012, we are in post production and are scheduled to complete the film.
TFM: How does this documentary distinguish itself from other attempts to convey a better understanding of underground dance culture?
TFM: What are some of the obstacles you faced initially and, at this stage, have you overcome most of them? In hindsight, would you do it differently?
Muema: Three primary challenges faced included time, manpower and capital, all of which forced me to be creative. I want to take this opportunity to thank the 35 team members who contributed their capital to help push this film further along via our online fundraising campaign.
TFM: Music transcends boundaries and often acts as a soundtrack of our lives. Who are your musical influences (past and current)?
Muema: I would have to say Tony Humphries, Osunlade, Javier Drada, Boddhi Satva, Mr. V, Timmy Regisford and The Martinez Brothers.
TFM: Describe one of your favorite moments during a House music event (abroad and in the U.S.).
Muema: Three house music moments come to the top of my mind:
DJ Tony Humphries
In 2009, at the Southport Weekender, when it was still held in Southport, the festival ended on a Sunday. Those in the know, paid the few pounds extra and stayed one more night. There was an unofficial unannounced after party headlined by Tony Humphries. Tony got on deck, and for a period of about 4+ hours played an absolutely stellar DJ set of Zanzibar classics, that is, music made popular and legendary at the now defunct Newark, New Jersey nightclub. Though I never got to experience the original Zanzibar, the music, the vibe, the energy, the cadence, the vocals, Tony Humphries took me and everyone else in Southport there musically. It was one of those moments when everyone looks around the room knowingly, “This is magic happening right now!” Having been a fan of Tony for so many years, it was excellent to experience him at his prime.
DJ Javier Drada
In September, NYC promoter Benny Soto and DJ Danny Krivit were gracious to allow “House Music Movie” to film at the 718 Sessions party. On the lower level, DJ Javier Drada flew in from New Orleans and programmed a pitch perfect set of 90s classic House that had the basement of the club rocking from his first record to his last.
DJ Tommy Musto
About 10 years ago, DJ, producer and label owner Tommy Musto DJ’ed one of many after parties for the PopKomm music festival, which at the time took place in Cologne, Germany. The party was held at the Funky Chicken nightclub. From the moment Tommy got on, to the moment he got off, he played an absolutely stellar deep and soulful House musical DJ set, building and building and building the energy, taking the crowd deeper and deeper and deeper. The club was perfect size, about 300 people or less. The sound system was perfect and the vibe was right. What was amazing was that Tommy delivered a totally deep and soulful House underground DJ set to a crowd that got it, appreciated it and, most importantly, danced to it. Work!
TFM: Interest seems to steadily grow since you began this project?
Muema: House music has recently been featured in both Forbes magazine and the New York Times. A number of Hip Hop and R&B artists have crossed over to make “dance” music. This has served to expand interest in this genre of music we all love. “House Music Movie” has benefited from the greater awareness of and interest in House/dance music today.
TFM: As an independent, grassroots project, do you think “House Music Movie” can reach the intended audience?
Muema: I sincerely believe we will.
“House Music Movie” site: http://housemusicmovie.com/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/housemusicmovie
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HouseMusicMovie
DJ Javier Drada mix: http://bouncefm.com/mp3-javier-drada-live-break-4-love718-sessions-91811/#more-3327