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Book: Turntable Stories

Chapter: The Party

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.46291


This turntable story examines the track ‘The Party’ (made in 1988 by Haitian producer Richard Jean Laurent aka Kraze) and its impact on the reception of house music in the European cultural context. Laurent's career provides an interesting case for ‘microhistorical’ inquiry. With this research method, the partiality and fragmentary nature of the case under examination are made to emerge, along with its symptomaticity with respect to processes that sometimes escape larger analyses. Microhistory privileges anomalies in order to bring out a ‘normal exception:’ an oxymoronic expression indicating how a seemingly isolated case can erode the opacity of a homogeneous series of historical narrations. In this case, this is the ‘canon’ of US house music in the 1980s. In this microhistorical excursus on Richard Laurent, I will show how 12-inch house records produced by the Haitian musician spread globally. Laurent’s music was then hijacked by the European media industry, who then appropriated the festive side of house music, setting aside any aspect of social criticism and countercultural commonality. The Party is only one of the many instances in which this ‘heterogony’ took place, however, it is a conspicuous example that highlights a trend that is scarcely detected. In the microhistory of The Party, the heterogony of ends acts along two lines. On the one hand, Laurent’s intention to publish his vocal track determines practices and uses other than those desired and from which the author does not even profit. I will trace the history of the first acapella bootlegs and how they were sampled hundreds of times and ended up in other records. European producers who appropriated snippets of The Party misrepresented its message and released highly derivative tracks with almost the opposite content. Following the turntable story of Laurent's single and its acapella version, I will expose the mechanisms by which house music was received and assimilated in Europe, particularly by the mainstream media, which took musical and textual elements of The Party and placed them in products that were far removed from the original context of house music creation and enjoyment.

Chapter Contributors

  • Guglielmo Bottin ([email protected] - gbottin) 'University of Milan/ Humboldt University'