When we think of the kitchen we think of nourishment, congregation, the heartbeat of family life. And in Ballroom that heartbeat, that unifying force that keeps everyone feeling nourished and on beat together is undoubtedly music.
One key characteristic of a Vogue Ball is the music that pulses through the place, fuelling each competitor and house with energy and rhythm. Ballroom has developed its own genre of music over time called Ballroom or Voguing music. Ballroom music evolved in tandem with and to support Voguing dance styles, accenting the dramatic dance moves, poses and dips with musical punctuation such as crashing cymbals, and synth stabs.
In its early days the Ballroom scene soundtrack consisted of disco and house tracks. These later evolved in the Balls to create a new musical genre - Ballroom. This means that Ballroom music is a direct descendant and evolution of Disco and Chicago house.
history of House music
House music is said to have originated at a Chicago nightclub called The Warehouse, run by Frankie Knuckles aka The Godfather of House, otherwise known as The Man of the House. Legend has it that people used to ask record stores for the records played at the Warehouse so frequently, that record stores in Chicago simply started calling the records “house”.
The first house record is thought to be a mix Frankie Knuckles made live at a Warehouse rave in 1985, mixing Jesse Saunders On & On with a live drum machine. House music is considered to be a style of disco characterised by deep bass, 4/4 rhythms, playing breaks, extended instrumental sections, and the use of piano, synth riffs and vocals.
House sound was pioneered by DJs and Producers from Chicago and New York such as Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, Jesse Saunders, Chip E., Steve “Silk” Hurley, Mr.Lee, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Marshall Jefferson, Phuture etc; and emerged from a myriad of sources and was much broader in its early definition than how we think of House music today.
Of course disco is the most direct influence of House with “playing breaks” being a major feature of both genres, but most people don’t know that another major influence was Italian disco or Italo Disco. Italo disco producers were experimenting with simple drum tracks and new synths and Chicago producers took that sound and ran with it. House and Techno were also influenced by a new preppie dance scene in Chicago with big parties held at upper-middle-class schools playing rock, punk & synthy pop tunes that were also considered to be part of the House music genre as it was emerging in Chicago.
Ballroom music evolved to have a specific function; to be the soundtrack for Vogue dancers and house competitors and so it has musical elements that directly relate to the needs of the Ballroom performers/dancers/competitors.
DJ’s at the ball must know which song goes with which category and work closely with the night’s emcee. The DJ and emcee are two key figures in the Ballroom scene. They keep the vibe going. Ballroom music has gotten harder and faster over the decades with stripped back, harsh, driving beats. This change has been happening in tandem with the evolution of vogue dancing to be much more athletic with a lot more emphasis on dramatic stunts.
History of House music links
Archive of Frankie Knuckles mixes: https://www.gridface.com/frankie-knuckles-playlists/
The Warehouse: https://ra.co/features/1597
The Frankie Knuckles Foundation: http://www.thefkfoundation.org/
Black Techno: https://dwellerforever.blog/about/
Tracks that defined Ballroom: https://www.vulture.com/2018/07/20-tracks-that-defined-the-sound-of-ballroom.htm