house

   House music was originally developed in the early 1980s by American musicians and DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Farley Keith, DJ Pierre and Chip- E. Initially, house drew influence from up-tempo R&B and Salsoul. In particular, house DJs took records from these genres and ‘remixed’ them, reediting them for the dancefloor and adding percussion from newly developed drum machines. In particular, the American gay scene championed house as ‘its music’, and clubs such as The Sound Factory in New York, and The Power Plant and The Gallery 21 in Chicago became focal points. The term ‘house’ is an abbreviation of the name of The Warehouse club in Chicago, and was used by local record shops to describe the music played there. British dance culture imported house music in the late 1980s. Influenced by the style of house music played in Ibizan clubs during the summer of 1987, a generation of new DJs and musicians returned from their holidays and set about attempting to recreate the Ibiza club experience back in the United Kingdom. The clubs of the late 1980s that were playing house music included The Hacienda in Manchester, and Spectrum and Shoom in London.
   As the influence of house music has spread, it has taken over from disco as the dominant form of British dance music. In musical terms, house can be described as an electronic dance music based on a strict 4/4 time signature, with a sequenced ‘kick’ drum on all four crotchets of each bar, at speeds of around 120–130 beats per minute.
   Melody and vocals are used to break up repetition. Like contemporary techno, there are now a myriad of different styles of house. The subgenre of ‘handbag house’ appears to be particularly popular on British dancefloors. Dance culture’s usage of the word ‘handbag’ started life as a derogatory term for clubs where women danced round their handbags. However, since 1993 it has been used to describe house music that has prominent female vocals, ‘break downs’ (where the kick drum stops, and the track ‘breaks down’, to be built up again), and a proliferation of piano ‘stabs’. ‘Hard house’ is the term used to describe house music with a more aggressive feel to it, and some hard house of the mid-1990s is virtually indistinguishable from techno. Other subgenres popular on British dancefloors include the grand orchestral arrangements of ‘epic house’, the Latin rhythms of Italian house, and the vocal emphasis of ‘garage house’, named after the Paradise Garage club in New York.
   Within dance culture, the DJs frequently become more famous than the musicians themselves. It has been suggested that British house DJs such as Sasha, Danny Rampling and Jeremy Healy are the 1990s equivalent to the rock star. House music fans also have affinities with particular clubs, and often travel hundreds of miles to visit their favourite club. Popular house clubs in Britain at the moment include The Ministry of Sound in London, Wobble in Birmingham, Cream in Liverpool, Rise in Sheffield and Slam in Glasgow.
   See also: clubs; hip hop
   STUART BORTHWICK

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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