Pioneers of Electronic Dance Music

From Lee Scratch Perry and Frankie Knuckles to Daft Punk

By Google Arts & Culture

Heiko Hoffmann (Text) + Dorothy (Visual)

Music Makers & Machines - Electric Love Blueprint (2021) by Dorothy

A brief history of electronic dance music pioneers - from Lee Scratch Perry's invention of modern remixing techniques to Kraftwerk's influential "Mensch-Maschine" concept and Daft Punk's sample and filter heavy house sound that helped establish electronic music as the global, festival-headlining genre it is today.

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Lee Scratch Perry

(born Rainford Hugh Perry; March 20, 1936) is a Jamaican musician and producer. In the 1970s, along with King Tubby, he was a pioneer of dub music using studio effects to create new versions of existing reggae songs inventing modern remixing. Perry made his Black Ark studio – where he produced Bob Marley, the Heptones, the Congos and many more - the center of his music production, playing the mixing desk and it’s connected effects like an instrument.


Lee Scratch Perry - Studio Black Ark 

Kraftwerk

is a German band started in 1970 by Ralf Hütter (born August 20, 1946) and Florian Schneider (April 7, 1947–April 21, 2020). Key members of the groups classic line up also included Wolfgang Flür (born July 17, 1947) and Karl Bartos (born May 31, 1952). Kraftwerk were the first electronic music group to popularize the genre. They pioneered the use of synthesizers, sequences, drum machines and vocoders and influenced many genres such as synth-pop, hip hop, electro and techno. Important albums include Autobahn (1974), Trans-Europe Express (1977) and Man Machine (1978).


Kraftwerk live 1978

Giorgio Moroder

(born Giovanni Giorgio Moroder; April 26, 1940) is an Italian composer and producer. Starting his own record studio Musicland in Munich he made the first electronic disco tracks with his 1977 album From Here to Eternity and “I Feel Love” which he co-wrote and produced for Donna Summer. The song was created using a Moog synthesizer with the various parts played on a sequencer. “I Feel Love”, including its four-on-the-floor kick drum, established a blueprint for future electronic dance music.


Donna Summer - I Feel Love

Afrika Bambaata

(born Lance Taylor; April 17, 1957) is US DJ, rapper and producer. Along with DJs such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash he helped create hip-hop in the late 70s. In 1982 he – along with producer Arthur Baker and John Robie – created the groundbreaking single “Planet Rock” which sampled rhythm and melody from two Kraftwerk songs and popularized the use of a Roland TR-808 drum machine which established a genre later called electro.


Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock

Frankie Knuckles

(born Francis Warren Nicholls Jr, January 18, 1955 – March 31, 2014) was a US DJ and producer. He played a crucial role in developing house music. Knuckles started DJing along with Larry Levan at New York clubs. In 1977 he became resident DJ at the newly opened Warehouse in Chicago. His mixture of disco, soul and synth-pop tracks accompanied by live drum machine programming became known as “house music”. His productions include 80s house classics such as “Your Love”, “Baby Wants to Ride”, “Tears”.


Frankie Knuckles - Your Love

Juan Atkins

(born September 12, 1962) is a US producer and DJ. He formed Cybotron with Richard Davis in 1981 creating electro tracks such as “Alleys of Your Mind” and “Clear”. In 1985 he started his own record label Metroplex and solo project Model 500. It’s debut single “No UFO’s”, using a Roland TR-909 drum machine and eschewing traditional song structures, is considered as the first techno record. Along with Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May and others established a distinct sound of Detroit techno.


Model 500 - No UFO's

Aphex Twin

(born Richard David James; August 18, 1971) is a British musician. He started releasing music in 1991 with his debut EP “Analogue Bubblebath”, co-founding the label Rephlex in the same year. Aphex Twin has released hundreds of tracks under various aliases and across various styles that have been among the most influential in the field of electronic music. Key records include Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992), “Come to Daddy” (1997), “Windowlicker” (1999) and the Analord series of EPs (2005).


Aphex Twin - Windowlicker

Daft Punk

was a French house music duo formed in 1993 by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (born February 8, 1974) and Thomas Bangalter (born January 3, 1975). Their debut album Homework included the singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” (1997) and helped to popularize a sample and filter heavy French house sound. Their Alive 2006/2007 tour was a key factor in electronic dance music establishing a headline presence at international music festivals.


Daft Punk - Around The World

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Credits: Story

Text: Heiko Hoffmann
Visual: Dorothy

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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