TechnoMECCA: The Detroit Sound Project

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The documentary film, TechnoMECCA: The Detroit Sound Project, will explore the history of people of African decent in electronic music. This non-fiction narrative transmedia project will focus on Detroit and how Afro-American dance culture in the late 80’s catalyzed the development of electronic dance music around the world as well as making a firm impression on Hip Hop. Detroit is Techno and electronic music’s “Mecca”, and this Project, will explore the artists who created the sound, the artists that keep it alive, as well as, analyze the cultural events that caused it to develop in Detroit and spread around the world.

Detroit Techno organically grew out of the rich musical soil that spawned the Motown dynasty but the Detroit sound experienced an infusion of technology in the 80’s that changed the way the world listened to music. Electronic music lovers from around the world have respected Detroit as the birthplace of Techno and Electronica for years. But the role Detroit’s Afro-American producers played in the history of Techno, Electro, Hip-Hop and most froms of electronic dance music, has been largely been overlooked by the mainstream in the US. Its development has largely been relegated to the European artists who dominate and capitalize on the scene currently. Very few people in the US, or even Detroit, actually know the term “Techno” was coined by Juan Atkins a DJ/producer who developed the music as a youth growing up in Detroit and its suburb Belleville. The transmedia project TechnoMECCA will engage with young people with music, while educating them in writing, doc research, media production and technology literacy.

This project’s educational companion website the Music Origins Project as an example in the Music Origins Project’s challenge for young film makers around the world to learn to create short-form non fiction films of their own using smart phone cameras and inexpensive video equipment. We want inspire youth, especially those in the blighted streets of Detroit, to take pride in, and document their own stories using what ever tools are available.

Check out a few sneak peek clips from The Detroit Sound Project: TechnoMECCA on one of the film’s subjects, DJ Al Ester. (Edited by Scott Chennault and Kristian Hill.)

Project Update: Since the inception of the project the TechnoMecca and the team has grown. We are currently in post-production and have added the talent of Kristin Hill (editor of: Masters of the Mix, Icons Among Us) Scott Chennault (editor of: The Chew) and a number of others.

The TechnoMECCA team has filmed over 100 hours of interviews (see interview list below) and “B-roll” footage in cities around the world. The goal is to explore the growth of the electronic music globally and to show overlaps of the genera into all forms of electronic music including Jazz, Acid Jazz, House music and Hip Hop. The DVD will include an exploration of the web-based project along with best clips of videos submitted by the students involved in the Music Origins project.

The Website: The film and it’s website are being created in conjunction with this educational website ( – Launching officially in August 2012) to give a variety of points of entry for viewers. The site will feature interviews excerpted from the film, a historical timeline, music examples, and musical mixes to create a multimedia musical history of electronic music and its cultural influences over time. It will also feature a detailed documentation of the making of, and completion of the film. It will also challenge students to become a part of the project and to document their own oral histories on video for a prize (computers and/or software) and to be featured in the film. This site will help to teach users and students across the country about the influences technology has on culture and more specifically the development of the popular music which is woven into the tapestry of life in the information age (for example, a reference to the group Cybotron was even mentioned in a #1 pop music hit by the Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow”). Key components of the educational curriculum for the film will seek to focus on, and teach students about media literacy (remix culture, music copyrights, creative commons, open source, open video), digital music creation, web-based video production, oral-history, and web-based research through the fun and compelling lens of electronic music.

We hope to use the creation of this film as an example to teach students to work together collaboratively in groups to research and document their own, short, video-based oral histories on art and culture in the regions in which they live. Student from across the nation (and eventually different countries) will be challenged to research and write about and discuss music (and other unique local art forms) and its development in their local regions and integrate this info into a Google map (recreating the historical locations using Sketch-up and other tools). The site will be used to showcase music and other artistic and cultural influences on the popular media landscape.

Ultimately, the site (and eventually mobile app) will serve as a map-based tool to promote an understanding of social media literacy, and of remix culture, as well as to teach students to understand copyrights and creative commons options for digital media creation. Another goal being to teach them to use simple video production techniques to document their own cultural history and art forms they witness emerging, using my documentary on Detroit’s unique cultural history and Techno as an example. Students will be challenged to explore mass media culture via online maps and the web, in order to facilitate an understanding of connectivism and collaborative learning skills, while improving overall literacy; the basic skills necessary as a functioning citizen in the information age (reading, writing, and web-based research).

The Film Project: The goal of this film project was to create unique cutting edge transmedia documentation of the era in Detroit’s history that produced Techno and to look at what started it. As a part of the process have collected hundreds of “original sources” like party flyers, as well as, images, video, and music from events that helped catalyze the musical genera. Additionally, I have interviewed Detroit DJ’s, producers, as well as, others who were in Detroit during this unique time in the city’s history and were affected by the music that emerged from it.

The Interviews: Jeff Mills, Eddie “Flashin” Fowlkes, Carl Craig, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Model 500, Rolando, Kyle Hall, Flying Lotus, Alton Miller, DJ Dez (of Slum Village), Chez Damier, Terrance Parker, Anthony “Shake” Shakur, Alton Miller, Brendan M. Gillen of Ectomorph, Piranhahead, Norm Talley, Brett, Dancer, Larry Heard, Osunlade, Mike Clark, Kenny Larken, Kai Alce, Sundiata, Paris “The Blac Fu” of the Detroit Grand Pubahs, Glenn Underground, DJ Assault, DJ Godfather, Malik Alston, Aril Brikha, Kieth Worthy, Reggie Dokes, Kimyon, The Roots, Mos Def, Alexander Robotnic, DJ Spooky…and A Guy Called Gerald.

For more info on the film

  • Renaissance Center, Detroit
  • David Grandison Interview
  • Interview lights
  • Detroit Street

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