Detroit's Renaissance: Can Techno Music Save Motor City?

| July 20, 2000

Detroit's Renaissance: Can Techno Music Save Motor City?

Since the late '60s, Detroit, once the engine of American industrial progress, has been on a downward spiral. Ravaged by thirty years of white flight, drugs, gang problems, industrial automation and the decline of organized labor, Motor City is a ghost of its former self -- a sad collection of modern skyscrapers, ghettoes, and ghost-like ruins of lavish buildings from another time.

Meanwhile, Techno, Detroit's most important musical export since Motown, is taking the world by storm. In a recent special issue of FEED on cities, London-based writer Geoff Dyer, visiting for the first annual Detroit Electronic Music Festival, explores the grand ruins of downtown, and asks whether Techno can help save Motor City's soul.

'It was more than just 36 hours of music and fun. Something else was happening here too. As the festival developed, people began to get a palpable sense that they were not simply witnessing but were part of a turning point in the history of the city,' writes Dyer, adding that: 'Techno -- which, it is easy to forget, was pioneered by black men -- emerged from the ruins of a city nearly destroyed by racial tension... No one would claim that a three-day feast of electronic music was going to solve all the city's problems but, equally, no one who was there could deny the capacity of music and dance to bring people together.' -- Leif Utne
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