Black Artists Pioneered Electronic Music. This Festival Celebrates Them.
Hutchinson said the issue is not just effacement — historical neglect has had a material impact on Black artists in the industry. (In 2019, Forbes published a list of the highest-paid D.J.s in electronic music — none were Black.) In several of her professional roles — as a founder of Discwoman, a former booker at the Bushwick techno playground Bossa Nova Civic Club and a curator for many other projects — she has urged festivals and performance spaces to book more Black and women artists, and pay them equitable rates.
“We have to beg for just a slither of the same thing that a white D.J. gets handed,” she said. When it comes to trying to get venues to book Black women, “it’s always like, ‘Well, OK, we’ll have ’em open,’ or ‘Oh, we have this much left,’” she explained. “It’s like the crumbs, and it’s disgusting.”
Though Hutchinson said she understands why appealing to white institutions may be useful or necessary, she made a personal decision to turn her attention in another direction: “Let’s think about what we can create. You know, let’s reframe the question and imagine what we want.”
Dweller demonstrates a curatorial commitment to the broad spectrum of Black aesthetics within electronic music, refusing a singular vision of race, sound or identity. For instance, there is a queer Black rave night scheduled right alongside a D.J. set by the world-building experimentalist Keiyaa. And while the festival does feature educational talks and panels, Hutchinson said that the team, which also includes the blog editor Clarke and the Ghana-based co-curator Enyo Amexo, strives to center celebration.
“That’s kind of an expectation for us, to always be talking through our problems,” she said. “I feel like the focus should be on us having a good time as well.”
This year, the festival’s theme is intergenerational connection. The lineup includes forbears like RP Boo, an originator of Chicago’s footwork movement; Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale, the godmother of house; and members of Underground Resistance, the formative Detroit techno collective known for its politically conscious politics and D.I.Y. philosophy.