This week on Freeform Friday, we have the pleasure of welcoming musical force Aluna, who recently stepped out of the duo AlunaGeorge to pursue solo work. With her guest set for KCRW’s airwaves, Aluna serves up a momentous mix with an influential message, and it’s a musical history lesson highlighting classic and emerging Black artists and women in dance music.
Aluna’s mission is clear: advocating positive self-representation of Black artists through her selects. Read on for Aluna’s perspective on the current issues in the dance community, the power of building on her own musical heritage, and her club classic faves. Don’t sleep on this one!
What is the vibe or general mood behind your playlist, and what was the inspiration behind your picks?
Since I started writing for my solo project, I have been interested in the hidden Black history of dance music. Turning to that legacy for inspiration as a Black woman — attempting to fight my way into a genre ruled and saturated by white cis males. It has taken me on a journey through the many variations of music that people dance to globally in the Black diaspora; which is currently left out of the Eurocentric definition of dance/electronic.
This distillation of the genre, down to EDM, is simply not fresh anymore and the producers and ravers are looking for something new. As the history of appropriation begins to repeat itself, I want to make sure the originators of this new sound are at the forefront, highlighted and celebrated. My guest set serves as both a musical history lesson and a taste of a future in dance music that will be available to us if we both give credit to its Black history, and uplift the Black artists who are making the freshest dance music today.
Tell us a story about one of the songs in here that has a special resonance to you. Do you have a particular memory of listening to it? Did you meet the musicians who made it? Was the song something that inspired you to make music yourself?
“I Feel Love” by Donna Summer is one of those songs that I would just hear, because it’s such a popular classic tune, but I never thought about how the sounds are so different and that it really marks a moment in history. Once I found out that this song is widely considered as a song that marks the birth of house — it knocked me out. I had felt like as a Black woman I was trying to push my way into a genre invented by white Europeans in 1988. I felt like an imposter, like I was doing something “un-Black” by stepping out of “my place” as just a featured artist on white producers’ dance tracks. To then discover that all I was doing was building on my own musical heritage was HUGE, it freed me up to really confidently dive into making music in exactly the way I envisioned.
Which song in here is the “ringer” — a song that can be played for any crowd that will get them moving? Why do you think this song is so special?
“Turn Me On” by Black Coffee and Bucie. This beautiful, sexy track is perfect for any dance floor. It has gorgeous vocals and a cute catchy piano riff that will ripple over your body getting you moving like liquid.
In what situations would this playlist make for a suitable soundtrack? What places do you imagine listeners could go to pair the music’s vibe with the location?
This playlist is perfect for a room full people who have been active and vocal in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the consequential global movement to end racism. Dance music was created at a time of great social unrest, designed to soothe and heal the people who were fighting for their rights. We need to start creating a safe place of sanctuary where our future leaders and changemakers get to take a break and feel every ounce of the freedoms that have been hard won in the past and today.