Deep In Vogue: an introduction to ballroom culture and modern voguing


Throwing down at Vogue Knights, NYC
 
I have been a bit slack with my Notes column of late, and here’s the reason why.

I love voguing (and you should know this by now.) I love the music, the dancing, the style, the language, the queens (both butch and femme), the battling, the videos, the full length films, the drama, the energy, the past, the present and the future. Voguing and Ballroom culture a very significant and valuable part of the LGBT landscape, the serves to teach children self-respect and personal growth, and gives them a space to be accepted, and to thrive, in.

I love voguing so much that I have written a in-depth introduction to the culture for Boing Boing. Funny as it may seem, this wasn’t an easy piece for me to write—I started and scrapped 3 drafts, which just kept getting longer and longer—but I am happy with this one. There’s quite a lot of material that I just didn’t have the space to include in this piece, and my thoughts are now quite seriously turning towards a book documenting the culture. It really is that rich.

Like hip hop, ballroom encompasses many different elements of artistic expression, from music and language to clothes and design, and, of course, dance. It deals directly with some of society’s most controversial issues, namely sexuality, race, class, gender roles and expression, beauty modes, self-definition and competition. It doesn’t do this in the polemical style we may be used to from punk and political hip-hop, however, where topics are theorised and discussed. In ballroom these issues are lived and experienced, as a vast number of those taking part in this underground scene are transgender, working class, people of colour.

Ballroom includes society’s most marginalised: minorities within minorities within minorities, for whom voguing and ballroom culture is an important resource. In a world where they have been rejected, ballroom not only accepts these people for who they are, it celebrates them, in a variety of unique and different categories. The competitive, prize-winning aspect of ballroom gives some participants a sense of worth lacking in the “real” world (not to mention money), and the familial structure of the “houses”—mother, father, sister, brother—often acts as a real surrogate, as many in this world have been disowned by their biological families.

Here, voguing is not just a dance, and ballroom is not just a genre. It’s a way of life that brings pride, peer recognition and self-respect. The genre of music is one thing, but the culture which surrounds it is another; and both are intricately tied into one another.

...

To quote the late, great Willi Ninja, who is perhaps the greatest voguer the world has yet seen, voguing is like a challenge dance: instead of fighting you take it out on the dancefloor. Depending on who you ask, this uniquely stylised dance form arose either amongst the inmates of Ryker’s Island, or at gay Harlem dance parties in the sixties (it’s most probably a mixture of both). Voguing got its name from Vogue magazine, as the competing dancers would flip to pictures of models posing, and imitate them, trying to outdo each other in the process. As it developed the dancers became quicker and more agile, and incorporated other forms of dance such as waacking (high speed arm movements and hand gestures) and body popping (though some say that voguing actually pre-dates popping, and was itself an influence on the original b-boys). Fast forward to 2013 and voguing has come a long way, progressing through the styles of old way, new way, femme and dramatics, to today’s almost hyperactive, turbocharged version of the dance. Although key elements of old way voguing remain (posing, “face”), a much more frantic and stylised choreography takes precedence, with signature moves such as the dip (when a dancer falls flat on their back), the duck walk and hair control (using long hair as stylistic element of the dance, in essence whipping it back and forth).

There’s more to vogue culture than just the dancing and the dressing up, and if you have seen Paris Is Burning you only know the very tip of this glittering iceberg. If you want to know more, read the rest of Welcome to the Ballroom, where Voguing is always in style here.

To accompany the piece, here is a 13 minute dj mix I put together of “cunt” tracks, “cunt” meaning “fabulous” in the world of Ballroom. Yes, the c-bomb gets dropped quite a lot in this mix, so you’re getting a warning: it’s NSFW!

CVNT TR4XXX 13min Cunty Minimix for #FEELINGS
 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Notes From The Niallist #12: ‘Work It’ with Egyptian Lover & friends


 
It’s the first Notes column of the new year, and it’s time for a little bit of self-promotion!

When I first joined the DM crew I remember talking to Richard Metzger (he;‘s not just bigger than Jesus, you know, he’s bigger than God!) about self-promotion on the site. I explained that the British people are actually pretty shit at promoting themselves, and he agreed. Not that I’m British, mind you. But it’s just one of those things that Americans do so much better than Europeans: selling yourselves, without coming across like utter cocks. Most of the time, anyway.

One of the points of starting this NFTN column was to have a little corner of the site all to myself, where I could talk about the more niche stuff I am interested in, but also to show off some of the stuff I do beyond blogging for Dangerous Minds. And I do a lot. Film-making, event organising, writing, djing, and, first and foremost, making music. 

So anyway, enough beating around the bush.

I’ve just released my latest single, remixes of a hip-house cover of Missy Elliot’s “Work It”, which is available to buy now, exclusively, from Juno Download.

The release contains six remixes, with the lead-off track being a rework by the legendary founder of electro music on the West Coast, Egyptian Lover. I gotta admit, I was pretty stoked when he said he liked my track enough to remix it, but that was nothing compared to how I felt when I heard it. It’s classic Egypt, a straight-up electro-funk bomb, and I am honored to release it. In fact, it made my year.

That’s not to knock any of the other artists who provided remixes, oh no siree. This release is really strong from start to finish. Additional mixes are supplied by upcoming legend Hard Ton, who turn in an Italian piano-house version that would have rocked the original acid raves at Shoom, Berlin based Electrosexual, who comes on strong with a percussive industrial mix, and rising star Ynfynyt Scroll, who turns in a mix half-way between southern hip-hop and Jersey club banger.

There’s also a remix by the mysterious new act Cunt Traxxx, in a “vogue house” style, but you’ll be hearing more about them right here in the very near future. For now, here are the tracks for your earholes:
 

 
If you want to purchase any of the “Work It” remixes, hop over here.

The original version of “Work It” is available on my mixtape AKA, which came out last year. You can hear it, and download the whole tape for free, at my Bandcamp page.

And here’s a video I put together for the track, featuring footage from our annual Vogue Brawl party, where only the most fabulous and fierce survive, and everybody is made to werrrk it…

THE NIALLIST “Work It” (AKA album version)
 

 
You can follow The Niallist on Twitter:

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Notes from the Niallist #2: Tranarchy in the UK


 
I ended my first Notes from the Niallist column by mentioning the collective I am a co-founder of, and performer with, called Tranarchy.

Frankly, it’s Tranarchy that has been taking up most of time, and distracting me from mining the cultural coal face for Dangerous Minds. But that’s the trade-off I guess, as Tranarchy is helping to create the diamonds people discover under all that dust.

As the name would suggest, Tranarchy is a drag-and-trans-heavy collective interested in subverting, and commenting on, normative gender roles. I know that all sounds very serious, but Tranarchy is dedicated to putting the fun first, and letting people discover the message for themselves, without having it rammed down their throats. There’s just too much hectoring in this world already, and not enough people willing to lead by example, i.e. living the life they want to live regardless of what society says. Sniff all you like at the supposed frivolity of drag queens and the “feminine” aesthetic, as historically has been the case with male-dominated, straight society, but always remember how much guts it takes to flaunt your otherness in public.

Besides the political aspect, however, there’s something almost magical going on with Tranarchy. And I mean “magical” in terms of seeing dreams and desires become a reality. We started the collective just over a year ago, and as we have grown at a surprising rate, we have managed to put on events and happenings that, just 18 months ago, we (literally) could only have dreamed of.

So far, we have hosted Manchester’s first ever vogue ball, called Vogue Brawl (now into its second year.) We’ve held a number of interactive film screenings in the style of the legendary Peaches Christ’s Midnight Mass in San Francisco (Showgirls, Zoolander, Mad Max: The Road Warrior with Empire Drive-In and Abandon Normal Devices.) We have created promo videos and photos shoots for our events that show off much of Manchester’s untapped talent, and these are beginning to get attention in the States and further beyond. Our most popular film so far is the promo for Vogue Brawl 2: Pride Is Burning, which can be basically summed up as “The Warriors in drag.”

The collective is very aware of gay and trans history and we want to celebrate that. We’ve held a few outlaw parties inspired by the original New York club kids James St James and Michael Alig, and documented them in the style of the sadly-missed pioneering NYC videographer Nelson Sullivan.

This is where it gets interesting, though. Our first outlaw party was a reclaiming of the Manchester tram system, which, as anyone who has ever used public transport will know, can get pretty hairy if you stand out in any way. Our last outlaw party was even bigger, in terms of execution and impact. It was an invasion of, and statement about, Manchester’s annual “Pride” festival of gay culture and awareness.

Every year, Manchester Pride is held in the city’s Gay Village and attracts up to 40,000 people, making it one of the flagship gay Pride festivals in the UK. However, the amount of money raised for charity as opposed to the amount of money raised for personal profit has been a major, running issue for a while, as has the fact that a festival celebrating gay visibility, and interaction with the wider, local community, is held in a walled-off compound that charges people to enter.

However, the one thing the Manchester Pride organizers don’t have control over is the large canal that runs right through the Gay Village, and along side Canal St, where much of the festivities take place. So, as a bit of a lark, Tranarchy took a barge down to the Village this year, and crashed the Pride party to perform a few numbers and make a basic point.

We have issued an official Tranarchy statement detailing some of the problems with Manchester Pride to accompany the YouTube video, and here is an extract from that:

Freeing Pride is not an attack on Pride as a party, and it is not just about the fences and the ticket prices. Its about setting Pride free from the businesses and individuals who seek profit before the well-being of our community. It’s about asking what the event is really about, who benefits from it who should pay for it, and remembering why we do it in the first place! Its about asking whats more important; extra cash for an organization reaching out to the most vulnerable among us, or getting to see Steps [90s pop band] one last time before they slip into room 101?

In short, we were all incredibly nervous about pulling this stunt, but it turned out better than we could have hoped. Check out the old voguing queen we encountered at the end of the video, in the Piccadilly basin, which is a well-known cruising ground:
 

 
Our YouTube video channel is here, and for regular news updates, subscribe to Tranarchy on Facebook.

For more info on Tranarchy, and past event pics, visit tranarchy.co.uk.

A much longer piece, detailing the objections to how Manchester Pride is run, can be found at Manchester Pride Investigation.

You can find the Niallist at Niallism.com and on Facebook.

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
I Am The Cosmos: EXCLUSIVE premiere of their album track ‘Lost Rhythm’

I_Am_The_Cosmos_by_Dorje_de_Burgh
 
Ireland has produced some of the best music recently. There is the King of Disco and Performer Extraordinaire, The Niallist (DM’s very own Niall O’Conghaile); the beautiful and brilliant Solar Bears; and now a wonderful duo called I Am The Cosmos.

Since their launch over a year ago, I Am The Cosmos duo Ross Turner and Cian Murphy have been producing their very own distinctive brand of fabulous, soulful, electronic music. They have performed a series of live shows, which brought them considerable interest from BBC radio’s Across The Line music show, and enthusiastic reviews from the music blogs No Fear of Pop, 20JazzFunkGreats and Nialler9.

Recently, Ross and Cian have been putting the finishing touches to their highly anticipated debut album, from which Dangerous Minds are proud to present an Exclusive Premier of the track “Lost Rhythm” by I Am The Cosmos. 

Going by this and their previous single “Yves Klein Blue” Ross and Cian are definitely on to a winner.

I Am The Cosmos photograph by Dorje de Burgh.

Follow I Am The Cosmos on twitter, on Facebook and Soundcloud.
 


I Am The Cosmos - “Lost Rhythm”
 
Bonus tracks plus video clip of I Am The Cosmos, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Exclusive: The Niallist remixed by Egyptian Lover


 
So, did you check the Egyptian Lover interview and set I posted the other (808) day? If not, what is wrong with you?!

Like I mentioned in the article, Egyptian Lover is a bona fide legend, a pioneer of both Hip-hop culture on America’s West Coast, and the TR-808 drum machine (the foundation stone of rap, electro and house music - in fact, it’s an integral part of all electronic music.) If you are in anyway interested in dance music culture and it’s history, then Egyptian Lover, or Greg Broussard to his friends, should loom very large on your radar.

Which is why I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY to announce that Egyptian Lover has produced a remix for my next single. That release is an acid-vogue version of Missy Elliot’s “Work It” that I have performed in my live sets for a long time, and included on my AKA album earlier this year (available to hear and as a free download here).

I still need to pinch myself form time to time to prove that no, I am not dreaming, I really do have a remix from Egyptian Lover. This guy has been a huge influence on my own music and djing, so to actually have him creating a beat and rapping on my track is… hard to describe.

As we say over here, I’m chuffed.

I sent Greg a few quick questions to answer, via email:


Do you still have the first 808 you bought? If so, does it still work
?

Yes I still have the first one I ever bought and 5 more. I absolutely love the sound of it. I even bring one on the road with me to play at all my shows.

Are there any good 808 substitutes (for people who can’t afford the real thing)?

Fruity Loops.

What are your top 3 808-based tracks of all time
?

Planet Rock - Soul Sonic Force
Electric Kingdom - Twilight 22
Computer Age (Push the Button) - Newcleus

The 808 is still going strong to this very day. Who are your favorite modern producers, or djs?

Not too many, I’m old school 100% but I like AUX88, Jimmy Edgar, Jamie Jones, Dam Funk, just to name a few.

You seem to be touring non-stop. How is that going?

It’s a great life when you can see the world, DJ, and get paid for it!!!

What are your favorite places to play?

Paris, London, all of Germany and Barcelona are my favorites

What’s coming up in the near future for the Egyyptian Lover?

A new album 1984 and a big surprise with Stones Throw Records.

Have you ever been to Egypt?

Never been to Egypt but I plan on it very very soon!!!


Now THAT would be a gig to see - Egyptian Lover rocking the pyramids of Giza with his trusty 808. Or maybe on a boat down the Nile on the way to his house. I’ll do a fuller interview with Greg when 1984 is ready to drop, but in the meantime, here is the Egyptian Lover’s remix of “Work It”:
 

   Work It (Egyptian Lover Remix) by theniallist
 

 
The full download release of Work It is coming on the 17th of September through Juno, and I will be uploading more of the remixes (from Hard Ton, Electrosexual, Ynfynyt Scroll and Cunt Traxxx) to my Soundcloud page over the coming weeks.

There’s always music and news updates available at www.niallism.com, and if you’re on Facebook, you can find me here.

As he mentioned, Egyptian Lover’s album 1984 will be coming out later this year on Stones Throw Records. You can keep up to date with Egyptian Lover, and his tour schedule, via Twitter and MySpace.

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Tonight, A DJ Will Save Your Life: An interview with Performer Extraordinaire The Niallist

The_Niallist
 
‘...I’m from an old school that believed that music and musicians could change things - maybe not radically and maybe not quickly, but that the seeds for change could definitely be sown with songs and videos and shows and interviews.’

Niall O’Conghaile aka The Niallist is talking about the music that inspired him to become a musician, a producer, a DJ, a one-man-disco-industry, and a Performer Extraordinaire.

Niall makes music that moves you “physically, mentally and emotionally. Dance music, for want of a better term!” But it’s always been about more than that.

Let’s turn to the history book…

When Brian Eno was working with David Bowie in Germany, he heard Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” in a record shop. Eno bought the single and ran, holding it aloft, back to Bowie in the studio, where he announced, like a pop John-the-Baptist, ‘I have heard the future.’

Niall is part of that future and his musical output is quite phenomenal and brilliant.

But it’s not just music that Niall has made his own, you’ll know him as a star blogger on Dangerous Minds, and perhaps through his work on the blogs Shallow Rave, Weaponizer, Menergy and his site, Niallism.

Niall also DJs / organizes club nights with Menergy and Tranarchy, and is the keyboard player with Joyce D’Ivision. All of which, for my money, makes The Niallist one of the most exciting, talented and outrageous DJ/producers currently working in the UK. Not bad for a boy who started out spinning discs on one turntable at school.

Now, it’s strange how you can spend much of your working day with someone and yet never really know that much about them. Wanting to know more about the extraordinary Niallist, I decided to interview him for (who else?) Dangerous Minds, and this is what he said.
 
DM: Tell me about how you started in music? Was this something to moved towards in childhood?

The Niallist: ‘Yeah, music is something I remember affecting me deeply as a kid. My sister, who is older than me, was a huge Prince fan and naturally that teenage, female, pop-music enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I would read all her old copies of Smash Hits and create my own scrap books from the magazines, even though the bands were, by then, either non-existent or pretty naff.

‘My brother was into more serious, “boy” music, which I didn’t like as a child, but which I really appreciated when I hit puberty. He had a big box of tapes that was crucial to me, even though he didn’t like me borrow them, but he had pretty much all Led Zep’s albums in there, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bowie, The Stone Roses, and I particularly remember him getting a copy of Nevermind when it had just come out, which was a key discovery. That box smelt of Dettol and musty cassettes, and to this day the smell of Dettol still takes me back!’

What were your early tastes in music? What were those key moments when a song a record made you realise this was what you wanted to do?

The Niallist: ‘Well, Nevermind was definitely one. I think that record started a lot of people on a musical journey. But also, I really identified with Kurt Cobain, as he was an outsider in the pop music landscape who spoke up for gay and women’s rights, which really struck a chord with me. He was a man, but he also wasn’t scared of being seen as feminine. He was a pop star, he looked scruffy and spoke with intelligence and passion. He was different. As someone else who was different, and a natural outsider, I guess I saw music as maybe a place where I could fit in and still fully express myself.

‘Call me hopelessly naive if you will, but I’m from an old school that believed that music and musicians could change things - maybe not radically and maybe not quickly, but that the seeds for change could definitely be sown with songs and videos and shows and interviews. Looking back on the early 90s now, it seems like an incredibly politically-charged time for music and pop culture. Public Enemy, NWA, Ice Cube, Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill, The Prodigy with “Fuck ‘Em And Their Law”, Pearl Jam telling Ticketmaster to fuck off, Spiral Tribe, massive illegal raves, Back To The Planet, Senser, Rage Against The Machine, the fact that RuPaul was a pop star, even Madonna’s Sex book and Erotica album for God’s sake! If you weren’t politically active or at least aware back then, you were terribly uncool. That spirit seems to have disappeared from music altogether now, which is sad.’
 

 

 
More from Niall, including his Top 5 picks, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Bang The Box’ mix: 44 808 & 909 tracks in 52 minutes


 
This mix is a bit of a departure in my djing style, featuring as it does hardly any disco (gasp!) and instead quick cuts and layered mixes of drum-machine based tracks. NOLA Bounce, Miami Bass, Chicago House, Detroit Electro… you know, that kind of thing. Mixed fast and constantly moving, this is like aural caffeine. So if you are just waking up, hit play and get energised.

Oh, and can we start the hip-house revival now?

Tracklist [yes, some of these tracks are NSFW]:

BIG FREEDIA - Look At Her
BIG FREEDIA - Azz Everywhere
PRINCE - 1999 (New Orleans Bounce Edit)
MISSY ELLIOT - Joy
SOUL SONIC FORCE - Looking For The Perfect Beat
KRAFTWERK - The Man Machine (live)
NEWCLEUS - Jam On It
EGYPTIAN LOVER - What Is A DJ?
DEREK B - Rock The Beat (Bonus Beat)
RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN - Ain’t Nobody
MC TWIST & THE DEF SQUAD - Just Rock
FUNKADELIC (Not Just ) Knee Deep
SNOOP DOGG Who Am I? (Acapella)
THE NIALLIST Dance Club (Haunted Edit)
THE NIALLIST Dance Club (acapella)
SISSY NOBBY Lay Me Down (DJ Sega Mix)
A GUY CALLED GERALD Voodoo Ray
ADONIS Two The Max
JJ FAD Supersonic
HANNAH HOLLAND Transexual Bass
FAST EDDIE Hip House
HOUSEMASTER BOYS House Nation
PIERRE’S PFANTASY CLUB Dream Girl
AZEALIA BANKS Liquorice
LONE Pineapple Crush
THE 2 BEARS Bear Hug (acapella)
T-TOTAL & FERAL Phearsome Bitch
MASTER AT WORK The Ha Dance (KenLou Mix)
CUNT TRAX Beats Werkin’
THE 2 BEARS Bear Hug (Niallist Acid Mixx)
ELECTROSEXUAL Discolition (Niallist RoboVogue Edit)
STEVE POINDEXTER Work That Motherfucker
CHERIE LILY Werk (Nita’s Battle Ready Mix)
SPANK ROCK Put That Pussy On Me (Diplo Mix)
2 LIVE CREW Throw That D
MURK If You Really Love Someone (Murk Groove)
CAJMERE Percolator
TRONCO TRAX Walk 4 Me
LIPPS INC Funkytown
PHUTURE Acid Trax
DONNA SUMMER I Feel Love
THE NIALLIST Work It (acapella)
SEX BAND I Have Got The Answer
 

BANG THE BOX Mix by Theniallist on Mixcloud

 
As Soundcloud seems to be cracking down on dj mixes and non-creator owned content, I am migrating all my mixes over onto Mixcloud - including the previously DM’d Skool Of Rock, Disco Argento and Disco Argento 2 mixes, and my ‘Best of 2011’ mixtape. You can follow me, The Niallist on Mixcloud, here
 
BONUS!

If you like 808s going boom and some funky dancing in a fly late-80s fashion, then check out Detroit’s The New Dance Show, clips of which have been uploaded to YouTube by the excellent Caprice87. This one is a particular fave, featuring Jesse The Body and some slick mixing (you can see more of these via Shallow Rave.)
 

 

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion