Most Black Memphians and Mississippians have some cousins “Up South,” which is Chicago. While blues and jazz may have traveled “up river” from the Bayou, the Delta and the Bluff City, Chicago sent house music “down river.” It traveled to us then subsequently across the world.
House (music) was born in the ’80s as the progeny of disco and, in turn, begat many other iterations, including electronic, EDM, dubstep techno and arguably Baltimore house.
Respect your roots guys! And those roots are right on the South Side of The Chi, where Frankie Knuckles landed. (Note: Though Frankie is widely credited as the godfather of house, he got hip to the sound by hanging around Southside legend Remix Roy.)
I distinctly remember house filtering through the neighborhood dance parties because, as I mentioned, inevitably somebody’s cousin was visiting from Chicago. Everybody had a dance routine to “Jack Your Body!”
And, when I lived in New York once upon a time there was always a house set, and cipher (dance circle), to close out the night. Oh man, those kids would go off. It was beautiful to watch people just feel the music deep in their souls and move with it. The movement inspired by this particular music is different. It’s a vibe. Sorta like break dancing, modern dance and creative movement had a baby!
We can’t celebrate #blackmusicmonth without a nod to house music! Though it isn’t as prevalent or available here except in small circles and of course gay clubs (cause Frankie Knuckles!), it is still very much alive, present and beloved. Aside from Memphis House Mafia and streaming platforms, Memphians have very limited access to house music parties or the music itself.
Shango Cooke, or DJ Shang Silk, is the Chicago native that presides over the “House in the Midsouth” set every Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on SCS Radio/88.5FM and he’s one of the curators of the monthly party (in normal times) of the same name. He started the “House in the Midsouth” parties six years ago. It evolved to the radio show a couple of years later, with a rotating crew of GOODLife DJs – DJ Rawhouse, Deadly DJ Kelly, DJ TJ, DJ Dantz King and DJ Brandon.
Today, “House in the Midsouth” has an ever-growing legion, which includes syndicated shows in Des Moines, IA and a soon-to-be-launched show in Clarksdale, MS via the Coahoma College radio station. Good yields growth!
“(House) DJs are really spinning, taking the time to blend. It doesn’t sound like gym shoes in the dryer. These guys can really DJ,” he declares.
And I cosign, as these are facts. Cause sometimes yall…sometimes. I’ll just say this – substance and skill over style. (No shade but shade.)
Last year, Shango and crew produced the “If Beale Street Could Dance” dance/fitness party here in Memphis and to his delight and surprise, people came down to Memphis from various cities.
“It was really unusual. People travel to Chicago or to Atlanta for House in the Park. I was surprised people travelled to Memphis for house music!” They hope to be back next year when the world is right side up.”
So, can we keep the legacy going?
Shango’s answer is a resounding, YES!
“As long as the DJ keeps creating and the producers keep making hits, house music will be around for a very long time.”
For those who are not familiar, want to get familiar or just amp up your playlist, here’s Shango’s Top 10:
- “Liquid Liquid” by Optimo
- “Good Life” by Inner City
- “Jack My Body” by Nick Non Stop
- “Work It Out by” Karizma
- “You Ain’t Really Down vs 119 bpm” by P Sol
- “I Want You For Myself” by George Duke
- “Flowerz” by Armand Van Helden (Also a JD fave!”
- “Everyman” (Joey Negro’s Soul Strut) by Double Exposure
- “Devotion” by Ten City
- “Bad Boy” by Jamie Principle
**Bonus JD Fave:
“Music Sounds Better”/Stardust
(Don’t forget to tune in to 88.5 FM every Friday and Saturday night to get your party started! Follow them @houseinthemidsouth on both IG and Facebook.)