A brief look back at New York’s legendary house scene

Friday, 30 June 2017
The tale of House music begins – as so many these movements do – with an explosion of multiculturalism and the birth of a counter-culture.

New York was home to people from a huge variety of backgrounds, and this led inexorably to a new style of music which incorporated elements from hispanic, african, and caribbean musical stylings. There was room for everyone in this House, welcoming of people from all backgrounds and sexual orientations. Here’s a look back at some of the pioneers, and some of the golden years.

There’s probably nowhere else to start in the New York House scene than with Larry Levan. The man is rightly a hero of the scene, and his sets at the Paradise Garage became famous: bass that rumbled in waves like thunder trying to play Grandma’s footsteps, and samples that stretched to every genre under the sun. The venue was liberating and exhilarating and most of all just fun. That sense of pure liberation and fun spread throughout clubs in the city, changing the lives of many living there, whilst making it seem to all those outside the scene like the only place to be, an impossibly exotic Mecca for dance music.


From Levan, the movement spreads pretty seamlessly to Todd Terry. Terry was playing clubs in New York for a few years without much success, until his output took off in a big way in the UK. Terry kept on playing the NY scene, introducing elements of contemporary Hip-Hop which began to change the way that house was being made, but it wasn’t until the late 80s that he was properly established in the US. Fittingly, one of his first major tracks was ‘Weekend’, a track formerly remixed by Larry Levan himself.


From two masters at work to two more: we’ve reached the point in our tale when Louie Vega and Kenny Dope step on the stage. Longtime friends and collaborators of Terry’s, Masters at Work acted like a gear-shift on the New York House scene. Mixing in nods to their Puerto Rican heritage to classic House beats, Nuyorican Soul was born; a shapeshifting, genre-bending sound which took hold of club dancefloors and churned out hit after hit, Dope and Vega’s trademark sound truly changed the face of modern dance music. And we get to see it up close and personal at Groove Odyssey in just a few short weeks.


We’ve taken a narrow view here, of course: the scene encompassed so much more than the artists we’ve discussed. There really was something for everyone during that period, coupled with an inclusive and open culture which encouraged creativity and innovation. We can’t wait to bring some of that time back on a sunny London afternoon in August.