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EDM is more than drugs

| Sunday, January 26, 2014

Last February, Ryan Raddon, the Chicago-based DJ better known as Kaskade, wrote a blog post titled “No One Knows Who We Are,” in response to an Los Angeles Times article which highlighted many of the dangers of drugs and what they dubbed as “electronic festival culture.”

In his writing, Raddon called the Times out for painting a negative picture of electronic dance music (EDM), of factionalizing it into an “ecstasy-fueled underground … leaving a trail of dead, drug-addled kids.” While he wrote about the advancements the EDM scene has made in ensuring safe venues and highly stimulating local economies, Raddon went on to address an even higher topic: the culture of the genre.
For those who have been to music festivals, you share with me that memory of closing your eyes, taking a deep breath and knowing that life can’t feel much better than the pure and organic joy of that moment. Any song can trigger this emotion or, better yet, a meager and mildly-reduced sample of it, but only through the act of closing my eyes can I ever fully feel it in my chest.
Mainstream media has not taken the issues of drug-related deaths lightly, and rightly so. However, to paint an entire genre’s picture as one solely contingent upon an illegal substance is both criminal and a fallacy. Firstly, what does “EDM” even mean? A list of popular touring DJ’s? Is it defined by venue, its audience or what its audience wears?

There is no standard way to define this “genre” because it isn’t one. It’s the malleable and evolving composition of a certain reproduction of the exuberant and wild experience that is our humanity. I don’t even know if that sentence makes sense but it just feels so right. It’s the only way I could ever describe what this music is. It’s common theme, I believe, is that it isn’t the words which drives its fanatics to assemble by the hundreds of thousands. It’s the beat. That beat is palpating, lively and, I would argue, the drug itself.

The moment you are able to match your own heart’s beat to the one a producer has assembled for you, you’re able to share and express it with the world. You don’t need a substance, just the music, just the dance.
In his closing, Kaskade dispels the myth of a community hinging on drugs by proclaiming, “This community is exceptional in its ability to bond all types together, and I am not exaggerating when I say it saves lives. Our audience is intelligent and kind, discriminating only in regards to which sound they like best.” And any fears about his relevance should be dimmed by the two Grammys he was nominated for.
We’re afraid of the unknown. We demand to know that we’ll be safe. Besides the basics of your physical safety, I would challenge you to step outside that box. Don’t be afraid to tune your frequency to one higher than the one you dance to now. Besides, you never know how tuned in you really are anyway.

Contact Karla Moreno at [email protected]

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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