Detroit and the Rise of Machine Music

The Detroit skyline overlaid on a DJ's switchboard in cool blue and purple tones.


Date: February 4, 2025 - April 30, 2025


311 Abbot
East Lansing, MI

Afrofuturism, a movement that combines African diaspora culture with futuristic elements, has always had a strong connection to sound. Sound serves as a powerful tool for Afrofuturists, allowing them to reshape the universe and create new possibilities. It acts as a technology that captures the Black experience, particularly for those who have been displaced from Africa and have lost their cultural roots. 

By analyzing Afrofuturism through the lens of sound, we can uncover layers of place, community and identity within the movement. Detroit, specifically, has played a significant role in Afrofuturist sound with global known names and unsung heroes using the city’s techno music to document the changing industrial order of the 20th century. Techno’s birth and evolution in Detroit provide a platform for Black perspectives on cultural change, showcasing innovation and critique. Beyond the beats, the sounds of a particular time and place in Detroit serve as a communal archive, transmitting stories of Black existence and contributing to the early foundations of Afrofuturism. 

Dialogue around the origins of techno has been ongoing. For example, in 2023 the New Yorker covered the opening of the Museum of Modern Electronic Music in Germany and questioned whether it overlooked the contributions of Black and queer artists from Detroit to the musical genre. “Detroit and the Rise of Machine Music,” grounded in Detroit’s legacy, highlights the importance of the city and its people in creating and defining early Afrofuturism and capturing the experiences of Black communities in the city. 

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