How Soulful Is Soulful House?

At present, there is a major debate happening on social media, in chat rooms, in pubs, in clubs, at weekenders and around dinner tables. The big question is: how soulful is soulful house?

I heard a brilliant anecdote from a woman the other day. She’s been on the soul, disco and jazz-funk scene since the seventies. She loves great music and she loves people that can dance!

She was asking my opinion of soulful house and I said, “I like some of it!”

She said, “How are they going to dance with a beer in each hand?”

This confirmed something I’ve been suspecting for ages: a lot of house people have joined the soul scene.

Soul, disco, jazz-funk and boogie people always came for the music. Yes, they liked a drink or two, but the music was always more important. They would certainly never bring their drink on to the dance floor! How can you dance with a drink in your hand, let alone two drinks!

The house scene has always attracted ordinary bods because four-to-the-floor music is easy to dance to. You don’t really need to shimmy, swivel or have any moves; you can just sway, bounce or nod your head. Of course, there are lots of great dancers on the house music scene, but it does tend to attract a lot of people who like the experience: the lights, the pyrotechnics, the volume, the highs, the theatre. And a lot of these ordinary bods are not natural dancers, so they need two pints (at least) to get out on the dance floor!

House music was created in the mid-eighties in the black, gay clubs of Chicago, Detroit and New Jersey. The gay community never stopped loving disco and boogie, and house music was a harder version of that four-to-the-floor soul music.

House music was originally very soulful. It all began with Inner City, Frankie Knuckles, Ten City, Kym Mazelle and Adeva but, later on, when ordinary bods got involved, house music lost a lot of its soul.

Suddenly, house music was no more and the new genre was ‘dance’, which meant that anything with a four-to-the-floor beat (pop, rock, electronic, whatever) was dance music.       Some of this dance music was FAR from soulful and, for the first time, there was a huge gap between soul/R&B/hip hop and dance music. David Rodigan was having trouble programming Helen Baylor next to Shut Up And Dance.

One day, Danny Rampling complained that he didn’t like ‘rave’ and ‘bleep’ music, and I said to him, “They’re your children, Danny!”

Soulful house brings the two camps together again. The soul people love it because the songs and the singers are soulful, the house people love it because it’s four-to-the-floor (and DJs love it coz it’s easy to mix!)

The only problem that arises is the balance between soul and house. If a dish has too much salt or pepper or chilli or coriander, it can ruin the meal! With soulful house becoming so popular, there are a lot of wannabe chefs waltzing into the kitchen thinking they can cook!

Thankfully, the Mi-Soul DJs sort the good from the bad, and only give you the best!

So, in answer to the question: how soulful is soulful house? Well, in the hands of five-star music-maker, it tastes good! Real good!

Lindsay Wesker presents The A To Z Of Soul every Saturday from 1-3pm. Listen back via Mixcloud.

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