Dweller Is Giving Black Electronic Artists And Fans The Event They Deserve

For Black clubgoers, attending a music festival or exploring nightlife will more than likely lead to a feeling of isolation from a lack of other Black attendees combined with the absence of Black music. If you’ve found yourself aimlessly pacing back and forth on a crowded, primarily-white dance floor wondering when you’ll hear a familiar artist, you’re not alone.

At Dweller, an annual electronic music festival in New York City, this isn’t an issue. Black DJs and producers are behind the turntables, the talent is curated by a Black woman, and you’ll have a moment to boogie on the utopic dance floor with fellow Black ravers until four in the morning.

For Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Dweller’s founder, booking Black artists at Bushwick techno club Bossa Nova Civic Club led her to co-founding Discwoman in 2014. The collective for women and nonbinary DJs and producers has recently transitioned into a talent agency, but the mission of Discwoman and Dweller remain the same: to welcome more of us into the room.

The purpose of Dweller’s six-day string of events is “to draw attention to [the] lack of spaces in dance music for Black folks, seeing as house and techno was pioneered by Black folks in Chicago and Detroit respectively,” Hutchinson said.

Since 2019, the festival has occurred during Black History Month to showcase Black artists throughout various clubs and venues in Brooklyn and Queens. House, techno, and other electronic dance genres like drum-n-bass, jungle, and disco have roots in Black American culture, and Dweller’s lineup reflects that with artists like R&B artist Liv.e, Bronx producer Kush Jones, and techno legend Robert Hood.

According to Dweller’s blog, their mission is to remain a “Black lighthouse” amid the “isolating whitewaters” of electronic music. “At this time, the authorities controlling this current seek to drown the voices and new structures that can reverse the flow of power back into our hands. We must be vigilant towards persisting as to not just speak for ourselves but redistribute resource, equity, and justice in a space that has long made its worth on the backs of the silenced.”

This year’s six-night run from February 20-25 begins with live performances in Queens at MoMA PS1, a contemporary art institution that frequently hosts community-driven events. And a weeknight isn’t stopping any of the fun. Activities begin on Wednesday night with an educational discussion at Ridgewood club and bar Nowadays on “themes of light, sight, sound, and echolocation as means of organized navigation” followed by an opening performance where it all began: Bossa Nova Civic Club.

Although the winter might keep some folks indoors, at least four of Dweller’s 21 events have sold out and are projected to host hundreds of attendees. From Park Slope’s Public Records to Bushwick’s Paragon, the dimly-lit dance floors are an ideal place to hear an extensive range of music, such as dubstep, jungle, and ghettotech.

But if you’re waiting until the weekend to booty bounce, you may end up at Nowadays during their nonstop party that lasts 24 hours. Whether you’re leaving a late work shift, celebrating after Sunday service, or looking to dance at an unconventional hour, the party will be there. According to Hutchinson, there’s no pressure to stay for the entire duration of the party, but “to get a healthy changeover of [the] crowd which curates a really vibrant fluid environment.”

If you’re not located in New York, you can somewhat enjoy the Dweller experience at home with “Radical Dreams, Underground Sounds,” a collection of 13 films curated by Dweller in collaboration with the Criterion Channel. The recommended feature films and shorts “explore Black musical technology and imagination, and salute the dance floor as a site of Black joy, protest, personal transformation, and ecstatic communal liberation.” For more information, check out their website.