God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines [Tribeca Review]

God Said Give 'Em Drum Machines image

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines, directed by Kristian R. Hill and written by Kristian R. Hill and Jennifer Washington, charts the origins and come up of techno music. Usually, white people receive credit as the creator of any endeavor, while the actual creator lives in obscurity. God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is an informative, fascinating journey through musical evolution with the pioneers in techno who crafted the sounds we still hear and bop to today. The roots begin in Detroit, where young Black men played with sounds through their love of science fiction and started the sound known as techno. 

History and Credit Is Essential

The documentary looks at the present popularity of DJs and points out that the most popular DJs are white Europeans. Even more galling, some view older white DJs as the progenitors of house, techno, EDM, etc. Unsurprising since, as God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines states, and many already know, white people appropriate and repackage Black people’s creations. We see this in real life with Jalaiah Harmon’s dance for K Camp’s “Lottery,” white TikTokers who did not credit her tweaked and performed. They performed at shows, sporting events, and the like without being the creator of the dance. This documentary sets the record straight. 

As DJ and producer, Seth Troxler says in God Says Give ‘Em Drum Machines, Detroit techno soul is something that is “inherently American and inherently Black.” The Great Migration, where millions of Black people moved from the south, brought together diverse sounds. Plus, the growth of techno came with the development of devices to make music, particularly the drum machine. Drum machines and synthesizers allowed for experimentation with sounds, and anyone could create music. There was no need for a studio with violins, guitars, or drums because people could make those sounds with these devices. 

Techno DJs, The Machines and The Clubs

God Said Give 'Em Drum Machines image.
God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines image. Courtesy of Tribeca.

The inventor, who paved the way for techno, Juan Atkins’ first device was the MS-10 synthesizer. He created drum kits, hi-hats, and snares. Juan Atkins took inspiration from sci-fi and technology. There are interviews with other pioneers in the industry, including Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter, Derrick May, and Eddie Fowlkes, along with producers. There is a lot about techno music that I did not know, and I enjoyed this eye-opening documentary. 

Another aspect that made me happy was their acknowledgment of the LGBTQIA community. The Black community creates a lot of styles, fashion, dances, art, and music. But many trends owe themselves to the Black LGBTQIA community in particular. Plenty of DJs then played their music and got their starts in gay clubs. 

White People Acknowledge In Black Spaces

God Said Give 'Em Drum Machines image of DJ at a club.
God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines

They also discuss white DJs in spaces that Black people created. Some do not mind, but others acknowledge whether the white DJ means harm or not does not matter. Others view white people as the authority once they appear in a space. Also, they receive more opportunities than their Black counterparts. That builds resentment, especially if that white person takes up space without acknowledging, supporting, and pushing for recognition for others. 

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is an entertaining, informative look at the pioneers who began the beloved techno music genre. It looks at the conflicts and disagreements with honesty but focuses on educating people about how it started. From the creators to the drum machines that ushered the innovative sounds, the importance of giving credit where it is overdue is never wrong.  Though disjointed at times, it is important for these stories to be told again and again, and I hope to see another documentary and films and techno music’s origins, not a one and done.

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