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Italo House

Italo House

Italo House Music Description

         Italo House is a form of 'House music’ that originated in Italy. It was mainly popular in Italy, the U.K., and the United States in the late 80's to early 90’s and has since become more popular all over the world. This style of music originally blended House music with the Italo Disco sound, hence the name ‘Italo House’. The main characteristic of this musical genre originally was the use of samples, especially female vocal samples over a House groove that was predominantly ruled on some tracks by electronic piano chords. Taking influences from the early Chicago House hits of the late 80s.

Typically the vocals used in most Italo House tracks where sampled from early U.S. Freestyle and House tracks, such as ‘Listen Up – Listen Up’, ‘Darcy Alonso - Waited so long’, ‘Kristol - Passion of a woman’ & ‘India - Dancing on the fire’ etc. The music also featured male & female raps, or sections of raps which were lifted from Hip Hop or Hip House acapella’s from around the same time. They also sampled the big vocals from Disco Diva's such as Aretha Franklin, Jocelyn Brown, Loleatta Holloway, Patti La Belle and Seidah Garrett.

Samples came from various acapellas from tracks such as:- Aretha Franklin - Rokk-A-Lott / Jocelyn Brown - I’m Gonna Get You Boy / Loleatta Holloway - Love Sensation. These powerful vocals would usually be used for the chorus, sometimes even not making much sense, due to the Italian musicians and producers at the time not understanding English very well. A prime example is the use of Loleatta Holloways ‘Right on time’ vocal, used in the 1989 No.1 hit by Black Box called ‘Ride On Time’.

In most cases the Italo House sound makes use of a melodic repeated piano chord progression, diva vocals, a 4/4 beat with a tempo of around 120-122bpm. During this time, Italo House musicians, producers also featured acid sounds within their music and ventured as far as producing Techno, some producers also incorporated the exciting piano sound that had now become the basis of Italo House within some of their Techno releases.

The best known example of Italo House, as already mentioned is ‘Ride on Time’ by ‘Black Box’. Black Box, along with the ‘FPI Project’, Media Records ‘Cappella’ and the ‘49ers’ made the genre very popular in the late 80's and early 90's with their very uplifting songs.

The original name ‘Italo House’ slowly drifted away around 1991 / 1992 and it later became known as Italian-House, especially in the UK, but the sound stayed the same ‘happy and euphoric’ pioneered essentially by the production stable of Discomagics Severo Lombardoni and Media Records Gianfranco Bortolotti. The latter carrying on the Italo House sound well into the mid-90s, whose alter egos included Cappella, RAF, East Side Beat and the 49ers to name but a few. The music produced in Italy dominated the British dance charts and clubs of the very early 90s (1990/1991) with songs like:- Asha – JJ Tribute / DJ H feat Stefy – Think About / Pierre Feroldi – Movin Now / Last Rhythm – Last Rhythm and Jinny – Keep warm, all expressing a happy vibe & atmosphere.

Probably the most well known Label and Distributor of the Italo House genre would have to be Discomagic Records in Rome, which had many subsidiary labels that featured Italo House music. This was by far the largest italo Disco / House / Dance record label in Italy at the time and was run by Severo Lombardoni. This label along with Media Records set the standards for an entire genre of music.

In 1991, artists such as K-Klass, Bassheads, Love Decade etc. all created excellent House music that incorporated piano chords that was typical of the time when Italo House ruled the Northern UK House music scene. DJs such as Sasha championed the Italo House sound and featured the genre heavily within his sets. Clubs like Shelley’s, the Hacienda and Legends where also well known for playing Italo House in 1990 and 1991 with Legends being well known for playing more of the obscure Italo House.

           To this day Italo House music is collected far and wide by keen, avid record collectors, all chasing that illusive Italo House / Italian-House track/tracks with some costing the buyer £100 +. These fanatics of Italo House have become known as ‘Italo House Aficionados’.

House Music


The History Of House Music

Origins of the term

The term “house music” is said to have originated from a Chicago club called The Warehouse, which existed from 1977 to 1983. Clubbers to The Warehouse were primarily black, who came to dance to music played by the club’s resident DJ Frankie Knuckles, whom fans refer to as the “godfather of house”. Frankie began the house trend by splicing together different records when he found that the records he had weren’t enough to satisfy his audience. He would use tape and a knife to accomplish this. After the Warehouse closed in 1983, the crowds went to Knuckles’ new club, The Power Plant. In the Channel 4 documentary Pump Up The Volume, Knuckles remarks that the first time he heard the term “house music” was upon seeing “we play house music” on a sign in the window of a bar on Chicago’s South Side. One of the people in the car with him joked, “you know, that’s the kind of music you play down at the Warehouse!”, and then everybody laughed. South-Side Chicago DJ Leonard “Remix” Roy, in self-published statements, claims he put such a sign in a tavern window because it was where he played music that one might find in one’s home; in his case, it referred to his mother’s soul & disco records, which he worked into his sets. Farley Jackmaster Funk was quoted as saying “In 1982, I was DJing at a club called The Playground and there was this kid named Leonard ‘Remix’ Roy who was a DJ at a rival club called The Rink. He came over to my club one night, and into the DJ booth and said to me, ‘I’ve got the gimmick that’s gonna take all the people out of your club and into mine – it’s called House music.’ Now, where he got that name from or what made him think of it I don’t know, so the answer lies with him.”

House was the first direct descendant of disco. In comparison with disco, House was “deeper”, “rawer”, and more designed to make people dance. Disco had already produced the first records to be aimed specifically at DJs with extended 12″ versions that included long percussion breaks for mixing purposes. The early 80s proved a vital turning point. Sinnamon’s “Thanks To You”, D-Train’s “You’re The One For Me”, and The Peech Boys “Don’t Make Me Wait”, a record that has been continually sampled over the last decade, took things in a different direction with their sparse, synthesised sounds that introduced dub effects and drop-outs that had never been heard before.

Early Mixing Techniques

Early producers and club DJ innovators such as Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, DJ Ron Hardy, and the Hot Mix 5 played a major role in evolving Disco into early House Music, forever shaping the modern dance scene. Club DJs began exploring mixing and beatmatching records, applying editing techniques, playing narrative DJ sets, and experimenting with innovative ways to overcome the limitations of the DJ equipment in those times. Many of these DJs helped merge the roles of DJ, composer, producer, and remixer by creating and playing their own edits of their favorite songs on reel-to-reel tape. Some even took the music to the next level by mixing in effects or using drum machines and synthesizers which introduced the consistent 4/4 tempo. Disco quickly became a global fad, particularly after featuring films such as Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Commercialization lead to an explosion of club culture, and the record companies were looking to cash in on the popularity. Record labels would hire club DJs to bring their expertise to the studio as a helping hand to create music they knew would hype the dancefloor, and because they already had a direct connection to the dancing public. They often supervised studio-recording sessions as well for other artists and bands. In addition, record companies began commissioning remixes in an effort to help break and popularize artists through the underground channels of discotheques.

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Disco Sucks Movement

In the late 70s, Disco quickly fell out of fashion almost overnight largely due to attacks from anti-disco DJs across the country. In addition, record companies had flooded the market with Disco songs. One of the most memorable and extreme anti-disco rallies was ‘Disco Demolition Night’ at Comiskey Park, July 12, 1979. Anyone who brought a Disco album to the double-header game between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers would be admitted for only 98 cents. During the game, radio personality Steve Dahl detonated a large collection of Disco LPs in an explosion on the field. Soon after, major record companies scaled down or eliminated their dance music production divisions.

Disco’s decline was steep. Aletti remembers working at a record label around that time, and his entire department getting renamed: “We became the dance music department. Disco became a dirty word.” Renaming disco didn’t kill it, of course. Donna Summer still had hits, as did Michael Jackson, Lipps, Inc. and others. But an era had ended. By July 1981, the new wave magazine Trouser Press noticed disco had caught on amongst the English bands that would soon dominate the newly-created MTV. “I hate to break the news, but disco isn’t dead yet,” wrote Robert Payes in a Spandau Ballet review. “It’s just changed owners.”

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House Music is Here to Stay

House Music is here to stay and will continue to evolve and develop new subgenres with the help of globalization, emerging technology, and cross-genre influences. There is much more to the story, explore more of the rich and controversial history of House Music watching this great documentary.

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