chapter  9
16 Pages

Voodoo Rage: Blacktronica from the North

ByHillegonda C. Rietveld

In 1988, A Guy Called Gerald’s idiosyncratic electronic dance track ‘Voodoo Ray’ (Rham!) entered the sonic spectrum of British house dance clubs and parties, as it was mixed into acid house and techno DJ sets. With a rich pool of musical influences, the northern English city of Manchester offers the particular circumstances that made ‘Voodoo Ray’ possible. Initially a response to the locally developing electronic dance scene, ‘Voodoo Ray’ spent 18 weeks in the UK charts, reaching number 12 on 8 April 1989 (Official Charts Company, 2013a). It re-appeared ina sanitised production format as an album bonus track, ‘Voodoo Ray Americas’ (CBS, 1990), and has been deconstructed and remixed by various DJ-producers to suit the DJ-styles and tastes of different dance floors in the US and Europe.1 In the mid 1990s, as London’s electronic dance producers were in the grip of the ragga-rave aesthetic of jungle, the track was reincarnated as ‘Voodoo Rage’, a drum’n’bass track on the acclaimed 1995 album Black Secret Technology, independently released on Simpson’s own label Juice Box, which touched the album charts for one week at 64 on 1 April 1995 (Official Charts Company, 2013b) before falling into obscurity until its remastered revival in 2008. In addition to remixes, the (sub)cultural capital that ‘Voodoo Ray’ has amassed over the years has led to multiple re-releases. In 2012, a small bohemian pizzeria in Hackney, London paid homage by being named ‘Voodoo Ray’. As Bill Brewster claims, ‘Voodoo Ray defines an era’ (Brewster, 2010). Not only does this track signify the acid house era within the British popular imagination, it also functions as an important crossroads that connects a range of black British life-worlds articulated through reggae, hip hop, jazz funk, electro (funk), post-punk electronica, house music and techno.