Aluna Defines Diversity for Dance Music: "Until the party is as fun as it can be for all different types of people, I won't be able to stop"
For electronic dance music artists of color, gaining a seat at the table shouldn’t be an issue. After all, the roots of house music and techno are in the Black communities of Chicago and Detroit. However, out of necessity, representation and equity remain topics of discussion within the industry, especially within the festival circuit. Just take a look at mainstream, large-scale dance music events, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of artists of color represented on the rosters. This fact hasn’t gone unnoticed, particularly by renowned singer-songwriter Aluna.
“When I started looking at all the challenges I face being a black woman making dance I realized I wanted to do more than just create a space for myself,” Aluna penned in an open letter to the dance music industry last year. “I want all black people to know that the genre of Dance is their heritage and they should feel included and encouraged to create under that banner by expanding the genre to be culturally and racially inclusive.”
Aluna is currently performing at American and Canadian clubs on the Diskotek tour to further her mission: to give people of color access to dance music culture. Regarding the tour, Aluna tells EDITION, “I wanted to do something to take this opportunity to start at the birth of dance music, which was the club. I want to bring my brand to those clubs because my brand is really about finding freedom in places where we feel like that's not accessible.” Historically, dance music and club culture served as a form of escape from societal biases heaved on marginalized groups during a time when standing out as “different” wasn’t embraced.
“I do feel like being a Black person navigating the world, one of the main factors is feeling locked in, either locked in by people's ideas of you or locked out of things. So, places where you can access inner freedom directed by yourself and your relationship with music are always super important and top of the list for me,” Aluna adds. “There are not enough spaces created for the Black, brown, and LGBTQ community to enjoy themselves reflected in that music on the dance floor. I suppose mainstream situations will always have underground, but I don't expect every person of color to have to want to seek out the underground or stay in the underground just to access dance music.”
Next year, Aluna will host Noir Fever in New Orleans. The festival is the first of its kind to feature an all-Black lineup of artists rooted in electronic music culture. The festival, which consists of live music, panels, and activations, aims to highlight Black artists’ contributions to the scene and history along with LGBTQ+ performers. Aluna states, “In the wake of George Floyd and also when I wrote that letter to the industry, one of the things I did was turn to my Black ravers and seek them out on an individual basis. What I take full credit for is having a dream and talking to my Black ravers about what that dream would look like.” Thus, the Noir Fever concept results from Aluna and the Black ravers she met via social media. “I literally DM’d individual ravers and asked them if they wanted to join a support group to connect us because I felt like what was always happening is that isolation,” Aluna says. “Every time one of us started the Zoom with a story about having gone to a festival regularly as a Black person, everyone cried. Then, we started to discuss what we want for the future of dance music and, the eventual ideal future is not segregated obviously. It's a festival that has every diverse person – Black people, white people, brown people, Asian people, LGBTQ, and non-binary. In my philosophy, in order to get there, there is a balance to be created. There are examples to be done. There are firsts.”
In furthering dialogue and, most importantly, creating inclusivity and equity in the music industry, Aluna has also joined Diversify The Stage. This nonprofit organization, founded by Noelle Scaggs of the band Fitz And The Tantrums, pledges to create equitable opportunities for underrepresented groups in the entertainment industry. “It’s very natural and normal for people to go to a festival and see that everything is white, from the people who are creating it to the people performing to the people enjoying the festival. I think we do sometimes need examples of the complete opposite because you will see more similarities than you'll see differences. Then, people will see what they were hungry for as well,” Aluna says. “It’s hiring a diverse production team – from the sound engineers to the people building the stage to the bookers and promoters. So, that's what Diversify The Stage is really focusing on. Eventually, we want the shiny, fun stuff of having a diverse lineup.”
Though Aluna’s mission is to drive change in the dance music world through her artistry and the launch of Noir Fever, her “future ideas of the festival are not all-Black,” she mentions. “When we were discussing with the rave group, our solution and our end goal were not to have Black festivals. It’s a stepping stone. What we want is to all be together, but in order to get there sometimes, you have to put yourself out there with a very, very clear, and easy-to-understand example of what needs to be included,” Aluna says. “I would say that you could just take Noir Fever and just pop it back into any mainstream festival, maybe split up that lineup into two different stages. If a mainstream festival was unable to put the people that I put on my festival into their festival, when their festivals have like over 100 slots, there is something wrong because it was quick to write down that list.”
Despite the challenges that have come with being a Black woman in dance music, Aluna says the love of the party keeps her passion aflame. “Until the party is as fun as it can be for all different types of people, I won't be able to stop. I did a show the other day and there was one group of people, and I was like, ‘This is this what I'm talking about.’ It was almost like they had like one of each – one Asian, one Black person, one white person, and a gay person. I was like, ‘What are you, like a Noir Fever example?’ And until all the parties look like that, I'm going to keep tooting my horn and showing people how much fun it is for us all to be together.”