The success of the Belgium-based group Technotronic was the surprise story of 1990. Technotronic’s blend of rap vocals and electronic house music seemed a far cry from pop fare until the group’s debut album, Pump Up the Jam: The Album, went gold in sales. Now, thanks to the work of Technotronic’s Jo Bogaert, Ya Kid K. and MC Eric, house music has found its way out of the dance clubs and onto the radio, where some critics say it may pave the way for a whole new era in pop.
House music had its genesis in Chicago in the mid-1980s and spread quickly to other American cities and into Europe. Its sound is more mechanized than melodic, with emphasis on a dance beat and spare vocals. Essentially an electronic creation—tracks from previous recordings, drum machines, synthesizers, and sequencers—house music is unique in its interchange-ability of personnel. This aspect of the music gives the members of Technotronic a great deal of independence—they can work as solo performers, or with other groups, while Technotronic continues to make records.
Technotronic’s creator, Jo Bogaert, told the Detroit Free Press that he sees the band as an open project. “I want it to be open, to get new people involved, to make it a platform for people to try out things,” he said. “I think the whole underground movement in dance music is where things are happening now. I don’t hear that many new things in rock or new wave or whatever. But I do hear a lot of experimentation going on in hip-hop and house. It’s nice to be there with it.”
Bogaert is a former philosophy teacher who moved from the United States to Belgium in order to work as a record producer. His specialty was “new beat,” an amalgam of hip hop and house music that has since been retitled hip house. In 1989 Bogaert began a project called “Pump Up the Jam,” an effort to make a house song that also included elements of rap. “I really wanted to get away from that computerized, electronic, heavy beat and go into something that had more soul in it, another groove to it,” Bogaert said. “To do that, the most important thing was to get a few people involved to do rap and vocals. I wanted to get everything in there together”
Although rappers are not terribly common in Belgium, Bogaert was able to recruit two, Ya Kid K. a young woman born in Zaire, and MC Eric. Bogaert sent his tapes to the vocalists, and they topped them with rap. That might have been the end of it, as far as everyone was concerned, but the resulting album proved uncommonly successful. Before she knew it, Ya Kid K saw a music video of her Technotronic song “Pump Up the Jam” with a model lip-syncing the rap. Ya Kid k promptly engaged an agent who saw to it that she was accorded her rightful place in future videos. However, the album cover still featured the comely model, Felly, causing further confusion.
As Pump Up the Jam, the album, made its way up the charts, however, the confusion disappeared. Ya Kid K and MC Eric began to tour as Technotronic, opening for bands such as D. J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and Madonna. Before long the individuals who had “tossed together” an album for the dance halls found themselves identified as a group—and not just as any group, but as a pioneering act that was bringing house music out of the clubs and onto the air waves.
Bogaert told the Detroit Free Press: “This is the biggest surprise of my life. The only thing I was sure about with ‘Pump Up the Jam’ was it was going to take off in the clubs. To cross over to radio stations and large audiences, I didn’t expect that at all. I think it’s a big surprise for everyone involved in house music, and I just hope it’s going to open the doors wide for everybody.”
A Detroit disc jockey described Technotronic’s sound as “pretty accessible…. The music is melodic and has a nice beat to it. It doesn’t make the pretense of being art. It’s like a regular pop record.” Pretense or no pretense, the Technotronic work is more than just prepackaged, easy-come-easy-go pop music. It is
Group originated in Belgium, c. 1988, as a studio [synthesized] house band with rap and vocals. Original members are Jo Bogaert (producer-songwriter; given name, Thomas De Quincey; born c. 1957, in the United States), Ya Kid ? (singer-rapper; given name, Manuela Barbara Kamosi Moaso Djogi, born c. 1972, in Zaire), and MC Eric (rapper).
Group signed with Clip Records c. 1988, and released first album, Pump Up the Jam: The Album, 1989; group toured as opener for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour, 1990.
Addresses: Record company —, 1750 N. Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028.
computerized and synthesized, but the vocals give it an intimate touch, and the beat shows distinct evolution from the overwrought rhythms of disco.
Other house artists have also discovered the human touch and are blending rhythm & blues, rock, soul, and funk with the dance tracks. Fans in larger English and American cities can even hear “acid house,” a sound influenced by the psychedelic era. Bogaert told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Dance music is often looked on as second-rate. But I think if you go digging, you can find interesting things. There’s lots of experimentation that’s been lost in rock music. The pioneer spirit has been lost.”
Technotronic’s future may rest entirely with Bogaert. Both MC Eric and Ya Kid K plan to record solo albums; they may or may not associate themselves with Bogaert at a later date. The defection of its two vocalists will most likely have little effect on Technotronic—a successful enterprise always attracts talent. In the meantime, Bogaert is enjoying the fruits of his newfound fame. “House music took [a long time] to become popular,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but it’s becoming more and more mainstream. The best years are happening now. Afterward, I don’t know—it may be around for a long time, like soul.”
Pump Up the Jam: The Album, SBK, 1989.
Akron Beacon Journal, December 20, 1989.
Detroit Free Press, March 16, 1990.
Philadelphia Inquirer, March 22, 1990.
Rolling Stone, June 28, 1990.
—Anne Janette Johnson
"Technotronic." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/technotronic
"Technotronic." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/technotronic