July 7th, 2006

B0009X76ZU.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgTitle: Maestro
Director: Josell Ramos
Date: 2005 (2003)
Format: DVD region 1, NTSC (2 DVD set)
Publisher: Sanctuary
Catalog No.: SAN 35100-9

Considering the history of electronic dance music, cities like New York City, Chicago, and Detroit come to mind. Words like “rave,” “techno,” “house,” “garage,” “dance music,” and “electronica” pop up. It all seems to be loosely related in some blob that we call dance music culture, but how do these words and places come together? How are they all connected?

The film Maestro begins to explore and answer that question. Produced, directed, and written by Josell Ramos, this documentary follows New York City’s underground dance music scene from its early days during the 1970s until 1987 when the renowned dance club, Paradise Garage, closed.  Maestro highlights three prominent, highly influential clubs in New York: Paradise Garage, The Loft, and The Gallery, and legendary DJs at each club: Larry Levan, David Mancuso, and Nicky Siano, respectively.  The film emphasizes the connections that New York’s underground dance scene had to disco, and explores how the DJs of this new dance music created profound, revolutionary sounds. Gay culture and the gay community in New York during the 1970s made up a strong part of this dance music movement.  The Stonewall Riots in 1969 are noted in the film as aiding in the establishment of a number of dance clubs whose clientele was primarily made up of gay men, Paradise Garage being one of them.  African American cultural influences are also emphasized in the film through discussions of the music, DJs, and dancers.

In addition to the hour and seventeen minute documentary, which is full of interviews, and club, DJ, and street footage, there is a bonus disc of extras. This second disc includes footage of Paradise Garage taken during the closing weekend in 1987; an “audiophile look” at sound systems with David Mancuso of The Loft; a look at the making of Maestro; a short documentary on house music in Chicago focusing on Ron Hardy; a piece on Tee Scott, a New York DJ at Paradise Garage; an inspiring segment featuring club dancers; and an interview with Larry Levan’s protégé, Frankie Knuckles.  With the inclusion of these extras, Maestro is an essential for any fan of electronic dance music looking to learn more about its history.

Posted by Denise Dalphond  

Review Genre(s): African American Culture & History,Electronica, Club/Dance Music


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