A Tale of Two Cities: The Detroit Roots of Movement Torino

A Tale of Two Cities: The Detroit Roots of Movement Torino

Though separated by over four thousand miles – the bulk of which is made up by the Atlantic Ocean – the cities of Torino (also known as 'Turin' to non-Italians) and Detroit, MI, have a strong cultural bond. 

Firstly, it's worth noting that both cities share a history of being important hubs for the automative industries. Detroit was home to Henry Ford's first assembly line, which would pave the way for mass automobile production and earn it the much-used moniker 'Motor City'. Similarly, in the 1950s & 60s Turin's booming automobile industry (particularly the production of the Fiat car) was crucial to Italy's post-war development, and it consequently became known as the 'Detroit' of Italy. In 1998, Detroit and Turin were officially 'twinned' as sister cities for their shared industrial feats. 

A Ford industrial plant

The Fiat Lingotto Factory

Perhaps it was its diplomatic and industrial tie with Turin that paved a smooth path for it to send another of its biggest cultural exports: techno. Charting the beginnings of techno would require another article in itself, but this short film by RA as part of their Real Scenes series is an engaging and informative reflective piece on how the city birthed what soon became one of the most popular forms of electronic music of the past three decades. 

In short, techno was a kind of mid-80s, post-industrial evolution of Chicago house (which had itself grown from disco music) that had a particularly futurist interest, with early pioneers such as Derrick May, Kevin Sanderson, Juan Atkins (together making the 'Belleville Three') and Jeff Mills finding inspiration from the revolutionary sci-fi sounds from acts such as Kraftwerk. It was a distinctive product of a city defined by its suddenly defunct industrialism, and so again another line was drawn between Detroit and its Italian sister.

As techno began to spread all over the globe, notably Germany and the UK, and started to lose its synth-pop and more soulful influences for more hard-hitting and industrial elements, the genre began to warp, spread and spiral into a complex, many-sided shape. Regardless, Detroit was the unanimously accepted birthplace of this underground phenomenon, and a celebration was in order.

In 2000, Pop Culture Media, a collective of promotors and entrepreneurs worked together with DJ Carl Craig to debut Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) on Memorial Day in the city's riverfront Hart Plaza. The event was free, and featured sets from an unbelievable list of legends including the Belleville Three, Richie Hawtin, J Dilla, DJ Rolando and Craig himself. Despite a slow and rainy start, the festival finally brought crowds of all ages and demographics; though the exact number has been contested, it is accepted that around one million people came to Hart Plaza for DEMF. 

In the years that followed DEMF continued to grow, riding the wave of success of its debut to effortlessly attract press and sponsorship offers. Bureaucratic disputes and power shifts behind the scenes meant that ownership of the festival changed hands and names across that period, with Derrick May creating Movement in 2003 and Kevin Saunderson Fuse-In two years later. Importantly, Movement returned in earnest in 2006 with the backing of production company Paxahau. 


Movement Festival has continued to occupy Hart Plaza ever since, staying true to its roots as a techno event but inclusive of other boundary-pushing acts from the worlds of hip hop, jazz and electronica. 

But Movement's 2006 rebirth was significant not only for the Motor City, but for Europe too. Going all in, it was time for Movement to live up to its name and push a moment of Detroit to its Italian counterpart. Two years ago we spoke to Movement Turin's founder Maurizio Vitale after the event's tenth anniversary, where he told us: "The legendary Detroit event is what inspired us to start Movement in Turin, and I believe Turin now has all the right cards to flourish in the entertainment industry: the locations are extraordinary both architecturally and historically, and the warmth and support of Italian techno fans is undeniable."

Unsurprisingly, then, Movement flourished in Turin. As this collection of aftermovies shows, the event grew steadily into a cultural institution with mesmerising production that reflected developments in technology – a core tenet of techno. In 2016, the event was recognised by the European Commission and awarded official patronage.

On October 31st Movement Torino returns to Lingotto Fiere – what was once one of Fiat's mammoth factories, a relic of the city's industrial roots. It's an apt place to pay tribute to techno, and strengthen the bond to the city that conceived it. 

Movement Torino takes place on 31 October 2019 at Lingotto Fiere, Turin. Tickets and VIP Experiences are available in limited supply here


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