|Cultural origins||1970s, Northern Italy|
|Typical instruments||synthesizers • drums • percussions|
|Derivative forms||Space Disco, Sueño Latino|
In music, the terms Afro, Cosmic Disco, the Cosmic sound, free style, and combinations thereof (Cosmic Afro, Afro/Cosmic Afro-Freestyle, etc., as well as Afro-Funky) are used somewhat interchangeably to describe various forms of synthesizer-heavy and/or African-influenced dance music and methods of DJing that were originally developed and promoted by a small number of DJs in certain discothèques of Northern Italy from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. The terms slow-motion disco and Elettronica Meccanica are also associated with the genre.
The Afro/Cosmic mixing style is freeform in that it allows for short hip-hop style transforms as well as long, beat-matched segues; it sometimes incorporates added percussion and effects; and it permits major speed variations to force songs into a 90–110 BPM range. Baldelli would also play 45 RPM records at 33 and vice versa. The Cosmic Sound included a very diverse range of musical styles, from electro and funk to jazz fusion and Brazilian music. Peter Shapiro described Baldelli's music as a "combination of spaced-out rock and tribal percussion." "the Cosmic Sound," One genre that was usually not part of this mix was Italo disco, which Baldelli believes was generally too mainstream and commercial. In a 2005 feature on Daniele Baldelli, one of the style's founding DJs, music journalist Daniel Wang describes Baldelli's style as “psychedelic, churning, hypnotic.”
The sound is psychedelic, churning, hypnotic — not at all frenetic or purely electronic. Metallic klangs glide over a slowed-down afro-percussion track. A train noise over a beat is mixed continuously with a funky guitar riff and then with a synthesizer composition (Jean-Michel Jarre?). Flangers and equalizer effects are applied, not like the overexcited tantrums of a modern DJ, but rather methodically and with deep feeling, changing the texture of entire passages, as if we are gently passing from a radio show through a train tunnel back to a great concert hall.—Daniel Wang, Daniele Baldelli interview in Discopia #3
In the interview, Baldelli emphasizes playing diverse selections of classical, African and Brazilian folk, and synth-pop at improper speeds, mixed with effects and drum machines:
To explain to you what I was doing… For example, I used to play Bolero by Ravel, and on top of this I would play an African song by Africa Djola, or maybe an electronic tune by Steve Reich, with which I would mix a Malinké chant from New Guinea(sic). Or, I would mix T-Connection with a song by Moebius and Rodelius, adding the hypnotic-tribal Izitso album of Cat Stevens, and then Lee Ritenour, but also Depeche Mode at 33 instead of 45, or a reggae voice by Yellowman at 45 instead of 33. I might mix 20 African songs on top of a Korg Electronic Drums (machine) rhythm pattern. I would play a Brazilian batucada and mix it with a song by Kraftwerk. I would also use synthesizer effects on the voices of Miriam Makeba, Jorge Ben, or Fela Kuti, or I would play the Oriental melodies of Ofra Haza or Sheila Chandra with the electronic sounds of the German label SKY.—Daniele Baldelli, Interview in Discopia #3
Cosmic music has been cited as a "touchstone" for contemporary "space disco" artists like Lindstrøm collaborator Prins Thomas and Andy Meecham of Chicken Lips. It has also been cited as an influence on some later Italian house songs, such as Sueño Latino.
Cosmic, Cosmic Disco, or the Cosmic sound derives from Cosmic Club; referring to the sound of that venue. As such, the term is principally associated with Baldelli, who makes a claim to its invention.
Afro is Loda’s term for 1. his selections from African-influenced disco, soul, funk, and jazz fusion genres; 2. his selections of alternative and experimental dance music that typically comprised the first hour of his sets; 3. his general mixing style; and 4. a 1982–1984 series of his mix tapes. In recent interviews, he has suggested a preference for the term freestyle rather than Afro, and he makes a distinction between Cosmic and his style, claiming that Cosmic music is the sound of mid-1980s and later pretenders, is a misnomer popular only outside of Italy, and isn’t even a real genre.
Baldelli claims that during his military service around 1984, there was a “guest” DJ who became famous playing Baldelli’s selections at Cosmic Club. Baldelli's protégé, Claudio ‘TBC’ Tosi Brandi, performed at Cosmic Club around that time, as did Beppe Loda.
Loda counters that no one person invented the genre and style of mixing; he says he coined the term Afro in 1979 to collectively refer to the eclectic, African-influenced music that he and other Northern Italian DJs were playing at the time, and later applied it to the integration of Baldelli’s electronic style with his own.
The liner notes of a mid-2000s Cosmic Club tribute album featuring Baldelli uses both Afro and Cosmic in reference to the music.
Founding clubs and DJs
Discothèques to which Afro/Cosmic's early development is attributed include the following:
- Kinky Club in Manerbio, Italy (1973–1978) – primarily funky disco
- Baia degli Angeli (Bay of Angels) in Gabicce Mare, Italy (1974–c. 1979); closed and reopened as Nephenta (c. 1979) – primarily "disco-funky"
- Cosmic Club in Lazise, Verona, Italy (1979–1984) – Cosmic (primarily New Wave/pop/industrial/electronic)
- Le Cupole in Manerbio, Brescia, Italy (1979) – primarily funky disco, proto-Afro
- Bisbi in Pavone del Mella, Brescia, Italy (1980) – primarily funky disco, proto-Afro
- Good Moon Leno, Brescia, Italy (1980) – primarily funky disco, proto-Afro
- Typhoon in Gambara, Brescia, Italy (1980–1984, 1985–1987) – Afro
- Chicago in Baricella, Bologna, Italy (1979-1987) – primarily funky disco, Afro
- AfroDylan in Coccaglio, Italy (1993-2011) – primarily a new style of "Afro"
- la cometa dancing in piobesi torinese,torino italy - (1975-1995)
DJs to which Afro/Cosmic's early development is attributed include the following:
- Bob Day and Tom Sison (‘Season’) from New York (Baia degli Angeli, 1974–1976)
- Claudio ‘Mozart’ Rispoli (Baia degli Angeli, 1977–1978)
- Daniele Baldelli (Baia degli Angeli, 1977–1978; Cosmic Club, 1979–1984)
- Beppe Loda (Kinky Club, 1973–1978; Le Cupole, 1979; Bisbi, 1980; Typhoon, 1980–1984; Cosmic Club, late 1984; Chicago, 1985; Typhoon, 1985–1987)
- Claudio ‘T.B.C.’ Tosi Brandi
- Fabrizio Fattori
- DJ Brahms
Regional variations and gatherings
In 1983, Austrian DJ Enne & Stefan ‘Cosmic-Dieter-Bohlen’ Egger after hearing the music in Italy, brought it to the club Galaxy in Innsbruck, Austria, and at some point introduced it to German audiences while on tour. Beginning in 1987, Egger started mixing it with more straightforward, slightly faster (but still relatively slow) dance records of the day. His style, once dubbed Eben Cosmic Music by Hannes Alshut & Rob Neureiter, remains popular in Austria and Southern Germany to the present day.
Regular gatherings of Afro/Cosmic enthusiasts have occurred in Germany, Austria, and Italy since the music's early days. Afroraduno, the first such gathering of Afroraduni, took place in Gambara, Brescia (Italy) in 1983.
- Daniele Baldelli - COSMIC: The Original 1979–1984 2-CD compilation + book
- Daniele Baldelli presents Baia degli Angeli 1977–1978 compilation + book
- Daniele Baldelli presents Baia degli Angeli 1977–1978 vol. 2 compilation + book
- Elaste vol. 1 - Slow Motion Disco: Originals from the Cosmic Era, compiled by DJ Mooner compilation
- Typhoon: Portrait of the Electronic Years compilation by Beppe Loda
- Gill, Michael (December 22, 2006), "Beatz By The Pound #31: 2006 Best Of…", Stylus Magazine, archived from the original on 10 April 2008, retrieved 2008-04-21 “Looking over to the blogosphere, the largest hipster tremors came from the rediscovery of the Italian ‘Cosmic Disco’ sound (a mid-tempo stew of balearic disco pioneered by Beppe Loda and Daniele Baldelli)…”
- Segal, Dave (February 20, 2007), "Data Breaker (music reviews)", The Stranger, retrieved 2008-04-21 “Originally championed by Italian DJ Daniele Baldelli, cosmic disco funkily trudges along at about 80–105 bpm, as if Robitussin replaced coke as the producers' and dancers' drug of choice. In these slow-mo dance anthems, every element somehow becomes more dilated and psychedelic.”
- Baldelli's term; Wang 2005.
- Beppe Loda's term, also written Free-Style; no connection to the Latin freestyle genre; Ashton 2007.
- With a hyphen,, slash (Chingas 2007.), or no punctuation (Brewster 2005.)
- Ashton, Simon ‘DJ Baggy’ (November 2, 2007). "New Beppe Loda Exclusive Mix". cosmicdisco.co.uk. Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-05. “…enjoy the latest mix from the master of Afro-Freestyle.”
- Chingas, Johnny (2007-11-28). "Dr. Nishimura Interview". Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-05. “In the following months I heard reports that Chee had now sold his entire ‘Italo' collection and was into the cosmic & afro-funky vibe, being inspired by the early Loda and Baldelli tapes. Hearing several of their Discossession mixes, I realised that the dudes had carved out their own sound, not only citing Italo, Disco and Cosmic, but also added psychedelic, jazz fusion and rock elements into the occasion.” (Nishimura:) “My favorite Japanese DJ is Toriyama from Sendai. He is very young, but the very best in Afro/Cosmic vein in Japan.”
- From the name of a 2006 compilation by DJ Mooner, Elaste Vol. 1: Slow Motion Disco, released on the Compost Records label.
- Campbell 2006. Elettronica Meccanica is the name of a series of mixtapes and planned records by DJ Beppe Loda, and in the interview, he says “Here are some of the artists and styles I like best: …Conrad Schnitzler; Meccanica Popular (the latter two inspiring my Elettronica Meccanica style)…”
- Wang. “The tempo is often between 105 and 110 bpm.”
- Wang. (Baldelli:) “…the music was very slow. I mean, in that period, the music was like 90-105 bpm.”
- Brewster, Bill (2005), "Daniele Baldelli", Wax Poetics (Spring), retrieved 2007-11-06
- Leone, Dominique (February 6, 2006), "Space Disco", Pitchfork Media, archived from the original on 3 May 2008, retrieved 2008-04-21
- Shapiro, Peter (2005), Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco, New York: Faber and Faber, Inc.
- Mylo (June 10, 2006), "Head space goes to Miami", The Guardian, retrieved 2008-04-21
- This quote was also reprinted in the liner notes of the Dirty Space Disco compilation (2007).
- Campbell. (Loda:) “In Italy, until 1982, people used to define music by the club’s name: Typhoon sound (Beppe Loda), Les Pois sound (Daniele Mix), Chicago sound (Ebreo, Spranga and Fari), Cosmic sound (Daniele Baldelli and TBC), Les Cigales sound (Meo, Rubens, Daniele Mix and Joele), Arena sound (DJ Lollo), and so on.”
- Wang. (Baldelli:) “From 1980-84 … My passion and instinct for music drove me to create a sound — some people have called it ‘afro’ music, but this term is incorrect. It’s better to call it the Cosmic Sound, — that is what they say now — the sound that Daniele Baldelli created in the Cosmic Disco.”
- Ashton. (Loda:) “Most people around the world consider me a ‘Cosmic’ DJ but this is not true. ‘Cosmic’ music is a kind of music and also a sort of German collective (founded by an Austrian DJ) with whom I have no connections. In fact, Cosmic Music doesn’t actually exist! Most people outside the Italian borders consider cosmic music a mixture of Electronic/Pop/Progressive and New-Wave which I played during the first hour at Typhoon club. It’s obviously also popular in the Cosmic Club itself. Personally, I think that this terminology is reductive and I don’t like it because the movement which also included Cosmic was much wider and articulated and was more commonly known as ‘Afro’. This movement was based in the North of Italy in the Typhoon disco, a popular meeting point for many DJs and a starting point for new kinds of music, at least until 1987…”
- Campbell. (Loda:) “I think the term Cosmic music (often used outside of Italy) is not the most accurate way to define the melange of electronic/new wave/prog/pop that was very popular here in the 80’s (and which I played a lot at Cosmic and during the first hour of my sets).”
- Tantum. “The Afro sound is sometimes lumped in with the similar ‘cosmic disco,’ another wide-ranging sonic cioppino that was centered around Lazise, Italy’s Cosmic Club in the same era, championed by DJs such as Daniele Baldelli and Stefano Secchi. But Loda disavows any connection (even though he briefly played at Cosmic), or that cosmic even ranks as a genre. ‘I say that the so-called cosmic style doesn’t exist at all,’ he claims. ‘It’s just a completely wrong designation, mainly used outside Italy, to indicate that mix of electronica, new wave, pop and progressive that I used to play at Cosmic.’”
- Wang. (Baldelli:) “Well, at first I was the sole resident DJ, and only after 2 years did we have to bring in another person, because I had military service. But people know that this guy — let’s call him Tibicci — just played records which I chose for him. I don’t know why — well, because I would spend all day in the shop looking for music, stay at home listening to records, and then in the evening I would say to him, you can play this, this record will work for you. He also got a bit famous from doing this, but now, I no longer have any connection with this person. He’s not really a good friend anymore.”
- Campbell. (Loda:) “…each of us would lean more in one direction: towards electronic music, jazz, funk, Brazilian music, African music, reggae, etc. No one had yet defined what we were doing as a group, though. I … developed an interest in African/tribal music. I was very impressed by a mixed (European/African) group of percussionists I saw in Amsterdam. I also noticed the “Afro” hair salons in the Pigalle neighborhood of Paris. Many of us loved and played a lot of afrobeat (Fela, Dibango, Olatunji) and I realized, when you think about it, almost all the music we were playing had African roots. People kept asking me, ‘What do you call this melting pot of music?’ I connected the dots and my Afro series of mix tapes was born. So you see, no one DJ can claim to be the originator of the Afro style. It is the result of the ideas and efforts of a group of DJs. I can only claim to have contributed my part and a general term to define it. My new style of DJing was born at Le Cupole in 1979 and, yes, it was a mix of different styles, but it was not the Afro style as a whole.”
- Campbell. (Loda:) “My short residence at Cosmic would be crucial to what people now call Cosmic music. It was at that time that Baldelli’s electronic style melded with my own Afro style — a term I came up with before Typhoon while playing at Le Cupole in Manerbio.”
- Nishimura. (Loda:) “By 1979, I had started a weird mix of musical genres at Le cupole discotheque at Manerbio and proceeded with such musical proposals at Bisbi and Good Moon … I kept these same vibes at ‘Typhoon’ thereby improving both the proposal and the techniques, and in 1982, ‘Afro’ music got to … success thanks in the beginning, also to a series of my tapes known of course as ‘Afro’. The term ‘Afro’ was born out of the need to define with a single keyword, the mix of various alternative musical genres the other DJs and I used to play in that period. ‘Afro’ is therefore a container holding various alternative musical genres and which well identifies the DJ’s mixed style.”
- Daniele Baldelli - COSMIC: The Original 1979–1984, Amarkord, 2007, ISBN 88-89886-11-0 “All of the trend setters of the Peninsula booked a Saturday evening at ‘COSMIC’, anxious to participate and listen to that musical phenomenon labelled ‘AFRO’. Naturally, even if it is still used today, this term was inappropriate, unless one considers Afro as the only root which influenced the various musical styles of Daniele Baldelli. In fact, even if various periods in the history of ‘Cosmic’ can be distinguished (that of Funky - Disco in the first year to that of Electronic in 1980–82, followed by moments more influenced by Reggae, Fusion, Jazz and Brazil), [here the author clearly borrows one of Baldelli's quotes from the Wang interview] Daniele Baldelli’s Afro style was expressed when he played Ravel’s Bolero overlapping it with a track by Africa Djola, or an experimental piece by Steve Reich on which he would mix a Malinke chant from New Guinea. Mixing the T-Connection with Moebius and Rodelius, discovering in the album Izitso the only hypnotic-tribal track by Cat Stevens, extracting Africa from Depeche Mode by playing them at 33 rpm or vice-versa by creating music using a Reggae voice played at 45 rpm. Mixing 20 or so African tracks on the same electronic drum pattern or by playing them together in batucada with Kraftwerk, using the same electronic effects of a synthesiser to overlap pieces by Miram Makeba, Jorge Ben or Fela Kuti and also by uniting the Indian melodies of Ofra Haza or Sheila Chandra with the German electronic sounds of SKY RECORD.”
- Blanchard, Josh (April 13, 2006), "Astral Traveling", The Stranger, retrieved 2007-11-07
- Paolo Scotti's liner notes for the Typhoon: Portrait of the Electronic Years compilation CD (2008).
- Oldfield, Louise (2002-09-02), "Adriatic for the People", 7 Magazine (DMC Publishing), retrieved 2007-11-06
- Daniele Baldelli - Elevator Ride, Red Bull Music Academy, October 4, 2004
- Wang, Daniel (October 2004), Daniele Baldelli (Cosmic Disco) interview (3), Discopia (published May 2005), retrieved 2007-11-05
- Brewster, Bill (2005), "Daniele Baldelli", Wax Poetics (Spring), retrieved 2007-11-06.
- Brewster, Bill (2005-06-21). "Gianni Zuffa". DJHistory.com. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- Mooner (2005), "Cosmic – Ein italienische Parallelwelt", Elend&Vergeltung (March 2007) (2), retrieved 2007-11-07 (in German); Mooner (2005), Cosmic – An Italian parallel world, archived from the original on 2007-07-24, retrieved 2007-11-07 (in English); also published in Romanian, in the magazine OMAGIU.
- Dr. Nishimura (2006), Interview with deejay legend Beppe Loda (English version; questions 1–7) and questions 8–16; both retrieved on 2007-11-05
- Campbell, Jeremy (2006), DJ Loda (Typhoon/Cosmic) Interview, Tropical Computer System (published August 19, 2007), retrieved 2007-11-05
- de Giovanni, Max (2006-05-20), Italian Discotheque Pioneers, Yahu Pawul (djsportal.com), retrieved 2007-11-06
- Brewster, Bill; Broughton, Frank (2006), Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The history of the disc jockey (Revised (UK only) ed.), Headline Book Publishing (published 2006-05-22), ISBN 978-0-7553-1398-3
- Tantum, Bruce (August 17, 2006), "Puff daddy", Time Out New York (568), retrieved 2007-11-12 and Tantum, Bruce (August 24, 2006), "Fully Loda", Time Out Chicago (78), retrieved 2007-11-12
- Ashton, Simon ‘DJ Baggy’ (March 9, 2007), Typhoon Legend Beppe Loda Exclusive Mix & Interview, cosmicdisco.co.uk, archived from the original on 27 October 2007, retrieved 2007-11-05
- Brewster, Bill; Broughton, Frank (June 18, 2008). "Gianni Zuffa interview". DJHistory blog. Retrieved 2009-02-04.