Maestro. Regi: Josell Ramos USA 2002. Språk: engelsk. Tekst: utekstet. DCP, 1t 29min.
In the history of popular music, disco and dance culture generally get a raw deal when it comes to talking about of social change. Sure, some massive changes happened in the Sixties, but to paraphrase Nile Rodgers, the Seventies was when people started to enjoy their new social freedoms. It was an age that saw huge breakdowns of race, class, sexual and social boundaries that were not just confined to small social groups, and much of this was down to the disco and party scenes.
Maestro, a 2002 documentary by director Josell Ramos, tells the story of the legendary New York club, Paradise Garage, and its equally legendary resident DJ, Larry Levan. Levan is often cited as being the best DJ of all time, particularly by some of the most popular DJs in the world, and the music he played at his club spawned a whole genre named in its honour. The Garage’s cultural and musical legacy has been global, influencing some of the world’s best known nightspots, but Maestro is also careful to explain where the roots of the club and the world that developed around it lay – in the seminal underground New York nightspots of the very late Sixties and early 70s.
Many of the characters still left standing from the era are interviewed in the film. Among these is David Mancuso, whose own private loft parties kick-started the dance scene and gave birth to the modern idea of clubbing. Frankie Knuckles of Chicago’s Warehouse (the birthplace of garage music’s broodier twin house), reminiscences on his close childhood friend Levan with stories that are both funny and sad. Most moving of all, respected DJ and remixer Francois Kevorkian remembers how the AIDS epidemic swept through his social circle killing many of his friends and decimating the party scene.
Featuring holy grail archive footage, Maestro unlocks the basement door to early underground club culture. Ultimately, the film conveys to the viewer that the music that Levan, Mr. Mancuso and many others developed was never really about lyrics or tunes, but about the relationship between sound, rhythm, emotion and the body, programmed into extended trips that produced an ecstatic communal release.