Nadia Ksaiba, one of the key DJ-promoters behind the explosion in retro house and disco in recent years, stepped from the decks into the booth last month, releasing her first 12" for Erol Alkan's Phantasy label. Here, she expounds on her love of the music that came from a city far from her in a time gone by – and why Chicago house touched her so.
The first ever Chicago house track I remember is Lil Louis 'French Kiss', which my best friend had on a compilation cassette tape. Alongside this it featured Belgian new beat and some other early rave tracks and was rearly quite dark. We played 'French Kiss' over and over again, giggling about the explicit sexual nature of the track. I could never place the sound of it; even to my 7 year-old self it sounded so lo-fi and raw. I just remember how amateur it sounded in comparison to my other albums from Madonna, Michael Jackson and New Kids On The Block. Although dance music was around everywhere, with M|A|R|S, Bomb Da Bass and S-Express all putting out records at the time, this was somehow different and I could sense it. I didn't come across this track again until nearly a decade later, when Daft Punk's Homework had got me into house, Teachers was my bible and Basement Jaxx had just released Remedy. House Classics 12" vinyls were on the display racks of HMV, my new friend at college kept telling me indie guitar music was crap and I'd just read Matthew Collins 'Altered State'.
I'd started digging for any 12" record with a dance remix and a slick black man on the cover. This is how I discovered a lot of house tracks from artists like Ten City and KC Flightt. We're talking the early days of the internet here - it was around but hadn't destroyed the consumption of music quite yet. I might have been getting a few Chicago jams through Napster and Soulseek but the next big trigger for me was Channel 4's Pump Up the Volume documentary in 2001, and then came loads more books and more compilation CDs. '80s house music just kept on giving.
I became obsessed with Trax and DJ International and as the Internet was becoming more prevalent, I was able to search for WMBX mixes which led me to the more obscure euro/Fuzz Dance-influenced house or not house tracks from Jes-Say records, Z Factor and Mitchiban. Sites like DJ History and Faith Fanzine appeared and middle-aged men with far too much time on their hands filmed their records and put them on YouTube. Other middle-aged men wanting to downsize their family homes were putting their vinyl on Discogs and through expanding my own record collection I developed an obsession with clubs that existed before me such as Paradise Garage and The Warehouse, having unexplained nostalgic feelings for these magical nights that existed before I was even born.
I developed an obsession with clubs that existed before me such as Paradise Garage and The Warehouse, having unexplained nostalgic feelings for these magical nights
I think one of the main reasons why the later Chicago tracks stand out SO MUCH against any other type of dance music for me is the fact that the majority of this music was made in bedrooms and basements and is genuine in comparison to, for example, Calvin Harris. I don't believe a word he is saying. I can emotionally engage with these tracks as well as want to dance to them, and I also love reading the YouTube comments which document the way this music and those seminal clubs changed people's lives. I often wonder if the people at those clubs had a better time than I do when I go clubbing nowadays, but without that music I wouldn't have gotten into DJing and making my own records.
I'm not going to go too obscure and rare here as these records were flying out the record shops by the truck load and getting into the charts all over Europe, but here are some of my favourite Chicago tracks:
J.M Silk – "I Can't Turn Around"
I have spent years obsessing over the Farley Jackmaster Funk and Daryl Pandy version with my Bootleg re-issue and had heard the tale of it being ripped off from this version which I only came across via YouTube about 4 years ago. I quickly snapped this up on Discogs and only recently rediscovered the original Issac Hayes version. I just love the sound of the synthizers re-creating the real instruments on both Love Can't and I Can't Turn around. I'd not searched for this version before because 'Love Can't Turn Around' has always been one of my all time favourite house tracks.
Fingers Inc – "It's Over" (Underground)
Although known for their defining house track 'Can U Feel It', this is the one for me - an emotional 'Jack Your Body' with vocals courtesy of Robert Owens said to be a response record to First Choices' 'Let No Man Put Asunder'. The Chicago house supergroup Fingers Inc also consisted of Larry Heard and Ron Wilson too.
Risqué Rhythm Team – "The Jacking Zone" (Chicago Connection)
This would probably would have scared the shit out of me if I heard this in a rave. Check out all the Chicago Connection releases - they are incredible and seem slightly more tripped out than the later Chicago labels and sound less 'bedroom' and a bit more slick. Somewhere between a Prelude record and a Trax record.
Bam Bam – "You've Been Messing Around" (DJ international)
So good, I can't even begin to explain why. Check the Farley mix on the b-side too.
Jesse's Gang – "Real Love" (Jes Say Records)
This is Jesse Saunders pre Dance Mania on his Jes Say records, started with Vince Laurence in the golden era of house but not house music. I think this is a mash up of every Chicago idea ever in one record. It's also a collab with my Favourite DJ of the time, Keith Farley. I heard this on an old WMBX mix online and only came across it a few years ago on YouTube. I'm not sure if I hate or love YouTube for this reason.
Virtual Lover by Nadia Ksaiba is out now