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You Better Work!: Underground Dance Music in New York City (Music/Culture) Paperback – 18 Aug 2000

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Boston Phoenix"

"New York City readers will surely enjoy his tales of a thousand and one club nights at the Tunnel, Mars, Twilo, the Garage, and the Palladium, where we find such dominant turntable masters as Junior Vasquez, David Morales, Little Louie Vega, and Danny Tenaglia working and creating." "Boston Phoenix""

About the Author

KAI FIKENTSCHER holds degrees in jazz performance and composition from Berklee College of Music and Manhattan School of Music, as well as in ethnomusicology from Columbia University. When not teaching music courses and lecturing on topics in expressive African American culture, he works in New York City as a music producer, freelance guitarist, audio consultant, and sound technician.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent tour of the scene - erudent and accessible 28 Nov. 2000
By Eric Laursen - Published on
Format: Paperback
There's amazingly little "serious" literature on the NY underground dance scene, even though it's been around for decades and now has counterparts all over the States and all over the world. There's not even that much non-serious, vapid stuff about it, either, in fact. So Fikentscher's book really merits the worn-out phrase, "essential reading," because it explores all aspects of the subject in a serious but accessible way: the origins in the disco era, the gay-black-latin interrelationships, how form and function and venues combined to produce a distinctive music, the various outsized personalities, the "quality of life" campaigns that periodically threaten to squash the scene, etc.
The author is obviously conversant with all the critical-theory tools and concepts that help to illuminate this kind of subject, and he uses them well here, yet he's produced a book that the average scenester (if there is such a person) could read and would probably approve of (the pomo academic dream come true, I guess).
Anybody with even a mild interest will find this book engrossing (I picked it up and couldn't stop), and I suspect that even long-time insiders will learn a few things. Kudos to Fikentscher for producing something this good on such a fascinating, diverse world.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kai better work!! 14 Dec. 2001
By E. Kipling BRITTON - Published on
Format: Paperback
You Better Work! Underground Dance Music in New York City, by Kai Fikentscher
Of the recent works of word or image dedicated to the spirit of the New York Underground, You Better Work! stands alone, in my opinion, as the first to conduct a thorough, scientifically sustainable analysis of a subcultural phenomenon whose rarified nature made it heretofore nearly impossible to grasp, save from within. Other works can speak of history and its major players with unquestionable authenticity, as does Mel Cheren's Keep On Dancin'. Fikentscher's offering, however, proposes an exacting dissection of Underground Dance Music (UDM) properly placed in the sociocultural time-space continuum and described with academic accuracy, all the while remaining reverently connected to the magic of the specific dancefloor experience that gives UDM its singularity.
UDM, and the invisible universe it materializes around itself and its dévotées, present a unique quandary to the academically-inclined thinker. UDM is at once quite quantifiably tangible in its elements and techniques, yet undeniably metaphysical in its manifestation and effect. The scientist's dilemna, then, is to draw the black-and-white line of academic discipline around the grey frontiers of a shadow world. Without an initiate's third eye, the accomplishment of writing this seminal work for the students of a nascent discipline would have been unattainable.
The advantage of being both an academic pioneer and a subcultural insider allows Fikentscher to paint his complicated picture within the perfect frame of reference-namely the sociocultural and (importantly) religious experience of gay African- and Hispanic-American men-as can only one who knows the subject matter firsthand. This "mind over market" approach means, in practice, that notions of musical immediacy and method of consumption are solidly deconstructed without minimizing the importance of context and real-time interaction in analyzing the deconstructed parts. The relevance and insight of such a study is only more poignant now, after the near-demise of UDM's vanguard subculture (and, subsequently, of its home city) in the last decade and the present resurgence both of community and dancefloor spirit within, as well as mainstream curiosity surrounding New York's gay underground of colour.
Both Fikentscher himself, and the roadmap through the history and psyche of a people-within-a-people that he painstakingly and respectfully lays out in You Better Work!, are special gifts to the academic world at large, and particularly the literati of the Underground. You Better Work! is the definitive comprehensive treatise for those academic minds that can bend around the deep afterhours disco and house beats of the New York Underground. It will be required reading for ethnomusicologists everywhere, and should be studied by all those who profoundly want to understand why club life is as essential to the Big Apple as its subways.
E. Kipling BRITTON
New York City, November 2001
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and Insightful 13 Jan. 2007
By D. Brown - Published on
Format: Paperback
Kai's work is a rarity in ethnomusicology; it's accessible, entertaining, and enjoyable to read. His inclusion of 12 inch singles, top UDM charts, DJ and equipment photographs, in addition to his on personal exposes in relationship to the house scene in NYC make this study a rarity within a discipline full of bickerings over authenticity, theoretical concepts and musical hierarchies. "You Better Work!" is a rallying cry for aspiring musicologists and music fans alike. If you danced during this period, it'll bring back those sweet memories of Mr. Fingers, Frankie Knuckles, Ru Paul, Acid and the like.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It reads like a textbook. 18 Mar. 2009
By Chicken Fries - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is informative, but it's a dissertation and reads like one.

I'm only 30 pages into it and it's a bit exhausting for me. If you don't mind the formality, then it's a good book. For example:

"Here, I am concerned with disco as a concept denoting a particular performance environment in which technologically mediated music is made immediate at the hands of a DJ, and in which this music is responded to via dance by bodies on the dance floor. "

He could have wrote that he is "interested in disco in terms of how the DJ's music makes people dance."

But it's a, it is what it is. I'm enjoying reading it. But I have to read some lines more than once.
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Reference in Underground Dance Music 2 Jun. 2006
By Delmar Browne - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a book that's an excellent reference for Underground Dance Music in New York City, then "You Better Work!" by Kai Fikentscher is great reading!
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