D.C.’s Go-Go music explained in documentary ‘The Beat Don’t Stop’
Producers explore how this music, now entering into its seventh decade, has become the undisputed soundtrack of Chocolate City
There is a sound of Washington, D.C. that is loud, funky, rhythmic, and distinctly theirs.
Comprised of live-performing percussions, drums that find their roots in Africa, this sound amplifies one’s existing heartbeat. For the Chocolate City, it is the pulse of Black culture and an indicator that the people are alive — flourishing and free. With gentrification on the rise in the nation’s capital, some people call it noise. But those who understand it, breathe it, dance to it and live by it, they call it Go-Go.
TV One will premiere on Father’s Day, The Beat Don’t Stop, a documentary on Go-Go, exploring its roots, its rhythms and its politics.
READ MORE: Go-Go finally crowned official music of DC
It can be said that music defines the spirit of a city and vice versa.
New York City is the birthplace of Hip-Hop and Electro beats, and many of those styles birthed out of its gritty streets have shaped the way people think about East Coast urban music. New Orleans has Bounce music, which, for better or for worse, popularize twerking. G-Funk, a combination of Pure Funk and Gangsta Rap, is a West Coast creation, primarily based in its Los Angeles roots. Cities help give character to the cultural movement of certain music, either allowing the genre to spread or stay contained.
This documentary helps explore the intersection between Washington D.C. as a location and Go-Go as another layer in the spectrum of Black music. One aspect that it includes is that Go-Go actually predates Hip-Hop and is indigenous to the 1970s Funk movement, drawing occasionally from other musical genres.
As Washington D.C. continues to face gentrification, its new white residents have organized to kill the culture of Go-Go in the city, petitioning to have the music silenced and those that play it curfewed. From an outsider’s perspective, Go-Go music is a bastardization of “real” music, a collection of awful noise, coming from amateur artists and dancers. The documentary explores the challenges that faced the community last year during the very real campaign to silence the sound.
The Beat Don’t Stop gives the viewer a peek into how Black residents organized a worldwide protest, #Don’tMuteDC Movement, fight for the music that has been the soundtrack of Black D.C. for almost 60 years.
As previously reported by theGrio.com, local politicians, musicians, influencers, and citizens banned together taking this fight to preserve Go-Go music to the hilt.
In 2020, a unanimous vote passed to make subgenre “the official music” of Washington, D.C.
Watch The Beat Don’t Stop, debuting on TV One on Sunday, June 21, 2020, at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST; with an encore presentation at 10 p.m. EST/9CST.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!