Electronic music pioneer and 'First Lady of Detroit techno' Kelli Hand has died at 56

Aug 4, 2021 at 10:45 am
click to enlarge Kelli Hand aka K-Hand, who paved the way for Black women in the techno industry, has died at 56. - Screen grab/YouTube
Screen grab/YouTube
Kelli Hand aka K-Hand, who paved the way for Black women in the techno industry, has died at 56.

Hailed as the "First Lady of Detroit techno" and, later, officially named by Detroit City council as the First Lady of Detroit, DJ and producer Kelli Hand, aka K-Hand, has died. She was 56.

Detroit-born, Hand has been credited with paving the way for Black women in the male-dominated dance and techno music industry and is hailed as being the first woman to release an electronic music record before techno grew into an international fascination. In the 1980s, Hand started immersing herself in New York's club scene where she also worked at a phone company and, eventually, began getting her feet wet as a formidable force behind the decks.

"I pretty much was frequenting Paradise Garage in New York, for the most part," Hand told Metro Times in 2015. "There were a few clubs in Chicago. After frequenting Paradise Garage so many times I wanted to buy the records because I loved the music. So the next step was, I got to play these records in order to hear them," she said. "That led to purchasing a couple turntables which also led me to DJing in my own bedroom and to do a residence at Zipper's Nightclub."

By the 1990s, Hand had proven herself a force and founded UK House Records which was later renamed Acacia Records, reportedly after a street in Detroit. There she released her 1990 debut EP, Think About It, which found Hand (whose DJ moniker was selected to leave her gender ambiguous) collaborating with techno greats and founders of the Underground Resistance Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Mike Banks, along with Mike Clarke. Her first studio record came in 1995 and, up until a month ago, Hand was continuing to release mixes, boiler sets, and new tracks, and EPs.

Hand was slated to perform in London later this month.

"When I started, there were no cell phones, no computers," Hand told Metro Times. "We were using the caveman style back then! Now, everything is so convenient. Computers are supposed to solve problems, so it's a lot more easier to get things done — although we have to watch out for crashes now," she said. "It's amazing how the industry has grown and continues to grow. It's not going anywhere at all."

No cause of death has been revealed but has been confirmed by friends and family on social media, as well as by the Guardian.

"You leave us with an inspirational Detroit music legacy," Detroit and New York techno stalwart Mike Servito posted on social media, just one of many tributes made by Hand's peers and fans alike, some of which can be read below.

Watch K-Hand do what she did best below.

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