“The First Lady of Detroit” Kelli Hand, AKA K-Hand, has died. Close friends of the house and techno pioneer confirmed the news today on social media, with her cause of death yet to be made public.
Her historical career spans three decades, and she’s been responsible for producing some of electronic music’s most impactful cuts, and using her innate, intuitive ability to fill dancefloors across the globe.
In 2017, the city of Detroit officially named her “The First Lady of Detroit”. As mixmag note, during her awarding of the city’s Testimonial Resolution, the city referenced her “skills within a male-dominated industry” as being a reason for her nomination.
She founded UK House Records, which was later renamed to Acacia Records after a street in Detroit. She would then spend decades filling the label’s catalogue with her own works, collaborations, and select works from other artists such as Wamdue Kids, Hiroshi Morohashi, and Davina Bussey.
Her first EP on the label was titled Think About It, from her Etat Solide alias.
She also released works on seminal labels such as Warp Records, Tresor, and !K7 Records. The latter put out her debut album On A Journey in 1995. It was the first time the label had put out a full-length release. Notably, she was the first producer from Detroit to release on Warp Records, who have since grown to become one of the biggest and most revered labels in electronic music.
She was a master of rhythm and composition, flickering between soulful cuts and jagged techno with ease in her own works, and this ethos translated smoothly into her DJ sets.
She performed at some of the world’s most notable clubs and festivals, including Movement Detroit, Paris’ now defunct Concrete, Berlin’s Berghain and Tresor, London’s Village Underground, and even here on home soil, at Melbourne’s Revolver.
Her last visit to Australia was in 2019, where she performed at Astral People‘s Winter Dance at the UNSW Roundhouse.
The tributes have been pouring in on social media from prolific DJ’s and producers such as Mike Servito and Tommie Sunshine, among others.
Listen to her debut record On A Journey below.
Mad respect for Kelli Hand. We finally met in London of all places a few years ago. Those Acacia records; she was pioneering! You leave us with an inspirational Detroit music legacy. Thank you. Rest eternal, K-Hand pic.twitter.com/wmxyn3EtXK
— Mike Servito (@mikeservito) August 4, 2021
K-Hand was the 1st female House/Techno producer I ever heard of. she was sweet & spent lots of time in Satellite Records Atlanta when I ran that in the 90’s. wicked producer & great DJ; she passed away & may her glorious Detroit legacy live on as she traverses The Great Beyond. pic.twitter.com/U7ms7tGcVB
— Tommie Sunshine (@tommiesunshine) August 4, 2021