Kelli Hand, also known as K-Hand — one of the most important pioneers of Detroit techno — has died. Her passing was confirmed by friends on social media accounts on the evening of August 3rd. The cause of her death is not yet known.
Her work as both an artist and label boss over the years led her to be dubbed The First Lady Of Detroit Techno, and in July 2017 she was awarded a Testimonial Resolution certificate by Detroit city council, listing her “many accomplishments in the male-dominated industry of electronic music”.
Kelli was born in Detroit, and grew up in the Michigan city synonymous with the development of techno music. Some of her early clubbing experiences were at New York’s Paradise Garage and Chicago’s Muzic Box, and back in Detroit she caught the electronic music bug and started her own label — originally named UK House Music — for her early productions.
Initially assisted by Detroit stalwarts like Robert Hood and Mike Clarke (Agent-X) for the production of her debut ‘Think About It’ EP — released under the name Etat Solide. She also collaborated with Claude Young under the name Rhythm Formation for some early releases — setting herself up to become an important figure in the second wave of Detroit techno as the 1990s unfolded.
In 1990 she changed her label’s name to Acacia Records, named after a street in Detroit. She also had some early releases on Belgian label Global Cuts.
By the mid-90s, she’d broken through internationally, releasing the influential ‘Global Warning’ EP on UK label Warp in 1994, and her debut ‘On A Journey’ album on German label Studio !K7. She also appeared in the pack on the first DJ-Kicks trading card game produced by !K7 ,as a promotional tool for their newly-launched DJ mix series in 1995 — one of only a handful of women to do so.
Over the years, Kelli developed a particularly close relationship with Germany, the European country most closely associated with Detroit techno. She played in Germany numerous times, released several albums on the Ausfahrt label, and in 2001 her ‘Detroit-History Part 1’ — 15 of her own raw, jackin’, acidic cuts — was widely acclaimed.
More recently, she developed a working relationship with Nina Kraviz’s трип label, and in 2017 recorded a podcast for Dekmantel. Her recent Boiler Room set, again composed almost exclusively of her own productions, also brought her skills to a new generation.
The international dance community paid tribute to Kelli on hearing the tragic news
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
RIP K-HAND, one of Detroit's best. pic.twitter.com/iIBlYNpQBW
— Warp Records (@WarpRecords) August 4, 2021
Thank you for blazing the trail for women in music. Very sad newshttps://t.co/OV9USuEufa
— Nightwave (@iamnightwave) August 4, 2021
— Ransom Note (@ransomnoted) August 4, 2021
Quite shock to hear that K-Hand has passed. I had the chance to meet her a couple of times, she was such a character. Thanks for all the bangers, and for paving the way for (black) women music producers, in the techno world. Rest in Power, Kelly. https://t.co/JB0o361QFe
— rRoxymore (@Rroxymore) August 4, 2021
This is so sad. RIP K-Hand Detroit Legend https://t.co/eJzfWATNfi
— ♬ $UZI ΛNΛLØGUΣ © (@suziAnalog) August 4, 2021
(Photo: K-Hand at Tresor in 1997, G.V.Horst)