This Memorial Day weekend, techno music comes home to Detroit. Techno's futuristic sound was nurtured by African-Americans in Detroit in the 1980s, but today, most of its audience is in Europe. Except this weekend, techno fans will swarm to Detroit for the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival.

Wills Glasspiegel reports on Detroit's lesser known export.

WILLS GLASSPIEGEL: In the late '70s, a DJ in Detroit named Electrifying Mojo put something on the radio that had never been heard before.

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GLASSPIEGEL: It was Jimi Hendrix plus Phillip Glass, Kraftwerk plus Rick James and The B-52s on a spaceship.

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GLASSPIEGEL: Mojo's sci-fi persona dominated Detroit's urban radio. The pieces he assembled became the raw materials for techno. And Juan Atkins is often called the first techno artist.

Mr. JUAN ATKINS (Musician): And it was just a natural progression for me to make futuristic music.

(Soundbite of song, "Alleys of Your Mind")

CYBOTRON (Music Group): (Singing) Alleys of your mind, of your mind, of your mind. Paranoia right behind, right behind, right behind, right behind.

GLASSPIEGEL: In 1981, Atkins was 19 years old and technology-obsessed. He co-produced "Alleys of Your Mind" on a rudimentary drum machine.

Mr. ATKINS: Yeah. So Mojo, man, dropped "Alleys of Your Mind" on his radio show, and it just blew up. Nobody knew that this was some black kids from Detroit making this record. Man, they thought it was, like, from Europe.

GLASSPIEGEL: Through Mojo's radio show, the alien sounds of techno piqued the interest of Detroit natives, but the music's largest audience was quickly established in Europe.

Mr. CARL CRAIG (Producer, DJ): I'm fortunate because I exported my business. If I kept it in the U.S., we would have failed a long time ago.

GLASSPIEGEL: That's Carl Craig, one of techno's biggest ambassadors.

In addition to making music, Craig runs a record label that he started two decades ago in Detroit. Last year, they shipped nearly 20,000 vinyl records out of the city - 70 percent went to Europe, where Craig is a star in Berlin and Paris. But in Detroit, his profile, low-key; his studio, an anonymous bunker near a slew of abandoned buildings.

Mr. CRAIG: I mean, you go around the block from here, and there's buildings that are, you know, the windows are blown out. They've been abandoned for 30 years. My music has always been, for me, a personal beautification of Detroit.

GLASSPIEGEL: He's not the only one to sense possibility in the rubble. There's a small but steady stream of techno tourists that visit Detroit. Nicole Staggg(ph) hosts visitors through the website couchsurfing.com.

Ms. NICOLE STAGGG: We've had, like, several people that have come from, you know, Germany and mostly from Europe, but specifically for the techno scene here.

GLASSPIEGEL: They come to see the abandoned factories where parties happened and to visit Detroit's techno landmark Submerge.

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GLASSPIEGEL: The Submerge building houses an iconic label, studios, a techno museum and a record shop on Detroit's east side. Label manager Cornelius Harris says Submerge defies negative trends in Detroit and in the music industry itself.

Mr. CORNELIUS HARRIS (Label Manager, Underground Resistance Records): The key with being able to function in Detroit is not to look at what it is but to understand what's possible and to move from that place. People in music do it all the time. They do it every day, which was always amazing to me that you've got this thing that just doesn't exist and you bring it into existence. That's the definition of magic.

(Soundbite of song, "Falling Up")

GLASSPIEGEL: That's "Falling Up" by local artist Theo Parrish. It could be a metaphor for Detroit. Parrish is a torchbearer for his city's music, but he hardly ever plays there. His regular gig is at a club called Plastic People in London.

For NPR News, this is Wills Glasspiegel.

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NORRIS: And at nprmusic.org, you can hear 10 songs that define Detroit's techno sound.

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