Archive for December, 2006
Well, it’s finally true: James Brown is dead.
But if anyone’s legacy is certain to be long, it is JB’s.
Who could (re)imagine modern music without the Godfather of Soul —
or future music without the Minister of Super Heavy Funk ?
Long live James Brown.
Loop, loop on.
I still want a hula hoop
Hittin’ the eggnog a lil hard these days? Well, if too much Holiday Cheer® has you in a Houston state of mind, try (again) some reverse-engineered Chipmunks, ever the better to appreciate the deliciously cloying crawl to Christmas —
Ah, but tonight we feast. And that’s nothing but delicious. Seven fishes and all o that. Topped off w/ a slice of rigotta pie. That’s right: riGotta. And the final ‘ta’ is optional, given a good stop on the ‘t.’
(Marshall, incidentally = derived [= ‘mericanized] from Machado [de Portugal, por supuesto]; but that’s beside the point — it’s the Ianellis [paternal grandmom’s people] and Canistraros [maternal in-laws] who’ve carried the trad.)
Merry merry —
Lotsa short days and long nights, e? Feeling Minnesota? Feeling Norwegian more like it. But can’t argue with hot milky rum at 4:30. Not I. Not today.
One disc I been diggin on long drives and city crawls is Mad EP‘s Not Afraid of Spiders, which genrejumps something wicked, only between myriad imaginary genres I wouldn’t quite know how to name. Take, for instance — but do consider copping — two of my favorites:
on some janisjop chopshop, leftfield lowend, post-preemo steelo
“Velvet Pudding Mold”
wherein solo-pseudo-flamenco (?) [via mochipet apparently] spins into some electro on the metro to pluto type of judo (?!?)
happy sun sitting still —
Speaking of getting what’s coming…
- Climate scientist Ben Zaitchik (disclosure: my college roommate), who knows a thing or two about global warming, describes and debunks what he calls “The Negligents” — and probably goes way too easy on Michael “Creep” Crichton, never mind the invaluable, tax-supported “research” being conducted by our gubberment.
- Sociologist Orlando Patterson (disclosure: a member of my committee), who knows a thing or two about freedom, has an op-ed in today’s NYT explaining why the Bush administration and their “neo-liberal (a/k/a neo-conservative)” pushers have pursued a deeply misguided goal in the ME. Unfortunately, the gray lady is hiding the piece behind its Select® wall, so you’ll (prolly) have to read it some other way.
- Finally, tho in a v diff way, Cella deserves what’s coming — ie, some praise — for the fine mixes, spanning the whirls of minimaal and futuragga. (thx for the tip, rip — &nice interview!)
When the NYT prints something like this —
it tends to remind me of,
A bit of an Orwellian experience reading the NYTimes today… theres
an article about Cuban hiphop which says that the festival was
cancelled this year, which is odd because I was there and even
performed during the festival in August.
don’t get me wrong. i read the NYT every day, and not for nuance (tho a little more woulda sweet).
i’m just sayin, don’t believe every thing you read —
Well, it’s that time of year again. According to teh shopping centers, it’s been that time of year for a few weeks now. And I’ve gotta say that I’m as righteously indignant, if not as homicidal, as Junichi that we now find ourselves prepped for shopping season by Chri$tma$ jingles before it’s even Thanksgiving.
It remains a major pet-peeve of mine to hear X-mas muzik outside the Thanksgiving evening – Christmas dinner corridor. Enough’s enough. Which is why I took down last year’s X-mas mix long ago. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone listening in the off-season. But it’s time now. I’ll concede that. And so I point you once again to “Remix-mas” — a Christmas Smashacre of sorts.
I should also mention, tho I hesitate a tad, that I worked on a new seasonal tune recently. You see, I was hoping to contribute a track to DJ BC’s newest comp, Santastic 2: Clausome (which you all prolly saw @ boingboing) — as did my fellow Riddim Methodist, DJ Flack, among others — but, as you’ll hear, my attempt ended up more Charles Ives than Burl Ives. So it goes. I modestly withdrew my submission, and offer it up here — as a warning to those who think a mashup takes no more than a little cheap software and a capricious sense of harmony: find yourself at your mom’s place with nothing but two x-mas mp3s on a new laptop and try to make that work, smartguy.
And now that I’ve built up your expectations, allow me to share,
Have a holly jolly —
Thursday night conversation:
My friend Greg: Wayne’s gonna become a doctor tomorrow.
Greg’s friend Veronica: A doctor of what?
Recent email correspondence:
Prof. Twist: I don’t know why, but “Dr. Wayne” sounds like an FM deejay from 1976.
For the record:
As a “doctor” of “philosophy,” I can confidently say that the discussion on p. 52 is a lot more interesting.
Got a piece in this week’s Phoenix reviewing the latest offerings in Heartbeat’s ambitious Studio One reissue series, running the gamut from ska to dub. Check it out. As usual, see below for the “director’s cut.”
Studio One Love, pt. 2
by Wayne Marshall
Heartbeat Recordsâ€™ Studio One reissue series continues not only to shore up the legacy of Studio One honcho Coxsone Dodd, but to present an expansive, rich portrait of Jamaican popular music more generally.
Ska Bonanza, a 2-CD set collecting 44 songs, offers listeners a wide-lens perspective on the pre-reggae sound of 1960s Jamaican pop. Gaining prominence just as Jamaica gained independence from England in 1962, ska emerged at the same time that jazz, R&B, and Latin dance styles defined cosmopolitan cool from Chicago to Cape Town. Swing was king, even in Jamaica, and many of the islandâ€™s jazzmen played in big bands and on cruise ships, cutting their teeth on Lester Young solos over romps borrowed from Basie. Spurred by Coxsone to record for the local market, ska gave Jamaica’s best musicians a chance to play to hometown tastes, blowing soul jazz style over hopped-up, localized R&B songs, mambo numbers, and movie themes. The music features more elaborate chord changes and 12/8 shuffles than most subsequent Jamaican pop, but the players sway as much as they swing, bouncing nuff 3s against 2s and adding a characteristically Caribbean lilt to that ol’ American push-pull.
For all their localization, many tracks on Ska Bonanza demonstrate a sustained engagement with American and international pop, sometimes in the form of awkward imitations but often in delightful, distinctive funhouse-mirror manner. The many covers of familiar pop songs on Ska Bonanza are fine examples of the cherished tradition of â€œversioningâ€ in Jamaican music: Smokey Robinson gets interpolated, to use the contemporary legalese, as his “Choosy Beggar” becomes Rita Marleyâ€™s “A De Pon Dem,” while the Four Tops’ well-worn “Same Old Song” gets a new set of lyrics and an otherwise remarkably reverent treatment on The Gayladsâ€™ “Stop Making Love.” On the more local side, a young Lee Perry sings a charmingly bawdy bootie tune (“Sugar Bag”), but he sounds downright demure next to the nonnuendo of Jackie Opel’s “Push Wood.” As numerous as the vocal cuts are instrumental numbers, serving as fine vehicles for the sinuous solos of Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook and their woodsheddinâ€™ brethren. There are lots of songs about broken hearts and rude boys and plenty of proto-beatboxing. The collection runs the gamut from inspired anthems to treacly ballads, and while some songs are brilliantly and warmly recorded, lovingly touched-up, and transcendent in form and content, others sound more dated but are valuable nevertheless in providing a good sense of ska style.
Despite its foreign infusions, ska embodied for many a modern Jamaica coming into its own, embodying people’s hopes and dreams in its bouncy, uplifting grooves, cosmo cool, and indubitably local character. As ska gave way to the slower strains of rocksteady a few years later, many heard the music expressing a fading ebullience. But people still sung of Jamaican aspirations and once again the sounds of black America served as crucial symbols. A trio of Heartbeat’s other recent releases help to chart this complex terrain, with collections representing the peak rocksteady and foundational reggae recordings of Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, and John Holt. Under Dodd’s hand and supported by Studio One’s inimitable band, the three singers rose to prominence in the mid- to late-60s. Motown and Memphis figure big on these recordings. Steeped in the Sam Cooke school of soul crooning but with an edge all his own, Ellis’s smooth tenor helped to herald the shift from ska’s forward march to rocksteady’s easy skank. Often featuring Alton’s sister, Hortense, I’m Still in Love with You showcases the Ellis siblings on a solid set of songs about longing, love, and the Lord. Another early star for Studio One, Delroy Wilson got his start as a 15-year-old weapon for Coxsoneâ€™s soundsystem, recording â€œspecialsâ€ to ridicule their opponents. Wilsonâ€™s young start may explain why his soulful turns often sound less self-conscious than those of his predecessors or contemporaries. His take on the Temptations’ “Get Ready,” for instance, shows at once how undeniably original Jamaican versions of American pop songs can be. John Holt has a haunting voice, which seems especially appropriate when heâ€™s singing the sort of over-possessive long songs that were once all the vogue (and now are mercifully rare, if not quite quaint). Not unlike his contemporaries, Holt gives shape to worlds of possibility amid bleak social and political landscapes, and embitterment and disappoint exist alongside celebration and faith. Supported by the Paragons on the cautionary “Change Your Style,” the singer addresses Kingston’s infamous, rebellious youths: “Hooligan business cold,” Holt harmonizes, “Let only love fill your soul.” And he throws in a cover of George Harrison’s famous R&B ripoff (“My Sweet Lord”) for good, mirror-mirror measure.
Although such seminal rocksteady and early reggae recordings would seem sufficient to affirm Studio One’s unique legacy, Heartbeat has gone further in its recent reissues, releasing some heavy, 70s-era roots reggae from the famous imprint. Featuring another Studio One child prodigy, Freddy McGregor’s Bobby Babylon stands as one of reggaeâ€™s stronger albums. Recorded in the late 70s and released at the dawn of the dancehall era, the album sounds at times almost sentimental in its pop-song structures and prevailing plaintiveness, but militant songs such as “Take Over Now,” “I Am a Revolutionist,” and the title track leave little doubt about McGregor’s engagement with historical and social themes–or whether ska really did represent “independence” for the people of Jamaica. The reissue includes a number of bonus tracks, including an extended mix of McGregor’s “When I’m Ready” featuring the talented talkover of Lone Ranger, as both ride the riddim underlying John Holt’s 1970 smash “A Love I Can Feel.”
Collecting 18 bass-heavy, slow-as-syrup cuts–all B-sides, or “versions,” of Studio One offerings from 1966-82–Version Dread may be the gem of the bunch, especially for the â€œmeditativeâ€ listener. Selected from Wilsonâ€™s own prized collection of Studio One 45s, the disc presents Studio Oneâ€™s somewhat restrained approach to the arts of “versioning” and “dubbing” (i.e., manipulating previous recordings with studio technology to create new forms). Less showy than the work of Scratch Perry or King Tubby, the dubs on Version Dread are distinctive and deep all the same. Of course, Studio One possessed an unrivalled catalog from which to version, and here one hears some of reggae’s biggest songs and riddims tweaked and remixed in reverent, subtle fashion. Between Dodd’s expert ears and the sonic magic worked by his indispensible engineer, Sylvan Morris, thereâ€™s plenty of play at hand: sounds tumble across time and space, pinging around the stereofield and spinning off in polyrhythm against beats which seem concrete â€˜til they melt in mid-air; snatches of singers and DJs ghost over hard drums and big bass while echoes of horns and guitars, filtered down to shadows of themselves, lurk beneath the texture and erupt occasionally into focus.
If this is the sound of a legacy, it is one that is rock solid but infinitely malleable, classic but forever modern.
Considering what a solid series it’s been so far, I’m quite proud to present —
Of course, given the all-around excellence of the contributions to date, never mind the massive mix Heatwave dropped on the last installment, I knew I had to rise to the occasion, so I’ve been mixing and remixing this one for a couple weeks now. I even gave it a couple live test runs, first in Boston, then in Chicago, just to see what worked and what didn’t. And I’ve spent the last several days (not entirely, of course) tweaking and tweaking to get it right.
Continuing with the spirit and rhythmic affinities of last year’s crunk genealogy, Blogariddims 11 traces out another crunk genealogy, seeking the common grooves and feedback loops between crunk and clave, reggaeton and ragtime, bhangra and bounce, to name a few.
A warning to the purists out there: I’ve made a great number of edits to this mix. In essence, I’m remixing most of the tracks as they play — blending, cutting and pasting, mashing, smashing, augmenting, and occasionally, briefly, letting them play “on their own” (though even those passages frequently receive some effects). Overall, it’s is a very “hands-on” mix, complete with microedited dembow snares following salsa breaks (but not too many of those). I think it demonstrates (ok, shows off) one way that Live really opens things up as far as crafting mixes goes. Here’s a (squished) screenshot of the final mess:
Before I get into the tracklist and the extra-long explication (as is custom) and all that good stuff, allow me a bit of musical-analytical exposition. For, you see, rather than picking a genre or geographic locus or diasporic focus as the organizing principle of my mix, I’ve settled instead on a rhythmic figure — or a related set of figures — to weave across a variety of genres from a variety of places.
Let’s begin with one of a few recurring figures, the good ol’ 3:2 clave, usually connected to Cuba (via rumba, son, salsa, etc.):
It should be noted that this figure’s flipside, often called a 2:3 clave, also informs song structures in various (largely Cuban-derived) genres:
Now, let’s boil down that clave figure to a half-measure, 3+3+2 phrase for a sec:
This repeating cell, if played with kicks and snares, probably reminds a lot of listeners of dancehall reggae’s classic bomp bomp pattern:
Another common way for it to be arranged in dancehall riddims is kick-snare-snare rather than kick-kick-snare, like so:
At this point, all we have to do is add another kick — on beat 2, creating a steady “4/4″ / “foor-to-the-floor” thump — and we have another common dancehall reggae pattern (esp from the early 90s), not to mention of course, reggaeton’s bedrock boom-ch-boom-chick:
Now here’s an amazing little leap I like to make: if we switch a kick for a snare here and a snare for a kick there — bingo! — we step into the duple-feelin but well-groovin territory of the American South (and the greater US from there), esp southern hip-hop varieties like crunk, bass, and bounce (not to mention plenty of funk, etc):
Of course, to come full circle, we should note that crunk (etc) beats more often stretch it out, Bo Diddley style (more on that below), and essentially play that ol’ 3:2 clave on kicks and snares (preferably from an 808 or its imitators), often with an extra snare (and some hihats!) for — you got it — good measure:
But, although crunk/bass beats often employ a clave in them (shit, the 808 has a chintzy ‘cl’ built right in — which speaks further to this music’s influence), they don’t usually arrange it in a Cuban-esque fashion, but instead employ it in some other polyrhythmic or accented manner. So let me take the clave out so you can hear the bear crunk, as Lil Jon might say inna Jamaican accent (he did DJ dancehall for a spell):
Frankly, though, Lil Jon would probably pitch down the drums a bit more than I have, and prolly drop some out while maintaining that ol’ rumbafied, big 3+3+2 feel (as is also common in a lot of crunk, as well as bass, electro, r&b, and just about anything out of New Orleans) — something, say, like the following, which underpins a great number of his big hits (just hum the synth line of choice):
So that’s how we get from clave to crunk, with pan-carib connects all around. Or at least that’s the rhythmic network ping-ponging ’round my neural network. It’s a (somewhat strict) concept for a mix I’ve been thinking about, and playing with (but not with these tracks per se), for a long time.
A couple years ago, I was calling it “Flexible Accumulation / Acumulación Flexible” and I was conceiving of it as a way to demonstrate the shared rhythmic heritage of the Caribbean, as well as how such culturally-charged forms both influence and resonate with musical-cultural formations elsewhere — from the American South to South America, South Asia to Northern Europe, West Africa to the Middle East. Punning on a term that describes a shift from Fordist regimes of capitalist production to more mobile, global forms (Post-Fordist, natch) — see the links above — I wanted instead to emphasize the flexibility and resiliency of cultural practice in a world of transnational corporations, elites, workers, communities, and flows in general. And so, undeveloped as the underlying ideas may yet be (I’ll leave some of that to you, dear listener), I hear this mix as riffing on the modern world system, Anglo-American imperialism, Latin/Caribbean cultural politics, and post-colonial societies and subjects more generally. ¿Sabes?
But enough of the theory and the method, to the music —
// tracklist //
0. Blogariddims ident (w&w clave edit)
1. Jelly Roll Morton, “Mamanita”
After whipping the ol’ Blogariddims ident into a 3:2 clave (and fake shouting a fake Spanish intro), I bring in a Jelly Roll Morton side. I was struck when listening to a collection of early jazz piano a few months ago by what a Caribbean feel this tune had, what with its rhythm chords often landing on the lilting accents of the ol’ 3+3+2. Morton once (or probably a lot more than that) famously opined that jazz’s essential ingredient was its “Spanish Tinge” — by which he was probably, various have inferred, referring to its inheritance from Cuban music — especially the almighty habanera rhythm — and other forms from Latin America. (The piece is called “Mamanita” after all.) The collection describes it as a tango-informed composition, and, of course, tango is sometimes thought to have been spurred by the arrival of the habanera in Argentina.
What makes it additionally interesting though is it’s connection to ragtime, another genre that likes its 3s against its 2s. The connection here is less about rhythm, tho, than about form: it employs what’s known as “strain form” — e.g., AABBCCADDEE, or the like — which was predominant in ragtime as well as march music a la John Philip Sousa (perhaps one of the earliest truly “global” styles, projected as it was by imperial military ensembles). I’ve cut and paste the piece around a bit, so the form is not as originally played, tho I do preserve the various strains. I’ve also added some dembow accompaniment to bring out the connections between Morton’s performance and the rest of the mix. Hence a new genre is born: raggyton.
I should note, to be clear, that although the first track is the earliest recording (1924, to be precise), this is not a chronologically-organized mix. Indeed, there is no such overarching logic. It proceeds across time and place sometimes according to thematic clusters, which may involve geography, era, or simply some sort of musical correspondence. I do not want to give the impression with any of these “genealogies” that I seek to construct a canon or master narrative of any sort.
2. Percy Mayfield, “Louisiana”
3. The Congos, “Congoman Chant”
“Mamacita” is followed by “Louisiana,” keeping us in the local area, but moving ahead a few decades to a 1952 recording by early r&b crooner, Percy Mayfield (who recently received the reissue treatment). “Louisiana,” which is supposed to evoke the sound of the land — “I was born in Louisiana, / I love the way it sounds,” sings Mayfield — bounces around with that distinctive New Orleans swing. It’s no surprise that this kind of boogie-woogie rubberband r&b was all the rage in Jamaica at the time, overlaying as it does with deep currents in Caribbean music even as it expresses a Yankee urbanity and African-American modernity.
The Congos track serves as something of a segue, a bridge (back?) to Jamaica. As you can hear, primed by them dembows, the drummer — for all his disco borrowings (a nuh no flyers or rockers without TSOP, y’know) — marks out a clear 3+3+2, thus connecting, in direct rhythmic relationship, some heavy roots/dub reggae to modern dancehall — a genealogy that a lot of people find it hard to parse. (You gotta listen through the 80s, duh.)
4. Lord Composer, “Mandeville Road”
5. TOK, “Galang Gal”
6. ??, “Emmanuel Road”
7. Lenky, “XM24″
The Congos track leads us into a mini-set of Jamaican songs, all connected by yet another musical thread, the trad/folk/work/play song, “Mandeville Road (alt. Emmanuel Road).” First, we hear a mento version c/o Lord Composer (named in the calypso tradition, you’ll note) and his Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra (named after where the bread&butter is). Not only does the playing here, esp the solo, relate to the jazz of the day and thus North American sources, a 3:2 clave comes in to confirm a Cuban connection (if possibly via Trinidad, where son was one stream among several, incl jazz, feeding into early calypso). And don’t miss the 3+3+2 bass pattern to boot.
From there we segue into TOK’s “Galang Gal,” which as you can hear riffs off the ol’ folk song to propel a gwaan-gal anthem. Of course, the riddim accompanying the group is the mighty Diwali by Steven ‘Lenky’ Marsden, which, despite distinctive qualities which made it both a sleeper hit and the harbinger of a sea change of sorts — including a more “straight” or duple feel in the first half of each bar, resembling techno/house — resolves each measure with a 3+3+2 turnaround, thus hitting dancehall’s rhythmic signpost. Indeed, a closer examination shows that the structure of the Diwali — 4+4+3+3+2 — is a common one in Jamaican folk music and Caribbean popular music alike. (Think, for instance, of that cliche congo-line accompaniment: dum-dum-dum-dum dum DUM!) Notably, a good number of grime riddims and dubstep tracks employ the same bass/kick pattern, if at faster tempos.
After TOK, we hear a group whose name I can regrettably not locate at the moment (as I cannot find the physical CD). They are featured on the Nonesuch comp, Island Songs and Dances, recorded by John Storm Roberts. To maintain a couple musical threads, I accompany the singing and stomping — ring play style — with Lenky’s “XM24,” a nicely synthed-up version of the Diwali issued as the final track on the Greensleeves riddim comp.
8. Calle 13, “Atrévete Te, Te! (Acapella)”
9. Mannie Fresh, “Bling Bling (Instrumental)”
Letting Lenky’s instrumental continue, I bring in Residente (of Calle 13) to drop some get-out-the-closet rhymes and move us toward some further excursions en español. To augment Residente’s complex, critical, ironic lyrics, I then swap the Diwali for Mannie Fresh’s extra-shiny beat for Cash Money’s “Bling Bling,” which notably features a 3:2 clave-style kick-snare pattern (as demo’d in the exposition above).
10. El General, “Te Ves Buena”
11. Mr. Collipark, “Wait (Instrumental)”
From there, it’s on to El General’s “Te Ves Buena,” which is a remix of his reggae en español hit that appeared on the explicitly experimental, mildly influential, and totally curious Meren-Rap compilation issued by Prime Records in 1991. Notably, the remix gives the song much more of a contemp hip-hop feel, with a snare pattern indebted to funk breakbeats. But there’s also a break at the beginning of the track featuring that ol’ 3:2 clave pattern played on synth-claps (which I looped for some of the accompaniment to “Atrévete Te, Te”). What I like about the track is how much it clearly nods to reggae (check that rumbling bassline and those chunky “chords” on the offbeat), and yet doesn’t really sound like reggae at all. In that sense — being a hip-hop-informed production of a reggae beat made in Puerto Rico — the song is very much in the vein of proto-reggaeton, save for the sampledelia (tho I abhor that term, I haven’t come up with better — please suggest another).
At a certain point I bring in Mr. Collipark’s minimal masterpiece, the instrumental to the Ying-Yang Twins’ “Wait” (which, gotta admit, I far prefer to the non-instrumental version). That the track is such a stark but unmistakable example of the genre (if the “whisper” variety) shows how deeply the 3:2 clave pattern underlies crunk. Which is not surprising given how long the clave has informed American popular music, esp of the southern variety, more generally. Which brings us to our next track…
12. Bo Diddley, “Bo Diddley”
13. Pharrell, “Drop It Like It’s Hot (Instrumental)”
14. Cut Chemist, “(My First) Big Break”
The classic — which is to say, well-rehearsed — example of introducing the 3:2 clave to the mainstream (aside from all those Fred Astaire, et al., “mambo” records, I guess), Bo Diddley’s eponymous anthem would be conspicuously absent in even as admittedly incomplete and capricious a survey as this. Sometimes cast, imaginatively, as “African rhythms” (um) or “jungle music” (eek), Diddley’s approach might better be described as having reinvigorated rock’s underlying “Latin tinge” originally bequeathed to the genre — in part? in parts? — by New Orleans r&b and early rock’n’roll (e.g., Prof Longhair, Fats Domino, Larry Williams, etc).
Here I mix it with Mr. Collipark’s beat, the 3:2 clave clap from El General’s “Te Ves Buena,” and, then, after a few bars, I add Pharrell’s clave-cribbing, but utterly original, beat for Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” chopping it up a bit to make it better fit the melodic contour of the Diddley riff. Soon thereafter, I bring in a loop from Cut Chemist’s recent album (which contains some gems) which provides a driving, dancehall-derived, but big-beat-bouncy version of the 3+3+2.
15. Gacha Empega and El Hillal, “Salam Aleikoum”
I leave the Cut Chemist loop in for a while as an opening accompaniment for the epic, engaging “Salam Aleikoum” by Gacha Empega and El Hillal — a recording I was hipped to by John Schaefer (the first blog of many that, in some way or another, helped sourced this mix — which seems appropriate given the whole “Blogariddims” concept). It’s an incredible recording, unique, and full of energy, and so I give it a good amount of time here. But not much space. Which is to say, I alternate layers of drumtracks on top to continue with the sonic glue of the rest of the mix, as well as to underscore how the underlying rhythmic framework of this very different song from a very different place ends up overlaying so well with reggae/ton riddims. At times, especially the more staccato solo sung passages, the singers sound like DJs riding the riddim(s). Who knows? Maybe they’ve listened to a lot of dancehall.
At any rate, this is where our crunk genealogy seeks common grooves in music more frequently associated with (and produced in) the Middle and Near East, North Africa, and “the” Subcontinent (and their diasporic nodes, natch).
16. T. Roy, “Malfoof Drum Rhythm”
17. Panjabi Hit Squad, “Nachle Moranie”
18. Seeed (ft. Back Kappa), “Dickes B”
One of the drum tracks I’m layering/alternating here — the one that tends to accompany the chorus — is not a reggae riddim but, indeed, a common rhythm in Arab music, often referred to as the Malfoof or Malfuf, which according to Ali Jihad Racy (see that link back there), “is a fast rhythmic pattern, typical of popular and folk music. It is usually transcribed as 2/4 or 4/4 and may accompany lively dancing.” The recording of the Malfoof that I’m employing in the mix comes from an instructional recording by T. Roy the Drummer, who sells his music/lessons through cdbaby. (Thanks to Pacey Foster for bringing it to my attention.)
After a little breakdown where T. Roy says his piece (w/ a slight return of the ident), I bring in the Panjabi Hit Squad’s “Nachle Moranie,” a bhangra banger which nodded hard at contemporary dancehall back in ’03-04. (And, indeed, was packaged right along with it, not to mention the hip-hop hits of the day. Ah, London.)
Staying on our mini-European tour of the dancehall diaspora, I move from the Panjabi Hit Squad to Seeed, one of Germany’s foremost reggae acts, for another take — from a distance — on the 3+3+2, JA stylee. Notably, I encountered this song as the lead track on a CD intended to showcase Berlin’s hip-hop scene back in ’03 when I was still considering writing a dissertation on hip-hop in Germany. One thing such an inclusion suggested to me — esp given its conspicuous position on the comp — is how closely reggae and hip-hop travel together outside their central sites of production and how they are often conflated or at least closely associated. (No doubt that there are purist scenes everywhere.) It’s interesting that such seemingly far-flung spots as Germany have been growing increasingly central in the global reggae market, if still dwarfed by Jamaica’s prodigious output and fierce claims to authenticity.
19. Missy Elliott, “Pass That Dutch”
20. Raw Fusion, “Funk Into Yo Ear”
21. George Abdo, “Hadouni, Hadouni”
22. Ismael Rivera, “Para Mi Gente”
23. Q-Tip, “Breathe and Stop (Acapella)”
We then hear a strong 3:2 clave bassline c/o Missy Elliott, which abruptly yields to some percussion from George Abdo’s “Hadouni, Hadouni” (itself — despite being bellydance music — containing a 3:2 clave, played on wood blocks to boot). Soon the percussion is augmented by a loop from Raw Fusion’s “Funk Into Yo Ear” (which also features a 3:2 kick-snare pattern — a common one in early 90s hip-hop and pop [think Soul II Soul]). Raw Fusion, incidentally, is a tongue-twisting, reggae-infused, goofy-futurist side-project of Digital Underground who released an album in 1991 called Live from the Styleetron, from which this track comes. It’s but a footnote in my dissertation and would require a post all its own, but I wanted to throw this sort of hip-hop realization of the 3:2 in the mix. Sorry we don’t get to hear Shock G do his thing.
Before too long, I let Abdo and his band do their thing with their strings and voices supported by a little dembow action. (we use so many snares.) I love that this clave-clapping bellydance music was not only recorded but played weekly in my hometown, Cambridge, MA, during my own lifetime; I only wish I got a chance to check it out.
We move from Abdo’s song, which you might note — especially during Missy’s verse — also employs a steady “four-to-the-floor” rhythm (tho I’m obscuring it a bit by emphasizing it so much), which makes it a great segue to the plena-infused salsa of Ismael Rivera that we then move to. (And I should note that we’ve shifted tempo at this point, gradually, from 95 bpm at the start to around 114 bpm.) Rivera, or “el sonero mayor” (the premiere improviser), is one of salsa’s greatest singers, an inventive, distinctive voice and a singer who consciously represented Afro-Puertorriqueñidad. Embodied by the 4/4 frame drum part, the invocation of plena here — a music of protest and social commentary — underscores that commitment as suggested in the song’s title, “Para Mi Gente (For My People).” As genres go, salsa overlaps easily with reggaeton rhythms, as various instruments in the texture provide accents on/around a 3+3+2 cross rhythm, with the bass frequently anchoring things there (though not so much in this track, as it turns out).
24. DJ Blass, “Recuerdos de Antes”
25. DJ Blass, “Reggaeton Sex 2, Track 2″
After the dip into dembow salsa, we move into some vintage reggaeton. These two recordings are both from around the same era — the late 90s / early 00s, as reggaeton was just emerging as a term and as a style distinct from, but deeply indebted to, the underground/dembow/melaza that preceded it. One of the things that distinguishes these latter day (but not quite contemporary) PR productions from earlier efforts is the adoption of synthesizer sounds (including drums and effects) more associated with techno and “club” music than with hip-hop or reggae. Of course, the Dem Bow and other well-worn reggae riddims still maintain a strong presence (though often chopped up and augmented with synth kicks and sometimes reduced solely to snares).
The sudden, almost overwhelming presence of synth drums, effects, melodies, chords, and textures is attributable to at least two major factors: 1) the increasing integration/institutionalization of reggaeton into club culture in San Juan and New York; and 2) the advent of digital sequencing programs such as FruityLoops. Such software, often developed as techno tools (and often for trancey varieties at that), arrived with presets more appropriate for happy hardcore than hip-hop reggae, but producers embraced these energy-flash signifiers of rave/club music and — whattaya know — carved out a space in global electro dance music culture for themselves. Of course, maintaining that ever-present 3+3+2, even (and esp) with thumping 4/4 kicks, didn’t hurt.
The two tracks I’ve selected here both feature ravey synths and heavy kicks alongside repeatedly triggered, sampled voices, chicas talking about they’re not easy but they chupalo on the first date, and some guy intoning a rather uninspired chant of “reggaeton sex.” These may not exactly represent aesthetic highpoints of the genre, but they document a pivotal moment in reggaeton’s twisting, turning tale and they connect today’s futuristic, bombastic pistas to early experiments with synths. Such productions marked a departure from the genre’s hip-hop-informed sampledelic past (tho I abhor that term, I confess I can’t come up with better — please suggest), but perhaps assured the genre a stronger foothold in the wider DJ/disco scene.
26. Mr. Collipark, “Ay Chico (Instrumental)”
27. George LaMond, “Bad of the Heart”
Toward the end of our ravey reggaeton interlude, the 3:2 clave synth clap that begins Mr. Collipark’s hotter-than-fuego instrumental for Pitbull’s “Ay Chico” (one of several strong cuts on his new disc) leads us into a mash of Collipark’s Afro-Cubist crunk collage and George LaMond’s (Latin) freestyle classic, “Bad of the Heart.” (Video here!) LaMond’s song hits all the hallmarks of the genre: plenty of 808 percussion (incl a 3:2 kick-snare clave pattern), chintzy synthesizers, semi-sweet harmonies, and stuttered synth vox, while Collipark’s crunky craziness provides just enough edge to cut the cheesy synths.
28. The Beat Club, “Security (Remix)”
29. Pitbull, “Ay Chico (Acapella)”
Maintaining Collipark’s clave claptrap, I bring in Pitbull’s acapella while switching the Collipark-LaMonde mash for the Beat Club’s “Security (Remix),” for which I should thank G.Scruggs, student, supporter, blogger, and documentarian of funk carioca. In contrast to the more typical sensationalist coverage funk receives, Greg’s been providing thoughtful, careful ethnographic and archival perspectives on the music and its social context, including the post that discussed “Security” and other Miami bass favorites in the funk scene. Though perhaps not as famous as “Battery Brain” — that trumpeted “basis for an entire genre” — tracks like “Security” were touchstones for funkeiros well before tamborzao loops and Fruityloops changed the game, and their stamp — as heard in the 3:2 electro/bass pattern that underlies most funk tracks — remains audible in today’s rapidfire releases.
30. ??, “Bubbling MSN Remix”
31. DJ Darkraver, “MSN Bubbling Remix”
32. DJ SoLman, “UoH Mix”
Before M.I.A.M.I.’s favorite Cubano crunkeador is done telling the anonymous object of his affection that he gets off watching her get off, I slip the bass out from under him, replacing it with an anonymously produced (but tell me if I’m wrong) bubbling beat that flips the MSN messenger chirp into the doggone Murder She Wrote riddim! Given the genre’s own pilfering of the late 80s / early 90s dancehall canon (putting it on a level with reggaeton and KRS-One), I couldn’t resist bringing some bubbling into the mix: Afro-Antillean dance music on some hopped-up happy hardcore hollandaise, sampling from pop and reggae and desi beats, software and video games! Poco man jam indeed. (Thx to Atila for the tracks.) Before long, I follow the first bubbling MSN remix with — believe it or not — a second version of the same, this one identified with DJ Darkraver.
From there, I mix the bubbling beats into some kuduro. How could I resist? I mean, it’s the “new baile funk,” right? All hype aside, though, Kuduro definitely fits in here with its 3+3+2 techno romps, as would lots of other African pop/dance musics. And the low-fi, FL preset aesthetic is consistent with reggaeton, funk, bubbling, and lots of other DIY electronic genres in this genealogy. Frankly, I don’t remember where I got this particular track, but rest assured it was from some blogger or other. (Ok, DJ Vamanos just reminded me where I got the DJ SoLman track. Thx!)
(By this point, btw, we’ve worked our way up toward 130 bpm.)
33. Nayamka Drummers, “Skin of the Drum, Track 5″
34. Wolfgang Voigt, “Nachschub”
35. Mestre Suassuna, “Maculele”
36. MC Vanessinha, “Dance de Peteca”
Shortly after the kuduro track begins, I add some drum loops c/o of the Nayamka Drummers, a Jamaican drum troupe associated with the estimable Sista P of Portland, JA and her Fi Wi Sinting festival/project. This track comes from a CD-R passed to me by Charlie Nesson, a longtime friend of Sista P and of Port Antonio. Presumably passed to him by Sista P, the CD features a half-dozen kumina songs recently and lovingly recorded. To add to the energy and rhythmic texture of the kuduro jam, I alternate between a more active and a more spacious section of the kumina track (once again, they share a 3+3+2 accent), and eventually I shift into the kumina song proper, accompanied from the start, however, by Wolfgang Voigt’s “Nachschub,” a minimal techno track that has always struck me as deeply Caribbean(-esque) with its submerged 3+3+2 bassline and scratchy, syncopated percussion. (Gwaan, Köln!)
Letting the kumina troupe do their thing for a while — including some spirited soloing — eventually I echo them out, leaving in the Voigt track and segueing into a similar sort of call/response, acoustic Afrodiasporic “folk” song, but now moving us back to Brazil. This is a recording of maculele, which as Maga Bo points out, is the local style that has most audibly informed the ubiquitous hand-drum tracks that underlie so much funk (along with that 808-ish 3:2 kick-snare pattern, nodding to bass and samba both). To underscore this connection, I follow the maculele recording with a classic Rio funk track, MC Vanessinha’s “Dance de Peteca” (which I may have grabbed way back when?), dropping out the Voigt toward the entrance to let Vanessinha have her minimal boom for a bit.
After about four bars of that, tho, I introduce a very strong halftime current c/o…
37. Kode9 and Space Ape, “Backward”
which works with Vanessinha for a while, but I shift into Space Ape’s verse proper before too long. (Here is one place, among several, where the mix exploits the half-time / double-time hinges so many of these songs and rhythms provide.) What I like about this track — and dubstep and grime more generally — is the allusion to and abstraction of Caribbean forms. This one, for all its oompah pull, also inserts snares that create a slow soca sort of feel at times. Which, of course, suggested that I mix in some actual soca.
38. Dawg E Slaughter, “Bounce”
39. Ilegales (ft. Johnny Ventura), “Dame un Chin”
Dawg E. Slaughter’s “Bounce” not only represents quintessential soca, it also shows — between the beats, synths, flows, and lyrics — how much techno, hip-hop, and dancehall Trinidad’s national dance music has absorbed. After a couple choruses, I keep the uptempo, high octane vibe going with “Dame un Chin” by Ilegales and merengue legend Johnny Ventura. I’ve been enamored of this track for a few years now — I really like the stark contrasts in voice (esp Ventura’s low, low baritone at the beginning), the hopped-up drums, the superfast rap. Although merengue doesn’t accent a 3+3+2 as strongly as other Caribbean dance forms, one can hear the overlap with the boom-ch-boom-chick leanings of the rest of the mix in the composite rhythms emerging from the interplay between the shaker, the hand drums, and the programmed kick, never mind the accordion, bachata guitar, and horns.
40. Patsy Cline, “Foolin’ Around”
In something of a whimsical mix and perhaps an unexpected thread in all of this, I next bring in Patsy Cline’s “Foolin’ Around,” which like so many mid-century pop songs, features a bassline that traces a 3+3+2 against the duple pulse, as the bass would, for instance, in son or mambo (or the jazz, r&b, and stateside pop they influenced). Oddly enough, the intro to Cline’s track matches the melodic contour of the Ilegales’ ostinato pretty well. Even odder, there’s something of a digital burp at the beginning of this one that, like a stubborn ghost, refused to go away. So I had to accept it and let it stay there, and there’s something nice about that, too. I like when a mix shows its seams a bit. In the end, I’d rather not behind some curtain of digital wizardry, so I’m content with this mistake (or is it a magic accident?).
41. Calle 13, “Suave”
42. Franco & Le Tout Puissant OK Jazz, “On Entre OK, On Sort OK”
We return to Calle 13 briefly for a taste of “Suave,” a typically eccentric, reggaetony outing for the group, and one which seems to borrow various Brazilian musical signifiers (which is not unusual for Calle 13, esp given producer Visitante’s prior musical experience). Deep stuff, and surely broadening reggaeton’s palette as much as the parallel drive toward bachata, banda, etc. in more mainstream offerings. Next, we hear from Franco & OK Jazz, ambassadors of Congo’s own version of Cuban music — or Rumba on the River, if you will — which later becomes known as soukous. Even without the reggaeton snares I’ve added, one should hear a clear Cuban influence in the 3+3+2 bassline, never mind the references to “rumba” and “calle” in the lyrics.
43. Ti Band L’avenir, “Panamam Tombe”
We finish with Haiti’s version of the Cuban son, a/k/a Dominican merengue’s twin — otherwise known as meringue. The song features a similar 3+3+2 bass pattern as we’ve heard across the mix and, moreover, a 3:2 clave pattern (if loosely interpreted at times) played on a bottle. To bring things down as I wind them up, I more or less let the song — the final track of the mix — play out without much manipulation, adding some subtle effects occasionally (and increasingly), and building up to the outro c/o a dubbed-out version of the blogariddims ident clave once more.
And that’s that. Whew. If you made it this far, I congratulate you.
But I hope this text can serve as some sort of resource, both for curious listeners to the mix and for those interested more generally in these musical and socio-cultural relationships. At bottom, I hope people enjoy these sounds and songs and styles as I’ve collected and re-presented them, and I hope they light up your imaginations — and move you — as much as they do mine, and move me.