again about the wonderful work that music does, the vitality of digital (youth) culture, the persistence of realtime, peer2peer creativity and sociability, & the obvious shortcomings of corporate hackery
u kno the first, no doubt —
The maker of many a best of 2007 list, Dude Nem’s “Watch My Feet” was a notable mainstream breakthrough of sorts for Chicago juke. Sure, there’s a bit of corporate hackery a gwaan here what with Dude Nem being the first juke group to get a national push from an out-of-town record label, but there’s a whole lotta esprit de corps in there too.
I remember getting the e-promo like it was yesterday —
As you might surmise (or already know), DIY versions abound, all asking you to watch their feet (if sometimes assuming you’re watching other things, esp when the feet aren’t really visible, knamean).
But, for my clickthrough, the most ebullient of em all (nem) is the the (DJ Nate produced ?!) audition for the Dude Nem video —
I find this^^ a lot more watchable (and that’s what it’s about, no?) than the slightly more choreographed segments we see in the official video (tho there are some gems there too). There are just so many individual styles on display here, a lot personality animating the footwork. I’m impressed in partic w/ how gracefully big man (from around 1:05 to 1:20) throws his weight around. But they’re ALL amazing.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that we don’t get a sense of sync here. (Overdubbing music for live music/dance scenes — a la Rize — really kills me; I want to know what it sounds like THERE). It’s perhaps less vexing, though, considering that juke footwork seems to be more “floaty” in character, not unlike ravey liquidity or over-acrobatic b-boying, than dance styles which engage more directly with the musical pulse. (Got actual dance vocab for this distinction? Do enlighten.)
Not too surprisingly, before long there was a corporate bandwagon version, even on OldTube (i.e., TV), featuring a very virtuosic if uninspired set of footworkers and employing an obv/awk ripoff of “Watch My Feet” while abandoning juke’s frenetic digi-tom rolls for some watered-down, ol’timey, Miami Bass-ish — like some ignant studio hack heard Dude Nem and went scrolling through his “Gangsta/Dance” loop library. (I swear, if Gant Man produced that crap I would not recant.) The vids even attempt to capture the spirit of an audition (not to mention the authentic patina of amateurism, as evoked in part by the inclusion of video “counter” data at the bottom of the screen), and with various versions offering up “competitions” between the dancers (using a split-screen; they’re not actually dancing simultaneously). It’s a YouTube-ready ad campaign, fo sho —
Not only do the Verizon vids pale in comparison to watching kids do kid things outside of stifling studios, for all their YouTube-readiness, they lag behind actual YouTube-savvy riffs.
I’d be remiss, then, if I didn’t conclude this brief survey w/ one of the most delightfullest mashup vids for “Watch My Feet,” wherein Dude Nem’s boastful, upful anthem is set to loops’n’clips from Happy Feet — as produced, apparently, by the same kid, an 18yr-older from Cayman, who did Soulja Boy Pooh (which has now garnered over 6 million views!) —
We can waffle over whether YouTube’s newly unleashed audio takedown worm will make this activity move elsewhere, but it’ll keep on moving, no doubt. (& I’m sure Dude Nem / TVT would be happy to rake in some ad revenue from all these plays, if GoogTube could get its act together on that.) At any rate, I’d say archive em while you can.
“Drink a Rum” = a Trini Xmas favorite. Composed by his highness Lord Kitchener, but also given various chutney soca parang upgrades, among other countless variations and personalizations.
Another Trini Xmas fave, with even more personal/family/local versions — plus more broadly diffused throughout the (Anglo-)Caribbean — is the rum/fruit cake often referred to as black cake for its dark color (a product of dark rum, dark brown sugar, burnt sugar — aka browning — and dark fruit, including raisins, currants, and prunes — all soaked in rum and sweet wine, Red Label or Manischewitz, and then mashed into a dark, sweet paste).
Wayne&Bex first learnt about black cake when college blockmate like Sly, FLA-raised Chinese-Jamaican, first told us of its wonders, such as that one continually pour or brush rum over the top of it, for the life of the cake, anytime it gets dry.
Having followed the following (more or less — we substituted cranberries for cherries, fr’instance) and sampled the first of four cakes last night, I’m not sure there’s much time for the cakes to really undergo a good soaking, given that ours was nearly devoured in less than 12 hours. Dessert and breakfast, knamean —
— not that the cakes need much more rum poured on them: we let our fruit soak in Gosling’s and Manichewitz for two days, til they were good and bloated (of course, some people let em steep for year).
& as soon as they came out of the oven, we gave them a good brushing with more dark rum.
A sweet tradition for true —
More xmas soca parang ? >>
From that playlist, I&I commend U&U to check Adesh Samaroo’s “EATING MEAT,” one of several parang jams on some ol West-Af 3:2 transplantadapt stylee, cutting a straight a 6/8 w/ some triple twelfness. (Technical terms.) A helluva holiday beat! More cowbell, horse! More meat!
It’s hard to believe that winter’s only now finally here — in the technical sense — considering that we’ve already gotten more snow dumped on us here in Boston in the last week or so than we had during the entire season last year. I mean, fa Chrissakes, I can’t find a pahking spot to save my life.
Speaking of Chrissakes, being that time of year and all, I’m making an effort today to transcend my fatigue of X-mas muzak in order to bring you, once again, “remix-mas” — my mix’n’mash of lots of well-worn holiday favorites. Longtime readers will no doubt be as sick of this mix as of any other seasonal sounds, but for any newcomers out there, here ya go. Don’t say I never gave ya nothin —
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science,” in Collected Fictions (trans. Andrew Hurley; New York: Viking, 1998), 325
I’ve long been ambivalent about interpreting the ethnomusicological enterprise as bound up with making a musical map of the world. In some sense, it seems like a pretty “old school” (read: colonialist) project. Moreover, it would seem more likely to produce lots of lacunae about the way the world works by privileging the integrity of discrete places (sometimes constructed as “cultures” — a word which I never use in the plural) rather than seeing the interpenetration of places and peoples and recognizing not only that people have been moving around for a long time now but that increasingly every place in the world is systemically linked to every other (read: thx to global capitalism).
At any rate, I don’t want to rehearse those debates right now (though I do recommend reading the spirited and germane “call and response” between Veit Erlmann and Mark Slobin in the Journal of Ethnomusicology from a few years back). I bring up the idea of mapping the world of music by way of pointing people to a few people&places doing such things (or resisting them) in interesting ways.
The first is a page c/o NYC’s dj.henri filled with deft/def mixes offering informed and informative profiles of a number of genres from around the world, from Arab pop to zouk, and focusing especially on localized, African versions of such global forms as hip-hop and house (e.g., bongo flava, kwaito, hiplife). This is a suggestive sort of musical mapping. There are no pretensions w/r/t authority. They help with comprehension but do not claim comprehensiveness. They offer a personal perspective on the genres and provide points of departure for listeners wanting to learn and hear more. I wish more ethnomusicologists made mixes like these. (dj.henri came to my attn, incidentally, b/c he’ll be presenting at the IASPM meeting in the spring for which I’ve been serving as program committee chair.)
The second is a relatively recently launched blog called Tunedown, administered by none other than frequent w&w commenter, Birdseed (aka Johan Palme, an omnivorous music-lover — and aspiring musicologist — operating out of Swedish). Birdseed has been offering such features as “genre of the week,” in which he offers his linkythinky take on such forms as takeu, eurocrunk, power pop, r&b, hi-NRG, and others. He’s quite the digital digger, finding plenty of worldly gems on YouTube but also some emerging NewTubes (e.g., EastAfricanTube). He also poses thoughtful, critical questions, as in his regular comments on this here humble blog, and I’m sorry to say that I haven’t yet had the time to return the favor and offer more comments of my own over there. I do hope that some readers here, however, will join Birdseed in his endeavor to make some sense of various musical-cultural practices and their global circulation.
As many readers here no doubt know, DJ /rupture prefers “maplessness” (which always reminds me of Vermont), so it’s a little odd to include him here, but I do so precisely for his provocative resistance to the kind of mapping that tends to reinforce the ol’ imperial gaze (and its neo-liberal lenses). Some people mistake /rupture’s worldly stance for a brainy strain of eclecticism, when it’s really a lot more pointy than that. His recently published reflection on 2007 for Frieze offers an idiosyncratic, but persuasive, way of hearing what /rupture calls the real “world music” (i.e., globally-distributed hip-hop) while also touching on, and in a deeper manner than a lot of downloading dilettantes, such putative “world music” as Berber pop and cumbia. He assails the exotic-as-anonymous approach that I’ve also critiqued here, and he underscores the equally “global” distribution of Arab pop by imploring folks who want to know more to “find an Arabic music shop and start asking questions.” Who needs a map for that?
This Friday — here in Cambridge, Mass — the Thunderdudes are bringing none other than Detroit ghettotech luminary DJ Assault to move the (m)asses @ the Greek American Political Club —
I have to admit that I’m pretty excited ’bout that, since I find ghettotech, ghetto house, juke, etc. — various hardcore post-house/techno booty beats — to be really quite engaging on a visceral level. The breakneck tempos, the driving drums, the low-fi, DIY, indie aesthetic (often [self]described as “raw“), even the dirty chants, repeated ad absurdum, all work together to do some work: on my body, on my psyche, on the collective. It’s no surprise that “work that” (and similar imperatives) tend to dominate ghettotexts. These imperative qualities have a lot to do with what makes ghettotechs appeal more broadly, beyond their original, local confines (they’re labeled “ghetto” for good reason), globally even.
Of course, when I stop to think about it, when I let the looped words grind their lexical meanings into me, I wince. That ol Cartesian dualism, er, rears its head, and I find my mind wrestling with my hind, like, Are we really nodding along to this?
& I know I’m not the only one who asks such questions. I think — and hope — that this kind of inner (and sometimes outward) dialogue is pretty much shot through the ghettotech experience (for ghetto denizens and diggers-at-a-distance alike). Indeed, as some of the exchanges captured in this short documentary on ghetto house in Chicago attest, the producers and their people themselves grapple with the genre’s “abusive” sounds —
There’s an interesting contrast, however, between listening to ghettotech in English, where it’s not so easy to ignore the words’ meanings (even if I try to let them function as another nonlexical layer of sound, which, hell, I’ve been doing with nuff hip-hop & dancehall for some time now) and listening to “ghettotech” in another language, e.g., Carioca Portuguese or San Juan Spanish. I suspect that a lot of us global ghettotechies out here, especially those of us in the monolingual camp (ahem, USers), have an easier time listening to booty music when we don’t have to think about the meanings of the words. If it’s all gobbledecrunk, it’s all good.
I was recently e-terviewed for a piece by a Brazilian journalist on “global ghetto” ish, and I think the following q&a is germane, so I’ll end with this —
Q: Do you sometimes feel there should be more political lyrics in global ghetto music (I’m thinking of Rio funk, reggaeton, kuduro and kwaito which are largely sexual and/or party-oriented)? Or maybe feel that these musics could have more of a commitment to change or denounce their situation (if you think they do promote some kind of social change, please explain why)?
A: Sometimes I might feel that way, but then again, I think that music about sex or pleasure or partying is already political in a certain sense. It depends very much on the social or cultural context, of course. It’s no surprise that the themes that dominate a lot of ghetto music have to do more with everyday concerns, or with transcending the stress of everyday life, or with pissing off the middle-class, the government, the power structure. As for promoting change, sometimes one sees that sort of thing, especially in the Rasta-inspired visions of a lot of reggae, but in general, people living in ghettos worldwide haven’t seen much change, don’t see much hope for change, and probably won’t change the focus of their lyrics until there is some real change in the social conditions in which they live. I guess it’s something of a chicken and egg question, but it’s not for me to tell people what to rap about. Of course, as a DJ it can often be uncomfortable to play songs that are overtly misogynist or which objectify women as sex objects (and little else). Perhaps that’s another significant appeal of “global” / foreign ghettotech: it’s easier to listen to booty music when you don’t understand all the words.
As my blogger-DJ-applied side attests, I like to combine the hands-on production of music with an approach that grounds any such creative engagement in historical study and an appreciation for music’s social and cultural contexts.
This semester, my first term at Brandeis University, has been no different. While studying “Digital Pop from Hip-hop to Mashup,” we’ve been making beats and building riddims while discussing the cultural politics of sampling, digital reproduction, appropriation, p2p exchange, etc, in line with the underlying argument that making sense of the seismic shifts of digital culture requires coming to terms with — and, indeed, embracing — the new possibilities and responsibilities of democratized access to powerful tools of production, circulation, and representation.
Our studies have taken us from Stockhausen to wubstep, from funk to crunk to funk carioca, from the Beatles to the Beasties to the Beastles, with many stops in between. Over the course of the term, we’ve produced sample-based and synthesized tracks, house and techno stompers and laid back hip-hop grooves, grimey instrumentals and vocal-driven “bastard pop.” And for our final projects, students are assembling their productions from the semester and offering them up, mixtape-style (i.e., using all kinds of other recordings for sonic/thematic glue), as 5-7 minute mini-tours of the world of what we’ve been calling “digital pop.”
We’ll be premiering these mini-mixes tonight at — where else? — Beat Research.
So, if you’re curious, come on out and hear some Deisy Beats.