Archive for January, 2009

January 31st, 2009

All Your Bass Are Belong To Us

I promised to post about “raveyton” a long time ago, and twice. A recent ghettobassquake post serves as a fine reminder. Noting that reggaeton synths have been “sliding into more Trancedelic wave forms,” Sñr Vamanos acknowledges that “[d]ramatic synths have been there for a while.”

Sin duda! Working in an utterly omnivorous genre, reggaeton producers were waaaay ahead of the trans-regional trancehall curve.

Allow me to offer an excerpt from my chapter in the forthcoming reggaeton book (pre-orders available!) which describes the turn toward synths — even if often samples of synths — among late 90s underground/dembow/reggae/ton producers:

Around the same time the genre was becoming known by a new name, the music had begun to accrue several of the stylistic features that propel today’s radio-friendly, club-ready confections. The advent of new music production technologies, in particular synthesizer and sequencer software, has a great deal to do with this shift in sound. Programs such as Fruity Loops, with telltale “pre-set” sounds and effects, served to expand and change the sonic palettes of reggaeton producers. In part because such programs were often initially developed as tools for techno producers, the genre started to move away from reggae and hip-hop samples and toward futuristic synths, cinematic strings, bombastic effects, and (especially just before a “big” downbeat) crescendoing kick drums, snare rolls, and cymbal splashes. The latter formal devices sound more derived from trance-style techno anthems than anything else, if also, notably, sometimes syncopated in a manner more reminiscent of breaks in salsa or merengue. Established producers such as DJ Playero, DJ Nelson, and DJ Joe, as well as relative newcomers such as DJ Blass, helped move the genre’s primary sound sources from samples to synthesizers, introducing the use of heavier kick drums, ravey synth “stabs,” and trancey arpeggios as well as cartoonish digital sound effects (wind blowing, explosions). Their productions were not uniform or mutually indistinguishable, however, and each offers an interesting look at the development of the genre during a crucial transition.

[Several] tracks on Playero 41 strongly embody the genre’s new techno- and pop-oriented directions. Notty Man’s “Dancing,” for example, features various techno synths, evoking the distinctively “squelchy” sounds of the Roland TB-303 and employing the characteristic filtering, or frequency sweeps, of electronic dance music. Daddy’s Yankee’s “Todas las Yales” is another case in point. The track begins with a “detuned” synth riff evoking any number of trance or techno tracks. As a four-on-the-floor kick drum augments the riff, one could easily mistake it for a standard, if not cliché 90s club anthem, at least before the dembow drums enter. Once the 3+3+2 snares come in, along with Yankee’s voice, there is no mistaking the track for anything other than reggaeton; nonetheless, it offers a clear example of how synthesized (and/or sampled) techno references came increasingly to supplant the genre’s affinity for hip-hop and dancehall sources. The track still moves somewhat starkly between a hip-hop groove and a dembow rhythm, however, and such alternation maintains connections to mid-90s style. Moreover, at points Yankee propels his lyrics with a couple (characteristically “out-of-tune”) melodies borrowed from Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” (1984) and the Bangles’ ballad “Eternal Flame” (1989). Although these references to 80s pop hits might seem slightly odd here, not to mention rather far from the symbolic links which borrowed hooks from reggae or hip-hop songs might once have evoked, they are actually quite consistent with what has long been an ecumenical outlook for the genre—an approach derived in part from hip-hop’s and reggae’s own voracious practices. Finally, “Todas la Yales” also offers a window into the enduring presence of Jamaica via Panama: the term yales, which Yankee at times interchanges here with mujeres (i.e., women), comes from the Panamanian slang guiales, which itself adapts gyal, a Jamaican creole version of girl or girls.

Productions by The Noise and DJ Joe during this period demonstrate similar trends. On The Noise 9 (2000), for instance, one hears the telltale sounds of Fruity Loops pre-sets and effects alongside other synthesized sounds, especially the pounding bass drums for which techno is known. One also hears, however, the same big bass synths, chopped-and-stabbed hip-hop references (e.g., squealing Cypress Hill samples), repeatedly triggered vocal lines, allusions to dancehall melodies (Ruben San crams several into a single song), and Dem Bow samples (especially the snares, but also the riddim’s resonant bass drum) for which melaza had been known. The Bam Bam, Fever Pitch, and Poco Man Jam riddims also rear their heads in the mix. Although the pistas still shift in shape and feel at regular intervals, sometimes fairly radically, the music is less pastiche-like than on earlier recordings, however, and the song forms more closely resemble standard pop fare. DJ Joe’s millennial mixtapes also seem to confirm these directions. Whereas the producer’s late 90s mixes retain a great deal of melaza style, shortly after 2000 the influence of Fruity Loops and nods to techno become far more pronounced. With the exception of Dem Bow drum samples, by the release of Fatal Fantassy 1 (2001), big, cheesy club synths, digital explosions, and melodramatic percussion crescendos dominate the tracks’ textures, overshadowing any sample-based connections to earlier styles. Vocalists still employ dancehall related melodies as well as various pop allusions (including the 50s hit “Mr. Sandman”), though one also hears a refinement of such a melodic approach: a distinctively Puerto Rican approach to melodic contour and vocal timbre—often evoking the nasal singing styles of many soneros—seems to emerge after a decade of recycling a handful of tunes. A connection between the sounds of techno and the sexual already appears rather reified by this point, underscored in DJ Joe’s case by the suggestively (mis)spelled reference to a popular video game (Final Fantasy) on his Fatal Fantassy series.

Despite these parallel movements across the reggaeton scene, during the first few years of the new millennium DJ Blass might rightly be credited as most audibly promoting the tecno sound, conflating it with sexual license, and ushering in a good number of the elements which remain staples of the genre today and mark most of its mainstream hits. Blass’s Reggaeton Sex series employs the futuristic, tactile synths and bombast of rave-era techno and contemporary trance to great effect, creating physically and psychologically compelling music over which (male) vocalists and (female) “phone-sex” samples repeatedly invoke the body and the bawdy. Over saw-tooth synths and ping-pong arpeggios, crescendoing kicks and snares and cymbal crashes, vocalists exhort (and/or order) women to “move it,” perreo, and do a fair number of other, more explicitly sexual acts. Rather than the pliant, reggae-derived basslines of the mid-90s, synthesized bass tones serve instead to accentuate the kick drums on each beat, often with a I-V (“oompah”-style) movement and sometimes tracing out simple chord progressions—a rudimentary rhythmic and harmonic role for the bass which has remained a feature in a great many commercial reggaeton productions. Against these steady bass tones and heavy kicks on each beat, the snares—sampled from Dem Bow, Bam Bam, and other favorite reggae riddims—frequently come to the fore, pulling against the foursquare feel with their 3+3+2 accents and making quite prominent what is, at times, the only audible, timbral connection to the genre’s underground roots. Gesturing to the regularly shifting forms of the mid-90s, Blass often switches between different snare samples at 4, 8, or 16 measure intervals, creating a subtle sense of form against the otherwise somewhat static synth vamps.

That Daddy Yankee track described above, “Todas las Yales,” has to be heard to be believed. You’re very welcome —

Funny story — I sent that track to techno sage Philip Sherburne (almost three years ago!) and he responded, somewhat stunned:

… those vaguely detuned chords are a pretty standard trance trope – a popular present on synths like the access virus, which are highly valued in trance circles.

thanks for sharing, i had no idea that reggaeton was going in this direction. is this an anomaly?

to which i replied:

i think reggaeton already went in this direction, actually, with producers preferring techno-y synths (often b/c of the adoption of digital sequencers, e.g., FL — pace your lil jon observations) to hip-hop and dancehall samples since the late 90s, if not a little before. i’m still trying to get a date on this track, but i think it’s from around ’98, which is almost ten years ago! pretty wild. …

if indeed this is from ’98, does that change your reading?

in turn, sez phil —

this is eight fucking years old? whoa. it doesn’t change my reading, necessarily, but it blows my friggin mind….

in that case, it does make me feel like reggaeton’s regressing (unless there is similarly bananas shit out there, but i haven’t heard it, not in 2006 anyway).

I couldn’t resist pointing out to Philip, neologist extraordinaire, that there was an artist on a DJ Joe album named “Microhouse.” (Good luck hunting that one down!)

Speaking of neologists, Simon Reynolds, to whom I also sent the track, said something pretty Simon-esque in reply —

all those riffs sound like anagrams of each other!

Speaking of anagrams — or perhaps analogs — it’s worth noting that reggaeton is not a lone vanguard in this regard. So let me to make another promise and offer, at some (not so?) future date, a similar look at funk carioca’s own millennial flirtation with ravey synthstabs & techno kicks, experiments which well predate the pós-baile-funk efforts of guys like DJ Sany Pitbull.


January 30th, 2009

Dem Nuh Ramp

What is it, copywrong week in Jamaica?

Tip o’ the proverbial hat to Ripley for pointing me to an article in the Jamaica Star which reports that EMI have served Vybz Kartel with a SERIOUS cease&desist on behalf of none other than (now former) w&w faves, Ne-Yo and Stargate (aka, Shaffer Smith, Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen) —

The current version of Vybz Kartel and Spice’s Rampin Shop has been ordered to be destroyed and pulled from all radio stations, television stations and the Internet by EMI Music Publishing. Plans are in motion for the song to be re-mixed and re-mastered so it can be played on air again.

When the STAR spoke to Vybz Kartel yesterday he explained that he had received an e-mail from EMI Music Publishing stating that Rampin Shop infringes on the copyright license of Miss Independent by Ne-Yo. Rampin Shop was released towards the end of 2008 and is currently on a remade version of the Miss Independent rhythm, the song while immensely popular in Jamaica has not been officially released to the International market. While Ne-Yo is officially signed to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), the copyright license for the composition of the Ne-Yo song is licensed by EMI Music Publishing for composers Shaffer Smith, Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen.

Kartel forwarded the e-mail from EMI to the STAR in which it stated, “‘Ramping Shop’ by Vybz Kartel and Spice infringes the copyright in ‘Miss Independent’ (Smith/Hermansen/Eriksen). Clearance of this use of ‘Miss Independent’ has not been sought or obtained and I am informed that clearance will not be forthcoming. Accordingly ‘Ramping Shop’ cannot be released or exploited in any way. Please confirm your acknowledgement and acceptance of this, and that you will arrange that (i) all recordings of the infringing track will be re-called and destroyed and that no further copies will be issued, and (ii) that the audio and/or video will be taken down immediately from all Internet sites.”

Note that the effervescent instrumental underlying “Miss Independent” is referred to here as “the Miss Independent rhythm” which nicely & subtly indicates how Jamaicans tend to think about accompanimental tracks: as always-already ready for a next “voicing.” Indeed, you can find a few other voicings (and even some mashups) floating around under the name Miss Independent riddim. Some, like Beniton’s version, show how spry artists engage with contemporary hits these days, dialoguing with the original while offering new, localized commentary. (You can call that illegal, but it’s not gonna stop.) Actually, I say “these days” because it’s increasingly common everywhere, but we should acknowledge that recording almost-immediate (cover) versions of r&b hits has been the thing to do in Kingston since, oh, the 1950s. (I realize that digital copying complicates things a little, but it needn’t. And, really, what’s the threat to Ne-Yo/Stargate? “Miss Independent” was a big hit; “Rampin Shop” threatens its future revenue stream NOT IN THE LEAST.)

Vybz’s too-hot-to-handle duet with Spice has been getting serious play in Jamaica and the dancehall diaspora — thus making it a target (unless, as some speculate, Kartel got fingered by a “rival camp”); whereas Beniton’s is not — I mean, is Beniton even reachable? JK HERE’S HIS PHONE# LOL). I’m sick enough of that beat at this point, having quite worn it out, that I’m happy for Kartel to re-release “Rampin” with a new backing, though I did like the striking juxtaposition of Stargate’s soft instrumental bedding and Vybz&Spice’s rough-and-tumble pillowtalk. Which raises the question: can Kartel’s version be heard as parody?

Here’s another irony (not that it’s not reconcilable with current copyright or certain notions of musical ownership), it turns out that, while denying the right to others to participate in contemporary remix culture, Stargate shamelessly reused their own music for “Miss Independent.”

Talk about an industry that’s out of touch. Can you believe that EMI would demand something as patently absurd and impossible as destroying all copies? “from all Internet sites”? Haha good luck with that! Next I’m expecting Cary Sherman to say the RIAA has to “do it in the Facebook, with the Twittering.”

Kartel’s song remains pretty darn easy to find on the net, and I suspect it’ll stay that way. (Praise Jah for decentralization & the promiscuity of digital files. Were only up to Google/YouTube, could we kiss the song goodbye?)

If you haven’t heard it yet, however, and don’t know what you’re getting into, be forewarned: in the time-honored tradition of Caribbean bawdy music, “Rampin Shop” is not for the feint of heart — SO ONLY LISTEN IF U LIKE UR SLACKNESS! (i.e., if you appreciate a good dirty joke. or a bad one. this has both!)


January 29th, 2009

Showtime (for Lawsuits), Unfinished Business (for Lawyers) has the scoop today on a lawsuit instigated by producer Dave Kelly —

In Jamaican dancehall culture, “re-licking” a riddim has undoubtedly been a way of life. Almost monthly there seems to be a remake of a dancehall, reggae or rocksteady riddim that originated anywhere from just a few years ago to decades ago, often with no thought, care or compensation being made to its original composer or creator.

One veteran dancehall music producer however is not taking the re-lick of one of his creations so lightly. Dave Kelly, owner of Madhouse Records and producer of numerous classic dancehall riddims (including the Joyride, Bruk Out, Bug and Eighty-Five riddims) has reportedly sued for royalties off Linton ‘TJ’ White’s Unfinished Business riddim which was released last year. Notably, Dancehall.Mobi posted about the Unfinished Business riddim when it was just released, and highlighted that it sounded remarkably similar to Dave Kelly’s Showtime riddim which was released circa 1998.

The Unfinished Business riddim has spawned several local hits, and two international hits in Mavado’s “So Special” and Serani’s “No Games”, and White has acknowledged that the royalties from the riddim are presently tied up in litigation. It’s not known exactly how the proceeds from the sale and licensing of songs on the Unfinished Business riddim would be shared, but there are rumors that Kelly has claimed as much as 45% of the rights to the riddim.

Here are the two riddims in question, made available by for the sake of comparison —

Showtime vs. Unfinished Business Riddims

To my ears, the only thing the two riddims have in common is the admittedly obvious and distinctive “hey” sample. I can’t recall any examples right now, but I don’t think Unfinished Business is the first riddim to re-use that particular sound. I wonder whether Kelly was even the first to use it — or where he sampled it from. As central and important as that little sample is, asking for 45% of the rights seems far too greedy, and dangerous.

The layers of hypocrisy run deep on this one. Plenty of Kelly’s riddims are themselves re-licks or employ recognizable (and presumably unauthorized) samples. The Eighty-Five riddim — which underpinned Cham’s huge hit “Ghetto Story” — quite clearly versions (and samples) the Sleng Teng. Another of Kelly’s famous productions, the Playground riddim, centrally employs a sample from the Roots’ “Section.” [Oops: the Playground riddim was actually produced by Jeremy Harding, who I often confuse with Kelly for some reason.] And the Joyride riddim is audibly indebted — check that offbeat organ stab — to the riddim underlying, among others, Conroy Smith’s 1988 hit “Dangerous” (which, notably, is the first track in this bit of “Joyride” juggling posted to YouTube, showing how listeners/selectors connect Kelly’s riddim to the earlier production by Hyman “Jah Life” Right). [Hmmm: Gabriel rightly points out in the comments that the Jah Life version of “Dangerous” was produced later — 1996 it turns out — and hence is a re-lick of Joyride rather than vice versa, so I guess I will have to temper my criticisms here somewhat. Still, the overall thrust of my argument remains the same.] Indeed, it’s a wonder that Kelly hasn’t yet sued Christopher Birch over the similarities between Baddaz and Joyride, but maybe that’s because Baddaz has yet to produce equivalent hits to Mavado’s “So Special” and Serani’s “Playing Games.” So, the question for the suddenly litigious Mr.Kelly is: are you willing to give up similarly large chunks of the rights to your riddims to — among others, no doubt — King Jammy, the Roots, and Jah Life?

Hope so. Because if people start litigating around re-licks like this, the whole riddim system — which has for decades propelled the most prolific music industry in the world — is in danger of collapsing in on itself.

As I’ve argued (along with Peter Manuel), the riddim method has long operated as though rocksteady and reggae recordings were a creative commons from which musicians draw (relatively) freely. The adoption of international/US copyright law by Jamaica in the 1990s has thrown a wrench into what was an otherwise pretty organic cultural system (sure, it has its flaws, such as exploitative producers taking credit from day-laborer musicians, but that’s another issue; producers still get the spoils under current copyright).

Responses to riddim re-licking used to be more creative. As I wrote back in 2005, referring to David Katz’s oral history of reggae during the lawsuit between Scientist and Greensleeves —

perhaps it was better when these things, in lieu of any kind of laws in place or in practice, were simply settled musically. with no legal recourse available, sugar minott and coxsone dodd would simply stay one step ahead of the competition [note: for those unaware of the “ethnic” dynamic in jamaica, think of yellowman’s “mr.chin” as a kindler, gentler, perhaps more insidious “black korea”; which is to say, there’s a similiar dynamic happening there, but accented differently; note also, however, that minott dismisses such attitudes as immature–an important qualification]:

Though the advent of rockers stole the fire from Bunny Lee’s flying cymbal, the Revolutionaries’ habit of adapting Studio One rhythms naturally caused most offence at Brentford Road, particularly after many of Coxsone’s artists defected to Channel One. Coxsone’s greatest weapon in the war of styles turned out to be Sugar Minott, a man with his ear constantly on the pulse of Jamaica’s dancehall scene. ‘It was a living war with Channel One,’ laughs Minott. ‘They used to call me “Coxsone’s Boy.” When they made “I Need a Roof” for Channel One, I immediately knew what it was, because I’m an expert in music and rhythm [i.e., riddims] from [when] I was a kid. So I went to Coxsone and said, “Look, it’s “Mean Girl.” We went to buy a flask of rum, so I was hyped up, did over “I Need A Roof.” Me and Tabby them was friends, but I didn’t care because I was like “Channel One? I hate Chinese.” That was my thing in them times–I was young that way: “I’m not singing for no Chinese.” There was a next one called “Woman Is Like A Shadow.” Coxsone called me and said, “I want you to sing this music, listen that tune,” so I thought it was an old song from some old group that never came out and he wanted me to do it over, but I didn’t know it was a Meditations song that never even came out yet. I did over “Woman Is Like A Shadow” and it came out before the original, because the original used to play on the sound. When my version drop in, the whole of Baktu was looking for me–it was a war with Channel One. Every time they try to do a Coxsone song I go and tell him, so they came and fling bottle and stone to mash Coxsone’s studio. They had the force–everybody was following the Chinese. Somehow Coxsone and Joe Joe got in some fight and that was that.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, Joseph Hoo-Kim contests Sugar’s version of events. (p.227)

In short, lawsuits such as this one threaten the very vitality of Jamaican popular music. I hope Dave Kelly, who himself stands on the shoulders of giants, reconsiders. And I would urge the Jamaican government to reshape their IP laws in a manner that attends to distinctive local creative processes.


January 29th, 2009

Deep Tweet of the Day


January 28th, 2009

Reggaeting o Reggaetang

Speaking of the difference between hip-hop and reggaeton, there’s been a heated discussion over at Raquel’s reggaetonica, redrawing yet again the lines in the sand between the two genres and rehashing lots of tropes about Puerto Rico, blackness, hip-hop, and so on.

The debate was initiated by a polemic published last fall by a god named Sunez, editor of Lavoe Revolt. I find Sunez’s tone a little too pedantic for my tastes (and “musicological” his analysis is NOT; don’t get me started on his description of how hip-hop emerges from reggae), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t raise good questions, as evidenced by the lively argument that ensues.

As for his wider points, I can see some merit in them, especially the critique of postcolonial “mental slavery” via the embrace of conspicuous consumption and degrading images of self/women, etc. But, really, that kind of criticism is not so different from the sort of stuff Stanley Crouch or Juan Williams say about hip-hop all the time. Much as I’m sympathetic to some of that, I guess my own pleasures listening to reggaeton and commercial hip-hop derive from a couple things: 1) the way that dance music, music that engages the body, serves as a kind of apolitical “politics” (an embrace of the sensual self that militates against the repression of our bodies in wider society); 2) the framing of conspicuous consumption as a militant stance re: enjoying the “good life” (flaunting symbols of wealth that have been denied to people of color for so long). In a sense, then, esp re: the latter point, I guess my position is kind of pragmatic / strategic. And overall, I suppose I do believe that the way such popular genres create communities holds some promise toward actual political mobilization, even if we haven’t seen much like that yet (tho the support for Obama among prominent rappers perhaps gestures that way).

I don’t feel the need to go through and debunk Sunez’s slandering of reggaeton point for point, especially since an anonymous commenter does a fine and thorough job of that. (Marisol is right to point out that the exchange becomes too much of a masculinist pissing contest and too “mired in issues of racial/cultural authenticity,” though I think Anonymous was simply seeking, in some sense, to playfully meet his interlocutor on some shared discursive ground.)

I have to chime in, though, along with Raquel & Anonymous, in defense of Tego. I guess I can understand how a dyed-in-the-wool New York rap fan might level such charges as —

Clearly put, [Tego Calderon] is an average MC (If he grew up in Brooklyn, he’d have no chance) who deliberately makes some sellout tracks to hustle his catalogue.

But that just doesn’t compute for me. And I can’t even claim to follow all the nuances of Tego’s deployment of Spanish, English, and old and new slanguage; I’m mostly reacting to flow when I listen to Tego. He’s an MC’s MC far as I’m concerned. I’ve weighed in on El Negro Calde here before, so I’ll save you my own treatises. I found the following pro-Tego jab by Anonymous to be both funny and spot-on —

I mean, if you can’t respect Tego’s technique maybe your Boricua Spanish needs a Windows Update, god.

For a little evidence, here’s some recent fuego from Tego, clowning on some clowns, no dembow needed. Love the line in the first verse which inspires the title of this post. Reggaeting o reggaetang? Dude can flip it flippant, seen? A little levity goes a long way.

Payaso (Part 2).mp3 – Tego Calderon ft. Chyno Nyno


January 26th, 2009

Are You African-American?

from a blog and forthcoming documentary re: “How rapid immigration from Africa and the Caribbean is transforming the African American narrative” (via) —

The Neo African Americans @ Yahoo! Video


January 24th, 2009

The Difference Between Hip-hop and Reggaeton

in under 14 seconds, by beatbox, c/o Vico C —

January 24th, 2009

Modern Ancient African Music

Since the conversation continues about trad v modern in African music, and since we read something germane about it for class yesterday, and since I’m still tryna maintain that pdf-blog grind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share another:

      >> Monson, Ingrid. “Riffs, Repetition, and Theories of Globalization.” Ethnomusicology 43,
      no. 1 (1999): 31-65.

Now, I don’t recommend the whole article; rather, I recommend skipping to p.52 and starting from there. Frankly, I find the part about globalization theory and riffs and Count Basie uncompelling and confusing (as did my students), but I do like the way that Monson zeroes in on some of the contradictions and challenges African musicians have faced working in the “world” industry.

Noting, for example, that Baaba Maal’s Firin in Fouta (1994) was received ambivalently by the “world music” market because of its incorporation of funk, reggae, hip-hop, “techno” (don’t know why Monson and Eyre call it that — sounds much more like house to me) and other Afrodiasporic/”Western” genres, Monson examines some of the reasons behind Maal’s aesthetic choices and why they fell flat for certain audiences:

Taking Baaba Maal’s words at face value, here’s some modern “ancient African music” — i.e., early 90s dancehall reggae. (I’d embed it here, but that’s been disabled by the rotting corpse known as universalmusicgroup — ah, industry so savvy.)

Actually, here it is via imeem —

[update 2/3/10: haha, so much for the imeem link, which disappeared after MySpace acquired and nuked the site; I guess no one wants people to hear Baaba Maal at w&w. sorry folks, you’ll have to hunt it down elsewhere.]


January 22nd, 2009

Broken Records, I’ve Got Tons of Em

…I want my hockey, need my hockey…


January 21st, 2009

The Work of Oprah in the Age of Disturbingly Faithful Hypercompetent Reproductions

I agree with Sharon and Boima, searching for authenticity is a good way to miss the forest for the trees. In other words, authenticity is so vague. Or as I’ve put it elsewhere (see note #2), there’s no there there.

Back to forests and trees. In the revised version of that globalization theory classic, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Arjun Appadurai argues that many accounts of globalization are riddled by “a confusion between some ineffable McDonaldization of the world and the much subtler play of indigenous trajectories of desire and fear with global flows of people and things.”

Discussing said subtler play of trajectories, Appadurai contends that “Americanization” is a “pallid term” to describe, for example, the “disturbingly faithful” Filipino renditions of American pop song (see p. 49). For those who don’t want to read the excerpt, I’ll skip straight to the kicker:

American nostalgia feeds on Filipino desire represented as a hypercompetent reproduction.

Munch on that money mouthful for a minute. Or better yet, watch this (& see also) —

CHARICE on OPRAH Show [FULL] – Charice / Charice Pempengco

The cherry on top? Appadurai brings it all back home with a Jamesonian flourish —

I would like to suggest that the apparent increasing substitutability of whole periods and postures for one another, in the cultural styles of advanced capitalism, is tied to larger global forces, which have done much to show Americans that the past is usually another country. If your present is their future (as in much modernization theory and in many self-satisfied tourist fantasies), and their future is your past (as in the case of the Filipino virtuosos of American popular music), then your own past can be made to appear as simply a normalized modality of your present.

This unleashing of the imagination links the play of pastiche (in some settings) to the terror and coercion of states and their competitors.

If you dislike that elliptical leap, I suggest you read the whole thing. And if you’re upset that I left Ramiele Malubay out of the conversation, feel free to leave a comment!


January 20th, 2009

Giving Away the Ending

It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a mix with y’all (not incl that brief bit for Blogariddims 50). No good reason for that. I’ve been DJing every Monday night at Beat Research and I’ve got as many ideas for thematic, quasi-pedagogical mixes as ever. Blame time (or lack thereof). The time it takes (me) to lovingly craft and edit and frame a mix.

Indeed, I even have to beg a little more time before I present the mix in its entirety. (Soon come!) But I’m eager to share something. So I’m going to leave you for now with the end of the mix, a mashup in standalone-ish form. Better than played on its own, I highly encouraging juggling it into a series of selections on the super-cinematic Beauty & Beast riddim(s) (co-sign on the Vegas and Chino tracks, btw!).

One of the things that most struck me about the Beauty riddim was the unexpected entrance of a distorted guitar at around the 2 minute mark — riffing on a melody, no less, which ineluctably (to my ears anyhow) invokes Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City.” It’s a jarring moment and seems as much an odd joke (“hey, remember Miami Vice?!”) as a perfectly genuine tribute to a pop-rock song that is no doubt now heard, (second) naturally, as an “oldie” and a “big tune” in Jamaica (where American pop, of even the schmaltziest sort, holds a special place in people’s hearts).

I assume everyone’s with me on this. If not, I’ve taken the liberty of making it painfully obvious —

Daseca + Glenn Frey, “You Belong to the Beauty” (w&w mash)

Note: I start the track at the point in the version where the guitar comes in — which should make it a nice drop if you’re juggling on the riddim and want to throw this in (but caveat DJ, the Frey song is not so easily reaccented for some listeners). Also, just technically speaking, I’ve pitched up the Frey song a couple semitones so that it better harmonizes with the Beauty.


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I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

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