April 24th, 2007

Keep It Movin Like the Zunguzung & Other Uprock Narratives

JC on JB

Back from Seattle, which was a blast (see below). Off to Boston tomorrow. Gonna be in the Bean (and the Bridge) for a spell, presenting a revised version of the Zunguzung tale I told this past weekend, weighing in on the White Rapper Show alongside some hip-hop(-studying) ethnomusicologists, and delivering what have become my annual lectures on Caribbean music in Orlando Patterson’s “Caribbean Societies” class. I’m also DJing an organic farm benefit. Tony Rebel anyone?

But, yeah, EMP was quite a delight. The conference had an energy and levity that I really appreciated, especially in contrast to the music conferences I’m used to. (It also had far superior soundsystems — crucial!) And of course, it was great to be in the same place as so many of my favorite music writers, critics, and scholars. Too much to say really, and too little time. But thanks to Elizabeth Mendez Berry for revisiting her “Love Hurts” piece (and noting that, contrary to what her editors decided, it’s not love that hurts); to Ned Sublette for being a righteous mofo and calling for impeachment and insurrection prior to delivering a diatribe on what New Orleans means (look out for his next book); to Joshua Clover for engagingly discussing 1989, “1989,” Jesus Jones, and “nerf humanism,” to name a few; to Charles Hughes for plumbing the soul-country crossover; and, among many many more, to Sasha Frere Jones, for calling attention to the role Soundscan has played in Billboard’s charts, changing the number of #1 songs from, say, 33 in 1988, to 12 in 2001 and pushing us into r&b hegemony. Sasha read the #1 hits from 2004 and 2005 as poetry, which was quite effective and went something like —

Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya

Anyhow, you get the picture, even if this is inaccurate and doesn’t capture Sasha’s emotive inflection.

One final highlight that I must mention, tho: Dr. Joe Twist offered an ably demonstrated story about the transition from uprocking to b-boying, framing the move to the floor as analogous to the shift from funk to hip-hop and excavating more of hip-hop’s Latin roots. Breaks beget breaking, or something like that. (Look out for that book, too!) Meantime, check the technique —

Finally, to top off the weekend in Seattle (which I should note, contrary to legend, aside from a lil drizzle, was warm and sunny almost the entire time), I met up with Filastine at about 1am on Saturday night, post-Matos’s-post-conference party, and he took me to an all-night underground speakeasy type of thing, complete with cabaret and craps tables. It was something else. Lots of kids dressed to the nines, pretending it was the 20s, wading through warehouse puddles in their finery. The proprietors asked me to DJ, and lucky enough I still had my laptop with me. I was happy to take people into the wee hours, spinning across some crunk genealogies from about 4 to just after 6am. We capped the long night w/ some breakadawn couscous and (what Filastine called) “Indian Space Food” for breakfast. After grabbing a little sleep and some dim sum, it was back to the airport. And, now, I’d better wrap up this post, so I can head back to the airport once again.

Maybe see you in Bawstin —


  • 1. SAChoirgirl  |  April 24th, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Well done on a super paper, Wayne. I really appreciated your smooth delivery, and your very effective and clear integration of your musical examples with your analysis. It really was a great conference.

  • 2. Birdseed  |  April 24th, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I’m ready to blame the various nutty, capricious ways the billboard chart has been calculated and collected through the years for quite a few musical developments, the Sundscan/R&B one being just one of many things through the years. From the way they’ve accidentally named/created loads and loads of genres (Rhythm & Blues and Country & Western being the first ones) to the way an artist like Rick James never got the white fans he deserved, partly because the Pop charts only counted readings from white “pop-market” record stores…

    Believe me, SoundScan might be imperfect but it’s a lot better than the old system.

  • 3. ripley  |  April 25th, 2007 at 2:24 am

    it sounded like a great event! Congrats, I’m sorry I missed it. nearly perfect convergence

    You, Simon, Stelfox, Filastine.. I’d build a city like that.. as long as it had an airport and hobo-friendly trainlines.

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  May 10th, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    FYI — I’ve posted the “full” Zunguzung paper (at least the version I offered at EMP and IASPM last month) here.


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.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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