January 29th, 2008

Ready for the Road (and the Remix)

With carnival jumping off in T&T over the next week — & Mardi Gras a week from today — tis the season for Trini artists to roll out the big guns: tunes so massive that they run the road once the marching begins (not to mention before and after all is danced and done).

The Masala boys have been shining some light on some of the bigger soca tracks to hit the airwaves this season, including a couple hip-hop / R&B flavored joints from the northward-leaning Mr.Slaughter (née Dawg E Slaughter, a longtime fave of mine, as repping soca in my 3:2 bloggamix). Indeed, the ‘osphere’s favorite MTLiens have been on the soca 08 grind for a minute. Back in December, they shared some of the new year’s more promising soca riddims, including a couple riding the nu-rave aesthetic sweeping softsynths everywhere. And they have the special distinction of putting me on to Eclectik’s “Roboman,” a truly off-the-wall production.

In recent days, they’ve spotlighted a few bangers from, among others, perennial road march champion, Machel Montano, who has enlisted Shaggy, among others, to help him run the road disya year. Which brings me to one of 08’s road tunes that no doubt will score big, perhaps even transcending the context-specific audience of carnival in T&T (and the diaspora). I’m talking about Montano’s bumper-pumper collabo with Lil Jon and Pitbull, “Defense” —

>> Machel Montano, Pitbull, and Lil Jon, “Defense” (aka, “The Anthem”)

Now, some listeners might find themselves instantly connecting with the track, especially that earworm sax riff. Familiar, no?

Well, this sort of remix — perhaps better described as a rehash — is indeed familiar territory for Lil Jon, who seems to have a (klepto?) penchant for taking lesser-known club hits (at least, lesser known in the US) and making them into mainstream hits. His “work” on the track above (which I do like quite a bit, despite my jeers here) is not unlike what he did on “Culo,” also with Pitbull as accomplice, via Mr.Vegas’s “Pull Up” and Scatta’s Coolie Dance riddim (though, at least he added a couple 808 kicks to that one) — a track that some decided was some straight-up tief-job, though I do believe he licensed the riddim eventually.

I wonder if he licensed this one beforehand this time? For those who don’t recognize that sax-riff, it’s been floating around in internat’l club culture for a good five years now. Just last year — and presumably this is how Lil Jon caught wind of it — it resurfaced yet again in the form of Enur & Natasja’s “Calabria 2007” — a socafied version of a previously housey romp, featuring the nonchalant patois patter of Danish reggae vocalist, Natasja Saad (who, sadly, died last year in a car accident in Jamaica).

As this informative article details, Enur = Rune, a Danish DJ/producer who introduced the irrepressible sax-riff to the Ibiza masses back in 03. A couple years after its initial appearance, yet another remix, a version which married the riff to some Crystal Waters vox and a much more pronounced (and boring) house beat — making for some srsly clubby queso — became a top 5 hit in the UK. And two years after that (i.e., last summer), the riff reared its head again with Ms.Saad pon top. Since then, other remixes have surfaced as well, including a version ft. Mims. The riff just keeps giving and giving, going and going — as such, it’s perfect for the endurance test that is carnival.

So, yeah, Likkle Jon is coming to this a little late, but better late than never, and better great than never too. Despite (or perhaps b/c of) the producer’s light touch in this most recent instance, the track is reborn yet again, perhaps in time to run the road in T&T, if not crack US radio playlists. (I’ve already heard it on JAM’N 94.5 here in Boston.) It’s not much of a stretch for Pitbull, who’s been riding uptempo Caribbeanish club jams for a minute now, including some of Mr.Collipark’s finest Afro-Cubist concoctions, often while reprising a well-worn melody from one Latin classic or another (not that I can spot this one — anyone?). Dude totally kills it here, and Machel Montano gives it a good go, too. No doubt it would get my vote for road march winner, except that, sad to say, I won’t be a-marching come this Fat Tuesday. But thanks for the vicarious vibes, guys!

Next year in Port of Spain!

(Or Rio. I’m not picky.)

28 Comments

  • 1. Birdseed  |  January 29th, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    That sax riff – there’s something familiar about it beyond a five-year-old club track (which I’ve inevitably heard before). There are qualities in it that strongly remind me of DJ Laz’s Gosadera which seems to be a takeoff on earlier music since bozos like this, that I found trying to search for the DJ Laz track, are doing something similar (yet entirely different). It must have some sort of origin in… salsa? (Just wildly guessing here.) What does “Gosadera” mean anyway?

  • 2. Boima Tucker  |  January 29th, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Fresh from a trip to Panama, some poor researching/timing has led me to miss their carnaval which starts on the 2nd. But… I was in time to pick up stacks of copies of the biggest tunes in Panama this year. Including the MASSIVE hit.. su madre… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vQzZMO2HI0 , which was censored by the politicians, and if you ask, any taxi driver has on cue to bump for you while you roll through the streets of Panama City. Escucha la letra, creative, political, anthemy, dirty, ready for the party.

    Also… Spanish Soca, here is one of my favorites… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjExwFXvpCs

    You should consider Panama as well next year!!!

  • 3. rupture  |  January 30th, 2008 at 1:36 am

    id been jamming to various latin & caribbean versions of that sax-beat for months now (quite popular on some of the latin mix sessions in nyc FM) before i found out about Natasja.. thanks for adding another layer of context to it.

    5 years old—its learned to walk & talk on its own….

  • 4. brad  |  January 30th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    the enur & natasja track has been getting quite a bit of play on dallas’ kzza (la casa, a “hip-hop y mas” station). the same station has recently added the lil jon and pitbull track. the station did not trade the latter for the former. both get played on the regular, sometimes with just a track or two between them.

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  January 30th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Interesting, Brad! Thanks for the anecdotal evidence. Sounds like the DJs are missing a golden opportunity for some ol’ fashioned juggling, tho.

    Likewise, /rupture. I’m not surprised to learn that there are yet other versions floating around out there. I’d love to hear them. Too bad one can’t quite google a riff yet.

    And good question, Birdseed. I wonder where that riff comes from. Sounds like some fairly standard squawking to me, effective earworm nevertheless.

    Finally, thx for pointing to those tracks, Boima. Good stuff. “Su Madre” is hilarious. Kinda Tego-ish in some regards (humor, racial politics).

  • 6. ghis  |  January 30th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I had the version with Lil Jon and Pitbull before. Just found out the one with Machel added to it and it’s so far the best one ! I predict that Machel will smash everybody at the Carnaval and will be the king again and again.

    Lil Jon is like Kanye West but with another perspective. Instead of sampling US funk/soul he have a larger curiosity and he’s recycling whatever he want in a club perspective for the US (and now caribbean) market. He have a good intuition. Before it was eurodance synths for crunk, now it’s housy sax, what’s next ?

  • 7. wayneandwax  |  January 30th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I was just struck, Brad, by the idea that Dallas has a “hip-hop y mas” station called “La Casa.” Does it compete with a local version of “La Kalle” (reggaeton y mas)? In which case, or even so, I wonder what to make of hip-hop representing the home and reggaeton the street. Seems telling, or maybe I’m just reading too closely.

  • 8. Birdseed  |  January 30th, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Hip-hop is a very local-geography-centered music style isn’t it? Is there any other music with as many references to the geographical home of the people involved? “Reppin the hood”, “cruisin down my block”, “swisha house”, etc. etc.

  • 9. wayneandwax  |  January 30th, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    No doubt, Birdseed — though I can’t offer any kind of quantitative evidence to support the idea that hip-hop is more concerned with place than any other genre. That argument, however, is essentially the central thrust of Murray Forman’s book, The Hood Comes First — well worth checking out if you’re interested in an extended examination of the centrality, and ubiquity, of the local in hip-hop.

  • 10. Guillaume / Masala  |  January 30th, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I found a Baile Funk version a couple month ago

  • 11. brad  |  January 30th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    wayne, the local version of la kalle (reggaeton y mas) is, not surprisingly, la kalle (reggaeton y mas). while the la kalle and la casa are different, they do compete. even without listening to them, the differences between the two stations are quite obvious–check out the web sites:

    http://www.casa1067.com/ (la casa)

    and

    http://www.univision.com/content/channel.jhtml?chid=9683&schid=12052 (la kalle)

    as you can see from looking at the web sites, there might be something to your comment about the home vs. the street (inside vs. outside), but i don’t know if it is related to genre, language, or culture. or, perhaps, it is related to all three.

    la casa is, for lack of a better term, more “spanglish” than la kalle. the djs (mixers and on-air personalities) are often the children of mexican immigrants. they have grown up in the u.s. and seem comfortable in, and enlightened by, the two cultures in which they are rooted. They switch between english and spanish during phone calls, song intros, etc. it is certainly not a coincidence that they work for a station that plays music that straddles these cultures, languages, etc. the station is “open” to a person whether or not he speaks spanish. in fact, i would say that it is more accessible to a person who speaks only english than a person who speaks only spanish.

    la kalle, on the other hand, is a spanish-speaking station. the “y mas” refers to other spanish-language genres. unlike la casa, is is not as “open” to a person who does not speak spanish or speaks spanish poorly, nor does it go out of its way to cater to people who grew up immersed in the culture of the english-speaking portion of the u.s.a. in fact, i’m sure that some of my relatives–who, despite growing up in texas have never become accustomed to, or familiar with, spanish–would argue that it goes out of its way to leave those people “outside.”

    the relationship between the two stations it quite interesting. la casa has been around longer than la kalle. it was the first dallas station i heard play reggaeton. before la kalle came on-air with its focus on “reggaeton y mas,” la casa emphasized the “y mas” part of its name, playing playing lots of reggaeton. after la kalle came on-air, la casa slowly reduced the amount of reggaeton it played. these days, it mostly plays the big reggaeton tracks from a few years ago.

    the “hip-hop y mas” format is quite popular in the dallas/ft. worth area. knon, a local community station (www.knon.org) offers 25-30 or so hours of “latin energy” radio a week. though most of the djs (all mixers, not just radio personalities) focus on rap, the also play reggaeton, freestyle, tejano, cumbia, the ever-popular cumbia/rap blends, house, the list goes on.

  • 12. Boima Tucker  |  January 30th, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Calabria Versions? Magic Juan who does stuff with Merengue artists did “Sudor” and there’s a Merengue version by Moreno Negron (which is my favorite).

    Out here in the Bay on La Kalle, they were playing the Magic Juan version before the Pitbull Version.

    I also think it’s telling that Pitbull references a Merengue song with the chourus of “Mami el Negro,” which was also has been used over and over.

  • 13. Boima Tucker  |  January 30th, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    You can’t beat this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDo3nA8PNks

  • 14. Boima Tucker  |  January 31st, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Mami el negro esta rabioso is by Wilfredo Vargas, and used also by DJ Laz.

  • 15. wayneandwax  |  January 31st, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Man, that kid is totally awesome, Boima. (So is this setting.) Love how the Moreno Negron version adds the James Brown woop from the “Think” break, too! So many layers here. Glad to hear that Magic Juan is in on the action as well, and he adds an allusion to “Culo” / “Pull Up” to boot!

    Now that you call attention to it (as Birdseed had hinted above), it’s pretty obvious that the sax riff is a merengue-style riff: both rhythmically and harmonically, it sounds more at home in merengue than in house or soca (tho it sounds pretty good there too). & thx for spotting the Pitbull melody! (The title of the Vargas tune, btw, appears to be “El Africano.” According to a comment here, although popularized by Vargas, the song was written by Colombian vallenato artist Calixto Ochoa. Seems like a weird song to me. Rabid negroes? Crazy Colombians.)

    Pitbull’s interpolation of “El Africano” helps to affirm the riff’s merengue-ness even further. The DJ Laz connection, also mentioned by Birdseed above, adds yet another layer of referentiality and circularity: amazing that the Vargas tune found its way into Miami bass 17 years before Pitbull reprised it!

    Loving this one more and more —

  • 16. Boima Tucker  |  January 31st, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Yeah, there are so many connections, there’s even a remix on the official Calabria single that samples the Coolie Dance Riddim (Pull Up?) And I’ve even heard a JUMPSTYLE remix!!! It seems every dance culture has grabbed it. Which reminds me… have you heard of Bubbling? It’s a style that I heard in the Netherlands by some dj kids from Suriname that played after me at a club? I have version in that too.

    I have to admit the chorus of El Africano never sat well with me (and now that I see the real title, even less,) and whenever I bring it up to my latino friends it always goes in the DIRECTION of “there’s no racism in latin america!” Or they tell me the interpretation isn’t has harsh as it would seem as in English, in the States.

    But Pitbull is right. EVERYONE knows that song. It IS an anthem, and when you play it in the club or even at a family party everyone sings along. But with all the undertones in AMERICAN society, Latino OR Gringo, mami, el negro debe ser rabioso, no?

    I wonder how little Jon feels about it?

  • 17. Boima Tucker  |  January 31st, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    The Coolie Dance Riddim is pretty racist too.

  • 18. wayneandwax  |  January 31st, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Race and racism across Latin America is a complicated thing, no doubt. And denial, as they say, ain’t just a river in Egypt. Speaking of which, since you bring up racial representation via riddims, I’d also submit the face of “20 Tomb Raiders” —

    & no doubt re: the racism of the Coolie Dance. Some of those Greensleeves covers are really ridiculous, esp from dancehall’s “orientalist” period of 03-04. Some might call it kitchy or ironic, but it’s sad but true that “coolie” remains a term of derision and degradation in Jamaica for people of East Indian descent (a small but visible minority). I discussed all this, briefly, in my piece on JA & the war on terror from a few years back.

    I’d love to hear the jumpstyle and bubbling versions! zShare away! re: bubbling, it’s definitely an amazing post-colonial musical stye all its own. I’ve long been a fan of the genre’s madcap mix of dancehall and rave. Lots of parallels to proto-reggaeton and funk carioca in its approach to sampling and well-worn drum loops. Check the w&w archives —
    http://wayneandwax.blogspot.com/2005/10/bubble-up.html
    http://wayneandwax.blogspot.com/2005/10/success-for-these-djs-is-virtually.html
    http://wayneandwax.blogspot.com/2006/06/bubble-on.html

    Come to think of it, apropos indeed, I even mashed up Pitbull with a bubbling track on my other crunk genealogy.

    And round and round we go…

  • 19. Birdseed  |  February 1st, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I’m thinking it would be interesting to email/phone Rune and see where his inspiration for the riff comes from. I could do it if you like, I understand Danish passably.

  • 20. wayneandwax  |  February 1st, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Sounds good to me, Birdseed. Give it a shot. Of course, calling it “inspiration” makes it sound a little like Rune played the riff rather than, I assume, sampled it. I’d be curious to find out where it comes from — or how he came to it — one way or another.

  • 21. Boima Tucker  |  February 1st, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    A Jumpstyle Medley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpl1PmKs_Gs
    Bubbling mix (sounds like a pre-cursor to Calabria 2007): http://www.zshare.net/audio/709114853dbdc7/

  • 22. wayneandwax  |  February 1st, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    These are awesome! Thanks, Boima. We are truly living in the age of the remix. It’s quite amazing how something like that sax riff can find itself reconfigured dozens of times over, recontextualized in so many ways, in so many different places, in such a short span of time.

  • 23. masala  |  February 1st, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Apparently Machel is not in the race this year… http://www.toronto-lime.com/carnival/tnt_results.htm

    True that his 2008 production are not as good as last year but I would have think that Whining Season would make it for groovy soca monarch… My pick for road march is Blaxx with Roy Cape All Stars ‘Breathless’. I’m curious to see if this Defense calabria version with Machel is makin’ it to the street of POS ??? My favorite version still Magic Juan with Sudor :)

  • 24. Danish  |  February 4th, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Loving this post and the info in the comments.

    Machel, like veteran soca artist David Rudder, no longer competes in any national event. Thus, Machel would not compete in the Groovy Soca Monarch – in fact, his role on Fantastic Friday is that of a ‘guest performer’. Morever, the crop of groovy soca hits have only improved over time…giving them an arena in which to shine has only improved the quality and variety within the sub-genre. ‘Wining Season’ *big*, but he would’ve had a run for the money.

    More on Machel: interestingly enough, despite a string of hits over the years, until ‘band of the year’ in 2006, he had not won the Roadmarch title since his seminal hit ‘Big Truck’ in 1997! All that said, when he wants to take the Road, he does. I, too, prefer his 2K7 offerings to this year’s, but he have some big tunes.

    His ‘defense’ tune is large, but is not the type of tune that would take roadmarch – that struck me as an effort at a tune with more mass appeal and thus crossover potential (especially being a ‘refix’ of a club hit). It’s also ‘non-seasonal’ – I can see that tune getting spins in T&T, elsewhere in the West Indies (and dare I say, internationally), regardless of being in Carnival season.

  • 25. wayneandwax  |  February 4th, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for setting the record straight, Danish. You’re a fount of T&T musical knowledge. I guess the tune struck me as more a play for crossover success, too; let’s hope so.

    btw, Boima, et al.: Danish points out (via email) that “Date la Vuelta” — the Spanish soca track from Panama mentioned above — is on the Christmas riddim, a soca parang riddim from T&T. In that way, it’s fairly consistent with reggae in Panama, which has been using (and sometimes relicking) JA riddims for decades now.

  • 26. Birdseed  |  February 9th, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I got a reply from Rune/Enur in the mail today. It’s in Danish but I’ll try to translate it for you.

    “Hello Johan. Unfortunately it’s nothing so magical as one could have hoped involved in the making of the saxophone riff. I spent an evening playing around with some saxophone samples I’d found. It was some notes I’d been given. After a while I had cut together the original riff. It took about an hour to make the original Calabria. It was probably the best time/investment I’ve ever spent. The original has sold 3 million copies, and with all the versions it should have sold much more by now.

    I’ve been extremely fortunate with this track, for a long time no-one wanted to publish it.

    There are probably quite a few record executives who feel a bit like fools today. :-)

    Hope you can use this for something.

    Sincerely, rune rk.”

  • 27. wayneandwax  |  February 10th, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Thanks for sharing, Birdseed, though I think Rune raises more questions than he answers. I’m still dying to know where he got the samples/notes in question (were they “given” to him or “found”?). Were they played by a merengue saxophonist? A jazz wonk? His little brother? How exactly did he transform it from the original into his killer earworm? Perhaps he doesn’t want to give all this away, which I can understand, but I’m not really sure what this answer reveals, except for Rune’s graciousness in replying to (y)our query.

  • 28. wayneandwax  |  February 15th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Vybz Kartel pon the reeeeemix —

Wayne&Wax

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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