July 1st, 2008

Doblando pa la Izquierda

I’ve been trying to get around to posting about Miti Miti, and since Geko Jones (notably, while making reference to the duo) and others have been wondering aloud again about the practice of global gobbledicrunk, while Kevin’s translating salsa songs & whatnot, today seems as good a day as any.

Primero, I need to thank Raquel for urging me to give them a second listen, since I guess I must have encountered Miti Miti earlier this spring via Carolina. No gran sorpresa that these two querida colleagues would have gotten wind of the project: the “avant duo” has been blowing up the NYC cosmopolatino scene, headlining recently at a Nacotheque event. It’s a little telling that the act didn’t make an impression on me back when Caro wrote about them, but quizas that’s because all I saw/heard was a rather avant vid and, more to the point, b/c I didnt hear “miti miti in a house” or “nariz de coco” (both streaming here).

Those two songs definitely get me with their weird, suggestive, fun mix of electro, dancehall, merengue, new-wave postpunkish & whoknows whatelse. Raquel says she gets a kick out of their “weaving in of merengue and gagá and their hillarious/cryptic lyrics.” Me too! But while I definitely hear the merengue, I’m not too familiar with gagá, so I can’t pick that out as much (despite having done a little YouTubing for clues), though I do think I hear it in the galloping clave of “Darte” (which combines Fannypack-ish booty-kitsch w/ the apparently explicit sexuality of gagá pretty well). & I have to confess that mi español is, regrettably, not quite sharp enough to appreciate the lyrical nuance in realtime. (Ya no he vivido en un lugar donde se habla, tusabes?) So I’m exxxxxtra grateful to Raq for sending some transcription my way —

Yo quiero que este disco
De vuelta hacia la izquierda
No para oir al diablo
Ni tampoco a Juan Luis Guerra
Yo quiero que este disco
Te saque to’a la caspa
Con más pelo en la boca
Que el bigote de Zapata

Ni tampoco a Juan Luis Guerra! That kills me.

10 Comments

  • 1. roger  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 2:13 am

    I’ve been enjoying these Miti Miti tunes as well. Crazy stuff. And gaga has been sumpthin’ mysterious for me since I bought a mix cd on the beach in Boca Chica DR about 4 years ago. The CD just read “GaGa” in black marker. I can’t understand any of the lyrics. I can’t seem to find anymore music quite like it. No info about the artists.

    Speaking of Dominican music at Dutty Artz… the latest post shares some pretty heavy tunes.
    “PERO CUANDO FUE LA ULTIMA VEZ K U REMEMBER AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE POP SONG ABOUT A CRASHING PLANE?!?!”

    here is a tune from the unlabelled “Boca Chica Ga GA comp”:

    Tune: Boca Chica Ga Ga track one

  • 2. Caro  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Hey Wayne, so you didn’t believe me, and it took Raquel to convince you. S’aight, I’m not offended, no, not really.

    But seriously, when I posted on these girls back when, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about them either. I went back and forth between thinking they were genius and thinking they were a pretentious art project. And yeah, the one video was not all that inspiring, seemed like some art school crap. I still want to see them live (I missed their NY show) to see how some of the “chatarra” (junky) aesthetic plays out.

    One of the things I find appealing about them is the clever lyrics, on the par with the best silly merengue lyrics of the 80s (a style they’re totally drawing from). I went around singing “lo que quiero es darte, lo que quiero es darte, lo que quiero es darte complejos” (I just want to give you, I just want to give you, I just want to give you, an inferiority complex).

    I love how they use the ñato intonation as a estranging sound effect (hard to translate ñato, it’s a highly nasal tone you hear most often in perico ripiao and other country musics).

    As for the gagá, it’s kinda subtle in the songs they posted, but I can hear it. The horns/synths are played in this rhythm that imitates the circling fututo in gagá. Speaking of gagá, the last time I was in the DR (in Jan.) I heard on the street this stuff that friends later identified as “electro gagá,” very sinthy version of what’s already a pretty stripped down music, but have not yet found any recordings. For the basics in the traditional sound, there’s a great Folkways release of field recordings in Boca Chica, Haina, Elias Piña and various Haiti spots:

    http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2276

  • 3. Caro  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Just listened to the tune Roger posted. The vocalists are singing in Kreyol, but that sound has next to nothing to do with gagá. Interesting stuff, though. Guess I’ll have to take a field trip to Boca Chica next time I’m out there.

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Kreyol, eh? That’s interesting.

    As for whether it has nothing/anything to do with gagá, I’m not so sure, since gagá appears to be closely related to Haitian rara (and perhaps they still enjoy some interplay?). As you note, the two genres are often presented side-by-side. Both are Easter-time festival genres, at least in their trad/folk/pre-electro incarnations. (Perhaps the relationship is not unlike merengue/meringue?)

    I guess you’re saying that the sound of the track doesn’t remind you of gagá, but to my (uninformed) ears, the track that Richard shared doesn’t sound too far from the Miti Miti stuff (never mind kuduro — gotta love the worldwide carnival-fruityloops complex) as well as the FREDERICK dancing video: same tempo, similar rhythms too (if sometimes synthesized instead of guitar & clave). But this is all from a pretty provisional/partial perspective, I should emphasize.

    &thanks for the term ñato — do you know whether it’s also used in PR? There’s a particular nasal style I hear in everything from bomba to Maelo to Yankee, and I’ve always wondered whether there was a local term for it.

  • 5. Caro  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Actually, ñato/a is a way of describing a certain speech impediment, not exactly “voz de vieja” (old lady’s voice) that you hear in jíbaro/country musics (PR as much as DR). There’s a whole genre of ñato jokes, totally untranslatable and untranscribable even.

    Rara & gagá basically versions of the same thing, especially considering the large # of people of Haitian descent in Dominican bateyes. Merengue/meringue are a little more distinct from one another.

  • 6. wayneandwax  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Right, voz de vieja. I knew that. I think. Also known as “la voz laina,” no?

    And true about merengue/meringue, though the etymological-geographical link suggests a connection. Then again, maybe it’s just natural to refer to a certain style as having the qualities of whipped egg whites. It’s true that “merengue” means something else entirely, for instance, in the world of Colombian vallenato.

    To my ears, tho I’ve only heard traditional meringue, the Haitian version reminds me a lot more of Cuban son — with which it’s no doubt had a lot of interplay (son oriente, sí) — and the DR version has gone in a much faster, dance-centric direction while retaining similar elements of song form. I admit again, however, that I’m a little out of my areas of expertise here.

  • 7. ñata  |  July 17th, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    guys, gaga is rara. due to the french colonization process, the haitian pronounce the r as something close to the g sound in the DR. the gaga form evolved from the gaga (rara) festivals the haitians working in the bateyes in the sugarcane fields celebrate, a haitian-dominican expresion since it now includes lyrics in spanish (dominican) and other elements that didn’t come with rara. i’m guessing rara comes from arará, which is one of the west african ethnicities that populated the caribbean. i would recommend you guys visit a Batey on jueves santo. if you’re interested i can hook you up, the festivities last till sunday and there are many rituals involved since it is a celebracion magico-religiosa. to me applied ñato and voz de vieja come from the same peasant background, a hunger struck cante jondo…

  • 8. wayneandwax  |  July 17th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Droppin gems. Gracias!

    & I’ll be sure to be in touch if I’m headed to Hispaniola at the right time of year.

  • 9. Boima  |  July 19th, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for the info on gaga. In my always enthusiastic excitement to draw connections I was wondering the link between a Mende rhythm and the gaga rhythm.

    But there’s probably not a link to specifically the Mende. I wikipediaed Arara and see that the people of that collective ethnicity are from around Allada in Benin and are from the Gbe language family of the Atlantic Branch of the Niger-Congo Language family, and the Mende are a subgroup of the Mande language family. So no direct connection? Oh well. Thanks for the info!

  • 10. anav  |  March 4th, 2009 at 9:18 am

    vamo en fila india pa la dicoteca..

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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