Archive of posts tagged with "brazil"

February 6th, 2012

Old Electrical Boxes & Other Rituals

We’ve got another promising Boston premiere this week (that’s Tuesday 2/7) at Beat Research.

Ekip Ritual is an ongoing collaboration between “nordestino” electro-percussion wiz, Kiddid, and Brazilian reggae/alt-pop vocalist Massarock. Drawing on soundsystem culture, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and pop music sensibilities, the duo ride the “global bass” wave with aplomb.

Listen, say, to “Caixas Elétrica Antigas” (that’s “Electrical Boxes Old” according to Google), an apt title given the vintage gleam on the percussion that propels it:

Another strong offering, “Arroxa na Ecuridão,” shows that the vintage-contempo combo goes well beyond gimmickry —

Indeed, Kiddid has been going pretty deep into some of these sounds recently. Much of what you hear in the tracks above — despite an uncanny resemblance to time-honored beat-boxes — are sounds and (virtual) instruments he made himself. A longstanding passion and more recently a vocation, Kidid has been working for Puremagnetik for the past year, designing instruments for Live, Logic, and Kontakt, including his first big project, released last month: modeled after the Yamaha DX7, the DeeEx offers access to some classic-sounding 80s-esque synthesis. Apparently, he’s also just finished a project using the Operator and Analog synths and his designs are being considered for inclusion in Ableton Live 9.

As someone who’s been using Kiddid’s killer tracks as secret weapons for years now, none of that last paragraph comes as a surprise. But it sure whets my appetite for tomorrow’s show! Yours too? If so, you know where to find us –

Good Life Bar
28 Kingston St.
Boston
9pm-1am
FREE

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September 2nd, 2010

Global Reggae

Next week I begin teaching my second course at MIT. It’s a new syllabus, though it draws on certain materials I’ve used before. In contrast to previous offerings, however, this will be the first time I teach a class with a primary focus on reggae outside of Jamaica — on what I’m calling here “global reggae” or “reggae as transnational culture.”

No doubt we’ll encounter a good number of themes resonant with the inextricably related subject of global hip-hop. But I’m also keen to identify particular dimensions of reggae’s transmission and transformation abroad that might, for significant reasons, diverge from the reception and refiguring of hip-hop around the world. We’ll let you know ;)

Meantime, if you happen to know any MIT students to whom this sort of course would appeal, by all means point them this-a-way. And if you spot any conspicuous absences in the syllabus below — a work-in-progress, as always — please do point them out, make recommendations, & feel free to offer critiques, supplements, and blessings.

global reggae: reggae as transnational culture

21F.035 / 21M.539 Topics in Culture and Globalization
Global Reggae: Reggae as Transnational Culture

Fall 2010
MIT

Wayne Marshall
Mellon Fellow in the Humanities
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Music and Theater Arts

Tuesday/Thursday 12:30-2:00 pm
Room 14N-217

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Reggae is incontestably one of the most popular musics in the world. Despite its origins in the working-class urban culture of the relatively small country of Jamaica, reggae artists have powerfully projected their voices outward (in part via the imperial networks of the UK and USA) and one can hear reggae today in almost any corner of the globe—not just Jamaican reggae, but local versions and fusions with nearly every other conceivable genre. Reggae precedes the global reach of its progeny, hip-hop, but, in its dancehall guise, it has also in turn piggybacked on hip-hop’s own impressive international spread. As remix approaches and massive sound systems have become increasingly common worldwide, reggae stands as a remarkably influential template for world music, electronic dance music, and popular music more generally. Itself constituted by international flows of music and musicians but increasingly produced outside of Jamaica, reggae thus offers a rich resource for the examination of today’s global circulations of music and media.

This course considers reggae, or Jamaican popular music more generally—in its various forms (ska, rocksteady, roots, dancehall)—as constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways, cast variously as Jamaican, Caribbean, Afrodiasporic, and/or black, and recast through the cultural logics of the new spaces it enters, the new soundscapes it permeates. By reading across the reggae literature, as well as considering reggae texts themselves (songs, films, videos, and images), we will scrutinize the different interpretations of reggae’s significance and the implications of different interpretations of the story of Jamaica and its music. We will attend in particular to how reggae informs notions of selfhood and nationhood, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, religion and politics—in particular places and at particular times.

Although Bob Marley still serves as the most ubiquitous symbol of reggae (and, indeed, of Jamaica), the reggae tradition and repertory go far deeper and represent a great deal to listeners and practitioners. In its shifting shapes and forms the genre has served for four decades as a potent symbol of independence and social critique, communitarian commitment as well as rugged individualism. While certain core values appear regularly in reggae, the genre also offers a rather flexible palette for a wide range of ideological positions, from Pan-Africanism and other forms of transnationalism to utterly provincial nationalism, from peaceful and respectful postures to aggressive machismo and militancy, from tolerance to its own forms of oppression. Perhaps most notably, reggae has made such scripts of personhood and nationhood available not only to Jamaicans but to people around the world who have adopted the genre’s gestures as their own.

Beginning with a consideration of how Jamaica’s popular music industry emerged out of transnational exchanges, the course will proceed to focus on reggae’s circulation outside of Jamaica via diasporic networks and commercial mediascapes. Attending to how the genre’s pliable but distinct forms have been, in turn, transformed in particular localities, the course will help to illuminate ongoing dynamics between the global and local. Among other sites, we will consider reggae’s resonance and impact elsewhere in the Anglo Caribbean (e.g., Trinidad, Barbados), the United Kingdom (including British reggae styles but also such progeny as jungle, grime, and dubstep), the United States (both as reggae per se and in hip-hop), France and Germany, Panama and Puerto Rico and other Latin American locales (e.g., Brazil), Japan and Australia, as well as West, South, and East Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda).

COURSE SCHEDULE

JAMAICA

Bilby, Kenneth. “Jamaica.” In Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, ed. Peter Manuel, 143-182. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995.

Veal, Michael. Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007. [Intro & ch. 1, p. 1-44]

Thomas, Deborah. “Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical ‘Tripping’ on Black Vernacular Culture.” In Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica, 230-62. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.

Chude-Sokei, Louis. “Post-Nationalist Geographies: Rasta, Ragga, and Reinventing Africa.” African Arts, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Autumn 1994): 80-84, 96.

Patterson, Orlando. “Ecumenical America: Global Culture and the American Cosmos.” World Policy Journal Vol. 11, No. 2 (1994): 103-17.

Watch: excerpts from Roots, Rock, Reggae, Harder They Come, Dancehall Queen, Third World Cop, Shottas

UNITED KINGDOM

Bennett, Louise. “Colonization in Reverse.” (1966)

Jones, Simon. Black Culture, White Youth: The Reggae Tradition from JA to UK. London: Macmillan, 1988. [ch. 2, 4, Conclusion, p. 33-56, 87-118, 231-40.]

Gilroy, Paul. “Between the Blues and the Blues Dance: Some Soundscapes of the Black Atlantic.” In The Auditory Culture Reader, ed. Michael Bull and Les Back, 381-95. Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers, 2003.

Hebdige, Dick. Cut’n’Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music. London: Routledge, 1987. [ch. 11-12, p. 90-117]

Sharma, Sanjay. “Noisy Asians or ‘Asian’ Noise?” [p. 32-60] & Shirin Housee & Mukhtar Dar, “Re-Mixing Identities: ‘Off’ the Turn-Table” [p. 81-104]. In Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music. London: Zed Books, 1996.

Quinn, Steven. “Rumble In The Jungle: The Invisible History of Drum’n’Bass.” Transformations, No. 3 (May 2002): 1-12.

Watch: excerpts from Reggae In a Babylon, Babylon, Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music
Listen: “An England Story

UNITED STATES

Chang, Jeff. “Making a Name: How DJ Kool Herc Lost His Accent and Started Hip-Hop.” In Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005. [ch. 4, p. 67-88]

Kenner, Rob. “Dancehall,” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 350-7. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Marshall, Wayne. “Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme”
<http://wayneandwax.com/?p=137>.

Marshall, Wayne. “Hearing Hip-hop’s Jamaican Accent.” Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 34, no. 2 (2005): 8-9, 14-15.
<http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/isam/NewsletS05/Marshall.htm>

Koppel, Niko. “New Roots in the Bronx for a Lion of Reggae.” New York Times, April 12, 2009.
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/nyregion/13reggae.html>

Faraone, Chris. “Reggae Revival.” [on reggae in Boston] Boston Phoenix, May 21, 2009.
<http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/83777-reggae-revival>

Stephens, Michelle A. “Babylon’s ‘Natural Mystic’: The North American Music Industry, the Legend of Bob Marley, and the Incorporation of Transnationalism.” Cultural Studies Vol. 12, No. 2 (1998): 139–167.

Watch: excerpts from Sound Class, Marked for Death, Belly, Predator 2

COSTA RICA

Putnam, Lara. “The Weekly Reggee: The Greater Caribbean Jazz Age and Youth Dances in Limon, Costa Rica, 1930-1932.” Unpublished/forthcoming.

PANAMA

Bishop, Marlon. “Spanish Oil.” Wax Poetics 43 (September 2010).

Worfalk, Clayton. The Roots. Big Up Magazine, 2008.
<http://thebigupmagazine.com/blog/about/music/the-roots/>

Twickel, Christoph. “Reggae in Panama: Bien Tough.” & “Muévelo (Move It!): From Panama to New York and Back Again, the Story of El General.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 81-88 & 99-108. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Nwankwo, Ifeoma C. K. “The Panamanian Origins of Reggae en Español: Seeing History through ‘Los Ojos Café’ of Renato.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 89-98. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

PUERTO RICO

Giovannetti, Jorge L. “Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols.” In Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas, ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Flores, Juan. 2004. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro 16, no. 2 (Fall): 283-289.

Marshall, Wayne. “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 19-76. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

CUBA

Davis, Samuel Furé. “Reggae in Cuba and the Hispanic Caribbean: fluctuations and representations of identities.” Black Music Research Journal Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2009): 25-50.

Hansing, Katrin. “Rasta, Race and Revolution: Transnational Connections in Socialist Cuba.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4 (2001): 733 – 747.

Baker, Geoffrey. 2009. “The Politics of Dancing.” In Reggaeton, eds. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 165-99. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Fairley, Jan. 2008. “How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender and Sexuality in Cuba.” In Reggaeton, eds. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 280-96. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

BRAZIL

Behague, Gerard. “Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-95).” Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 79-90.

de Araújo Pinho, Osmundo. “‘Fogo na Babilônia’: Reggae, Black Counterculture, and Globalization in Brazil.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn (New York: Routledge, 2001), 192-206.

dos Santos Godi, Antonio J. V. “Reggae and Samba-Reggae in Bahia: A Case of Long-Distance Belonging.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn (New York: Routledge, 2001), 207-219.

Neate, Patrick and Damian Platt. Culture Is Our Weapon: Afroreggae in the Favelas of Rio [ch 3, 4, 7, 8].

Goodman, Steve. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. [ch. 31, p. 171-5]

Watch: excerpts from Favela Rising, Favela on Blast

WEST, EAST, AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

Akindes, Simon. “Playing It ‘Loud and Straight’: Reggae, Zouglou, Mapouka and Youth Insubordination in Côte d’Ivoire.” In Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa, ed. Mai Palmberg & Annemette Kirkegaard, 86-103. Nordic Africa Institute, 2002.

McNee, Lisa. “Back From Babylon: Popular Musical Cultures of the Diaspora, Youth Culture and Identity in Francophone West Africa.” In Music, Popular Culture, Identities, ed. Richard Young, 213-228. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

Savishinsky, Neil J. “Rastafari in the Promised Land: The Spread of a Jamaican Socioreligious Movement among the Youth of West Africa.” African Studies Review Vol. 37, No. 3 (Dec 1994): 19-50.

Remes, Pieter. “Global Popular Musics and Changing Awareness of Urban Tanzanian Youth.” Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 31 (1999): 1-26.

Gilman, Lisa and John Fenn. “Dance, Gender, and Popular Music in Malawi: The Case of Rap and Ragga.” Popular Music Vol. 25, No. 3 (2006): 369-81.

Watch: excerpts from Living the Hiplife, Buchaman

JAPAN

Sterling, Marvin D. Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae and Rastafari in Japan. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010. [Intro, ch. 1, 3, 5, 6]

Dresinger, Baz. “Tokyo After Dark.” Vibe, 2002.

Wood, Joe. “The Yellow Negro.” Transition 73 (1997): 40-67.

AUSTRALIA & BALI

Maxwell, Ian. “Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 259-79. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

White, Cameron. “Rapper on a Rampage: Theorising the Political Significance of Aboriginal Australian Hip Hop and Reggae.” Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol. 4 No 1 (April 2009): 108-130.

Baulch, Emma. Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali. Durham: Duke University Press, 200 [ch. 3, p. 73-90]

That’s it, for now. There are plenty of holes that I’m aware of (anything on roots reggae in Cuba, say [update: after one day of comments, that's been ameliorated; new readings now above!]), and surely plenty more that I’m not. Then again, I’m finding the extant literature on local reggae scenes outside of Jamaica fairly impoverished at the moment. (Nothing on Italian sound systems? Really?) The course can’t exactly be comprehensive — we only have so much time — but I would love for this post to serve as a spot for collecting some good materials. So, as they say inna di dancehall, send on!

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July 23rd, 2010

Musical Travels with Seymour and Bernice, pt. 2: Brazil

This is the second post in a sporadic series here at w&w, an ongoing excavation, digitization, and interpretation of my wife’s grandparents’ record collection — i.e., the historico-musical profile of Seymour & Bernice. See here for the previous entry, and here for a note remembering Seymour.

SAMBAS

Of the many delights I’ve come across in Seymour and Bernice’s record collection, perhaps none is outweighed by the substantial number of kitschy, exotica-tinged, midcentury dance records. They reflect a time in American life when Afro-Latin forms such as mambo, rumba, samba became ballroom and parlor staples. The fact that these words all look and sound similarly is probably no accident. As Ned Sublette notes in Cuba and its Music

The largest number of African words that have come into the common Cuban vocabulary are of Bantu origin. Phonologically its legacy is instantly recognizable. Okra in Cuba is called quimbombó. That intervocalic “mb” cluster — the one that turns up in countless words like tumbao, mambo, bemba, bombo — is often (though not necessarily) a Bantu touch… (179)

But despite their semi-exotic origins (Cuba is not Long Island, though New York City was pretty Cuban by mid-century) and the way these dances and genres were marketed as ‘spicy’ and ‘flavorful’ — terms which continue to narrate the circulation of Latin-Caribbean sounds — what is particularly striking about their appearance in the record collection of a Jewish family in Rockville Center is their simultaneous mundanity, their utter familiarity, their almost unremarkable commonplaceness. Already by the mid-50s, these styles had been carefully and pretty thoroughly domesticated and popularized — i.e., successfully marketed to a non-Latin/Caribbean audience — under the direction of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios (and, no doubt, companies of its ilk), which issued a series of Perfect for Dancing compilations via RCA/Victor, complete with how-to instructions and steps. Bernice and Seymour ended up with several –

PERFECT FOR DANCING

SAMBAS

samba steps
and where, exactly, are the women’s steps? oh yeah…

Despite their somewhat campy and squarish presentation, the music collected on these discs is pretty damn good. The bands who popularized these styles were, after all, often led and staffed by seasoned performers from across the Afro/Latin/Caribbean diaspora. As you can see, the tracklist for the SAMBAS record features such renowned midcentury Brazilian musicians as violinist Fafa Lemos and singer Carlos Galhardo, as well as the likes of New York-based Cuban bandleader, José Curbelo. Not to mention — que nome! — the Carioca Swingtette (!), who may or may not be Brazilian; far as I can tell, this is their only recording.

samba tracklist

I could choose lots of tracks to share from this odd but rad compilation, but for this particular post — and for reasons that will become clear below — I’m going to highlight Fafa Lemos & co.’s version of “Brazil,” aka “Aquarela do Brasil” (“Watercolor of Brazil”) — a song composed by Ary Barroso back in 1939, and no doubt a song familiar to many, whether due to Terry Gilliam, or Walt Disney, or any number of other eruptions in popular culture (just take a glance at all these “notable versions” and appearances in film of the tune). But it’s not simply beloved abroad: in 1997, it was named “Best Brazilian Song of the Century” by a jury of 13 “experts” convened by the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

Fafa Lemos and His Orch., “Brazil”

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As with the rest of the Astaire collection, the arrangement here is on the schmaltzy side. But there’s a rather satisfying richness in rendered chicken fat, isn’t there? For one, you’ve gotta love that moony french horn (?) in the opening, and Fafa’s violin work is quite fun throughout, playing around the melody without straying too far. Also delightful are all the little details in the orchestration, offering sweet little responses to the soloists’ calls.

But I should be more frank: there’s an unexplainable personal affinity motivating this Brazil-ian excursion. Like certain friends (check the only comment on that post), I’ve long had a softspot for the song — I love the plaintive melody over the softly chugging samba rhythms — and I was thrilled to find it a recurring theme across Seymour’s and Bernice’s record stash.

// .. Digesting the World .. //

A similar treatment to the Fred Astaire / Fafa Lemos recording, for example, can be found on volume 8, side 2 (Latin Rhythms for Dancing) of an amazing/amusing 10 record collection called Popular Music THAT WILL LIVE FOREVER published by Reader’s Digest sometime in the early 1960s, I’m guessing. (Someone has taken the trouble of rapidsharing the entire boxed set, if you’re interested).

Popular Music THAT WILL LIVE FOREVER

The Wonderful World of Popular Music

8. Latin Rhythms for Dancing

This being Reader’s Digest, the long-reigning “best-selling consumer magazine in the United States” before finally being unseated by Better Homes and Gardens in 2009, the packaging nods toward the (lightly) informative –

MUSIC FOR DANCING

mambos

SAMBAS

A closer look, however, reveals some pretty telling tropes, including a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too deployment of “culture” and “tribe” that primitivizes certain forms of dance music and elevating others while implicitly erasing the African heritage embodied by so many of the genres on display:

Dancing is a vital part of the lives of every culture. There are rain dances, fertility dances, war dances, marriage dances, death dances, harvest dances, and a few enlightened (or naïve) tribes even have dances with no purpose other than the pleasure of the dance itself.

The more primitive the tribe, the more primitive the music. It may only be a man beating two sticks together in rhythmic cadences. If his job is to provide an accompaniment for dancers, he is creating dance music.

Today’s dance music is considerably more sophisticated, but its essential quality is still the best — the rhythm. Underneath the melody of the mambo, the waltz, the fox trot, there is the drum — the direct descendant of the man beating two sticks together.

Nevermind that forms like mambo (elsewhere called “a musical half-breed“), included on this record, still often feature a man “beating” two sticks together (i.e., clave), or that the drum as we know it — and as it figures in this music — is basically African. The editors here draw a squiggly line from cavemen to sophisticates.

It’s not the only oddity in the notes. Ironically, for all the information proffered, the names of the musicians involved only appear in small print on the records themselves. Perhaps it’s because bandleaders like Martin Slavin, a British music director who worked in Hollywood for many years, don’t quite cut the right cloth for this sort of slighty salacious contextualization? At any rate, he whipped up a pretty entertaining version with “his orchestra” (whoever they were) –

Martin Slavin and his Orchestra, “Brazil”

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This recording is actually a medley, beginning — and mostly concerned — with “Brazil” but then moving into two other Brazilian standards of the day, “Tico Tico” and “Copacabana” (incidentally, if you’ve never seen Ethel Smith tearing up “Tico Tico” on a Hammond organ, supported by a gaggle of percussion playing kiddies ladies “hot” for some “South American jive,” it’s not to be missed). Whoever the musicians are, they smoke, and the arrangement is surprisingly whimsical. I love the piano tinkles, the ever-present and fairly foregrounded percussion, the unexpected and repeated quotation of that ol’ circus theme song, the jazzy guitar lead, and so on. The segues are pretty damn smooth too.

I’ve wondered about what made “Brazil” so popular that it seems almost ubiquitous at the historical moment during which Seymour’s and Bernice’s record collection coalesced. Of course, there’s a strong romantic nationalism at the heart of the song, and, related to my thoughts in the previous post, I think there’s a very interesting way that such dreamy visions of foreign nationalism could serve simultaneously to shore up postwar US (not to mention US Jews’) notions of national attachment and belonging and identititity. It’s not too surprising that such a compelling portrait of another country would resonate elsewhere too. For some, conjuring a sense of national unity out of diversity and inequity is what the mystery of samba is all about.

The resonance of “Brazil” here in the US goes deeper though. As Gregzinho Scruggs explains, discussing the appearance of the song in Disney’s Saludos Amigos (1942),

…while the cartoon might well have served as a tourism promotion tool, it was actually part of much larger geopolitical machinations. Disney traveled to South America and received government backing to produce films lauding our new South American friends, products of the “Good Neighbor Policy” designed to keep them under the Allies’ sphere of influence. In addition to Saludos Amigos, the American viewing public also got 1944’s The Three Caballeros. In a disappointing linguistic blunder, both chose Spanish titles even though the Portuguese-speaking Zé Carioca was a main character in both and Carmen Miranda’s younger sister features in the latter. Carmen Miranda, meanwhile, was an in-the-flesh Latin promotion effort, a story told probingly in the documentary Bananas is my Business. The symbolism and imagery of these efforts to promote Brazil to the American public were naturally one-dimensional, especially having a lily white (and Portugal-born) chanteuse singing samba, which a scant generation earlier was derided as too African.

Of course, the kind of samba being promoted was itself far from the spontaneous, impromptu tradition from which the music sprang. “Aquarela do Brasil” was a samba-exaltação (exaltation samba), patriotic in purpose and serving the interests of the dictatorial and quasi-fascist Vargas regime. It was Vargas who had institutionalized the samba parade in Rio during the 1930s, turning it into a tool of nationalist pride, making it rigid, orderly, an almost military processional. The state, in essence, co-opted a cultural form — or at least one major manifestation of it — steeped in resistance to the dominant order.

// .. Italians do it .. //

Dick Contino, It's Dance Time

The final example brings things back home in a funny but apt sort of way, as Hollywood nationalism, Ausländisch stereotypes, and American exceptionalism all seem to congeal in Dick Contino‘s swingin’ romp through the tune’s familiar strains:

Dick Contino and his Orchestra, “Brazil”

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The Latin-ate percussion is here subsumed into jazzster kit drumming, and, in contrast to the other ensemble versions above, this one seems arranged more principally as a showcase for a supposedly showboat soloist. Contino’s relatively understated performance, however, hardly rises to the level of the liner notes’ incredible superlatives –

Now Americans do it.

“ever heard anywhere” … “never been matched” !!! — then again, even on his own current website, Contino is called “The World’s Greatest Accordionist” — & he does seem to inspire a certain admiration, strange story and all:

Dick Contino is an icon of cool. Dick Contino plays the accordion. These are not contradictory statements.

It helps that he is probably the best-looking guy to ever play the accordion for a living, handsome enough to have had his own groupies back when hardly anyone except Sinatra had groupies, handsome enough to have appeared in a few movies–and without an accordion. It also helps that he had enough scandals and brush-ups in his career to earn his tough guy merit badge. And it helped to have crime writer James Ellroy come along and mythologize Contino just about the time when he might otherwise have become a forgotten nostalgic act.

Contino’s father bought him his first accordion when he was seven, but he didn’t really take it seriously until he was 12. Within a few years, he had become so proficient, he was travelling to San Francisco, 180 miles away, for regular lessons. His big break came in 1946, when he competed on bandleader Horace Heidt’s “Youth Opportunity Talent Show.” Contino gyrated around while his fingers flew through “Lady of Spain” (condemning that song to accordion hell forever after) and won the night’s show. He returned to win the show’s grand prize for the season, and soon, he was a star in his own right, with his own string of fan clubs around the country.

Unfortunately, a couple of years later as his career was hitting full-stride, he received notice that he was being drafted to serve in the Korean War. For reasons he’s never fully explained, he ignored the notice and wound up being jailed for six months. Although he did eventually enlist and serve honorably in Korea, the “draft dodger” label hung over him for years and knocked him out of the ranks of the top stars for good. It also later provided Ellroy with the raw material for his story, “Dick Contino’s Blues,” which appears in the collection, Hollywood Nocturnes.

Contino lost his movie and recording contracts with Paramount and RCA Victor, and although he was picked up by Mercury within a year or so, his movie career dropped down to the realm of B-movies. Ironically, this raised his tough guy status significantly, for one of the few roles he got after his discharge was the cult B-movie, “Daddy-O.” Playing a badass rock ‘n’ roller and part time drug smuggler, Contino did his own driving for one of the earliest showcase car chases, doing a little Evel Knievel number to get past a roadblock. “Daddy-O” is certainly not great cinema (“That thing was like a class Z picture,” Contino said), but it ranks up there with “The Wild One” as piece of 50s rebel iconography.

This places his recording of “Brazil” — which I believe was made in the late 50s — in the second-wind of Contino’s career. And I have to say, while I wouldn’t apply such superlatives myself, I find his playing perfectly passable, tasteful even (to commit a revealing Bourdieuian sin), and the arrangement sure keeps up with the other big bands we’ve heard above. It’s pretty darn brash, really — peppy even, offering a nice contrast to the more stately, “exalted” march of other interpretations.

But beyond the inflated prose and other obvious points of interest in the liner notes — e.g., the array of (European, if incl “gypsy”) peoples who are, ahem, “doing it” — I want to call attention to the twice-used italicized phrase all yours. That sentiment, of course, is a central myth of the midcentury recording industry: that the music encoded on this slab of vinyl can in fact be possessed by the owner. This claim is distinct from earlier attempts to sell musical commodities. As Tim Taylor outlines in his excellent article, “The Commodification of Music at the Dawn of the Era of ‘Mechanical Music’,” the makers of player-pianos and player-piano rolls initially took great pains to assure consumers that they were in fact still the players of the music, that they retained control and power, that they remained central to the process of filling one’s home with music. We see by this point, however, that the rhetoric has firmly shifted: it’s not about possessing the ability to make music, it’s about possessing the music itself.

By extension, we might wonder what it means for a song like “Brazil” to become one’s possession by virtue of buying a somewhat schlocky dance record by a had-been like Dick Contino. Listening to these three instances of “Brazil” in Seymour’s and Bernice’s collection, I have to surmise that the song must have felt, in some way, as if it was all theirs, at least as long as it could also be made one’s own by their friends and neighbors and others in the (imagined) communities or various publics created/addressed by widely-circulating records like these — no doubt, markers of a certain sort of cultural distinction, an everyday worldliness available even to a modest middle-class family living out on Long Island.

At least, that’s how it sounds in my imagination. We’ll see what my daughter’s daughter’s son-in-law, should he ever exist, thinks of that.

Fred AstaireFred AstaireFred AstaireFred AstaireFred AstaireFred AstaireFred Astaire

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January 31st, 2010

Global Hip-hop

Since I’m in a syllabus sharing mood, I figured I should finally get around to posting the one I put together in Spring 2008 for a course on “Global Hip-hop.” A series of case studies examining how hip-hop travels outside the US, what it carries with it, and how people adapt its forms to their own ends, it was a hugely fun class to teach, and I was thrilled by the response at Brandeis. (At 150 students — which is where we finally capped enrollment — it was easily the biggest class I’ve taught, as well as the largest that Music or AAAS had hosted in years.) I’m sorry that I can’t include here all the audio and video that we reviewed (never mind pdfs), but poke around the webz and you’ll find lots of the examples referenced in the readings, as well as many of the articles themselves.

I’ve posted other syllabi here, fyi.

AAAS 135b:
GLOBAL HIP-HOP

Spring 2008
Brandeis University

Wayne Marshall
Florence Levy Kay Fellow
Music / African and Afro-American Studies

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Over the past several years, hip-hop has been heralded as a global phenomenon and an American export par excellence. Although a flurry of books, articles, and college classes have begun to examine the cultural, social, and political significance of hip-hop’s worldwide resonance, studies of the genre rarely focus on the specific ways that hip-hop travels, how it is engaged, represented, reproduced, and changed in various locales around the world, and how it animates local cultural politics despite carrying such strong, and sometimes contradictory, connotations of what it means to be American and African-American. This course considers hip-hop as itself constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways, cast variously as American, African-American, and/or black, and recast through the cultural logics of the new spaces it enters, the new soundscapes it permeates.

A host of questions arise in considering the scope and significance of global hip-hop: What does the genre, in its various forms (audio, video, sartorial, etc.), carry with it outside the US? What do people bring to it in new local contexts? How are American ideologies of race and nation mediated by hip-hop’s global reach? Why do some global (which is to say, local) hip-hop scenes fasten onto the genre’s politics of place and community, of struggle and opposition to the status quo, while others appear more enamored with hip-hop’s portrayal of personal gain, hustler archetypes, and conspicuous consumption? How do hip-hop scenes differ from North to South America, North to South Africa, Europe to Asia? What threads unite them?

In pursuit of such questions, we will read across the emerging literature on global hip-hop as we also explore the growing resources available via the internet, where websites and blogs, MySpace and YouTube and the like, appear to be facilitating a further florescence of international (and peer-to-peer) exchanges around hip-hop. We will consider a number of case studies of hip-hop scenes around the world as well as closely related (and sometimes antagonistic) musical/stylistic offshoots and hybrids, including: Puerto Rico (reggaeton), Brazil (funk carioca), England (grime), South Africa (kwaito), Tanzania (bongo flava), Jamaica (dancehall), Germany, Japan, Kenya, Cuba, Morocco/France, and Australia. We will also examine the international roots of hip-hop in multicultural New York and how American hip-hop figures the foreign (as in “orientalist” gestures and other sonic representations of otherness). Larger themes to be explored include postcolonialism and globalization, mass media and migration, race and nation.

MAIN SOURCES

Basu, Dipannita and Sidney J. Lemelle, eds. The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.

Condry, Ian. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Forman, Murray and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Mitchell, Tony, ed. Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

20% - Class Attendance and Participation: all students are expected to attend all class meetings and to participate in discussions, especially in Thursday sections

40% - Weekly Wikipedia Edits: each week students will make a small but substantive edit or addition to a Wikipedia article related to course materials. Students will also post a brief note to an open thread on LATTE explaining what they have done and why.

40% - Final Paper: a 10-15 page essay investigating a hip-hop scene outside the US: what representations exist and/or frame the scene’s narrative, how does the global/local dynamic play out, how does it compare to other places, etc.

CLASS CALENDAR

Week 1: Introduction & a Brief History of Hip-hop’s Roots in Multicultural New York

Kelley, Robin D.G. “Foreward.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, xi-xvii. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Mitchell, Tony. “Introduction: Another Root—Hip-hop Outside the USA.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 1- 38. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Chang, Jeff. “Inventos Hip-Hop: An Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 255-261. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.

_______. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005. (Chapters 1-4.)

Flores, Juan. “Puerto Rocks: Rap, Roots, and Amnesia.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 69-86. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Hebdige, Dick. “Rap and Hip-hop: The New York Connection.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 223-232. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Marshall, Wayne. “Hearing Hip-hop’s Jamaican Accent.” Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 34, no. 2 (2005): 8-9, 14-15.
http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/isam/NewsletS05/Marshall.htm

Week 2: Hip-hop in Jamaica, Jamaica in Hip-hop

Patterson, Orlando. “Ecumenical America: Global Culture and the American Cosmos.” World Policy Journal 11(2): 103-17 (1994).

Thomas, Deborah. “Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical ‘Tripping’ on Black Vernacular Culture.” In Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica, 230-62. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.

Kenner, Rob. “Dancehall,” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 350-7. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Marshall, Wayne. “Bling-bling for Rastafari: How Jamaicans Deal with Hip-hop.” Social and Economic Studies 55: 1 & 2 (2006): 49- 74.

_______. “Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme” .

Week 3: Hip-hop, Reggae, and Reggaeton in Puerto Rico

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances and Raquel Z. Rivera, “Reggaeton Nation.” NACLA News. 17 December 2007.

Santos, Mayra. 1996. “Puerto Rican Underground.” Centro 8, no. 1 & 2: 219-231.

Flores, Juan. 2004. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro 16, no. 2 (Fall): 283-289.

Giovannetti, Jorge L. “Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols.” In Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas, ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Marshall, Wayne. “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Week 4: Hip-hop vs. Reggaeton in Cuba

Pacini-Hernández, Deborah and Reebee Garofalo. “Hip Hop in Havana: Rap, Race and National Identity in Contemporary Cuba.” Journal for Popular Music Studies, 2000: 1-41.

Baker, Geoffrey. 2005. “¡Hip hop, Revolución! Nationalizing Rap in Cuba.” Ethnomusicology 49, no. 3: 368-402.

_______. 2006. “La Habana que no conoces: Cuban rap and the social construction of urban space.” Ethnomusicology Forum 15, no. 2: 215-46.

_______. 2008. “The Politics of Dancing.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Fairley, Jan. 2008. “How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender and Sexuality in Cuba.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Wunderlich, Annelise. “Cuban Hip-hop: Making Space for New Voices of Dissent.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 167-79. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Eli. Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano. DVD. (2003)

Week 5: Hip-hop vs. Funk in Brazil

Behague, Gerard. “Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-95).” Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 79-90.

Sansone, Livio. “The Localization of Global Funk in Bahia and Rio.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, 135-60. London: Routledge, 2002.

Yúdice, George. “The Funkification of Rio.” In Microphone Fiends, 193-220. London: Routledge, 1994.

Cumming, Andy. “Who Let the Yobs Out?” (Stylus)

_______. “Interview with DJ Marlboro.” (Hyperdub)
http://web.archive.org/web/20040422141408/http://www.hyperdub.com/ softwar/marlboro.cfm

Scruggs, Greg. “Stirring the Pot.” Beat Diaspora, 17 December 2007.
http://beatdiaspora.blogspot.com/2007/12/stirring-pot.html

Week 6: Hip-hop meets House in South Africa

Robinson, Simon. “That’s Kwaito Style.” (Time)
http://www.time.com/time/europe/html/040419/kwaito.html

Clark, Grant. “Kwaito: The Voice of Youth.” (BBC World Service)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/rhythms/south africa.shtml

Steingo, Gavin. “South African Music After Apartheid: Kwaito, the “Party Politic,” and the Appropriation of Gold as a Sign of Success.” Popular Music and Society, July 2005.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2822/is_3_28/ai_n15648564

Stanley-Niaah, Sonjah. “Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto.” In Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, ed. by Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, 193-217. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007.

Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster Rap: Hip Hop in the Post-Apartheid City.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 208-29. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Ariefdien, Shaheen and Nazli Abrahams. “Cape Flats Academy: Hip-Hop Arts in South Africa.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 262-70. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.

Salkind, Micah. “Kwaito Culture as Nonpolitics In A Black Atlantic Creative Context.” Kwaito Genealogy, 13 Dec 2008. http://kwaitogeneology.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/kwaito

Week 7: Hip-hop in Kenya, Bongo Flava in Tanzania

Lemelle, Sidney J. “‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Rebensdorf, Alicia. “‘Representing the Real’: Exploring Appropriations of Hip-hop Culture in the Internet and Nairobi.” Senior Thesis, Lewis & Clark.
http://lclark.edu/~soan/alicia/rebensdorf.101.html

Ferguson, James. “Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the ‘New World Society.’” Cultural Anthropology 17, no. 4 (2002): 551-569.

Martin, Lydia. “Bongo Flava: Swahili Rap from Tanzania (CD review).” (Afropop)
http://www.afropop.org/explore/album_review/ID/2604/ Bongo+Flava:+Swahili+Rap+from+Tanzania

Mueller, Gavin. “Bongoflava: The Primer.” (Stylus)
http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/pop_playground/bongoflava-the-primer.htm

Wanguhu, Michael. Hip Hop Colony: The Hip Hop Explosion in Africa. DVD. (2005)

Week 8: Postcolonial UK Soundclash: Hip-hop, Reggae, Grime, and Bhangra

Gilroy, Paul. “It’s a Family Affair.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip- hop Studies Reader, 87-94. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Hesmondhalgh, David and Caspar Melville. “Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 86-110. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Frere-Jones, Sasha. “True Grime.” (New Yorker)
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/03/21/050321crmu_music

Chang, Jeff. “Future Shock.” Village Voice, 19 January 2004.
http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0403,chang,50366,22.html

Sharma, Sanjay. “Noisy Asians or ‘Asian Noise’?” In Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music, ed. Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk, and Ashwani Sharma, 32-57. London: Zed Books, 1996.

Week 9: Hip-hop and Raï in France / North Africa

Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. “Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities.” Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3- 39. [Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 198-230. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.]

Swedenburg, Ted. “Islamic Hip-hop vs. Islamophobia.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 57-85. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Rosen, Jody. “David Brooks, Playa Hater.” Slate, 10 November 2005.
http://www.slate.com/id/2130120

Prevos, Andre J. M. “Postcolonial Popular Music in France: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the 1980s and 1990s.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 39-56. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Helenon, Veronique. “Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 151-66. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Meghelli, Samir. “Interview with Youcef (Intik).” In Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness, ed. by James G. Spady, H. Samy Alim, and Samir Meghelli. 656-67. Philadelphia: Black History Museum Publishers, 2006.

Week 10: Hip-hop in Germany

Bennett, Andy. “Hip-Hop am Main, Rappin’ on the Tyne: Hip-hop Culture as a Local Construct in Two European Cities.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 177-200. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Pennay, Mark. “Rap in Germany: The Birth of a Genre.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 111-134. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Brown, Timothy S. “‘Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 137-50. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Week 11: Hip-hop in Japan

Condry, Ian. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Wood, Joe. “The Yellow Negro.” Transition 73 (“The White Issue”): 40-67.

Week 12: Hip-hop in Australia and the Pacific

Maxwell, Ian. “Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 259-79. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Mitchell, Tony. “Kia Kaha! (Be Strong!): Maori and Pacific Islander Hip-hop in Aotearoa-New Zealand.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 280-305. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Henderson, April K. “Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180-199. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Week 13: Conclusions: Brave New World Music?

Christgau, Robert. “Planet Rock: The World’s Most Local Pop Goes International.” Village Voice, 2 May 2002. http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0219,christgau,34334,22.html

Schwartz, Mark. “Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National.” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 361-72. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Chang, Jeff. “It’s a Hip-hop World.” Foreign Policy 163, Nov/Dec 2007, 58-65.

Host, Vivian (and contributors). “The New World Music.” XLR8R 109 (Aug 2007): 64-73.

Marshall, Wayne. “Global Ghettotech vs. Indie Rock: The Contempo Cartography of Hip”
http://wayneandwax.com/?p=205

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January 8th, 2010

Tecnobrega Juice

If you enjoyed the funkcarioca fingersandwiches I shared a while back, you’ll probably also get a kick out of Joao Brasil‘s latest commercial for Do Bem bebidas, riffing on the plinky-plink shuffle of tecnobrega:

h/t kiddid

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July 15th, 2009

Folk Carioca

A couple weeks ago, a bunch of Boston’s “baile funk” enthusiasts were assembled by the um-and-only Gregzinho — who, incidentally, is our guest tonight at Beat Research! — to watch a couple DVDs showing different sides of the carioca scene: DJ Cabide’s self-produced “national” and “international” DVDs (which were both great & grainy), and the highly anticipated Favela on Blast (produced by Leandro HBL and, of course, Wesley Pentz, aka Diplo, who — it should be noted — does not appear in the film).

I went into our likkle local screening with much of the excitement, as well as many of the same reservations, I bring to “global ghettotech” more generally. For as we all know, “baile funk” is the old kuduro, or the old neo-cumbia, or whateverrrr. As such — that is, as a “nu-world” genre (and arguably the first) that traveled through the strange filters of the musiconnoisseurosphere to arrive in metropolitan earbuds — the way the genre was framed, often in racy and sensationalist terms, seemed to set a template of sorts for how later forms of international (and usually non-English) dance music would be received and circulated among journalists, bloggers, DJs, and other enthusiasts.

Readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with the sort of thing I’m describing here. They need look no further than Gregzinho’s blog (or senior thesis) for a withering critique of the ways funk carioca — or “baile funk,” a misnomer that registers some of what gets lost in translation — has been represented by some of these cultural agents.

Having seen the film, I’m glad to say that most if not all of my reservations proved unfounded in this case, for the producers of FoB have done an excellent job of presenting the lively scene in all its glory without imposing much of a narrative frame on it at all, never mind one that might be critiqued as sensationalistic. Of course, the director has chosen what to include and what to leave out, what to emphasize, etc., and in that sense, there is undoubtedly a framework that we could discuss (and I need to praise Leandro’s editing as virtuosic and captivating). But I was struck by the lack of a voiceover or an obvious storyline, leaving the performers and dancers and favelistas plenty of room to tell their own stories in their own words. One sees and hears what one might expect: scenes of bailes in action, in particular, and of producers at work, as well as a textured sense of the social and cultural milieu of the favelas and funk’s presence there. Are there guns, drugs, and scantily clad girls in the film? Sure. They’d have to be. But they’re not the focus, or at least they didn’t seem that way to me.

What I found most striking about the film, rather, was its portrayal of funk as folk music. There were several scenes — none of which have (yet) made it to YouTube, I don’t think — in which funkeiros (funk artists, that is) joined people on the street — sometimes kids, most memorably an older man — for some sweet singalongs. In those scenes what was remarkable to me was not that kids or elders had committed funk rhymes to memory (or had invented some of their own), but how powerfully and naturally the beatbox / hand-clap accompaniment stood in for funk’s distinctively electronic rhythms. The performances were arresting; they sounded as full and present as the soundsystems do. Such scenes not only underscored the degree to which US electrofunk (/Miami bass) has been progressively localized, turned into the hand-drum sampling tamborzao and whatever they call the beatbox loop of recent years, they showed how something as electronically mediated as funk carioca exists simultaneously in oral/aural culture, on the street, no electricity necessary.

Now, I’m not trying to resuscitate some romantic notion of the “folk.” I’ve read enough research debunking the term as signifying the preindustrial, the rural, or some other kind of Otherness. That’s not my aim here. Indeed, it is a kind of post-industrial folkness — and importantly, a sort of (global) sameness — that I’m interested in, an approach to recorded media as living, embodied practice that bears witness yet again to how modern commercial music culture is always about far more than passive consumption.

Given this reaction to the film, I was pleased to see the following comment by Beni Borja on Gavin’s now notorious “Reggaeton Crash” post –

Let me try to give a different viewpoint in this very insightful discussion.

I’m musician/producer/songwriter from Rio de Janeiro. I´ve been following what you call “bailefunk” since it’s very beginning I was in “bailes” in the early eighties when all they played was american funk, I was around the studio when Cidinho, Marlboro and Ademir, recorded their first album (Funk Brasil 1) , that was a huge hit and sparked the movement of creating original eletronic music for the bailes ,sung in portuguese.

From this vantage point, I feel that a fundamental piece is missing in this puzzle. What all this genres we´re talking about have in common , more than the fact that they were originated in third-world slums, is the fact that theiy are living breathing forms of folk music.

Folk music is more than a genre , it is a process of music-making, one where originality is not the goal. The objective of folk music is to produce the soundtrack for a certain social scene.

That’s why folk music moves slowly. That´s why also folk genres seldom create big artists.

In the case of bailefunk , that I have followed every step of the way , I see that every couple of years, someone comes up with something new, followed immediately by a avalanche of imitators… “tamborzão “was just the latest fad (one that is already being discarded in most of the bailes down here) , it will surely be followed in a couple of years by another breaktrough, but while this does not happen, what we have is a enormous production of music with very little real originality,,,

I guess reggae is a good example of this as well. When during the seventies it produced a number of real artists like The Wailers, Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff etc… , it transcended momentarily the folk music approach, but as soon as reggae , was substituted on the jamaican social scene by dancehall , the folk method came back, and originality became far and apart.

It is very hard to keep the public interested in a musical genre that develop so slowly

But don’t take my word for it — or Beni’s even. Go see the film for yourself. It’s currently touring the festival circuit, and hopefully it’ll be coming to a theater or DVD player (or bittorrent?) near you.

However, since it’s become a customary way of evaluating movies, I’ll end this “review” by closing with a thumby gesture. Not quite two thumbs up, let’s call it a Cabide thumb-to-the-side + a Gregzinho thumb-at-an-upward-angle–

ps — props to Pace for hosting! we’ve got a reggae film night planned for the end of the month, before Gregzinho’s departs once again; be in touch if you’d like to attend.

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May 18th, 2009

Funk Cafeteria

if Cabide DJ were your lunch lady…

do bem™ – Suco de Laranja 100% fruta (MPC de torradas) from do bem on Vimeo.

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November 12th, 2008

Austerity Gospel

videyoga ::

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October 21st, 2008

Atenção!

Cabide DJ has landed. He’s here in Massachusetts. Met the man last night, who blessed me with a couple of those lovely shrink-wrapped CD-Rs so common in Rio. Don’t know bout you, but i CAN”T WAIT FOR SOME LIVE MPC COM NARIZ ACTION!!!11!!1

As Gregzinho details, you can catch Cabide at all sorts of venues in and around the NE/East Coast corridor in the next two weeks, including the airwaves and some local Brazilian clubs, but Boston heads be ‘ware: our show at the Milky Way this Thursday is not to be missed –

Need the deets? Call the Party Line! 1 800 988 7361

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October 9th, 2008

Shake It Like Onomatopoeia


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October 1st, 2008

Hugs for Tecnobrega

Tecno brega / eletro melody is back on my radar for 2 reasons –

1) Ronaldo Lemos, the Rio-based law prof who’s been hailing the genre’s open business model for years now, has just published a new book about tecno brega and its creative approach to the music biz, Tecnobrega: o Pará Reinventando o Evento da Música. It’s in Portuguese but it’s also CC-licensed, so I’m hoping someone will soon translate it to English so that I can read it too. It will be available for download from here.

2) & perhaps presciently, I just got a trackback&comment from Rio-based blogger Soundgoods who has put together a mixtape collecting some of the tecnobrega / eletro melody that tends less toward the cheesy (brega) end of the spectrum and more toward the “interesting.” It’s a nice mix, though as with lots of genre-specific outings, it can get a bit repetitive. Still, gotta love those wheezy synths and throwback claps.

      >> Soundgoods, “Força Do Pará Mixtape”

… which reminds me, back when I originally posted about eletro melody, the post received a comment from none other than the “CRIADOR do ELETRO MELODY” (as he put it), Joe! He affirms the going narrative on the inspiration for the genre (yes, Benny Benassi), offers some ideas about the genre’s appeal (a la global gobbledigook), and invites people to get in touch. I’ve been meaning to bring his comment into full view here, so since it’s all topical and whatnot, here goes (w/ a snappy translation from our own Gregzinho) –

olá, me chamo eder joe ou joe sou produtor musical, CRIADOR do ELETRO MELODY,que pra vcs seria “ELECTRO MALADY” hoje decidi pesquisar no google esse nome para saber a até que ponto esse ritimo abrange atualmente, fico feliz por ser um ritimo sociavel musicalmente falando.Realmente a minha fonte de inspiração foi o album de benni benassi, adimiro o estilo dele, satisfaction éssa foi o ponto de partida para a criação do eletro melody, benni benassi com seu electro house e eu com o melody, juntei as duas coisas e criei o electro melody ou eletro melody. atualmente, o eletro melody esta tocando nas radios e aparelhagens em todo o norte e nordeste do brasil. o ritimo inciou com um jeito de cantar similar ao regaeton hoje ele se encontra mais melodico harmonizado com letras que falam de amor, e não porem não deixando girias de baladas de lado, tipo: “agitar, detonar, arrazar, bombar, gatinha, rapeize(galera jovem), etc..).

pelomenos no brasil, a letra do eletro melody não é muito rica devido fazer apologia a equipes de som automotivo, equipes de aparelhagens, etc.. porem para os extrangeiros, a musica pode ser um ritimop promissor, creio devido os extrangeiros não entenderem o portugues brasileiro. assim como a musica de suzanne vega (my name is luka) fez sucesso no brasil, como uma musica totalmente romantica, quanto que na verdade ela contava um historia de uma criança maltratada, violencia infantil. quem diria uma melodia tão bonita com uma letra tão deprimente, pois é.
meu email para que quiser saber mais é: joe_production19@hotmail.com

vc encontra mais eletro melody ou electro malady na pagina http://joeproducoes.4shared.com

um abraço!

here’s Greg’s translation for the non-Lusophones reading this –

Hi, my name is Eder Joe or [just] Joe I’m a music producer, CREATOR of the ELETRO MELODY, which for you all would be “ELECTRO MALADY” Today I decided to search on Google for this phrase to find out to what extent this rhythm is currently circulating, I’m happy it’s become popular [sociavel = socialable? I think he means popular in this context] musically speaking. Truthfully my inspiration was Benni Benassi’s album, I admire his style, Satisfaction was the point of departure for the creation of eletro melody, Benni Benassi with his electro house and me with melody, I combined the two things to create electro melody or eletro melody. Currently, eletro melody is being played on the radio and by all the sound systems in the north and northeast of Brazil. The rhythm began with a singing style similar to reggaeton. Today it’s more melodic and harmonized with lyrics about love and not however not leaving party slang aside, like: “agitate, detonate, arrazar [dunno this one], bomb, little cat [slang for cute girl], the boys (the crew), etc.

At least in Brazil, electro melody lyrics aren’t very deep, they mostly talk about car stereo systems, sound systems, etc. However for foreigners, the music can be a promising rhythm, I believe due to the fact that foreigners don’t understand Brazilian Portuguese. It’s just like the Suzanne Vega song “My Name is Luka,” which was a success in Brazil, with a very romantic sound, while in fact she was singing about an abused child, juvenile violence. Who would’ve thought such a pretty melody had such depressing lyrics, of course.

My e-mail for whoever wants to know more is: joe_production19@hotmail.com

You can find more eltro melody or electro malady on this page: http://joeproducoes.4shared.com

A hug!

Abraços, y’all — now someone get on that translation of Ronaldo’s book!

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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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