Archive of posts tagged with "ethno"

April 28th, 2007

IASPM in Boston

After running my “Zunguzung” paper through the ringer at EMP the week before, I’ll be offering a slightly different (and no doubt revised) version at the annual US meeting of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (or “yaspum,” as we say it). The conference takes place at Northeastern University from April 26-29; a preliminary conference program (w/ abstracts) is available here (my own paper’s panel is on Saturday, April 28, from 10:15 – 12:00pm, in Room 346).

In addition to the paper on Saturday, I’ll also be participating in a forum — from 1:30 – 3:15 in Room 346 — of “hip-hop ethnomusicologists” (or are we simply ethnomusicologists who study hip-hop? I prefer the former) discussing EgoTrip’s/VH1′s The White Rapper Show. Bringing together Joe Schloss, Cheryl Keyes, Kyra Gaunt, Timothy Mangin, Miles White, and yours truly, it promises to be a lively conversation. Hallelujah hollaback –

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April 24th, 2007

Keep It Movin Like the Zunguzung & Other Uprock Narratives


JC on JB

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

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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

Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Hey Ya
Yeah!
Yeah!
Yeah!
Yeah!
Yeah!

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

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


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

Maybe see you in Bawstin –

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April 20th, 2007

EMP 2007

From April 19-22, I’ll be participating in this year’s EMP conference in Seattle, an annual convergence of music writers (journalists and academics alike). My own presentation is on that ol “Zunguzung” meme and will follow the zigzagging melody from Yellowman to Jin, with plenty of stops along the way, examining how such a musical figure articulates with time, place, and cultural politics (see abstract).

The panel I’m on runs from 2:15 to 4:00pm on Friday, April 20. I’m looking fwd to being in the same room as these heavy (mostly rap&reggae-centric) musical thinkers –

>> Localizing Hip-Hop
Moderator: Ken Wissoker
Venue: Demo Lab
Featuring:
Dave Stelfox & Erin MacLeod, “Screwing up the world”: Hip Hop Slows Down And Makes Do In Houston, Texas
Stacey Campbell & James Dooley, Keeping it Real From the Rez to the Hood: Aboriginal Hip Hop Identity and Resistance
Wayne Marshall, Follow Me Now: The Zig-Zagging Zunguzung Meme
Rob Kenner, Murderation: Dancehall Reggae and the “Boom Boom Bye” Backlash

Lots of other good panels lined up too. Maybe I’ll see you there –

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April 6th, 2007

Dear Wayne #8353: JA inna US & UK

While we’re in a outsourcing mood here at w&w, allow we to offer up another recent q&a –

Dear Wayne,

Hope you’re well,

This is a follow-up to an email that I sent last week regarding me possibly
conducting an interview in the near future regarding the role of Jamaican
styles in US and UK hip-hop.

I’ve been a keen reader of your blogs on this subject and would very much
like to talk to you via email about this subject as research for my
university dissertation.

Please could you get back to me either way.

Elliott P
Leeds University

Hi Elliott,

Interesting questions. I’m afraid I’m going to have to be brief, but I hope I can be helpful. Feel free to shoot back others if they arise.

1) As you’ve explored in your own research, certain songs on ‘Criminal
Minded’ by Boogie Down Productions were, at the time of their release,
groundbreaking in their use of Jamaican influences. What do you think was
the catalyst to this new approach in hip hop?

I think the main “catalyst” is the profound change in NYC’s ethnic demographics during the 1980s, combined with a related set of representations that changed perceptions of Jamaicans from “country/island” to “rudeboy/ruthless.” By the mid-80s, boroughs like Brooklyn and the Bronx not only had a good number more residents from Jamaica (and the West Indies more generally — see the work of Mary Waters, Philip Kasinitz, etc.), but in terms of actual social and cultural relationships, Jamaicans had gone from being marginal pariahs (e.g., thrown in garbage cans, as Kool Herc recounts) to dominating the drug trade, and the New York soundscape was more infused with the sounds of Jamaica — esp dancehall reggae — than ever before. The “cool and deadly” style of reggae from that era resonated with the cool and deadly postures of Jamaican posses. So for someone like KRS-One (despite himself not being Jamaican), suddenly the sounds of Jamaica offered a powerful resource for representing the Bronx.

2) Is there much diversity in the use of Jamaican influences in US hip hop?

I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this. In a sense, I’d say yes, because the references to Jamaican music in hip-hop run the gamut from contemporary and classic dancehall to roots reggae (a la Bob Marley) to more obscure dub and sometimes even rocksteady references. Far and away, though, the strongest presence of Jamaica in hip-hop is from dancehall, which makes sense given its close relationship — and dialogue — with rap.

Regarding comparions between UK and US appropriations of Jamaican music in
their respective hip hop styles.

3) Can a fair judgement be made regarding the question of which style (UK or
US hip-hop displays the most authentic interpretation of a Jamaican
influence?

I’m not really sure how you would define “authentic” here, and I usually find that such assessments are bound up with various value judgments, so you’d have to tell me more in order to weigh in. Essentially, though, I don’t think a strong argument can be made that either style is more “authentic.” One might argue that UK hip-hop has a greater degree of Jamaican influence, which makes sense given the larger percentage of UK hip-hoppers of Jamaican descent and the greater presence more generally of Jamaican culture in the UK. If you’re talking about an “interpretation” that attempts to be closer to the “original” (though there’s a lot of mirror-mirror interaction going on in all of this, making it difficult to sort out), then the UK probably fits that description better. But again, UK/US hip-hop is one thing and UK/US reggae is another (and then there’s all the stuff in between). Ultimately, I think you’d be hard pressed to really make any meaningful distinctions here, as both places (NYC and London, specifically) have substantial Jamaican communities who maintain strong, close ties to the island.

4) If so, which is the most authentic and what is the criteria for such a
judgement?

I guess I addressed this in the answer above. In general, I avoid weighing in on authenticity, as I don’t think it’s something “out there” and measurable and real. Rather, it is a product of the imagination and will depend on competing discourses about the “real” and on complexly situated subjects in specific social contexts and their cultural politics. As I’ve written elsewhere, with regard to authenticity, there’s no “there” there. Even so, one can discuss it insofar as plenty of people do have strong ideas about what is authentic and they invest their music with such meanings accordingly. Getting at this, then, is less about an interpreter such as I or you deciding what is really real and instead employing ethnography to get at what other people think is really real and why.

Hi Wayne,

Thanks for your feedback on the questions. From reading my questions again a
few days later and reading your answers I can see some of the flaws in my
questions. I suppose it’s part of the learning process so thanks for bearing
with me.

Got a few more questions for you. I don’t think there’ll be many more after
this.

1) Is the oft- cited theory on the influence of Jamaican vocal styles on
hip-hop emceeing/rapping justified?

Depends on what you mean. I would say that the influence of Jamaican vocal styles on hip-hop emceeing have become more pronounced over the last 15 years especially, but in the earlier days of rap, the cadences were much more indebted to African-American styles. I think this was even true for those early DJs/MCs who were well familiar with Jamaican toasting style. Kool Herc adopted the speech style of his Bronx peers, and it was not until much later (at least 1986 or so) that Jamaican accents and vocal styles began to audibly influence rap style. Of course, this is all complicated by the fact that dancehall reggae vocal styles, since the early 80s, have themselves been influenced by rap.

2) Is it feasible to say that one genre holds more image and musicla
stylistic influence over the other when you compare the dancehall of Lady
Saw, Tanya Stephens etc to the hip hop of Foxy Brown Lil Kim etc?

This is hard to say. I can see/hear influence going both ways in all of these cases. It seems more difficult to me to compare individuals than, say, societies — where, I would say, though this is not really based on empirical evidence, that while US music/culture has had a pervasive effect on Jamaican music/culture, and Jamaican on English, it is less clear that Jamaican music/culture has had such a strong effect on American culture (except perhaps in certain Caribbean-ized cities, such as NY or Miami).

3) What do you feel that UK Grime music has taken from Jamaica in terms of
music and cultural expression?

Quite a bit: everything from vocal styles and accents and slang, to rhythmic predilections, focus on bass and effects and layering, use of the dubplate and riddim system, rude boy stance, etc. Of course, “taken” might be putting it strong, considering how many grime artists and producers are of Jamaican descent.

Referring back to the last set of answers you gave me, whilst I’m fairly
aware of the more obvious examples of Jamaican influence in US hip-hop,
could you help me out with some of the more obscure dub/rocksteady examples
you mentioned. Also, are there any US hip hop artists of Jamaican descent
(second-generation) you could name? I can name people like Busta Rhymes,
Grand Puba etc, but I can’t be sure of people like Mos Def or Smif an
Wessun.

Hmmm. Can’t do too much of this research for you, I’m afraid. But here are a couple examples: Kanye West’s sample for Jay-Z’s “Lucifer” comes from a Max Romeo / Lee Perry dub, of course, and Public Enemy sampled Mikey Dread, while Special Ed samples “Shantytown” by Jimmy Cliff and “Double Barrel” by Dave and Ansel Collins for his “Magnificent.” Something like Madlib’s Blunted in the Bomb Shelter shows another side of hip-hop’s acquaintance with dub. Plenty more listed here:

http://the-breaks.com/perl/view.pl?page=1&genre=5

As for corroborating artists’ Jamaican heritage, I’m afraid I’ve had very little luck with that.

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March 29th, 2007

Genometrics in G#

Alan Lomax’s “cantometrics” has long functioned as a Pandora’s box for conversation on the SEM listserv. Yesterday and today, fairly explicitly (literally?). We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Here’s the current string, in all asynchronous argument –

Alexandre Enkerli
to SEM-L

Mar 27

Fellow music analysts,

To be honest, when a student in my anthropology of music class last year sent us a link to the ” Music Genome Project ” I had something of a knee-jerk reaction and even allowed myself to be a bit snarky. Probably because, to a culturalist, the term “genome” as applied to music seems quite misleading. Since then, I was able to listen to an interview with MGP founder Tim Westegren, which gave some insight into the project’s methodology. More recently, a Radio Open Source show on the effects of randomness in music selections (iPod’s shuffle feature as something of a “breakthrough”) also had Westergren on, talking about his project. Basically, they tag tracks for specific features and allow listener’s to connect those tracks through musical similarities instead of through genre labels. They do have a fairly extensive musical selection, possibly covering some of the musical ground many of us are working in.

To me, the MGP relates fairly directly to Alan Lomax’s work: the analytical method used by MGP resembles Cantometrics and MGP’s Pandora “radio station” seems somewhat related in concept to what I understand Lomax’s Global Jukebox Project to have been, almost twenty years ago. Have some of you looked into the Music Genome Project and its implications for our discipline? Westegren’s work clearly isn’t ethnographic and has no pretense of being ethnomusicological. Yet, we can probably relate to some of the ideas surrounding the project.

Cheers!


Alexandre
http://enkerli.wordpress.com/

Christopher Horgan
to SEM-L

Mar 28

Hello All,

I actually work for Pandora.com. I am one of the Senior Analysts, and I also oversee our Rap and Electronic music areas. If anyone has any questions I’ll be happy to answer tham as candidly as possible.

Here’re a few links with info about Pandora – there’re plenty more interviews around on the web if you do a Google search:

http://pandora.com/corporate/
http://pandora.com/mgp.shtml
http://blog.pandora.com/pandora/

Essentially what we do is to analyse a song based on several hundred musical categories – eveything from vocal register, to the amount of guitar distortion, to the use of sampled music, to the timbre of the drums. We then use the data from these analyses to drive a matching engine that creates playlists of similar music. When using the Pandora radio station you can interact with the matching engine (tell it YES music like this should play on this station, or NO music like this should not play on this station).

It is really an amazing product, and when a user gives the player some direction it is frightening how good the matches are. Also, Pandora is constantly changing which aspects of the song it is matching on so a listener still gets a pleasant amount of variety on their stations.

There are a couple of caveats all should know: Everyone at Pandora works our hardest to ensure there is no bias. We aren’t affiliated with any record label or whatever. We buy and accept QUALITY music of all types – Tho at this point our catalog is limited to: Pop (rock, R&B, blues, punk, etc.), Rap, Latin, Electronic, and Jazz. Classical is just getting it’s feet off the ground and may be going public this year.

Alex – you are correct there are some similarities with Lomax’s work, but I’ll leave it up to the scholars to flesh out this aspect of the discussion further.

Chris Horgan

Thomas Porcello
to SEM-L

Mar 28

Alexandre–

I presented a paper at the 2006 SEM meetings on Pandora.com and the Music Genome Project, and have had stimulating dialogues with colleagues at NYU and Duke about this since. In my view, there is too much smoke-and-mirrors around the coding parameters used by Westergren’s company to make any substantial connection between cantometrics and the so-called musical genome. What are the parameters coded? Which ones seek to the describe the music, and which pertain to the sonic dimensions of sound recording as a medium through which we consume music? How do those parameters grapple with the subjectivity of the listeners who code them? How do the terms of the coding mediate between musical sound and the linguistic conventions of describing music and sound? What does it mean to engage in musical analysis as a means to sell a service to producers and consumers (Pandora) as opposed to engaging in academic analysis of musical structures and performances (Lomax)? Can one compare a marketing tool to disciplinary analysis? Can one compare a method geared toward delivering taste-based consumption to a method for (ostensibly) describing relationships among musical structure, culture, and society?

In any event, I think such comparisons miss the point of the Music Genome Project. There is a common appeal to scientific authority in both Westergren’s genomes metaphor (which is little more than a metaphor, if you look at the biological definition of genome) and Lomax’s work (regardless of what position you take with respect to it), but little more. Ultimately, what is of interest about the Music Genome Project are not any of its specific claims, but the way in which it participates in a debate about whether marketing music to consumers should be based on (ostensibly) scientific authority, or on populist definitions of what constitutes good music (as it exists in social networking sites like last.fm).

Tom Porcello

Associate Professor, Anthropology
and
Director, Media Studies
Director, Independent Program
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
**

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March 9th, 2007

Caribbean Music Seminar

On March 8-9, I’ll be participating in a Caribbean Music Seminar at Royal Holloway College (University of London). On the evening of the 8th, I’ll contribute to an open forum on Jamaican music. On the morning of the 9th, I’ll be delivering a paper about Jamaican culture, versioning, and the notion (and uses) of the “foreign.” Here are the details for the seminar on the 9th –

Music, Text and Politics in the Caribbean and its Diaspora
Institute for the Study of the Americas
35 Tavistock Square, Seminar Room 12

Friday 9 March, 10:30 – 17:30
Venue: Seminar Room 12, ISA

11 – 11.30 am: Opening remarks (Philip Bohlman, Sharon Meredith, Tina K. Ramnarine, Geoff Baker)

11.30 am – 1 pm: Session 1: Music and Text (Chair: Peter Patrick)

Elaine Richardson, Hiphop and Dancehall Intertextualities
Wayne Marshall, To Turn the Text Upside-Down: Versioning the Foreign in Jamaica
Timothy Rommen, “I Ain’t Askin’ Fa Much”: Rake-n-Scrape as Social Text in the Bahamas

1 – 2 pm: Lunch

2 – 3.30 pm: Session 2: Performance and Liberatory Politics (Chair: Tina K. Ramnarine)

Conrad James, Music, Poetry and Black Liberatory Politics in Cuba
Lez Henry, What The Deejay Said: A Critique from the Street!
Sheldon Blackman, On Soca/Sokah: Ras Shorty I and his Legacy

3.30 – 4 pm: Tea/Coffee

4 – 5.15 pm: Session 3: Recording Projects and Ethnographic Film (Chair: Bill Schwarz)

John Cowley, Chants, Carnival Bands and Conflict: Territorial Topicality in Recordings of Creole Masquerade Music
Carlo Cubero, Filming Musical Places: The Making of MANGROVE MUSIC

5.30 – 6.15 pm: Concluding responses and discussion (Chair: Mikael Riley)

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March 7th, 2007

Upside-Down International Sound

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m headed to London this week (tomorrow today actually!) to participate in a Caribbean music seminar at Royal Holloway College. I’m honored to have been invited to join in the proceedings, and I’m quite looking forward to the various papers, the broader conversation, and the feedback I hope to receive on some ideas I’ve been tossing around for a while (and from a group of sharp, Caribbean/ist interlocutors at that).

I’m calling my talk, “To Turn the Text Upside-Down: Versioning the Foreign in Jamaica,” but I should perhaps say “Upside-Up,” or “Rightside Up,” or “I-side-Up,” or something similarly more Rastafarian in spirit (the “upside-down” was spoken by Stuart Hall, incidentally), and I might as well add “Versioning Jamaica in the Foreign” — for how better to describe my own reggaecentric projects?

But here’s Hall elaborating on the idea of turning the Bible upside-down:

…Rastafarianism represented itself as a ‘return’. But what it ‘returned’ us to was ourselves. In doing so, it produced ‘Africa again’ — in the diaspora. Rastafarianism drew on many ‘lost sources’ from the past. But its relevance was grounded in the extraordinarily contemporary practice of reading the Bible through its subversive tradition, through its unorthodoxies, its apocrypha: by reading against the grain, upside-down, turning the text against itself. The ‘Babylon’ of which it spoke, where its people were still ‘suffering’, was not in Egypt but in Kingston — and later, as the name was syntagmatically extended to include the Metropolitan Police (…) Rastafarianism played a critical role in the modern movement that further translation, this strange doctrine and discourse ‘saved’ the young black souls of second-generation Caribbean migrants in British cities in the 1960s and 1970s, (…) it decolonized minds. [link]

Whether or not “upside-down” is the word, I find this a compelling reading of much Jamaican culture, which reinforces my sense that what Deborah Thomas calls “modern blackness” is a useful lens for making sense of (i.e., for versioning, yes) reggae’s relationship to, say, hip-hop. After discussing various texts that get turned upside-down inna JA (and the J’can diaspora) — the Bible, English, colonization, Westerns, r&b — I’ll turn in greater detail to the specific case of hip-hop and the (potentially) bexing questions it raises about who’s turning whom upside-down (and who cares). Or as Alexander Weheliye puts it, in reference to a broader context –

As a direct outcome of its growing sonic and visual presence hip-hop has come to define what it means to be black and “modern” within a global context and particularly in youth cultures. Because of hip-hop’s preeminence, Afro-diasporic youth populations habitually identify with or define themselves against hip-hop culture, creating identities suspended between the local and the global. (146)

With this sort of tension in the air, my main frame of reference will be, as it has been, directed toward and informed by a group which could fairly well be described by the passage above: the hip-hop generation of Jamaica — those who grew up on MTV and BET and Biggie and Tupac as much as with Stone Love and Irie and Beenie and Bounty; those for whom “playa-hatin” rolls off the tongue as easily as “badmind”; those for whom rap beats and flows offer a special kind of currency; and yet, those for whom adopting a Yankee style wholesale still seems anathema, unthinkable, or certainly conspicuous.

As I’ve written elsewhere,

Few DJs of this generation would go so far as to say that a Jamaican who rapped was not “keeping it real,” so to speak. As another Kingston-based DJ, Raw-Raw, put it: “If someone lives in Jamaica and him wan’ rap like him born in Brooklyn, I have no comment on that beca’ — whatever you feel [is valid].” In other words, Raw-Raw would not want to tell a performer what is in or out of bounds regarding their mode of expression. [...] Other Kingston-based artists assented that such a stylistic strategy implies a serious trade-off but is a testament to hip-hop’s power. A singjay named Dami D equated the decision of a young Jamaican to write a rap song with “put[ting] away all pride.” At the same time, he attributed the phenomenon of Jamaican rappers to hip-hop’s ability to inspire people, or in his words: “That show, seh, that hip-hop, it dedeh for really uplift the youth dem.”

One thing that helps young Jamaicans to reconcile an embrace of hip-hop alongside (dancehall) reggae is an understanding of the intertwined genealogy of the two. When I asked him about the relationship between hip-hop and reggae, Wasp, a Kingston-based DJ and one of my primary collaborators, told me:

Rap, ‘pon a level now, come from reggae, seen? Dancehall now is a new ting weh come after rap, seen? So hip-hop get influence from reggae, but this what we a do now — what Dami D a do, Beenie Man a do, Bounty a do, y’know — a dancehall, and that come from rap.

Indeed, in our collaborations, Wasp frequently pushed me (or allowed me to lean, as I was wont to do) toward hip-hop. As I recounted it several years ago, revealing with the awk phrase “anti-jamaican” more about my own underlying assumptions than his –

just yesterday, as i built a riddim for a dj named wasp, i was struck by his anti-jamaican directions. he wanted the snares squarely on the 2 and 4 and the kicks avoiding any semblance of a 3+3+2. he didn’t want a dancehall sound. he wanted an “international sound.”

And yet, this was also the same guy who told me,

I just be a man weh stick to my culture, still. Our culture is like, reggae, dancehall, seen? From your yard, man, is either you have a choice between reggae and dancehall, you see me a say? [...] If a man live a yard and him a rap is like, me feel like him fi just go seh, bomb, and just know seh, yo, him fi go live in other heights, y’know?


Wasp in the studio

I don’t talk to Wasp as often as I’d like to, though I do get regular updates from my man Dami D, who told me recently that Wasp was blowing up (“Wass buss,” he said in that wonderfully economical JA way) and that he had a myspace page and all that (and, as it turns out, about 3 times more friends than i&i !). When I visited, I was quite stoked to hear Wasp absolutely killing the new Black Chiney joint, i.e., the Drumline riddim –

Wasp, “A Buss Di Place”

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Not only has Wasp apparently scored himself a spot on the roster for the Drumline comp with his hissed whispered wordspill — man a buss di place, no doubt — apparently he’s doing dubs, too, so if you’re looking for a tight vocal, check the man.

I’m told that soon enough he’ll have a hot new mixtape out — Kingston kids know how to get the word out, knamean you see me? I first noted the embrace of the hip-hop style mixtape format (i.e., recording your own songs over hot beats, interlinked w/ skits, etc.) in Jamaica when I was there a couple years ago and was passed a tape representing Cassia Park to the world, over the hottest new dancehall riddims and hip-hop beats alike. One track featured Wasp rocking over the beat from the Game’s “Dreams,” introduced with a sample from a classic Twins of Twins bit –

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note the long pull-up around a minute in

As I wrote at the time –

it’s clear that the hip-hop format for bus(t)ing new artists and new tracks has been fully embraced by the digital-denizens of kingston. paralleling young jamaican video artists’ use of found footage (the war in iraq being a particularly popular source of images to counterpose with the ghetto) and video game graphics, among other things, young mixtape makers are increasingly incorporating not simply the classic sounds of jamaican soundsystems (e.g., screaming selectors, big-ups from bigman-DJs, gunshots, and low-fi mixer effects) but everything from silly fruityloops sounds to the latest hip-hop beats to sizzla’s signature “HAAA!” or killa’s “CROSS…” to — the clear new favorite — clips from the twins of twins’ highly popular dancehall parodies.

– they just gotta get them jawns over to MixUnit or something.

Another recent recording by Wasp, which will likely land on the forthcoming mixtape as well, features fellow hip-hop gen DJ, Terro 3000, and offers yet another take on today’s hip-hop inflected Jamaican sound –

Wasp, ft. Terro, “Buss It Off”

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if you listen to the end you’ll hear a lil unintended irony — this being a myspace rip — as an uninvited pop-up voice from the Western Union website comes into the mix; seemed appropriate, so i left it in

At this point, tho, I’ve got to catch some z’s so’s I can catch an early flight across the pond tomorrow. So me haffi jus leave it right here for now. If you’d like to read more along these lines, check the dissertation excerpt I have up on the “word” page. More soon come on that front, too. //

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March 6th, 2007

Lament on the Death of Diplo

“It would seem evident that these two singers were friends of Diplo. The performance begins with a prayer for the repose of his soul and then the two singers exchange improvised decimas, ten paired couplets of eight syllables each. A powerful and moving eulogy and a wonderful example of the Puerto Rican Jibaro or mountain style.” – Robert Garfias

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January 30th, 2007

Copy, Right?

The following is a note I sent to the SEM list in response to a thread that started with this seemingly simple query (if not so easily answered). I felt the need to add my two cents after reading this post. I’ve added a couple more links, including one to a pdf version of the paper I gave at SEM in Hawaii, so anyone who wants to know why I think ethnomusicologists might take some lessons from sample-based hip-hop producers, mashup makers, and mp3 bloggaz might want to check that out. As subsequent responses suggest (but not all), it may be a while before we become as bold as I think we should.

///

Victor, et al.,

These are vexing questions indeed, and even more so given that there really aren’t clear guidelines about what constitutes “fair use” — only various (and sometimes contradictory) precedents established and revised in something of a willy-nilly manner based on who gets sued, how they mount their defense, and whether they’re judged to be right.

I discussed some of the issues we face as ethnomusicologists working in the present legal climate in my paper at SEM in Hawaii. My focus there, however, was less on the letter of the law and more on the effects on our practice as scholars considering that “fair use” is a defense rather than a “right.” In particular, because our work tends to be mediated/vetted by the general counsels of universities and presses — a risk-averse bunch by definition — we’re frequently not even given the choice of exercising “fair use” in our publications. This produces what some call the “chilling effects” of current copyright law.

It seems to me that as an “independent scholar” — though correct me if I’m wrong in calling you that (and note that I use that term not in a pejorative sense) — you are actually better positioned than those of us at certain institutions to exercise “fair use,” though it does mean that you may get sued. It’s not necessarily true that the offended parties will issue you a cease and desist notice before instigating a suit, and it’s possible that they might send a c&d directly to your server/ISP asking them to take down the infringing materials (as has happened to various mp3 bloggers). Even so, I think it is important for scholars and artists to challenge the prevailing climate in our practices. Show and prove, etc.

As for the issues of “tribal”/”ethnic” rights over recordings, there is a fairly substantial literature on the subject at this point. Steve Feld’s “Sweet Lullaby” piece and Tim Taylor’s “A Riddle Wrapped Inside a Mystery,” for instance, both illustrate the complexities and potential problems around such (contested/exploited) definitions of ownership.

I’m not a lawyer and so can’t give you legal advice. But in general, I think we should be as bold about our use of audio, video, transcriptions and the like as we are vigilant about the power/privilege relationships involved in such use. I wouldn’t wish a lawsuit on anyone, but the truth is that we may need to take more risks — and make eloquent arguments — in order to push the law/discourse toward a state that better suits our practices as writers, teachers, artists, etc.

Best,
Wayne

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January 5th, 2007

Smackademics

  • Much as I like to bellyache bout the NYT, you gotta love it when they let pomo philosophers pen op-eds about politricks. And even if (sadly — for all of us, not just him) Zizek’s mostly remixing his ol’ desert of the real spiel, I was totally tickled to see him — in so many words — call Bush an “Iranian Agent.” Now, how about making dude a film critic too?
  • Extreme Archeology! (thx 2 billtron — another ethnomusiblogger)

    Just wait until us ethnoids get in the game. I can see it now: Why Suyá Skydive

  • &speaking of ethnomusibloggers, our ranks seem to be swelling. And I think that’s just swell. See, e.g.,

    (surely there are others I’m missing or forgetting: if so, lemme know)

  • Though he may not be an ethnomusicologist by training, you might mistake Pete Murder Tone for one given his musico-cultural expertise and knack for the ethnographic. The musical blogosphere should be v happy to have him back in it. (Having corresponded with Pete for, shit, several years now — he originally found me via the ol’ Jamaica blogI’m v happy to finally put face to name.) Given that Pete hipped me to dubstep back when it still seemed confined to Croydon — even while living in fckn Australia — I can only imagine what he’s gonna get himself into now that he’s left his academic gig downunder for the undergroun of London.
  • & though it really deserves a post all its own, I can’t resist putting this in this mix:

    Law and the Constitution in the Superhuman Age — a new course at Marvard University

    A lil explanation:

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  • If you didn’t catch it, the “course” above is a project from the Nessons’ CyberOne. Which reminds me, Charlie‘s teaching a three week evidence course this month. And with Becca as virtual bailiff, they’ll be holding a moot court in SecondLife, concerning a real case involving a property dispute in SL. (For the legally curious, they’ll be trying the case twice: w/r/t the EULA and w/r/t common law.) If you’re a SecondLifer, I hear they’re looking for a few good angry men (or women, or penguins, or robots, or whatever, I s’pose).

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December 4th, 2006

Another Crunk Genealogy

Considering what a solid series it’s been so far, I’m quite proud to present –

Blogariddims ¡Blogaritmos! 11: “Another Crunk Genealogy”
crunkyclave / dembowsalsa / raggyton / bhangrabounce
subscribe to series | download mp3
(60:54 | 83.6mb)

Of course, given the all-around excellence of the contributions to date, never mind the massive mix Heatwave dropped on the last installment, I knew I had to rise to the occasion, so I’ve been mixing and remixing this one for a couple weeks now. I even gave it a couple live test runs, first in Boston, then in Chicago, just to see what worked and what didn’t. And I’ve spent the last several days (not entirely, of course) tweaking and tweaking to get it right.

Continuing with the spirit and rhythmic affinities of last year’s crunk genealogy, Blogariddims 11 traces out another crunk genealogy, seeking the common grooves and feedback loops between crunk and clave, reggaeton and ragtime, bhangra and bounce, to name a few.

A warning to the purists out there: I’ve made a great number of edits to this mix. In essence, I’m remixing most of the tracks as they play — blending, cutting and pasting, mashing, smashing, augmenting, and occasionally, briefly, letting them play “on their own” (though even those passages frequently receive some effects). Overall, it’s is a very “hands-on” mix, complete with microedited dembow snares following salsa breaks (but not too many of those). I think it demonstrates (ok, shows off) one way that Live really opens things up as far as crafting mixes goes. Here’s a (squished) screenshot of the final mess:


click to enlarge

Before I get into the tracklist and the extra-long explication (as is custom) and all that good stuff, allow me a bit of musical-analytical exposition. For, you see, rather than picking a genre or geographic locus or diasporic focus as the organizing principle of my mix, I’ve settled instead on a rhythmic figure — or a related set of figures — to weave across a variety of genres from a variety of places.

Let’s begin with one of a few recurring figures, the good ol’ 3:2 clave, usually connected to Cuba (via rumba, son, salsa, etc.):

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It should be noted that this figure’s flipside, often called a 2:3 clave, also informs song structures in various (largely Cuban-derived) genres:

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Now, let’s boil down that clave figure to a half-measure, 3+3+2 phrase for a sec:

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This repeating cell, if played with kicks and snares, probably reminds a lot of listeners of dancehall reggae’s classic bomp bomp pattern:

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Another common way for it to be arranged in dancehall riddims is kick-snare-snare rather than kick-kick-snare, like so:

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At this point, all we have to do is add another kick — on beat 2, creating a steady “4/4″ / “foor-to-the-floor” thump — and we have another common dancehall reggae pattern (esp from the early 90s), not to mention of course, reggaeton’s bedrock boom-ch-boom-chick:

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Now here’s an amazing little leap I like to make: if we switch a kick for a snare here and a snare for a kick there — bingo! — we step into the duple-feelin but well-groovin territory of the American South (and the greater US from there), esp southern hip-hop varieties like crunk, bass, and bounce (not to mention plenty of funk, etc):

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Of course, to come full circle, we should note that crunk (etc) beats more often stretch it out, Bo Diddley style (more on that below), and essentially play that ol’ 3:2 clave on kicks and snares (preferably from an 808 or its imitators), often with an extra snare (and some hihats!) for — you got it — good measure:

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But, although crunk/bass beats often employ a clave in them (shit, the 808 has a chintzy ‘cl’ built right in — which speaks further to this music’s influence), they don’t usually arrange it in a Cuban-esque fashion, but instead employ it in some other polyrhythmic or accented manner. So let me take the clave out so you can hear the bear crunk, as Lil Jon might say inna Jamaican accent (he did DJ dancehall for a spell):

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Frankly, though, Lil Jon would probably pitch down the drums a bit more than I have, and prolly drop some out while maintaining that ol’ rumbafied, big 3+3+2 feel (as is also common in a lot of crunk, as well as bass, electro, r&b, and just about anything out of New Orleans) — something, say, like the following, which underpins a great number of his big hits (just hum the synth line of choice):

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So that’s how we get from clave to crunk, with pan-carib connects all around. Or at least that’s the rhythmic network ping-ponging ’round my neural network. It’s a (somewhat strict) concept for a mix I’ve been thinking about, and playing with (but not with these tracks per se), for a long time.

A couple years ago, I was calling it “Flexible Accumulation / Acumulación Flexible” and I was conceiving of it as a way to demonstrate the shared rhythmic heritage of the Caribbean, as well as how such culturally-charged forms both influence and resonate with musical-cultural formations elsewhere — from the American South to South America, South Asia to Northern Europe, West Africa to the Middle East. Punning on a term that describes a shift from Fordist regimes of capitalist production to more mobile, global forms (Post-Fordist, natch) — see the links above — I wanted instead to emphasize the flexibility and resiliency of cultural practice in a world of transnational corporations, elites, workers, communities, and flows in general. And so, undeveloped as the underlying ideas may yet be (I’ll leave some of that to you, dear listener), I hear this mix as riffing on the modern world system, Anglo-American imperialism, Latin/Caribbean cultural politics, and post-colonial societies and subjects more generally. ¿Sabes?

But enough of the theory and the method, to the music –

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// tracklist //

0. Blogariddims ident (w&w clave edit)
1. Jelly Roll Morton, “Mamanita”

After whipping the ol’ Blogariddims ident into a 3:2 clave (and fake shouting a fake Spanish intro), I bring in a Jelly Roll Morton side. I was struck when listening to a collection of early jazz piano a few months ago by what a Caribbean feel this tune had, what with its rhythm chords often landing on the lilting accents of the ol’ 3+3+2. Morton once (or probably a lot more than that) famously opined that jazz’s essential ingredient was its “Spanish Tinge” — by which he was probably, various have inferred, referring to its inheritance from Cuban music — especially the almighty habanera rhythm — and other forms from Latin America. (The piece is called “Mamanita” after all.) The collection describes it as a tango-informed composition, and, of course, tango is sometimes thought to have been spurred by the arrival of the habanera in Argentina.

What makes it additionally interesting though is it’s connection to ragtime, another genre that likes its 3s against its 2s. The connection here is less about rhythm, tho, than about form: it employs what’s known as “strain form” — e.g., AABBCCADDEE, or the like — which was predominant in ragtime as well as march music a la John Philip Sousa (perhaps one of the earliest truly “global” styles, projected as it was by imperial military ensembles). I’ve cut and paste the piece around a bit, so the form is not as originally played, tho I do preserve the various strains. I’ve also added some dembow accompaniment to bring out the connections between Morton’s performance and the rest of the mix. Hence a new genre is born: raggyton.

I should note, to be clear, that although the first track is the earliest recording (1924, to be precise), this is not a chronologically-organized mix. Indeed, there is no such overarching logic. It proceeds across time and place sometimes according to thematic clusters, which may involve geography, era, or simply some sort of musical correspondence. I do not want to give the impression with any of these “genealogies” that I seek to construct a canon or master narrative of any sort.

2. Percy Mayfield, “Louisiana”
3. The Congos, “Congoman Chant”

“Mamacita” is followed by “Louisiana,” keeping us in the local area, but moving ahead a few decades to a 1952 recording by early r&b crooner, Percy Mayfield (who recently received the reissue treatment). “Louisiana,” which is supposed to evoke the sound of the land — “I was born in Louisiana, / I love the way it sounds,” sings Mayfield — bounces around with that distinctive New Orleans swing. It’s no surprise that this kind of boogie-woogie rubberband r&b was all the rage in Jamaica at the time, overlaying as it does with deep currents in Caribbean music even as it expresses a Yankee urbanity and African-American modernity.

The Congos track serves as something of a segue, a bridge (back?) to Jamaica. As you can hear, primed by them dembows, the drummer — for all his disco borrowings (a nuh no flyers or rockers without TSOP, y’know) — marks out a clear 3+3+2, thus connecting, in direct rhythmic relationship, some heavy roots/dub reggae to modern dancehall — a genealogy that a lot of people find it hard to parse. (You gotta listen through the 80s, duh.)

4. Lord Composer, “Mandeville Road”
5. TOK, “Galang Gal”
6. ??, “Emmanuel Road”
7. Lenky, “XM24″

The Congos track leads us into a mini-set of Jamaican songs, all connected by yet another musical thread, the trad/folk/work/play song, “Mandeville Road (alt. Emmanuel Road).” First, we hear a mento version c/o Lord Composer (named in the calypso tradition, you’ll note) and his Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra (named after where the bread&butter is). Not only does the playing here, esp the solo, relate to the jazz of the day and thus North American sources, a 3:2 clave comes in to confirm a Cuban connection (if possibly via Trinidad, where son was one stream among several, incl jazz, feeding into early calypso). And don’t miss the 3+3+2 bass pattern to boot.

From there we segue into TOK’s “Galang Gal,” which as you can hear riffs off the ol’ folk song to propel a gwaan-gal anthem. Of course, the riddim accompanying the group is the mighty Diwali by Steven ‘Lenky’ Marsden, which, despite distinctive qualities which made it both a sleeper hit and the harbinger of a sea change of sorts — including a more “straight” or duple feel in the first half of each bar, resembling techno/house — resolves each measure with a 3+3+2 turnaround, thus hitting dancehall’s rhythmic signpost. Indeed, a closer examination shows that the structure of the Diwali — 4+4+3+3+2 — is a common one in Jamaican folk music and Caribbean popular music alike. (Think, for instance, of that cliche congo-line accompaniment: dum-dum-dum-dum dum DUM!) Notably, a good number of grime riddims and dubstep tracks employ the same bass/kick pattern, if at faster tempos.

After TOK, we hear a group whose name I can regrettably not locate at the moment (as I cannot find the physical CD). They are featured on the Nonesuch comp, Island Songs and Dances, recorded by John Storm Roberts. To maintain a couple musical threads, I accompany the singing and stomping — ring play style — with Lenky’s “XM24,” a nicely synthed-up version of the Diwali issued as the final track on the Greensleeves riddim comp.

8. Calle 13, “Atrévete Te, Te! (Acapella)”
9. Mannie Fresh, “Bling Bling (Instrumental)”

Letting Lenky’s instrumental continue, I bring in Residente (of Calle 13) to drop some get-out-the-closet rhymes and move us toward some further excursions en español. To augment Residente’s complex, critical, ironic lyrics, I then swap the Diwali for Mannie Fresh’s extra-shiny beat for Cash Money’s “Bling Bling,” which notably features a 3:2 clave-style kick-snare pattern (as demo’d in the exposition above).

10. El General, “Te Ves Buena”
11. Mr. Collipark, “Wait (Instrumental)”

From there, it’s on to El General’s “Te Ves Buena,” which is a remix of his reggae en español hit that appeared on the explicitly experimental, mildly influential, and totally curious Meren-Rap compilation issued by Prime Records in 1991. Notably, the remix gives the song much more of a contemp hip-hop feel, with a snare pattern indebted to funk breakbeats. But there’s also a break at the beginning of the track featuring that ol’ 3:2 clave pattern played on synth-claps (which I looped for some of the accompaniment to “Atrévete Te, Te”). What I like about the track is how much it clearly nods to reggae (check that rumbling bassline and those chunky “chords” on the offbeat), and yet doesn’t really sound like reggae at all. In that sense — being a hip-hop-informed production of a reggae beat made in Puerto Rico — the song is very much in the vein of proto-reggaeton, save for the sampledelia (tho I abhor that term, I haven’t come up with better — please suggest another).

At a certain point I bring in Mr. Collipark’s minimal masterpiece, the instrumental to the Ying-Yang Twins’ “Wait” (which, gotta admit, I far prefer to the non-instrumental version). That the track is such a stark but unmistakable example of the genre (if the “whisper” variety) shows how deeply the 3:2 clave pattern underlies crunk. Which is not surprising given how long the clave has informed American popular music, esp of the southern variety, more generally. Which brings us to our next track…

12. Bo Diddley, “Bo Diddley”
13. Pharrell, “Drop It Like It’s Hot (Instrumental)”
14. Cut Chemist, “(My First) Big Break”

The classic — which is to say, well-rehearsed — example of introducing the 3:2 clave to the mainstream (aside from all those Fred Astaire, et al., “mambo” records, I guess), Bo Diddley’s eponymous anthem would be conspicuously absent in even as admittedly incomplete and capricious a survey as this. Sometimes cast, imaginatively, as “African rhythms” (um) or “jungle music” (eek), Diddley’s approach might better be described as having reinvigorated rock’s underlying “Latin tinge” originally bequeathed to the genre — in part? in parts? — by New Orleans r&b and early rock’n'roll (e.g., Prof Longhair, Fats Domino, Larry Williams, etc).

Here I mix it with Mr. Collipark’s beat, the 3:2 clave clap from El General’s “Te Ves Buena,” and, then, after a few bars, I add Pharrell’s clave-cribbing, but utterly original, beat for Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” chopping it up a bit to make it better fit the melodic contour of the Diddley riff. Soon thereafter, I bring in a loop from Cut Chemist’s recent album (which contains some gems) which provides a driving, dancehall-derived, but big-beat-bouncy version of the 3+3+2.

15. Gacha Empega and El Hillal, “Salam Aleikoum”

I leave the Cut Chemist loop in for a while as an opening accompaniment for the epic, engaging “Salam Aleikoum” by Gacha Empega and El Hillal — a recording I was hipped to by John Schaefer (the first blog of many that, in some way or another, helped sourced this mix — which seems appropriate given the whole “Blogariddims” concept). It’s an incredible recording, unique, and full of energy, and so I give it a good amount of time here. But not much space. Which is to say, I alternate layers of drumtracks on top to continue with the sonic glue of the rest of the mix, as well as to underscore how the underlying rhythmic framework of this very different song from a very different place ends up overlaying so well with reggae/ton riddims. At times, especially the more staccato solo sung passages, the singers sound like DJs riding the riddim(s). Who knows? Maybe they’ve listened to a lot of dancehall.

At any rate, this is where our crunk genealogy seeks common grooves in music more frequently associated with (and produced in) the Middle and Near East, North Africa, and “the” Subcontinent (and their diasporic nodes, natch).

16. T. Roy, “Malfoof Drum Rhythm”
17. Panjabi Hit Squad, “Nachle Moranie”
18. Seeed (ft. Back Kappa), “Dickes B”

One of the drum tracks I’m layering/alternating here — the one that tends to accompany the chorus — is not a reggae riddim but, indeed, a common rhythm in Arab music, often referred to as the Malfoof or Malfuf, which according to Ali Jihad Racy (see that link back there), “is a fast rhythmic pattern, typical of popular and folk music. It is usually transcribed as 2/4 or 4/4 and may accompany lively dancing.” The recording of the Malfoof that I’m employing in the mix comes from an instructional recording by T. Roy the Drummer, who sells his music/lessons through cdbaby. (Thanks to Pacey Foster for bringing it to my attention.)

After a little breakdown where T. Roy says his piece (w/ a slight return of the ident), I bring in the Panjabi Hit Squad’s “Nachle Moranie,” a bhangra banger which nodded hard at contemporary dancehall back in ’03-04. (And, indeed, was packaged right along with it, not to mention the hip-hop hits of the day. Ah, London.)

Staying on our mini-European tour of the dancehall diaspora, I move from the Panjabi Hit Squad to Seeed, one of Germany’s foremost reggae acts, for another take — from a distance — on the 3+3+2, JA stylee. Notably, I encountered this song as the lead track on a CD intended to showcase Berlin’s hip-hop scene back in ’03 when I was still considering writing a dissertation on hip-hop in Germany. One thing such an inclusion suggested to me — esp given its conspicuous position on the comp — is how closely reggae and hip-hop travel together outside their central sites of production and how they are often conflated or at least closely associated. (No doubt that there are purist scenes everywhere.) It’s interesting that such seemingly far-flung spots as Germany have been growing increasingly central in the global reggae market, if still dwarfed by Jamaica’s prodigious output and fierce claims to authenticity.

19. Missy Elliott, “Pass That Dutch”
20. Raw Fusion, “Funk Into Yo Ear”
21. George Abdo, “Hadouni, Hadouni”
22. Ismael Rivera, “Para Mi Gente”
23. Q-Tip, “Breathe and Stop (Acapella)”

We then hear a strong 3:2 clave bassline c/o Missy Elliott, which abruptly yields to some percussion from George Abdo’s “Hadouni, Hadouni” (itself — despite being bellydance music — containing a 3:2 clave, played on wood blocks to boot). Soon the percussion is augmented by a loop from Raw Fusion’s “Funk Into Yo Ear” (which also features a 3:2 kick-snare pattern — a common one in early 90s hip-hop and pop [think Soul II Soul]). Raw Fusion, incidentally, is a tongue-twisting, reggae-infused, goofy-futurist side-project of Digital Underground who released an album in 1991 called Live from the Styleetron, from which this track comes. It’s but a footnote in my dissertation and would require a post all its own, but I wanted to throw this sort of hip-hop realization of the 3:2 in the mix. Sorry we don’t get to hear Shock G do his thing.

Before too long, I let Abdo and his band do their thing with their strings and voices supported by a little dembow action. (we use so many snares.) I love that this clave-clapping bellydance music was not only recorded but played weekly in my hometown, Cambridge, MA, during my own lifetime; I only wish I got a chance to check it out.

We move from Abdo’s song, which you might note — especially during Missy’s verse — also employs a steady “four-to-the-floor” rhythm (tho I’m obscuring it a bit by emphasizing it so much), which makes it a great segue to the plena-infused salsa of Ismael Rivera that we then move to. (And I should note that we’ve shifted tempo at this point, gradually, from 95 bpm at the start to around 114 bpm.) Rivera, or “el sonero mayor” (the premiere improviser), is one of salsa’s greatest singers, an inventive, distinctive voice and a singer who consciously represented Afro-Puertorriqueñidad. Embodied by the 4/4 frame drum part, the invocation of plena here — a music of protest and social commentary — underscores that commitment as suggested in the song’s title, “Para Mi Gente (For My People).” As genres go, salsa overlaps easily with reggaeton rhythms, as various instruments in the texture provide accents on/around a 3+3+2 cross rhythm, with the bass frequently anchoring things there (though not so much in this track, as it turns out).

24. DJ Blass, “Recuerdos de Antes”
25. DJ Blass, “Reggaeton Sex 2, Track 2″

After the dip into dembow salsa, we move into some vintage reggaeton. These two recordings are both from around the same era — the late 90s / early 00s, as reggaeton was just emerging as a term and as a style distinct from, but deeply indebted to, the underground/dembow/melaza that preceded it. One of the things that distinguishes these latter day (but not quite contemporary) PR productions from earlier efforts is the adoption of synthesizer sounds (including drums and effects) more associated with techno and “club” music than with hip-hop or reggae. Of course, the Dem Bow and other well-worn reggae riddims still maintain a strong presence (though often chopped up and augmented with synth kicks and sometimes reduced solely to snares).

The sudden, almost overwhelming presence of synth drums, effects, melodies, chords, and textures is attributable to at least two major factors: 1) the increasing integration/institutionalization of reggaeton into club culture in San Juan and New York; and 2) the advent of digital sequencing programs such as FruityLoops. Such software, often developed as techno tools (and often for trancey varieties at that), arrived with presets more appropriate for happy hardcore than hip-hop reggae, but producers embraced these energy-flash signifiers of rave/club music and — whattaya know — carved out a space in global electro dance music culture for themselves. Of course, maintaining that ever-present 3+3+2, even (and esp) with thumping 4/4 kicks, didn’t hurt.

The two tracks I’ve selected here both feature ravey synths and heavy kicks alongside repeatedly triggered, sampled voices, chicas talking about they’re not easy but they chupalo on the first date, and some guy intoning a rather uninspired chant of “reggaeton sex.” These may not exactly represent aesthetic highpoints of the genre, but they document a pivotal moment in reggaeton’s twisting, turning tale and they connect today’s futuristic, bombastic pistas to early experiments with synths. Such productions marked a departure from the genre’s hip-hop-informed sampledelic past (tho I abhor that term, I confess I can’t come up with better — please suggest), but perhaps assured the genre a stronger foothold in the wider DJ/disco scene.

26. Mr. Collipark, “Ay Chico (Instrumental)”
27. George LaMond, “Bad of the Heart”

Toward the end of our ravey reggaeton interlude, the 3:2 clave synth clap that begins Mr. Collipark’s hotter-than-fuego instrumental for Pitbull’s “Ay Chico” (one of several strong cuts on his new disc) leads us into a mash of Collipark’s Afro-Cubist crunk collage and George LaMond’s (Latin) freestyle classic, “Bad of the Heart.” (Video here!) LaMond’s song hits all the hallmarks of the genre: plenty of 808 percussion (incl a 3:2 kick-snare clave pattern), chintzy synthesizers, semi-sweet harmonies, and stuttered synth vox, while Collipark’s crunky craziness provides just enough edge to cut the cheesy synths.

28. The Beat Club, “Security (Remix)”
29. Pitbull, “Ay Chico (Acapella)”

Maintaining Collipark’s clave claptrap, I bring in Pitbull’s acapella while switching the Collipark-LaMonde mash for the Beat Club’s “Security (Remix),” for which I should thank G.Scruggs, student, supporter, blogger, and documentarian of funk carioca. In contrast to the more typical sensationalist coverage funk receives, Greg’s been providing thoughtful, careful ethnographic and archival perspectives on the music and its social context, including the post that discussed “Security” and other Miami bass favorites in the funk scene. Though perhaps not as famous as “Battery Brain” — that trumpeted “basis for an entire genre” — tracks like “Security” were touchstones for funkeiros well before tamborzao loops and Fruityloops changed the game, and their stamp — as heard in the 3:2 electro/bass pattern that underlies most funk tracks — remains audible in today’s rapidfire releases.

30. ??, “Bubbling MSN Remix”
31. DJ Darkraver, “MSN Bubbling Remix”
32. DJ SoLman, “UoH Mix”

Before M.I.A.M.I.’s favorite Cubano crunkeador is done telling the anonymous object of his affection that he gets off watching her get off, I slip the bass out from under him, replacing it with an anonymously produced (but tell me if I’m wrong) bubbling beat that flips the MSN messenger chirp into the doggone Murder She Wrote riddim! Given the genre’s own pilfering of the late 80s / early 90s dancehall canon (putting it on a level with reggaeton and KRS-One), I couldn’t resist bringing some bubbling into the mix: Afro-Antillean dance music on some hopped-up happy hardcore hollandaise, sampling from pop and reggae and desi beats, software and video games! Poco man jam indeed. (Thx to Atila for the tracks.) Before long, I follow the first bubbling MSN remix with — believe it or not — a second version of the same, this one identified with DJ Darkraver.

From there, I mix the bubbling beats into some kuduro. How could I resist? I mean, it’s the “new baile funk,” right? All hype aside, though, Kuduro definitely fits in here with its 3+3+2 techno romps, as would lots of other African pop/dance musics. And the low-fi, FL preset aesthetic is consistent with reggaeton, funk, bubbling, and lots of other DIY electronic genres in this genealogy. Frankly, I don’t remember where I got this particular track, but rest assured it was from some blogger or other. (Ok, DJ Vamanos just reminded me where I got the DJ SoLman track. Thx!)

(By this point, btw, we’ve worked our way up toward 130 bpm.)

33. Nayamka Drummers, “Skin of the Drum, Track 5″
34. Wolfgang Voigt, “Nachschub”
35. Mestre Suassuna, “Maculele”
36. MC Vanessinha, “Dance de Peteca”

Shortly after the kuduro track begins, I add some drum loops c/o of the Nayamka Drummers, a Jamaican drum troupe associated with the estimable Sista P of Portland, JA and her Fi Wi Sinting festival/project. This track comes from a CD-R passed to me by Charlie Nesson, a longtime friend of Sista P and of Port Antonio. Presumably passed to him by Sista P, the CD features a half-dozen kumina songs recently and lovingly recorded. To add to the energy and rhythmic texture of the kuduro jam, I alternate between a more active and a more spacious section of the kumina track (once again, they share a 3+3+2 accent), and eventually I shift into the kumina song proper, accompanied from the start, however, by Wolfgang Voigt’s “Nachschub,” a minimal techno track that has always struck me as deeply Caribbean(-esque) with its submerged 3+3+2 bassline and scratchy, syncopated percussion. (Gwaan, Köln!)

Letting the kumina troupe do their thing for a while — including some spirited soloing — eventually I echo them out, leaving in the Voigt track and segueing into a similar sort of call/response, acoustic Afrodiasporic “folk” song, but now moving us back to Brazil. This is a recording of maculele, which as Maga Bo points out, is the local style that has most audibly informed the ubiquitous hand-drum tracks that underlie so much funk (along with that 808-ish 3:2 kick-snare pattern, nodding to bass and samba both). To underscore this connection, I follow the maculele recording with a classic Rio funk track, MC Vanessinha’s “Dance de Peteca” (which I may have grabbed way back when?), dropping out the Voigt toward the entrance to let Vanessinha have her minimal boom for a bit.

After about four bars of that, tho, I introduce a very strong halftime current c/o…

37. Kode9 and Space Ape, “Backward”

which works with Vanessinha for a while, but I shift into Space Ape’s verse proper before too long. (Here is one place, among several, where the mix exploits the half-time / double-time hinges so many of these songs and rhythms provide.) What I like about this track — and dubstep and grime more generally — is the allusion to and abstraction of Caribbean forms. This one, for all its oompah pull, also inserts snares that create a slow soca sort of feel at times. Which, of course, suggested that I mix in some actual soca.

38. Dawg E Slaughter, “Bounce”
39. Ilegales (ft. Johnny Ventura), “Dame un Chin”

Dawg E. Slaughter’s “Bounce” not only represents quintessential soca, it also shows — between the beats, synths, flows, and lyrics — how much techno, hip-hop, and dancehall Trinidad’s national dance music has absorbed. After a couple choruses, I keep the uptempo, high octane vibe going with “Dame un Chin” by Ilegales and merengue legend Johnny Ventura. I’ve been enamored of this track for a few years now — I really like the stark contrasts in voice (esp Ventura’s low, low baritone at the beginning), the hopped-up drums, the superfast rap. Although merengue doesn’t accent a 3+3+2 as strongly as other Caribbean dance forms, one can hear the overlap with the boom-ch-boom-chick leanings of the rest of the mix in the composite rhythms emerging from the interplay between the shaker, the hand drums, and the programmed kick, never mind the accordion, bachata guitar, and horns.

40. Patsy Cline, “Foolin’ Around”

In something of a whimsical mix and perhaps an unexpected thread in all of this, I next bring in Patsy Cline’s “Foolin’ Around,” which like so many mid-century pop songs, features a bassline that traces a 3+3+2 against the duple pulse, as the bass would, for instance, in son or mambo (or the jazz, r&b, and stateside pop they influenced). Oddly enough, the intro to Cline’s track matches the melodic contour of the Ilegales’ ostinato pretty well. Even odder, there’s something of a digital burp at the beginning of this one that, like a stubborn ghost, refused to go away. So I had to accept it and let it stay there, and there’s something nice about that, too. I like when a mix shows its seams a bit. In the end, I’d rather not behind some curtain of digital wizardry, so I’m content with this mistake (or is it a magic accident?).

41. Calle 13, “Suave”
42. Franco & Le Tout Puissant OK Jazz, “On Entre OK, On Sort OK”

We return to Calle 13 briefly for a taste of “Suave,” a typically eccentric, reggaetony outing for the group, and one which seems to borrow various Brazilian musical signifiers (which is not unusual for Calle 13, esp given producer Visitante’s prior musical experience). Deep stuff, and surely broadening reggaeton’s palette as much as the parallel drive toward bachata, banda, etc. in more mainstream offerings. Next, we hear from Franco & OK Jazz, ambassadors of Congo’s own version of Cuban music — or Rumba on the River, if you will — which later becomes known as soukous. Even without the reggaeton snares I’ve added, one should hear a clear Cuban influence in the 3+3+2 bassline, never mind the references to “rumba” and “calle” in the lyrics.

43. Ti Band L’avenir, “Panamam Tombe”

We finish with Haiti’s version of the Cuban son, a/k/a Dominican merengue’s twin — otherwise known as meringue. The song features a similar 3+3+2 bass pattern as we’ve heard across the mix and, moreover, a 3:2 clave pattern (if loosely interpreted at times) played on a bottle. To bring things down as I wind them up, I more or less let the song — the final track of the mix — play out without much manipulation, adding some subtle effects occasionally (and increasingly), and building up to the outro c/o a dubbed-out version of the blogariddims ident clave once more.

And that’s that. Whew. If you made it this far, I congratulate you.

But I hope this text can serve as some sort of resource, both for curious listeners to the mix and for those interested more generally in these musical and socio-cultural relationships. At bottom, I hope people enjoy these sounds and songs and styles as I’ve collected and re-presented them, and I hope they light up your imaginations — and move you — as much as they do mine, and move me.

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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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