Archive of posts tagged with "global"

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:

Spring 2008
Brandeis University

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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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) softwar/marlboro.cfm

Scruggs, Greg. “Stirring the Pot.” Beat Diaspora, 17 December 2007.

Week 6: Hip-hop meets House in South Africa

Robinson, Simon. “That’s Kwaito Style.” (Time)

Clark, Grant. “Kwaito: The Voice of Youth.” (BBC World Service) 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.

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.

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.

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) Bongo+Flava:+Swahili+Rap+from+Tanzania

Mueller, Gavin. “Bongoflava: The Primer.” (Stylus)

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)

Chang, Jeff. “Future Shock.” Village Voice, 19 January 2004.,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.

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.,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”

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November 2nd, 2009

World Music 2.0 (and W&W) on Afropop Worldwide

Afropop Worldwide has a new program, airing currently on terrestrial radio in the US (and soon to appear online as streamable audio), which focuses on a subject near&dear to the heart of this blog: world music 2.0, aka nu-whirled music, aka global ghettotech. Or as they put it —

Afropop Worldwide takes us into the world of the globalistas, a far-flung grouping of polyglot hipsters, bass freaks, and digital beatsmiths who rally around the sounds of the 21st century dancefloor – rhythms such as Angolan kuduro, Brazilian funk carioca, reggaeton and dancehall, Indian bhangra and Argentine electro-cumbia. Ethnomusicologist/DJ/Blogger/Writer Wayne Marshall calls this music World Music 2.0, highlighting how digital production technology and the internet has created new, younger, international audiences for music from other places. Marshall will guide us through the sonic circuitry of global bass music and show us why old assumptions about “world” music might no longer apply. We’ll also speak with DJ Rupture, Dutty Artz founder and visionary world mashup artist, and, of course, listen to some ground shaking tracks from across the beat-o-sphere.

I’ll be sure to post a link here when the whole program comes online; meantime, if you don’t live in one of the radio markets where Afropop is carried, you can hear an 8 minute teaser here

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.

You can also peruse a list of featured blogs (all of which will be familiar to regular readers here) and read a transcript of Afropop’s interview with yours truly. Here’s the flattering set-up:

This week on Afropop Worldwide, we took a look at how technology is shaping music production and listening practices around the world with Afropop Soundsystem 3: Nu-Whirled Music. Over the course of the program, we explore the question – is there such as thing as World Music 2.0? And if so, what are the consequences? Here, you can read our full interview with our guest Wayne Marshall, who has some pretty interesting things to say about the topic.

Wayne is an ethnomusicologist, blogger, and DJ, currently doing a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. He is the co-editor of Reggaeton, an excellent anthology of essays on the Puerto Rican reggae-rap. He works, more broadly, digging into the “sonic circuitry” of contemporary global music.

You can read Wayne’s thoughtful rambles on technology, culture, and electronic dance pop from the globe at his blog Wayne & Wax. In fact, the colorful analysis on Wayne’s blog was the prime inspiration for this week’s program!

Thoughtful rambles! I can live with that ;) “Nu-whirl” on the other hand…

But ambivalent as I am about pretty much all of the terms being used to discuss this stuff (I disavow coining “World Music 2.0” in the interview, though I do take responsibility for the monster that is global g-tech), I’m excited to see the conversation continue, and I’m especially thrilled to see Afropop bring some of these new sounds and styles (dare I say new worlds?) to the attn of their listenership.

Finally, I want to give special thanks to producer (and interviewer) Marlon Bishop for initiating this project and for making, as Rachel put it, “afropop sound like radiolab”!

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June 29th, 2009

Pop Goes the World

There’s little I can add to all the tributes and reflections gumming up the web these days, but like so many others I feel compelled to say something. Inspired even. I found Andrew Sullivan’s and Jeff Chang’s posts pretty resonant, Jason King’s too, among others, and I’ve been particularly struck by all the MJ music I’ve been hearing in the street and on the radio — and especially all the callers explaining to DJs how his passing feels like losing a family member.

Of course (of course?!), my experience of sharing the loss and the joyous, deeply-embodied memories of his music has probably been most strongly textured by Twitter, where I hardly needed a hashtag to hear from dozens of friends and “friends” about the man we all knew and loved (despite his serious problems). Many have made mention of the Twitter effect on MJ’s death — not to mention MJ’s effect on Twitter. Sasha Frere-Jones noted the irony in turning the radio off and letting the TV sit dormant while he and James Murphy’s people received and tapped out tweets on their phones and laptops. Ethan Zuckerman, who wrote a script to track Twitter activity (post-Moldova and the like), announced on Thursday night that 15% of all tweets were about Michael Jackson, a remarkable statistic given that he’d never seen Iran or swine flu top 5% (others have placed MJ’s footprint at 30%, though Ethan offers some important qualifications here).

I admit that it was pretty surreal “watching” MJ die via Twitter. One tweet it was cardiac arrest maybe, a few more speculated wildly, the stuff of rumor: a coma? stopped breathing? There were a couple dreadful say-it-aint-so’s, and then, before long, the news was pouring in, confirmed, unbelievable but not surprising.

Weird as it was initially, though, it quickly turned cathartic — in a beautiful way — as disbelief morphed into something more like eulogy and second-line at the same time and the “digital bouquets” began piling up. What was especially mindboggling, as I settled into a several hour face-to-face listening session with some friends, was the knowledge, repeatedly suggested by my phone, that millions of us (a wild extrapolation, I know) were listening to Michael Jackson’s music at the same time. A realization that made me wonder aloud whether anything like it had ever happened before in the history of world culture.

I suspect not — for Michael Jackson is a sui generis pop star, unrivaled in popularity (never mind Lennon’s claim to be “bigger than Jesus,” MJ just might), who, beyond his remarkable talents as a singer, dancer, and songwriter, happened to come of age at just the right moment in global media, a moment that may not ever be reproduced. In a piece published last Friday, Jody Rosen hits the nail:

Weeping for Michael, we are also mourning the musical monoculture—the passing of a time when we could imagine that the whole country, the whole planet, was listening to the same song.

Though that era may be over and the mainstream dissolved “into a trillion scattered data-bites,” at least on Thursday night and Friday, and to some extent through the weekend and still today, that’s kinda what it feels like, as if we’re all listening to the same thing. Not one song, but one artist’s oeuvre is suffusing soundscapes the world over in a manner that can only be unprecedented and seems unlikely to happen again. (But go ahead, make me myopic.)

I guess my relationship to MJ and his music is not unlike others of my generation. I know many of his songs by heart. A Victory Tour ’84 poster hung on our bedroom wall. Had a birthday cake with his face emblazoned on it sometime in the mid-80s. Wore a pin with his Thrillery face on it back when I was 8 (a tweeted remembrance that found itself in SFJ’s NYer post).

Michael Jackson was incredibly awesome and deeply flawed, and so was his music. He produced a bewildering number of absolutely flawless songs, don’t get me wrong, but he’s also responsible for some of the schlockiest, heavy-handedest pop ever crafted (as well as plenty of unremarkable clunkers). He practically invented the modern r&b power ballad, complete with gospel/kids choir and gear changes run amok (not a good look, IMO), so much so that soca star Machel Montano, mourning his loss, erroneously included R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” (“I Can’t Believe It’s Not MJ?”) among Jackson’s anthems.

I’ve actually been a little surprised that I haven’t (yet) seen many Michael Jackson remixes and DJ sets making the rounds. Perhaps people have been too busy remembering in real time. So I was glad to see Hank Shocklee ask people to send some his way. I did a little digging and a little on-the-fly warping and I came up with a trio of tracks, one made by me, that offer some new angles on ol’ MJ, transposing him into house, jungle, and reggae —

     * Masters At Work’s remix of “Rock With You” (mp3 | YouTube)
     * DJ C’s remix of Shinehead’s cover of “Billie Jean” (mp3)
     * and my own mix’n’mash of MJ’s “Billie Jean” vox + Sly & Robbie’s “Billie Jean” riddim (mp3)

My own effort is a lot more slapdash than the sophisticated, detailed productions by MAW and DJ C. More mashup than meticulous. What I’ve done is added the acapella from “Billie Jean” to Sly and Robbie’s slinky reggae version of that song’s instrumental (actually, it’s just one of their versions — they also support the Shinehead cover that DJ C remixes, as it happens). I’ve applied a little delay and other bits of digital manipulation to MJ’s voice, hoping to estrange a little so well-worn a performance, and I’ve cut and pasted some chunks of the riddim around to maintain the right harmonic motion at points where they diverged.

While we’re on the subject of remixes and the like — or, of how Michael Jackson’s very public presence inspires waves of activity across public culture — it’s worth noting that there’s also already been a corrido composed in his honor:

MJ’s reign as global pop king is perhaps still ungraspable. Thomas Friedman-esque anecdotes only go so far. We need greater data, quantitative and qualitative, and more local histories of his presence and influence and resonance. Emma Baulch noted on the IASPM listserv that “In Indonesia, Bad and Dangerous were more successful than Thriller, in terms of official sales.” But she pointed out that this fails to account for pirated sales (and, I’d add, other forms of informal / non-commercial circulation).

Of course, there may be no better bizarro embodiment of MJ’s global reach than those memetastic Filipino inmates doing their pitchframe-perfect re-enactment of the “Thriller” video. Then again, we should bear in mind that the Philippines is perhaps something of a special case.

Given all this activity, not to mention the reports of off-the-charts sales in the wake of his death, I do wonder how we would begin to take measure of such a thing as Michael Jackson’s global popularity. How do we get a grasp on the actual immensity of the event? What do we know, for example, about MJ’s YouTube views? — & not only on the thousands of instantiations of his songs and videos that fans have uploaded but even on the handful of tracks that sampled his songs and also have become shrines of sorts?

Speaking of shrines, which indubitably contain a range of images of the man (as this post itself does), I have to note that when I think of MJ, I seem to picture him as the blur in between the black and the white, the lean mean singing-and-dancing machine and the media freakshow, the unbelievably awesome and the transmogrified tragic. Having first grown up with his music and later grappled with him as an embodiment of American racial imagination, I still have more questions than answers. And one of the most notorious questions is the one posed over 20 years ago by Greg Tate: What’s Wrong With Michael Jackson?

Upon reading Tate’s piece again, I wonder how much the man (in the mirror) was precisely that: a cipher upon which we read the twisted American story in growing contortion, progressive disfigurement, a grotesque from which we could not, cannot, turn our heads. A sad story, to be sure. But a narrative that, as Michael showed as well as anyone else, leaves plenty room for improvisation and for (occasional) transcendence.

This was my initial, and remains my lingering, impression on the death of Michael Jackson —

And I’ll leave it there for now. Thx for letting us rock with you for so long. So long…

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March 5th, 2009

Music Unites Us, Gets Under Our Skins

I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce this —

At a time when the arts community at Brandeis is feeling rightly beleaguered, it brings me no little satisfaction to know that we will be putting on a rather art-ful residency later this month, sponsoring the US premiere of such an exciting, provocative, and relevant group as Nettle. It brings added satisfaction that we’ve been able to pull this off at all, especially since we thought we had to call it off back in October. We have some dedicated fundraisers and generous donors to thank for that.

For those who don’t know, Nettle is the brainchild of Jace Clayton (aka DJ /Rupture), someone who is no stranger to readers of this blog. He started the group when living as an ex-pat in Barcelona along with several other ex-pats (from Scotland & Morocco), all of them speaking second or third languages in order to converse with each other. There’s a lot to like about the group, starting with their unique sound but branching out into the myriad questions their collaboration seems to pose about cultural & social life in our contemporary, globalized cities.

Jace has quite a way with words, though, so I’ll let him tell you more himself (via) —

Nettle originated in my fascination with the concept of an album heavily influenced by Middle Eastern ideas, but not necessarily at the audible level. I was unsatisfied with the narrative poles of electronic music — loop-based dance pieces or abstract/ambient pieces without storytelling force. A suite of rigorous modal improvisation in Arabic music called taqasims offered the solution: I knew and loved their internal play between free-flowing improv and strict technical guidelines. I spent a year or two translating these ideas into pieces for samplers and laptop. Two albums later I still wasn’t satisfied: one-way cultural flows aren’t good enough. I wanted community, two-way translations, the squeal of a feedback loop.

Earlier this year I was commissioned by a British arts council to transform Nettle into a proper live ensemble. Violin, oud, percussion, electronics, realtime sampling. I’d been involved in Barcelona’s Moroccan music community for a while, but the Nettle project has upped the intensity of collaboration. A few days ago, Nettle’s violin and oud player, Abdelaziz Hak, brought up taqasims to explain his response to a beat I’d prepared for him.

I broke into a silly grin.

This is working. We’re starting to get under each other’s skin.

When I met Judy Eissenberg last year and she told me about the MusicUnitesUS program & how she was inspired to start it in the wake of 9/11 as a way of embracing and exploring cultural difference, I almost immediately thought of Nettle.

Whereas MUUS residencies in the past have offered an opportunity for intercultural exchange, bringing representatives of some ‘non-Western’ society to share their traditions with the Brandeis community, what is wonderful about Nettle is that the group already embodies that process of encounter and exchange. What especially attracts me to the group’s sound and spirit is their eschewal of easy fusion cliches, choosing instead to embrace moments where they “get under each other’s skin,” as Jace puts it.

Electronic beats rumbling beneath folk and pop idioms from North Africa and avant-garde cello, Nettle represents the sound of New Spain, but they also, to my ears anyhow, offer pregnant musical metaphors for our ‘Nu World,’ to put a zeitgeisty spin on it: they seem to revel in the cultural ruptures — and spaces — created by today’s rapid circulation of people and media, in which some things have an easier time crossing borders than others. (On that point, INSHALLAH that Abdel & Khalid don’t get tripped up by customs agents, even in the age of Obama.)

I’m further delighted to report that Nettle will be joined by their occasional percussionist (aka Filastine!) and visual artist Daniel Perlin (aka DJ N-RON!) who will be providing realtime visual accompaniment. It’s gonna be quite a show.

If you’re in the Boston area (or not!), you’re welcome to attend any of the on-campus events, which, aside from the concert Saturday night, are all free and open to the public. I expect tickets for the concert to go quickly, so you may want to snap some up ASAP. I’ll be giving a brief talk in the Rose Art Museum directly prior to the concert, exploring the ways music expresses selfhood and neighborhood in our globalized, if perhaps not quite (yet?) cosmopolitan, cities.

Hope you can join us!

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January 21st, 2009

The Work of Oprah in the Age of Disturbingly Faithful Hypercompetent Reproductions

I agree with Sharon and Boima, searching for authenticity is a good way to miss the forest for the trees. In other words, authenticity is so vague. Or as I’ve put it elsewhere (see note #2), there’s no there there.

Back to forests and trees. In the revised version of that globalization theory classic, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Arjun Appadurai argues that many accounts of globalization are riddled by “a confusion between some ineffable McDonaldization of the world and the much subtler play of indigenous trajectories of desire and fear with global flows of people and things.”

Discussing said subtler play of trajectories, Appadurai contends that “Americanization” is a “pallid term” to describe, for example, the “disturbingly faithful” Filipino renditions of American pop song (see p. 49). For those who don’t want to read the excerpt, I’ll skip straight to the kicker:

American nostalgia feeds on Filipino desire represented as a hypercompetent reproduction.

Munch on that money mouthful for a minute. Or better yet, watch this (& see also) —

CHARICE on OPRAH Show [FULL] – Charice / Charice Pempengco

The cherry on top? Appadurai brings it all back home with a Jamesonian flourish —

I would like to suggest that the apparent increasing substitutability of whole periods and postures for one another, in the cultural styles of advanced capitalism, is tied to larger global forces, which have done much to show Americans that the past is usually another country. If your present is their future (as in much modernization theory and in many self-satisfied tourist fantasies), and their future is your past (as in the case of the Filipino virtuosos of American popular music), then your own past can be made to appear as simply a normalized modality of your present.

This unleashing of the imagination links the play of pastiche (in some settings) to the terror and coercion of states and their competitors.

If you dislike that elliptical leap, I suggest you read the whole thing. And if you’re upset that I left Ramiele Malubay out of the conversation, feel free to leave a comment!

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December 21st, 2008

Mirrors, Mics, and Membership

There is much that might be said about why urban Africans in the
Northern Rhodesia of the late 1930s should have been so interested in ball-
room dancing and formal evening wear. But the Rhodes-Livingstone anthro-
pologists were right about at least one thing: when urban Africans seized so
eagerly on European cultural forms, they were neither enacting ancient African
tradition nor engaging in a parody of the whites. Rather — as Wilson recog-
nized — they were asserting rights to the city (cf. Caldeira 2001; Holston 1999)
and pressing, by their conduct. claims to the political and social rights of full
membership in a wider society.

As Wilson noted, the acquisition and display of European clothes and
other goods was the only domain available in colonial society in which Afri-
cans could assert their claims to “a civilized status, comparable to that of the
Europeans.” Urban Africans did not want to be regarded as “decorative bar-
barians” but as “civilized men.” They wanted, that is, to be full and equal citi-
zens of a modern urban society. If they enthusiastically adopted elaborate
forms of European dress and manners, it was to press their claim “to be re-
spected by the Europeans and by one another as civilized, if humble, men,
members of the new world society” (Wilson 1941:19-20, emphasis added).

This crucial claim to membership is denied by interpretations …
which suggest that such urban Africans were performing modernity
only to appropriate its magic for use within an indigenous cultural order. But
the most vital political question raised by practices of colonial emulation did
not concern the incorporation of Western symbolic materials into African local
cultural systems. Rather, it concerned the place Africans were to occupy in a
global sociocultural order — their status in a new “world society” — a point that
both Wilson and his informants seem to have understood very well.

           — James Ferguson, “Of Mimicry and Membership”

do you see why it’s amazing
when someone comes out of such a dire situation
and learns the English language just to share his observation?
probly get a Grammy without a grammar education,
so fuck you school and fuck you immigration,
and all of you who thought i wouldn’t amount to constipation.
and now i’m here without the slightest fear and reservation.
they love me in the slums and the native reservations.
the world is a ghetto administ’ring deprivation.

a lot of mainstream niggaz is yappin about yappin
a lot of underground niggaz is rappin about rappin
i just want to tell you what’s really crackalackin
before the tears came down this is what happened…

           — K’Naan, “Somalia”

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November 12th, 2008

Austerity Gospel

videyoga ::


November 2nd, 2008

Palingenetic Ultranationalism

videyoga :: (h/t kevin)


July 1st, 2008

Back Off, Man

wrt that mike davis piece i&i linkthink’d yesterday, my fren ben, who knows a thing or two about climate science, offers a (slightly) more upbeat, measured take —

interesting. i admit that i’m surprised to hear that the London
Society is ready to put the golden spike on the anthropocene. seems
to me that geological ages are defined by prevailing conditions, not
oncoming trends, and the present-day impacts of climate change don’t
seem big enough to merit the distinction . . . it’ll take a century or
more of steadily worsening conditions to get a definitive signal in
the global stratigraphic record. that’s not to say that the
anthropocene isn’t a useful concept; it’s just odd that the London
Society wants to tie it to the geological record.

i mean, how do you drive a golden spike into unconsolidated sediment, anyway?

engaging article, tho. it’s important to hear the criticism that the
IPCC is too conservative in its estimates. a handful of scientists
have started arguing the same point, but only a handful — most of us
waste our time responding to skeptics of the IPCC rather than pointing
out how badly the consensus report understates the potential for
extreme change.

that being said, i think we need to be a little more optimistic than
the article allows. sure, there are problems with all of the current
efforts to mitigate climate change, but we haven’t been working on
this for very long. you can’t dismiss all biofuels just because of
the recent rise in food prices (which has little to do with biofuels,
anyway), you can’t give up on carbon capture because the first pilot
plant failed, and you can’t use the present-day costs of (boutique)
green construction to estimate the expense of future (mass market)
green construction.

so i guess that the article is useful as a wake-up call, but i’d
rather use the wake-up as a motivation to pursue all avenues of
mitigation, including the diplomatic and market-based efforts that the
author prefers to mock. it seems that he’s more interested in seeing
humanity get the ass-kicking that it deserves than in trying to
minimize suffering . . . his prediction might be right, but i’d like
to think that we can do better.

especially if the engineers can bail us out again.


May 24th, 2007

Nu Whirl Music, Blogged in Translation?

In a recent issue of the SEM Newsletter (March 2007, to be precise), Phil Bohlman addressed the issue of cultural translation and how it presents a paradox to ethnomusicologists — or perhaps more broadly, to those of us who mediate musical representations in myriad ways (including via links and mp3s):

Should we understand our acts of translation as encounter? Or as appropriation? Encounter, even in its colonialist history, was meant to close the gap between self and other, clearly with power skewed toward the self. Appropriation, in contrast, often led to the eventual elimination of the gap, once the other was stripped of her identity. Inescapably for ethnomusicologists, this paradox bears the weight of ethical and moral imperatives.

Bohlman continues,

Such imperatives are all the more reason to take cultural translation very seriously and to search for the means and methods that respect both author and reader, both original performers and those who listen and perform at a distance.

Ruminating on this while downloading a slew of new mixes from across the musiconnoisseurosphere, I can’t help but think about certain “nu” movements on the old ‘osphere (and, simultaneously, its meatspace analogs, outlets, and sources) — movements which I find promising and yet which, especially given my own involvement, also cause me to pause in “inescapable” knee-jerk reflexivity.

These new directions in musical production, circulation, and representation have been described in various ways, some giving more pause than others. If you’ve DL’d and/or danced to “baile” funk, kuduro, kwaito, and various global hip-hop/reggae/techno offshoots in the last couple years, then you probably have some sense of what I’m referring to: in contrast to more purist spheres of consumption and circulation (say, within reggae or hip-hop or techno), which can maintain a stubborn separatism, new movements in (and of) post-colonial pop/dance music have tended to swirl together via various eclecticist, ecumenical, open-eared (and perhaps open-minded) middlemen (and women). This embrace of “other musics” is not entirely unlike that in the “world music” circuit/market more generally, except that somewhat different notions of authenticity appear to animate the activity in these distinct, if overlapping spheres.

In what we might call “trad” “world music” discourse (e.g., deriving largely from the marketing attempts of the 80s and 90s) — the language and images and ideas mediating the explorations of Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Ry Cooder, as well as such record labels as Rough Guide and Putumayo — authenticity is often conferred onto the traditional, the pristine, the timeless, the exotic, that which has been untainted by capitalism, by Western cultural imperialism more generally, etc. Whereas the recent movements on the music blogosphere that I am thinking of tend to do the opposite: never mind these false ideas about purity, they seem to say, we want our global crunk, we want hybrids and fusions, we want mirror-mirror reflections and refractions of New World and Old World, North and South, East and West, we want music concerned with the future as much as (or more than) the past, we want drum machines and synthesizers and samples, for the local is always (trans)local and the global is (always already) here.

Of course, both “world music” discourses I am discussing here remain tethered to certain notions of (foreign, if familiar) rhythm, especially those figures that light up the “African”/”American” regions of our imaginations. But let’s leave that aside for a moment. (If, however, one is looking for an interesting perspective on this issue, see, e.g., Deborah Pacini-Hernandez’s “A View from the South: Spanish-Caribbean Perspectives on World Beat” [pdf].) Moreover, we might go further and note the preference among devotees of the new “world music” for the low-fi and DIY rather than the slick and commercial — a form of authenticity that dovetails with even as it departs from previous ideas about what, say, an African musician could or could not do in the studio in order to remain sufficiently “African” for local and foreign consumers alike. The question of “production values” and access to, say, Scott Storchian tech remains a vexed vortex for determining authenticity. (And, just for the record, as I’ve said before, there is no there there when we’re talking about the a-word.)

With regard to naming this new world music, one might simply gloss the constellation of genres as “urban dance music” or “global urban dance music” or some such neutral descriptor (as I and some ethnoid colleagues have done in framing our panel proposal for SEM 2007). Some have attempted to give it flashier names, hearing something of a global “ghetto” archipelago. (The number and spatial dispersion of myspace musicians identifying as “ghettotech,” for instance, is quite striking — and they’re not all tongue-in-cheek, or at least in the same way [same cheek?].) Still others nod to nu-metal, nu-rave, etc., to proclaim (or claim) a contemporary “nu world” movement. A brief, imagistic quotation from MIA describing her upcoming album for the Guardian would seem to point at, if not to shape, such a position: ‘Shapes, colours, Africa, street, power, bitch, nu world, brave.’ That last word, of course, despite perhaps a nod to Aldous Huxley, prompts us to wonder (or perhaps simply accept?) how much courage is involved in marketing the “nu world” to the New World (i.e., US consumers).

As the Bohlman quotations with which I began suggest, there is a fine line between encounter and appropriation, between, if you will, the half decent and the mad decent. As such, I’m deeply interested, being a middleman of sorts myself (for better or worse), in the ways we might understand the ethics of blogging about, mixing, zsharing, and otherwise mediating new world music (or whatever u wanna call it). Might we think about such activities as translations? If so, what is gained and what is lost?

Thinking about this should not necessarily give so much pause, however, that we stop uploading and downloading and DJing and dancing, and so toward that end, allow me to recommend some good outlets along the lines I’ve been tracing out above. There are the usual suspects of course — such globe-trotting champions of “other music” (and, yes, [always also] “self music”) as /Rupture and Maga Bo and Benn Loxo and their ilk — as well as these dudes, sin duda. Ghislain Poirier’s myspace page, for instance, currently describes his own distinctive, voracious, low-end theory as “Cosmopolitan ninja bass & chunky digital dancehall”! (I like that.) But let’s take this opportunity to note some other, perhaps lesser known, but quite chunky cosmopolitan ninjas in their own right —

Montreal’s Masalacists, for example, have been producing a stunningly consistent and stimulating set of mixes and podcasts and parties around the idea of global dance music, including some deeply detailed posts filled with outgoing links for more info & more music. Sometimes it seems — and this is where we get into the murky waters of translation — as if they give shape not simply to Montreal’s imagination of the world, but Montreal’s imagination of itself, the sound of Quebec undergoing the kind of demographic and cultural changes that have reshaped so many metropoles in the post- and neo-colonial era.

Similarly, London’s DJ Vamanos, who recently cooked up a guest mix for Masala and who kindly welcomed me to London by taking me to an excellent documentary on Cuban hip-hop at the ICA, seems to express in his posts, shares, and mixes that London is (eagerly) coming to polyglot terms with its imperial legacies and contemporary diversity and, moreover, that Britishness might accommodate itself to less provincial notions of self and home.

Of course, there are other ways to read and hear these things too.

When I first saw the name “Vamanos” — a misspelling of Spanish’s first person plural imperative, “vamonos” (i.e., “let’s go”) — I have to confess that I winced a little. For all the efforts at understanding a foreign cultural context, the name seemed to bespeak a certain ignorance, or perhaps the sort of irreverence through which certain idiot-savvy bloggaz attempt to mask their more cynical efforts. I have since come to appreciate it, however, as explicitly marking an inherent distance. It reminds me of similar (mis)spellings on the proto-reggaeton mixtapes of DJ Playero, for example, which might title one side “non stop reegae” and another side “raagga mix to mix” —

— whether ignorant or irreverent, the names make the same point that Playero’s dembow / melaza mixtapes make: they gesture directly and unmistakably to dancehall reggae while noting, quite obviously, that there is an act of translation underway. New contexts demand new texts.

And then, of course, there’s the slightly awkward URL for Señor Vamanos’s site: ghettobassquake, tapping into the “ghettocentric” discourses I noted above. As much as I appreciate the class and race politics of identifying with and championing the music of the poor, glorification of the ghetto is a vvvv tricky thing. These days I can’t get beyond this scene in my attempts at hermeneutical understanding of the complexities and contradictions swirling around such a project (even if one thinks it through a little more than John Brown).

Obviously, this is murky territory. Let me conclude, then, by pointing to one more interesting, and aptly named, node in the network: the Netherlands’ Murk, who recently cast his 3rd pod (or something like that) in a series that has explored — not unlike some of Dr.Auratheft‘s work — a kind of EU-era, post-911 (anti?)orientalism. “Ranging from dub to hiphop, dancehall, breakcore and tekno,” as Murk describes it, Jihadcore

includes scraps of Mutamassik, Filastine, Appa, Tomatito, Sizzla, Elephant Man, T.O.K., Seeed, Nettle, Dead Prez, Timbaland, Sly & Robbie, Calibe,, jury-rigged DIY beats and several mysteriously labelled Moroccan & Egyptian CD-R’s.

Let me say first that I dig the mix, as well as the first two in the series. I especially like how Murk lets us hear how those utterly occidental genres (if we’re gonna think in Huntingtonian terms), reggae and hip-hop, serve as global filters for the nu-oriental. At the same time, there’s something weird (once again) about the mixture of serious engagement on Murk’s part (which is no doubt required to beef up them bellydance beats) and what seems like flippancy. What makes the CD-Rs in question “mysteriously labelled”? Is it because they’re in Arabic? Just wondering. I wouldn’t know how to tell from Murk’s text whether they were actually somehow substantively mys/mis-labeled or whether Murk is mucking around (critically?) with the notion of ignorance and the sometimes seemingly impassable distance of foreign language and culture. Maybe that’s how he wants it, suggestive like the music. Which is fine. But how about some pictures of said CD-Rs, how about the story of how they passed into one’s hands, how about attempting to tell us a little more about the poetics informing the mix?

I’m not asking that all of us in our various guises and roles and such simply become ethnomusicologists. (Far from it — though that’s the subject of another post.) But I’d like to see more of us consider the kinds of questions Phil Bohlman so trenchantly puts to us —

Should we understand our acts of translation as encounter? Or as appropriation?

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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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