Initially serving as an outlet for the IDM scene and its offspring, the label has since undergone a series of radical overhauls, consistently wrong-footing its detractors and cementing its position at the forefront of all things electronic. In the mid-2000s the label served as an essential platform for dubstepâs launch into the mainstream; in recent years it has become renowned for championing Chicago footwork, helping to plant a previously obscure music firmly in the global musical consciousness.
With footwork for example, how did you discover that? Was it something you stumbled across?
MP: âYeah. I think Wayneandwax posted something on his blog, maybe, and I clicked a link. Then I just followed all the YouTube links from there, and there was shitloads of stuff, and it was all completely amazing in its own way. Although we got a lot of criticism from certain corners of Chicago for releasing DJ Nate. So then I suppose we had to redress the balance slightly.â
Noncommital attribution or not, I do appreciate the nod. (Thanks, Mike, if you still read on occasion.) Can’t help but be delighted by even the faintest possibility that this here blog had something to do with oddball Chicago bedroom / rec-room music crossing over into the global bass mainstream (for better and worse). I started blogging about juke back when I lived to Chicago and discovered imeem (at the same damn time). Sudden juke goldmine even if everything was pretty much streaming at horribly compressed levels. And I was a certified Nate booster, so that might explain some things too. If this really was the chain of events, sure was a roundabout way to finally score some Nate 320s!
Speaking of betterdom or worsement, allow me to share a bit more:
In general do the Chicago scene approve of what youâve done with footwork?
MP: âI think they just want to make money. I mean I think they care whether theyâve been represented, individually, correctly or not, obviously. And that the scene has been represented OK. And thatâs why they didnât like what had happened about DJ Nate â self-appointed scene members were upset by it. But above that, I suppose everyone wants to be successful. I think artistically we were successful [with Footwork], but it hasnât been the best-selling thing. Some of the artists made advances from us, and thatâs been good for them. And Rashad and Spinn have been playing out a lot. Iâve always wanted Hyperdub to release some [footwork]. Because I felt like people were looking at Mu as if it was mental, releasing all this Chicago footwork. I wanted not to be alone. Though there are a lot of labels releasing pseudo-footwork â even us, even Planet Mu.â
What sort of things are you referring to?
MP: âPeople like Machinedrum. FaltyDL has been doing a bit of it, though I donât think itâs been released. I think Machinedrumâs has been successful in that it wasnât emulating footwork â he was taking a deeper sort of response to it. But there has been a lot of other things â like Krampfhaft â itâs all a bit pyrotechnic-ey. I donât think the European and white American response, unless youâre in the [Chicago] scene, has been that successful. Itâs not very grassroots is it, itâs just part of the post-dubstep scene, and so thereâs not really a big reason for it to exist other than, âOh Iâve been listening to a bit of this, Iâm going to put it in my musicâ. Some of itâs more successful than others. I think the first successful track for me â apart from Machinedrum â was Mark Pritchard as Africa Hi-Tech, âOut In The Streetsâ. But then Markâs a fucking great producer.â
My first reaction was: don’t blame me for future-juke! Just kidding, my actual first reaction was: gotta appreciate the candor. Paradinas appears to come by his love for and opinions about the music honestly. Gotta appreciate as well that he’s put some Chicago-based producers, established and emergent, into circulation for entirely new publics — and into little more posterity than the socialmedia “platform” du jour.
The Young Smoke album Planet Mu put out last year was one of my favorite things of 2012 and still resides on my smartphone many months later (which is something, trust me). To think that I might have had some passing influence on the processes that led to this music finding me 6 years later puts a little smile on my face, no lie.
Do note that we’ve added another DJ/producer to the line up: Blk.Adonis has been our guest at Beat Research before, but given that he’s a great admirer of Rashad and has been working to work juke & footwurk jams into his sets at Nu-Life and TRADE, it seemed like a fine bit of synergy to grow the bill a little more, even if it means less time for all of us (save Rashad, of course).
There’s a ton of great stuff happening this week in and around Boston, and I’ll direct you to a fine roundup put together by the Cluster Mag, our partner on Wednesday’s event. For my part, I’m going to have a hard time escaping the gravity of the Good Life, which is hosting dubstep trailblazer Mala on Friday and providing quite the “tropical” platform for Pico Picante — and many special guests — on Thursday night.
Speaking of the Pajaritos, they’re also responsible for organizing a panel discussion that I’ll be moderating on Friday. The panel brings together the stellar guests they’re bringing to town for Thursday, all of whom, as it happens, are utterly eloquent when it comes to the thorny problems and great possibilities of global / tropical / ghetto bass —
Discussing the panel last week with Ernesto Morales and Ricardo Delima, I told them that I was tempted to take their framing questions and add “besides Diplo” to them, as an attempt to get past the way that these panels tend to devolve into the same ol’ “What Should Diplo Do?” (WSDD) conversation — or as one attempt to sum up our similar panel at EMP put it, “whether we, as people who are interested in the history and origins of music, are okay with Diplo.”
Whether or not we’re ok with Diplo — whatever good that does “us” — there’s a great deal more to discuss about the phenomenon of what I’ve occasionally dubbed nu whirled music & global ghettotech than one guy’s outsize success. But then again, profiles like this one or recurring stories/critiques like this, conspire to create, as Ricardo tweeted, “diplo panic de hoy” (Diplo panic of the day). So I’m sure there will be no getting away from, as I like to think of him, the dinosaur in the room.
That said, I will do my job as moderator to steer us into perhaps less frequently chartered waters, and the panel’s focus on events really helps with this task. For one, it compels us to consider the local dynamics — as opposed to such abstractions as the global and appropriation and such — of putting on events that attempt to address a particular audience through the music & discourse of “tropical bass.” Here we get closer to what I’ve examined in the past as a form of neighborhood, and I could hardly think of better people to discuss such questions than Boima (w/r/t the Bay Area and New York), Poirier (re: Montreal), Ripley (Kingston, London, NYC), and Max and Jesse, both of whom are involved in longstanding musical-curatorial projects here in Boston and elsewhere.
I guess what I’m saying is, this should be worth tuning into (live stream!), especially if you spend a few of the next several nights enjoying some good ol’ bodily/social experience of these sounds and the scenes they call into being.
Beat Research looks to remain in high gear (with more low end than ever!) for the rest of the spring, maintaining our beast mode pace with some BIG guests coming thru over the next month or two.
Among others, as I’ll detail below, our spring line-up will include such wreck-shopping luminaries as Chicago juke alchemist DJ Rashad (4/4), veteran (and still #1) Boston reggae selector Junior Rodigan (4/17), and NYC bhangra ambassador DJ Rekha (5/1). We’ve been wanting to get all three of these masters of their craft to BR for a while, and I almost can’t believe it’s all going down in the next five weeks. Do help us set the experimental-party off if you’re in the area.
First, don’t forget that we’ve got the mighty Chief Boima in the house tonight, March 28! Check out this awfully nice post he put up for some context. Suffice to say, we’re just as happy to give the man a well-deserved platform. (And maybe to claim “First!“) I’m definitely a what-goes-around type of guy, and so I couldn’t be more pleased that Boima will also be giving a lecture in my global hip-hop class at Brandeis tomorrow night. He spent some time in Liberia last year, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about such thorny but important questions as how to ethically endeavor to play musical middleman.
Here’s something toward what it sounds like maybe —
Let me remind that Boima’s got a new release out on Dutty Artz called African in New York, which is great. But if you come to the club tonight, you not only get to hear tracks like those, you get to hear lots of other stuff they’re webbed up with in Boima’s memory (and his hard drive’s).
Wednesday, April 4 – DJ Rashad & Kat Fyte
In conjunction with the good people at Cluster Mag, and the Together Fest, we’re doing two things we don’t usually do: we’re conducting Beat Research on a Wednesday, and we’re asking for a modest $5 at the door. But, boy, what we have in store.
We’re enthused to report that our guest for the Fest will be DJ Rashad, one of the biggest players in the Chicago juke/footwork scene, especially with regard to its movement in the wider world — thanks in no small part to his releases on Planet Mu.
I can’t wait to hear Rashad at the Good Life. Those sustained 808 tones and insane tom rolls are gonna bang through that system. It may be the first time I’ll come close to hearing/feeling what they should really hear/feel like. But beyond the 808 wizardry, Rashad’s stuff also stands out with its fine ear for all sorts of samples, especially the sort of jazzy sources that once bedeviled many a hip-hop producer. He and his comrade DJ Spinn are quite the connoisseurs of the sample-flip (<3 the Edo G shout). Here's a taste (lots more here), where you can hear why London lads could lose their shit over this Chicago-bred style that creeps up on drum’n’bass without even meaning to —
And to top things off, erstwhile/occasional/forever Bostonian and all-around force of awesome, Max Pearl (aka Kat Fyte), will help us get things started right.
Tuesday, April 10 – Brian Coleman & Pacey Foster
We’re keeping it extra local this week with two DJs who together can cover much of this town’s illustrious musical history, from electro to rock to hip-hop and much else between and beyond. Longtime friends of Beat Research Pacey Foster and Brian Coleman have promised to “dig in their Boston crates and pull out cuts from all eras and genres (with the exception of experimental country-western from Metro West).” At times, it could sound like this —
Or this —
Tuesday, April 17 – Junior Rodigan & Irie La
Our big guest on April 17 should need no introduction, in Boston or beyond, but he sure deserves one. Taking his name from the legendary David “Ram Jam” Rodigan (aka Father Rodigan), Junior Rodigan moved to London from Iran as a kid and became totally enraptured by his namesake’s radio show, which gave him quite an education in reggae during his formative years. He moved to Boston as a young adult, and started rocking parties around town beginning in 1986, steadily building a solid rep.
For a short time in the early 90s Junior worked as a ragga-hiphop vocalist, recording for New York and Boston-based labels, and he owned and operated his own reggae store, Vibes Records, on Blue Hill Ave for more than a decade. Since the late 90s, he’s devoted nearly all his time to DJing, and these days he’s known as the drive-time DJ on Big City FM, Boston’s premiere Caribbean community radio station. Junior’s a longtime point-man for nuff visiting artists from Jamaica, with whom he has some serious rapport (see, e.g., 2min in: “me wan some original old time medley right now!”). Man talk the talk, seen.
Of course, Junior is a master of up-to-the-time chunes and classic catalogue numbers alike. For his special appearance at Beat Research, he’s going to do something he rarely gets to do on the radio or at gigs and dig into his deep crates in order to play cuts exclusively drawn from the foundation labels, Studio One and Treasure Isle, on which so much subsequent reggae is based. It’s bound to be a serious vibes. Once again, a great opportunity to experience this music as it was intended to be: as palpable, vibrational force.
This is quite a historic month for Junior, as it happens: just a couple nights earlier, on April 15, he’ll be holding a 25th anniversary bash at the Russell Auditorium featuring Stone Love & Steelie Bashment. If I were you — indeed, if I were me (which I am) — I’d want to catch both these events.
For now, though — since I gotta get running over to the club to warm things up for Boima — I’ll leave you with this amazing but tantalizingly brief clip of Junior Rodigan in ragga-rapper mode, amping up the crowd during RSO’s opening act for Naughty By Nature’s Boston debut way back in 1991. Unfuckwithable–
Oh, and we’re gonna have the added support of another DJ who’s held the torch for reggae here in Boston: Selectress Irie-La. It’s gonna be quite a night, fi true.
So yeah, a seriously fun month+ ahead. Do join us! More info will follow.
Last week a daily newspaper from Abu Dhabi, The National, published a piece I wrote about “nu world” music under the title “Sounds of the wide, wired world” (29 Oct 2010). As usual, while I think my editor — here, the mighty Dave Stelfox — did an utterly admirable job of making my prolix prose ring pretty damn clear, it still feels weird for stuff to fall under my byline that didn’t come directly from this horse’s mouth. And there are lots of words and phrases and names and things that I’d rather like to cram back in. So as with other things I’ve written for newspapers and magazines, I’m providing here at W&W a “director’s cut” (which nonetheless preserves many of Dave’s careful cuts and amendments). Thx again, Dave!
Sounds of the wide, wired world
In the autumn of 2009, Dave Nada, a Washington DC-based DJ, was playing a midday party in a basement for his cousin and a couple dozen of his high-school-skipping friends. The DJs preceding Nada warmed up the room with bachata and reggaeton: mid-tempo dance music from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico that offered deep, familiar grooves to the Latino crowd.
At 32, Nada was the oldest person at the party, and more of a techno/electro guy. In a flash of inspiration, he decided to drop something out of the ordinary on his young audience. Afrojack’s remix of Silvio Ecomo & Chuckie’s “Moombah” – a typical example of Dutch “dirty house” – already had all the elements of a reggaeton club banger: thumping kick drums, piercing synth-lines, cut-and-paste party chants, and a distinctly Caribbean cross-rhythm in the snares. The only problem was that it was too fast. To make the track fit the vibe of the gathering, Nada reduced its speed by 20 beats per minute. This simple adaptation sent the kids into a frenzy.
Unexpectedly, it also birthed a new genre that embodies a much broader phenomenon: a reclamation and redefinition of global street music for the internet age that we might call world music 2.0. Spurred by the success of his experiment, Nada recorded an MP3 edit of his Afrojack remix and constructed several more slowed-down interpretations of house tracks. These were circulated on the internet, representing a sound that its creator, perhaps not entirely seriously, dubbed “moombahton.” Ever hungry for the new, the global dance music blogosphere seized upon this strange, hybrid sound. By March of this year, Nada had been featured on the website of The Fader magazine; by summer he was running a popular weekly club night, Moombahton Mondays, in DC.
Back in the Netherlands, meanwhile, an aspiring producer stumbled upon Nada’s work during a routine trawl of the web. Like the kids at the party, he was floored. A 20-year-old Dominican, born and raised in Rotterdam, Rayiv “Munchi” MĂŒnch was a long-time fan of bachata and merengue, especially a recent streetwise version of the latter, known as mambo; Dutch bubbling – a mid-1990s collision of hyperspeed gabba techno and Jamaican dancehall; and hip-hop of all kinds. In moombahton, however, he heard a new future for reggaeton, a genre he loved but believed had become creatively stagnant.
He worked all night long, emerging the next morning with a digital “promo” package of five new songs. Rather than editing pre-existent tracks, Munchi built his productions from the ground up. Using samples from his ecumenical music collection, he injected influences from Brazilian funk carioca, Angolan kuduro, Latin American cumbia and more. In April, he wrote to a number of bloggers, myself included, to share his music. Over the next few months he maintained a prolific work rate, producing 50 tracks in all and releasing concept-driven online promo packs every four weeks. These circulated rapidly via blogs, tweets, and the SoundCloud account where he streams them and provides links for free downloads, either there or at free (but ad-riddled), temporary âdigital lockersâ such as MediaFire.
The feedback loop doesn’t stop there. In just the last month DJ Orion, a producer from Austin, Texas, uploaded 30 tracks to his BandCamp site (where customers are asked to pay as much or as little as they like to download the music), in a style he is calling “boombahchero.” Many of the songs are second-generation interpretations of Nada’s and Munchi’s remixes. However, Orion has gone a step further, infusing his edits with the strains of Mexican tribal guarachero, an emergent form of electronic dance music mixing cumbia, techno, and a distinctive triple-time swing – often produced by teenagers, the genre has been making the rounds recently as the latest local fusion of global elements to resound more widely than, say, the clubs and communities in Monterrey and Mexico City where it sounds right at home.
These interconnected stories form but one knotty vignette in the wider narrative of world music 2.0. Largely brought together online, this tangle of diverse street-level sounds is bound by common tools and shared reference points. Its accelerated interactive pace is driven by the proliferation of accessible music and video-production software, and the connective possibilities of the social web or, in marketing parlance, web 2.0 – the key feature of which is the explosion of networked platforms that enable anyone with access to publish their music and dance moves to a limitless audience. Needless to say, this is precisely what thousands of young people are doing.
The commonplace use of cracked or demo software in many of world music 2.0’s more rough-hewn productions produces a patina of piracy, an unintentional but marked aesthetic effect that privileges participation, immersion and immediacy. On YouTube, Colombian teens dodge “Free Trial Version” watermarks as they do a modified Melbourne shuffle at the local mall. Robotic voices interrupt homespun raps from Los Angeles to remind us that weâre listening to music made with unlicensed programs. Pop-up ads piggyback on the networked DailyMotion of young people across the Francophone world trying on and showing off the latest steps from the tecktonik and logobi scenes. Chains of compression lend a sizzle to MP3s of reggaeton and Baltimore club music, filled with uncleared samples and made everywhere from the Dominican Republic to Romania.
Because most of this activity happens on corporate “platforms,” the unruly openness of online enterprise is constantly vulnerable to the caprice of bottom-line logic and rearguard legal attacks from twentieth-century copyright giants. Videos disappear regularly, sniffed out by audio-detection algorithms. Entire sites vanish overnight. In the last year alone, imeem and Jamglue, two popular audio-streaming sites which played host to such burgeoning scenes as Chicagoâs juke and LAâs jerk, suddenly shuttered, falling prey to licensing nightmares and hostile takeovers. Down the ether hole with them went thousands of conversations, personal playlists, home-produced gems, and peer-to-peer connections.
But who cares about quality control or posterity? Clearly not the kids who keep uploading. They’re hacking their way through contemporary media ecologies, motivated more by making and doing than by legal strictures or commercial profit. The result is a vivid picture of a truly global youth culture. Kids doing what kids always have done: dancing, performing, goofing around. The difference is that they now broadcast it to the world – if often as an afterthought, the result of default settings that encourage openness.
Public culture is being remade by all this so-called “user-generated content,” including the ever curious category of âworld music.â In some contrast to its creation by a consortium of British music-industry players in the 1980s to market recordings that represented musical traditions of the non-western world, a multinational network of grassroots producers, DJs, and bloggers are now renegotiating and redefining this freighted yet inclusive term.
Their work embraces a fluid but thoroughly urbanized idea of worldliness. The stylistic signposts of world music 2.0 are utterly contemporary, grounded not in traditional instrumentation but the ubiquitous structures of hip-hop, reggae and house. The music’s themes are more often than not as unvarnished as its sound: sex, social domination and the travails of life in the big city – be it London, Johannesburg or Rio. Nonetheless, and more than likely as a direct result of this fact, it resonates widely.
A wealth of websites have sprung up, bringing these far flung sounds together. On Ghetto Bassquake (London), Generation Bass (Tilberg, Holland), Dutty Artz (New York) and many others, New Orleans bounce, Colombian champeta, Jamaican dancehall, desi bhangra and South African house all find common ground. Many of these sites have also become record labels, releasing music from and inspired by urban dance scenes from around the world – and around the corner.
A prime example is Dave Quam’s It’s After the End of the World, an open-eared blog from Chicago focused on the city’s juke scene but often extending its remit to Dutch bubbling and Memphis rap. Quam launched a digital label called Free Bass last month by giving away a three-song EP by Cedaa. A teenager from the small city of Bellingham, Washington, Cedaa’s music takes flight from juke’s stuttering drum machinery and adds a certain, synthesised Pacific Northwest pastoral. It’s glorious stuff that could only have happened now.
As the vibrancy and resiliency of youth culture from the inner-cities of the world inspires urbane curators and globe-trotting DJs, it animates another new strain of world music: Trinidadian soca filtered through Montreal’s Ghislain Poirier, funk carioca via MIA and Diplo, the cumbia of Buenos Aires’ slums recontextualised by the uptown crew ZZK. In a sense, this slicker, commercially released music by savvy interpreters of the Global North recalls the earlier, successful mediations of Paul Simon and David Byrne – albeit rather more modestly, at least in terms of sales.
Informed by the diasporic settings that so many cities have become, the “bottom-up” revision of world music is a valuable development, offering new ways of engaging with the world, often undergirded by intimate, everyday experiences of cosmopolitan conviviality. However, certain queasy connections with its earlier incarnation also persist. Despite the necessary translation and filtering provided by metropolitan mediators, the xenophily animating their work can cloak familiar fetishes of otherness in slum chic.
Another name for world music 2.0, in this regard, might be “global ghettotech” – a term I floated on my blog a few years ago, hoping its implicit critique would be clear. Surprisingly, it has since been unironically embraced by a number of artists and entrepreneurs across Europe and the Americas. The ghetto remains a major signpost in this new world, but its romanticization or exploitation as a signifier of edginess, especially by those not of it, will always create tensions. Teamed with a recent embarrassment of tropical tropes and neo-tiki motifs, it’s almost enough to return us full circle to hearing the world as kitschy exotica rather than the noise next door.
Fortunately, critiques are not the sole preserve of critics. They can come in musical form, too. In June a New York/Vancouver collective called Old Money, with Jamaican, Guyanese and Polish membership, posted a track to SoundCloud called African Kids! A sardonic send-up of the use of generic African imagery, it fits seemingly random lyrical fragments – “shapes, colours, African kids!” – to a bass-wobbling beat that nods to several recent UK dance genres all at once. The only tag added to the track reads “TribalTribalAfricanKidzzz,” a lyric in the song. It was amusing, but also discomfiting. Old Money sent it around to the usual network of websites and blogs, some of whom had helped hype their previous recordings. No one wanted to touch it. Perhaps it hit a bit too close to home. Or maybe it’s not such a brave new world after all.
I’ve been on a serious YouTube grind over the last couple weeks, working up a couple papers/talks on black digital youth culture. Check the waxtube or my favorites to sink into a pixelated dance trance.
Gave one version of this black-digi-youf chat a couple weeks ago at Harvard, which thx to a little bird tweet, led to an exchange with Miles Raymer in this week’s Chicago Reader. Check it out!
I’m trying to work up a YouTube version of my ideas about YouTube culture for this weekend’s meeting of the American Studies Association. But, man, my iMovie skills are laughable (or maybe it’s just that iMovie is laughable?). At any rate, I’ll share it here if I succeed in making something worth putting up. It’s not like the chicken-noodle-soup kids are sweating the transitions, so why should I?
To give a clue of where I’m headed, here’s my abstract for ASA, followed by five videos set to the DJ Nate track that inspires my title (previously blogged here), the illest juke waltz everrrr and a fairly abstract/avant piece to propel so much funky movement —
May Be Sum Day: Online Video, Self-Representation, and Peer-to-Peer
The recent integration of online video and social networking sites has
created an unprecedented arena for cultural production, exchange, and
debate. Of particular significance is the emergence of do-it-yourself,
peer-to-peer video culture, which now animates a substantial degree of
the activity on such popular sites as YouTube, MySpace, and imeem. The
advent of socially-networked sites for sharing video and music among
peers seems to have facilitated a veritable efflorescence of
African-American regional dance scenes and interregional rivalries and
exchanges (asynchronous and online as well as realtime and
face-to-face). Chicago juke, Detroit jit, Bay Area hyphy, and Harlem’s
“Chicken-Noodle Soup” all represent vibrant sites of practice and
pride at a grassroots level, while successful figures such as Soulja
Boy Tellem (author of the “Crank Dat” craze) embody a new set of
opportunities and shared cultural reference points for tech-savvy
The vitality of these scenes seems downright infectious — to borrow a
weighted, racy term long associated with the circulation of
African-American music culture — and as these homemade dance videos
find themselves embedded not just on the MySpace pages of
practitioners’ local and regional “friends” but on hipster blogs from
Brooklyn to Paris, we behold well-worn patterns of production and
consumption. Hence, issues around race and representation emerge as
central in any analysis of the cultural significance of DIY, p2p
online video. These representations are, however, often
self-representations, crafted and curated by active agents of their
own online avatars. So although the ability for these cultural
products to circulate outside their spheres of production — a process
inherent to the promiscuity of digital files — might raise flags of
sorts, it remains significant that the tools of production and
distribution alike are now in the hands of teenagers in Chicago and
the Cayman Islands (to name a couple case studies this paper will
consider), rather than, as in the past, middle-aged executives in Los
Angeles and New York. Thus, the phenomenon of widely-distributed (or,
in p2p parlance, “shared”) music video represents a crossroads not
just for _the_ music industry, but for music _industry_ itself — that
is, the cultural work that music does. As online video increasingly
drives popular and grassroots music culture, perhaps once again we
must reappraise music’s place in the social sensorium in the wake of
seemingly seismic techno-cultural shifts.
Those last two are, in case you didn’t notice, pretty gay — raising yet another (familiar) set of questions.
Oh, and don’t miss these fragments of a footwork feature! (part 1 | part 2)
It’s hard to keep up with dancehall’s now ting from farin, which is why I’m both grateful to and surprised by the way some London brethren keep up on things. Of course, London’s a very Jamaican place at this point, but so’s Boston, in certain corners, and I guess I just gotta get out more. (Fat chance, eh Nico?)
At any rate, thanks to London blog like Heatwave and Vanity of the Vanities, I’m feeling pretty caught up at the moment. Check these two sets of selections, including a judicious overview of the contempo scene from V of the V, for some round-to-the-hour hypeness —
Dare I say that dancehall’s back into one of its regular upswings in energy and creativity? I dare — and that’s despite (or b/c of?) what Dave Stelfox has hailed (mourned?) as Jamaica’s full-on embrace of the digital.
And is it just me, or is 17 the new 27? I mean, raaaaatid, Steven “di Genius” McGregor is not only proving himself a prodigy, he’s downright prolific. Got some range too, as evidenced by the several riddims of his running thru that Vanities mix.
It occurs to me that — pon the Yankee side — Souljah Boy Tellem is also 17. As is my favorite yung juke producer, DJ Nate. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that means they’re all 90s babies.
Not long ago, w/r/t global gobbledecrunk, I referred to an interview I gave recently to a Brazilian journalist. The journo in question is Camilo Rocha, who doubles as a DJ (& has a fab disco mix over @ Spannered). The piece was just published in Folha de Sao Paolo, apparently Brazil’s biggest newspaper.
I don’t really read Portuguese all that well (& my Portunhol only goes so far), so I asked Google to help me. I’ve pasted their quirky translation below (I like that Maga Bo becomes “Magician Bo”), but I encourage any of you lusophones to read the original. Following DJ /rupture (who notes, as do I, that all this activity is pretty “peripheral” in its own way), I’m also going to append my full interview text, since the article ended up far shorter than I expected and seemed to stray from some of the more sensitive / critical issues (blame the editors?) and since I did take the time to compose some lengthy answers (though, now that I see /rupture’s text, I think I prefer his more laconic approach).
Ciao for now —
Collaboration for the Folha de S. Paulo
Most DJs usually direct their ears for a few posamezne music of the First World, like New York, London, Berlin and Paris. In this decade, however, emerged a new category, that of the DJs “globalistas” which travel much further in their garimpagens music.
Names such as Diplo, DJ Dolores, Magician Bo, DJ / rupture, Ghislain Poirier and Wayne & Wax build sets incredibly varied, which may have American hip hop, techno or electronica German French, but also from Trinidad soca, Moroccan rap, funk carioca, kuduro, Angola, Jamaican dancehall, grime Cohabs of London or the Colombian cumbia.
The exposure of these rhythms “peripheral” already influences artists in various spheres such as band Bloc Party and the DJs / producers Simian Mobile Disco and Samim (which was one of the hits of the year with “Heater”, which joined with cumbia techno). Following is the phenomenon of Anglo-Sinhala MIA, the first popstar out of this trend and which launched this year praised the album “Kala.”
It would be all that a new roupagem for worn term “world music”? When talking with the Folha by phone, the DJ and producer Canadian Ghislain Poirier, which has just launched the album “No Under Ground” by the seal Ninja Tune (of dual English Coldcut), denies: “World music is more exotic, the sounds that played are more urban. They come from a common scenario: people without much money, making music in home studios or a laptop. is something more urgent. ”
Thanks to greater access to the Internet and technology, throughout the world there is an unprecedented proliferation of the sounds of the peripheries of the countries, most of them with strong and created electronic databases on laptops or PCs surrados, often with software pirates, and released via blogs, sites and sets the DJs “globalistas.”
The DJ and MC American Wayne & Wax, which is also etnomusicĂÂłlogo, baptized the movement of “global ghettotech.”
“Inventei that phrase to describe an aesthetic emerging between some DJs and bloggers, where they mix genres” global “as hip hop, techno and reggae, among others, with styles’ local ‘,” explained Wayne to Leaf. “But I am against the approach superficial and modista. I like to know the social and cultural contexts that shaped the sounds,” explains.
One of the “globalistas” is the pioneering DJ / rupture in Boston, USA, who first drew attention with a mixtape (set mixado) called “Gold Teeth Thief.” The September gave all that talk that figured among the ten best releases of 2002 of the prestigious British music magazine “The Wire”.
Through your blog and radio program “Mudd Up!” Rupture insane conveys a blend of rhythms from various parties. One of his special interests is the music maghrebi, from North Africa. “I [also] discovering the world of cumbia – there are many fascinating scenes of the past and present,” to the DJ.
The seal of Rupture, Soot, should launch within months of the album debut of another important behalf of the scene “globalista” Magician Bo, an American from Seattle who lives in Rio since 1999. Magician Bo has worked with Brazilian as BNegĂÂŁo, MC Catra, Marcelo Yuka, Marcelinho the Moon and Digitaldubs.
In the next year, he must start to give classes on digital production at the headquarters of AfroReggae in Parada de Lucas, in the River Currently, is in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, recording with local musicians and searching Ethiopian music.
“Churiadau electronic is the field where everybody can understand. The computer, which has been called the first” universal instrument folk ‘, is increasingly accessible. The volume of music that can be embedded in this’ global ghettotech’ is increasing in world. Death of record growth in traditional distribution of music on the Internet are helping this popularization, “says Bo Magician.
Already the DJ Dolores, best known Brazilian representative of this trend, says that “the computers are the drums today, a primal that each can use in your way.” In 2004, Dolores won the prize for best DJ in the category “Global Club” of Radio One, BBC English. Dolores has just returned from several concerts in the US and Mexico in the coming year to launch the album “A Real.”
Diplo is the best known name of this crop of DJs / producers. The American, 29 years was one of the main advisers of funk carioca abroad. Ex-boyfriend of MIA (whose first album he co-produced), Diplo played recently in Tim Festival.
He believes it is important to repay the local cultures. Through the project Heaps Decent, he’s been doing with young aboriginal music of a center of detention of children in Australia. Tapas must leave soon, in partnership with the Australian stamp Modular.
“Since these subcultures, in a way, help me to earn a living, I did something to help their development,” he explains. “In the coming months, I hope to do the same in the Cantagalo slum in Rio, with the help of AfroReggae and [anthropologist] Hermano Vianna.”
Interview w/ Camilo Rocha (11/20/07) ::
How did u get into music? Whats your background?
I’ve been an avid listener since I was a teenager, but I’ve only been a musician since I was 18 or so, when some friends gave me a guitar for my birthday. I played in some bands during college (blues, funk, rock), mostly playing bass, and I was also the lead MC for a live hip-hop group. I’ve been rapping since I was about 13. After college, I started producing music on computers — making beats, mostly sample-based hip-hop — and the laptop has been my primary instrument ever since. My self-taught beat-making pretty much coincided with my study of ethnomusicology (I’ve got a Ph.D. and wrote my dissertation on the historical relationship between reggae and hip-hop; I lived in Kingston, Jamaica for six months in 2003 conducting field research.)
You and DJ Rupture are from the Boston area, do you know each other for a long time?
We both attended the same college and had a lot of mutual friends, and I saw him spin at a few events back in the late 90s, but it’s only relatively recently — the last few years — that we’ve been in close conversation, largely thanks to the blogosphere.
You are a music ethnomusicologist. How did you get into that area? Where did you study? Are you doing any academic work at the moment?
I was inspired to become an ethnomusicologist when I discovered the field my senior year in college (I was an English major). I took a class on music and race in the US with Ron Radano and ended up studying with him in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was a real epiphany to discover that I could keep music central in my life and approach it from an intellectual / scholarly angle. Currently, I’m teaching at Brandeis University in Boston, offering courses on hip-hop, music and globalization, and “digital pop.”
Explain “global ghettotech” to those who don’t know what it is about
“Global ghettotech” is a phrase I came up with to describe what seems like an emerging aesthetic among certain DJs and bloggers. I’ve also called it “nu whirled music” to describe its (antagonistic but derivative) relationship to “world music” as well as the importance of fusion (mixing “global” genres such as hip-hop, techno, reggae, etc., often with “local” styles) in the concept. For me, global ghettotech describes the recent interest in such genres as funk carioca, kuduro, reggaeton, juke, grime, kwaito, etc. — genres identified with the ghettos of the former colonies as well as with the ghettos of today’s post-colonial metropoles. I want to stress that I use the term somewhat critically — I don’t mean simply to celebrate this kind of engagement. One thing I find really problematic about it, for example, is the flavor-of-the-month approach to engaging with “other” musics: e.g., “kuduro is the new baile funk!” When it becomes a surfacy, fashionable pursuit, it gets more problematic, for me, than when it is about finding new sounds in different places and really getting to know them and the social and cultural contexts that shape them — and in the process, learning about one’s own place (and, usually, privilege) in the global order.
How do you see the popularization of “global ghettotech”? Why has there been so much exposure and interest for these types of sounds?
I think a lot of it has to do with the advent of technologies that make it possible for people to produce music all over the world (e.g., FruityLoops) and to circulate music rather widely ( e.g., the internet, blogs, mp3s, p2p). In terms of interest, I think some of it has to do with a certain familiarity (i.e., hearing hip-hop and techno with new accents) and some of it has to do with seeking out the exotic (as with “old” world music).
I can see a lot of people here in Brazil viewing all this as a new kind of exploitation: guys from the first world shopping around ghettos of the globe in search of the new rhythms to feed their DJ sets, getting credit and fame while the original artists are not mentioned or soon forgotten. Is that fair or not to say?
I think that’s definitely a fair statement in some cases, but it’s important to look at the individual and how he or she engages with the people in the places from which those sounds come. Collaborating with people in Rio or Kingston is a lot different from downloading them. In that respect, there are plenty of elite or middle-class Brazilians who could be just as guilty of this sort of exploitation.
Does “global ghettotech” sometimes run the risk of being just a trendier guise for the rich world’s old taste for “exotic” (cultural tourism thrills as opposed to understanding and identification with the scenes it is exploring)?
Yes, definitely. And not just sometimes — a LOT of the time.
How is the acceptance in America for this kind of musical approach?
I’d say it’s still fairly marginal. It’s not as if this kind of music — even as projected by MIA or Diplo or Ghislain or /Rupture — is mainstream by any stretch. You don’t really see it on MTV or hear it on the radio. It’s mainly an internet phenomenon and confined to a few clubs nights / parties in big cities like New York, Montreal, Boston, etc. For the weekly that I do in Boston with DJ Flack, “Beat Research,” we play all kinds of genres, often touching on many that might fall under the “global ghettotech” umbrella, and we’ve got an open-minded audience that likes that sort of thing, but it’s still a pretty small scene.
Do you do a lot of travelling for music research? Tell us a couple of interesting stories about your travels.
When I’m lucky enough to find funding, I love to travel to new places and check out their soundscapes and pay attention to what is local and what is global and how people negotiate the two. I’ve spent a good amount of time in Jamaica, both doing research and collaborating with artists there (and I’ve written a lot about it on my blogs). Recently, I had the good fortune to spend several days in Rio, which I had been wanting to do for many years. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to go into many stories, but I often find that music is a great way to connect with people, especially when we share a love for, say, hip-hop or reggae and thus share a musical language, even if we don’t always share a spoken language.
A lot of ghetto music bypasses copyright as it is commonly made on pirated software and samples freely. Meanwhile, illegal downloading is threatening the music industry as we know it. Do you think we are going in an inevitable direction, where music will become free? Will that be a good thing and why? Should music have a price? Do you manage to make any money selling music?
These are very big questions, and it’s hard to say. It does seem like we’re moving in that direction, but there are many ways to commercialize music — selling recordings is a relatively recent way for musicians (or more commonly, record labels and publishers) to get paid. I think that performance will remain an important way for musicians to earn a living. I’m not sure whether music should have a price. I generally don’t believe in monetizing or propertizing things, music included, but I think I’m in the minority on that one. I’m glad, at any rate, that musicians continue to do what they do without much regard for outmoded copyright structures. Some — perhaps most! — of my favorite music is “illegal” music. Personally, I don’t make very much money selling music, which is perhaps part of the reason why I’m not very invested in music having a price. Most of the money I earn through music is from playing gigs, usually DJing, though I can’t say that I make a lot — hence the academic day job.
Do you sometimes feel there should be more political lyrics in global ghetto music (I’m thinking of Rio funk, reggaeton, kuduro and kwaito which are largely sexual and/or party-oriented)? Or maybe feel that these musics could have more of a commitment to change or denounce their situation (if you think they do promote some kind of social change, please explain why)?
Sometimes I might feel that way, but then again, I think that music about sex or pleasure or partying is already political in a certain sense. It depends very much on the social or cultural context, of course. It’s no surprise that the themes that dominate a lot of ghetto music have to do more with everyday concerns, or with transcending the stress of everyday life, or with pissing off the middle-class, the government, the power structure. As for promoting change, sometimes one sees that sort of thing, especially in the Rasta-inspired visions of a lot of reggae, but in general, people living in ghettos worldwide haven’t seen much change, don’t see much hope for change, and probably won’t change the focus of their lyrics until there is some real change in the social conditions in which they live. I guess it’s something of a chicken and egg question, but it’s not for me to tell people what to rap about. Of course, as a DJ it can often be uncomfortable to play songs that are overtly misogynist or which objectify women as sex objects (and little else). Perhaps that’s another significant appeal of “global” / foreign ghettotech: it’s easier to listen to booty music when you don’t understand all the words.
What new stuff (styles/artists/producers) have you discovered recently that has really impressed you?
I’ve been really impressed with a lot of the young juke producers coming out of Chicago: DJ Nate and DJ Clent especially. All the dance crazes on YouTube have also been very exciting. And the rise of interest in cumbia, reggaeton, and other music en espaĂÂ±ol seems promising too. Part of me really wants to see the US come to terms with its postcolonial, imperial self, and I feel that music can help to express a kind of cultural politics of conviviality that feels more and more needed in our polyglot cities. In general, I just love hearing people making music without much regard for the rules. I love DIY, p2p music and the internet has been making more and more of that available — and, even better, has been making it possible to connect directly to these producers rather than having to deal with all sorts of middlemen.
You said you just came back from Rio. Were you on holiday? Any interesting musical experiences?
I was there for a small meeting of musicians convened by the Future of Music Coalition to discuss, um, the future of music (e.g., media consolidation, internet opportunities, copyright issues, etc.). It was an honor and a pleasure to be there, among such company. So, not exactly a holiday, but very fun “business” for sure. I’ve been listening to music from Rio for many years — and not just funk, but samba, bossa nova, tropicalia, etc. — and so it was great to finally get a chance to see and hear the city. It felt like a really vibrant place, really “on.” I was amazed by the number of people partying in Lapa until the wee hours. I also had a wonderful time hanging out in the favela of Vidigal for most of an afternoon and evening. It felt like a warm, welcoming place, and it was great to hear some funk in its social context.
What are your plans for 2008?
Keep on teaching and writing and DJing, and hopefully getting back into more producing. I aways let my interests lead me where they may, though, so we’ll see…
again about the wonderful work that music does, the vitality of digital (youth) culture, the persistence of realtime, peer2peer creativity and sociability, & the obvious shortcomings of corporate hackery
u kno the first, no doubt —
The maker of many a best of 2007 list, Dude Nem’s “Watch My Feet” was a notable mainstream breakthrough of sorts for Chicago juke. Sure, there’s a bit of corporate hackery a gwaan here what with Dude Nem being the first juke group to get a national push from an out-of-town record label, but there’s a whole lotta esprit de corps in there too.
I remember getting the e-promo like it was yesterday —
As you might surmise (or already know), DIY versions abound, all asking you to watch their feet (if sometimes assuming you’re watching other things, esp when the feet aren’t really visible, knamean).
But, for my clickthrough, the most ebullient of em all (nem) is the the (DJ Nate produced ?!) audition for the Dude Nem video —
I find this^^ a lot more watchable (and that’s what it’s about, no?) than the slightly more choreographed segments we see in the official video (tho there are some gems there too). There are just so many individual styles on display here, a lot personality animating the footwork. I’m impressed in partic w/ how gracefully big man (from around 1:05 to 1:20) throws his weight around. But they’re ALL amazing.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that we don’t get a sense of sync here. (Overdubbing music for live music/dance scenes — a la Rize — really kills me; I want to know what it sounds like THERE). It’s perhaps less vexing, though, considering that juke footwork seems to be more “floaty” in character, not unlike ravey liquidity or over-acrobatic b-boying, than dance styles which engage more directly with the musical pulse. (Got actual dance vocab for this distinction? Do enlighten.)
Not too surprisingly, before long there was a corporate bandwagon version, even on OldTube (i.e., TV), featuring a very virtuosic if uninspired set of footworkers and employing an obv/awk ripoff of “Watch My Feet” while abandoning juke’s frenetic digi-tom rolls for some watered-down, ol’timey, Miami Bass-ish — like some ignant studio hack heard Dude Nem and went scrolling through his “Gangsta/Dance” loop library. (I swear, if Gant Man produced that crap I would not recant.) The vids even attempt to capture the spirit of an audition (not to mention the authentic patina of amateurism, as evoked in part by the inclusion of video “counter” data at the bottom of the screen), and with various versions offering up “competitions” between the dancers (using a split-screen; they’re not actually dancing simultaneously). It’s a YouTube-ready ad campaign, fo sho —
Not only do the Verizon vids pale in comparison to watching kids do kid things outside of stifling studios, for all their YouTube-readiness, they lag behind actual YouTube-savvy riffs.
I’d be remiss, then, if I didn’t conclude this brief survey w/ one of the most delightfullest mashup vids for “Watch My Feet,” wherein Dude Nem’s boastful, upful anthem is set to loops’n’clips from Happy Feet — as produced, apparently, by the same kid, an 18yr-older from Cayman, who did Soulja Boy Pooh (which has now garnered over 6 million views!) —
We can waffle over whether YouTube’s newly unleashed audio takedown worm will make this activity move elsewhere, but it’ll keep on moving, no doubt. (& I’m sure Dude Nem / TVT would be happy to rake in some ad revenue from all these plays, if GoogTube could get its act together on that.) At any rate, I’d say archive em while you can.
This Friday — here in Cambridge, Mass — the Thunderdudes are bringing none other than Detroit ghettotech luminary DJ Assault to move the (m)asses @ the Greek American Political Club —
I have to admit that I’m pretty excited ’bout that, since I find ghettotech, ghetto house, juke, etc. — various hardcore post-house/techno booty beats — to be really quite engaging on a visceral level. The breakneck tempos, the driving drums, the low-fi, DIY, indie aesthetic (often [self]described as “raw“), even the dirty chants, repeated ad absurdum, all work together to do some work: on my body, on my psyche, on the collective. It’s no surprise that “work that” (and similar imperatives) tend to dominate ghettotexts. These imperative qualities have a lot to do with what makes ghettotechs appeal more broadly, beyond their original, local confines (they’re labeled “ghetto” for good reason), globally even.
Of course, when I stop to think about it, when I let the looped words grind their lexical meanings into me, I wince. That ol Cartesian dualism, er, rears its head, and I find my mind wrestling with my hind, like, Are we really nodding along to this?
& I know I’m not the only one who asks such questions. I think — and hope — that this kind of inner (and sometimes outward) dialogue is pretty much shot through the ghettotech experience (for ghetto denizens and diggers-at-a-distance alike). Indeed, as some of the exchanges captured in this short documentary on ghetto house in Chicago attest, the producers and their people themselves grapple with the genre’s “abusive” sounds —
There’s an interesting contrast, however, between listening to ghettotech in English, where it’s not so easy to ignore the words’ meanings (even if I try to let them function as another nonlexical layer of sound, which, hell, I’ve been doing with nuff hip-hop & dancehall for some time now) and listening to “ghettotech” in another language, e.g., Carioca Portuguese or San Juan Spanish. I suspect that a lot of us global ghettotechies out here, especially those of us in the monolingual camp (ahem, USers), have an easier time listening to booty music when we don’t have to think about the meanings of the words. If it’s all gobbledecrunk, it’s all good.
I was recently e-terviewed for a piece by a Brazilian journalist on “global ghetto” ish, and I think the following q&a is germane, so I’ll end with this —
Q: Do you sometimes feel there should be more political lyrics in global ghetto music (I’m thinking of Rio funk, reggaeton, kuduro and kwaito which are largely sexual and/or party-oriented)? Or maybe feel that these musics could have more of a commitment to change or denounce their situation (if you think they do promote some kind of social change, please explain why)?
A: Sometimes I might feel that way, but then again, I think that music about sex or pleasure or partying is already political in a certain sense. It depends very much on the social or cultural context, of course. It’s no surprise that the themes that dominate a lot of ghetto music have to do more with everyday concerns, or with transcending the stress of everyday life, or with pissing off the middle-class, the government, the power structure. As for promoting change, sometimes one sees that sort of thing, especially in the Rasta-inspired visions of a lot of reggae, but in general, people living in ghettos worldwide haven’t seen much change, don’t see much hope for change, and probably won’t change the focus of their lyrics until there is some real change in the social conditions in which they live. I guess it’s something of a chicken and egg question, but it’s not for me to tell people what to rap about. Of course, as a DJ it can often be uncomfortable to play songs that are overtly misogynist or which objectify women as sex objects (and little else). Perhaps that’s another significant appeal of “global” / foreign ghettotech: it’s easier to listen to booty music when you don’t understand all the words.