Continuing my tradition of posting “director’s cut” versions of the reviews I freelance from time to time, here’s the latest: a review of a recent compilation from Germany’s Outhere records, Ayobaness!, which showcases the rich, vibrant South African house scene. This one was an interesting endeavor, as my editor, Derek, pushed me to foreground a discussion of the sound (understandably) while I was, as usual, a little more interested in the narrative framework (as offered by the compilers, and beyond). Both aspects are, IMO, crucial to how listeners and practitioners make meaning from these recordings, but short reviews don’t always permit an equal engagement with both. The “director’s cut” below contains two extra paragraphs that couldn’t make the cut for the print edition.
You can preview tracks, place an order, and watch some awesome videos over at Outhere Records.
Various Artists Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House
House musicâs big tent contains multitudes. And South Africans are no strangers to the show. An early local love of house, from about the same time the UK was embracing and reworking Chicagoâs jacked-up disco-tech, famously paved the way for kwaitoâs bridging of township rap and house rhythms, serving as suggestive soundtrack for post-apartheid jubilance and impatience alike. South Africaâs affinity for house qua house, however, continued unabated, and expanding access to production and distribution tools has given rise to a burgeoning scene that threatens to reabsorb kwaito, if not offer some course correction for house itself.
At a time when metropolitan house variants traverse a global network of labels, clubs, and DJs, South Africaâs convivial mix of soft synths, hard drums, and local vocals should find plenty of complimentary grooves to slip into. Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House, a new compilation from Germanyâs Outhere Records, makes a strong case for South Africa as a hotbed for the genre. Thanks to YouTubeâs projection of township youth cutting asphalt rugs, tracks by such standouts as DJ Mujava, represented here on the rollicking âMugwanti / Sgwejegweje,â have recently enjoyed eager uptake abroad, mixed and remixed into the kindred forms of UK funky, dubstep, electro.
While some of the scene’s biggest tracks are off-kilter instrumentals with spooky synth leads and chunky percussion, Ayobaness! highlights vocal numbers. Male and female voices mix judiciously, as do the forms they take, from raspy rap verses to sweet, full-throated call-and-response choruses. In contrast to a lot of house tracks, even of the diva-propelled variety, the tracks collected here sound a lot more like songs. Spiky riffs, needling leads, and fuzzy washes interplay with snare drum cross-rhythms, bongos for days, and a panoply of voices. Take DJ Cleoâs âNisho Njalo,â which dresses up houseâs four-four kicks with a clave-shaped tom-and-piano riff, some laser beam skanking, interlocking synth melodies, and polymetric percussion rolls while kwaito sensation Bleksem recites coquettish rhymes to a skeptical chorus of women. This level of density and detail, conjuring local and global tropes all the while, is utterly typical.
Despite the musicâs uniqueness, the sound of South African house is not so much a product of peripatric speciation as it is an aesthetic committed to local style while audibly attuned to contemporary currents in the wider world. The detailed liner notes boast that the scene has âdeep, tribal, electro and minimalâ sides, and discerning listeners will pick out nods to various tropes of the genre, old and new. The convivial mix of synths and skins is enough to win one over; no need to be cute and call this âshantyâ house, or dub it the âmost crazy house culture in the worldâ as it has been promoted.
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.
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 Ainât Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.
Chang, Jeff. Canât Stop Wonât Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martinâs 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. âForeward.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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 RootâHip-hop Outside the USA.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 1- 38. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
Chang, Jeff. âInventos Hip-Hop: An Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi.â 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.
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
NegrĂłn-Muntaner, Frances and Raquel Z. Rivera, “Reggaeton Nation.” NACLA News. 17 December 2007.
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 CĂĄndida F. JĂĄquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.
Marshall, Wayne. “From MĂșsica Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).
Week 4: Hip-hop vs. Reggaeton in Cuba
Pacini-HernĂĄndez, Deborah and Reebee Garofalo. “Hip Hop in Havana: Rap, Race and National Identity in Contemporary Cuba.” Journal for Popular Music Studies, 2000: 1-41.
_______. 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. âCuban Hip-hop: Making Space for New Voices of Dissent.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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.
YĂșdice, George. “The Funkification of Rio.” In Microphone Fiends, 193-220. London: Routledge, 1994.
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. âGlobalization and Gangster Rap: Hip Hop in the Post-Apartheid City.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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. âCape Flats Academy: Hip-Hop Arts in South Africa.â In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 262-70. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.
Lemelle, Sidney J. ââNi wapi Tunakwendaâ: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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.
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.
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 RaĂŻ 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.
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. âAfrica on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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. âInterview with Youcef (Intik).â 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. ââKeeping it Realâ in a Different âHood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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. âDancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.â In The Vinyl Ainât 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.
Botswana’s Ruff Riddims (now tweeting) have been putting in work lately. Now that the studio is up and running, they’ve been grinding out some promising stuff — a mix of kwaito and kwasa-kwasa, hip-hop and reggae — and they’re starting to reach out, nationally and internationally, to share their work with the wider world.
Check these two recent videos, one by riddim-rider Tebza, the other by young up-and-comer Skeat, who bubbles over a classic sounding (i.e., mid-90s, v housey) kwaito track. Nice vids too!
Oh, and the MaSuper Star stuff — wow, wait til you hear that! Fruityloopy beats, loose acoustic guitars, tight joyous vox. RUFF RIDDIMS, nuff said. Gwaan, Bots bredren–
I still haven’t been able to send him those guitars, but Red Pepper has the Ruff Riddims studio up and running (and blogging!) — and it’s not like there aren’t guitars or guitarists in Botswana.
Indeed, the first track I’ve heard out of the studio, “Dumelang” by Skeat (pronounced Skee-tee), is an ebullient bit of kwasa house (aka, house kwasa), including that trademark kwasa-kwasa guitar (nodding to the noodly lines of soukous). No doubt it’ll be a local hit. But will Vampire Weekend fans dig it?
“My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.”
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…
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science,” in Collected Fictions (trans. Andrew Hurley; New York: Viking, 1998), 325
I’ve long been ambivalent about interpreting the ethnomusicological enterprise as bound up with making a musical map of the world. In some sense, it seems like a pretty “old school” (read: colonialist) project. Moreover, it would seem more likely to produce lots of lacunae about the way the world works by privileging the integrity of discrete places (sometimes constructed as “cultures” — a word which I never use in the plural) rather than seeing the interpenetration of places and peoples and recognizing not only that people have been moving around for a long time now but that increasingly every place in the world is systemically linked to every other (read: thx to global capitalism).
At any rate, I don’t want to rehearse those debates right now (though I do recommend reading the spirited and germane “call and response” between Veit Erlmann and Mark Slobin in the Journal of Ethnomusicology from a few years back). I bring up the idea of mapping the world of music by way of pointing people to a few people&places doing such things (or resisting them) in interesting ways.
The first is a page c/o NYC’s dj.henri filled with deft/def mixes offering informed and informative profiles of a number of genres from around the world, from Arab pop to zouk, and focusing especially on localized, African versions of such global forms as hip-hop and house (e.g., bongo flava, kwaito, hiplife). This is a suggestive sort of musical mapping. There are no pretensions w/r/t authority. They help with comprehension but do not claim comprehensiveness. They offer a personal perspective on the genres and provide points of departure for listeners wanting to learn and hear more. I wish more ethnomusicologists made mixes like these. (dj.henri came to my attn, incidentally, b/c he’ll be presenting at the IASPM meeting in the spring for which I’ve been serving as program committee chair.)
The second is a relatively recently launched blog called Tunedown, administered by none other than frequent w&w commenter, Birdseed (aka Johan Palme, an omnivorous music-lover — and aspiring musicologist — operating out of Swedish). Birdseed has been offering such features as “genre of the week,” in which he offers his linkythinky take on such forms as takeu, eurocrunk, power pop, r&b, hi-NRG, and others. He’s quite the digital digger, finding plenty of worldly gems on YouTube but also some emerging NewTubes (e.g., EastAfricanTube). He also poses thoughtful, critical questions, as in his regular comments on this here humble blog, and I’m sorry to say that I haven’t yet had the time to return the favor and offer more comments of my own over there. I do hope that some readers here, however, will join Birdseed in his endeavor to make some sense of various musical-cultural practices and their global circulation.
As many readers here no doubt know, DJ /rupture prefers “maplessness” (which always reminds me of Vermont), so it’s a little odd to include him here, but I do so precisely for his provocative resistance to the kind of mapping that tends to reinforce the ol’ imperial gaze (and its neo-liberal lenses). Some people mistake /rupture’s worldly stance for a brainy strain of eclecticism, when it’s really a lot more pointy than that. His recently published reflection on 2007 for Frieze offers an idiosyncratic, but persuasive, way of hearing what /rupture calls the real “world music” (i.e., globally-distributed hip-hop) while also touching on, and in a deeper manner than a lot of downloading dilettantes, such putative “world music” as Berber pop and cumbia. He assails the exotic-as-anonymous approach that I’ve also critiqued here, and he underscores the equally “global” distribution of Arab pop by imploring folks who want to know more to “find an Arabic music shop and start asking questions.” Who needs a map for that?
I tagged a “raĂŻ-ggaeton” video over at my linkythinky a while back. A bit o’ chutney-ton, too. Both seemed interesting to me as rather explicit examples of the localization of global pop (and rton in partic), if not terribly compelling as specific things &, yeah, rather steeped in the odor of novelty. That’s not the only possible cultural outcome, tho, obviously.
To wit: I’ve recently received two hot tips via email pointing me to possible new -tons emerging abroad — el “jesgrew” puertoriqueĂÂ±o quizas?
That video John links to is pretty amazing, I gotta say. It’s a serious production, for one (as the end credits attest), changing scenes idon’tknow howmany times and offering up some pregnant juxtapositions between the old and the new. Notably, the imagery appears to be the most reggaetony thing about it. Paste in a new face and voice, cut in some scenes from San Juan barrios, and you’ve got a Daddy Yankee video. Tellingly, though, E.lam Jay, the rapper dude, resembles Sean Paul more than any reggaetonero — tho the cornrows coulda been Don Omar-inspired, too. (Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so: a commenter here calls it “sean paul in an arbic version.”) Moreover, the underlying track reminds me much more of uptempo dancehall crossover stuff — the Coolie Dance riddim or Sean Paul’s “Temperature” — than any reggaeton tracks, per se. There’s no dembow, first of all. And the housey tempo, 3+3+2 synth stabs, and claps on 1234 are more an 04 dancehall ting than a reggaeton accent.
I don’t think John’s imagining things, however, when he asks the question above. I’m pretty sure I hear the word “reggaeton” in the song at least a couple times (tho I’m happy to be corrected by someone who knows Arabic). & another version of the video at YouTube actually calls it “Gnaoui Tone” while provoking plenty of ambivalent discussion over the fusion of styles:
burnnero (2 weeks ago)
what a shit song, I dont understand any thing in this new style
Jamahiriya (1 month ago)
Nice song !
wiam15 (1 month ago)
i love so much this sing. e lam et mohammed sont super il forme un couple super
actarius (2 months ago)
Darhem is authentic and has a very nice voice.
The other guy is just spoiling the thing.
sisi1475963 (2 months ago)
i like this song but just mr drham not that crazy man e lam i hate hem his so fucking bad
When checking out one of these would-be -tons, I always tend to ask myself things like: in what sense could this be construed as reggaeton? why forge/impose that symbolic link? if it’s not just cynical marketing or ignorant appropriation at work here, and yet it doesn’t do the dembow, what exactly is going on? what does it say about the resonance and interpretation of reggaeton in Morocco?
or, for that matter, in Ethiopia?
Steve Kiviat to wayne :: Sep 8
Thought you might find this of interest
Gurage is an ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Gurage people inhabit a sparsely fertile, semi-mountains region in southwest Ethiopia, about 150 miles southwest of Addis Ababa -wikepedia
The video above would seem to pose many of the same questions, especially with its explicit labeling. And I should say first of all that, regardless of its relationship to reggaeton, it’s an awesome song&dance. (I love the plinky-plink piano version of Dre’s “Next Episode” that opens the video, setting the clubby scene.) But it doesn’t sound much like reggaeton to my ears, despite also appearing to describe itself that way during the track — and at a prominent moment at that, just before a chorus. Sure, it’s got a nice bump on the offbeat, almost ska style, especially at that relatively speedy tempo. But, as reinforced by style of dance in the video, I hear this more as a nod to kwaito than anything else, beatwise and flowise both. Of course, that’s just generally speaking, for this comes across as quite original in its synthesis of all sorts of internat’l club music and I can’t claim to know all that much about Ethiopian dance-pop. [Update: A little (!)moreYouDiggingyields a bunch of Gurage-related videos that seem, to my ears, to indicate that “Gurageton” does a pretty good job of electronicizing good ol’ folk-dance music, which is not to say that kwaito isn’t in the mix here, but that offbeat emphasis and the double-time claps clearly have some strong roots in the region.]
Clearly, people hear all kinds of things in this, and make all sorts of meanings. The comments @ YouTube again offer mixed reactions & strong opinions, frequently fingering the jagged edges of race&nation:
kahabity (5 days ago)
i don’t like it
haniayu15 (1 week ago)
nice Teddyo one step in ethio music and like the style keep it up
trueiopian (1 week ago)
hell yea i like this
guraga the best!!
Saralicious4real (2 weeks ago)
Im a Ethiopian fo’reeal, but this shit is so wannabe black american.
s3763492 (3 weeks ago)
i can say@!!!!!!!!!!
taddyo the raper………not just me
all my fuckin frnd love this hiphop music
even somalia tooooooo men.
i just have to say ethiopia for life…
matitesbu (3 weeks ago)
are u freaking kidding me….will someone remind this dud that he is an ethiopian….i suggest this young fellow to march to the ethiopian farm and start plowing the land.That is exactly what we need.The world has more than 300 million americans…I am sure they don’t need anymore americans…try to be an ethiopian for a change.
unpreedicktable (3 weeks ago)
Yo Gurenya had me crackin up! GRAGETON… now that shit was funny! But this is a good video nonetheless
Among other things, perhaps what’s going on here — or what is interesting to me — is that reggaeton has come to signify, like dancehall and hip-hop and reggae and funk and jazz and son before it (in Africa and elsewhere), a new kind of currency for participating in, as some would style it, the modern. (& Here I’m riffing off a provocative, thoughtful essay by James Ferguson called “Of Mimicry and Membership.”) As with certain styles of dress and address in previous eras and places, reggaeton today says something similar, all over the world. It’s hot and cool, racy and sexy.
Here we hear global hip-hop with an accent, reinterpreted & refitted, uptempo and (often) upwardly mobile — or at least mobile, marked by (aspirations to) mobility. Routes & cultcha, tĂș sabes?
For people who write about and study reggaeton — or produce, promote, and sell it, I suppose — these tons of -tons present something of a challenge then, no? Para decirlo en otra manera: Who am I — or who anywhere has the authority — to draw the lines around reggaeton? Must all of this activity, every masquerading -ton, necessarily end up in the reggaeton narrative, whether or not the purported -tons conform to some general criteria we might use to measure some abstract thing like reggaetonness?
Even in the middle (or, at this point, toward the end) of some well-needed Beach Research, I’m happy to note that several dear interlocutors have been continuing the conversations here — and taking them in interesting directions.
Oneleven, aka El Polaco Bombero, riffs on “la voz laina” in response to our discussion of nasal-tinged reggaetoneros, drawing on his longtime participant-observation in the diasporic bomba scene to offer some illuminating — if perhaps “poetic”? — insights.
Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Ph.D.
Lecturer, Cultural Studies
University of the West Indies, Mona Campus
Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference 2008: www.crossroads2008.org
To which I replied:
This one’s (more) interesting (to me right now)! Whereas the last one you sent (which I blogged back in April) seems fairly typical to me in terms of kwaito musical style and perhaps dance style (though it’s obviously quite well choreographed, and to be honest I know far less about kwaito dance), this one seems rather atypical in a number of ways. Musically, it reminds me a lot more of kuduro (that style from Angola I was telling you about) and even Chicago Juke (which a commenter notes as well); you might hear it as similar to soca, which also has some musical overlap with this particular track.
It’s only the drum track that suggests that to me, however; the singing seems a lot more characteristically South African (and perhaps the melodic/keyboard elements, though I’m not sure). Some of the group dancing reminds me of the wedding video — looks like similar moves/choreography, which suggests (to me) that that’s closer to kwaito style. Some of the moves, though, especially the solo dancing, seem to me to perhaps be inspired by Jamaican dances (such as the butterfly-ish stuff at around 3:30). Lots of dance styles being drawn upon here, it seems. Around 4:15 it looks to me like some classic breakdance / robot / bboy stuff — if with a little more bounce in it (those “inverting” feet [there’s probably a better term — my dance vocab is rather impoverished]). Finally, toward the end (around 4:36) there’s some back-to-front grinding that could easily pass for perreo, or just good ol’ win(d)in’, freakin’, jukin’, you-name-it. Great montage! (But I really don’t know what to make of that whole laborer / overseer series of scenes, esp the dancing-in-the-fields denouement.)