Archive of posts tagged with "whirledmusic"

March 10th, 2011

Social Media & Electro Diasporas

This Saturday I’ll be at Cornell, speaking on a panel alongside some esteemed colleagues. The subject at hand is, more or less, the animating force behind this blog in recent years: “(post-)regional dance musics and their transformation through the internet” –

Social Media & Electro Diasporas

The students organizing the event have an ambitious agenda for digging deeper into this stuff. They envision Saturday’s panel as “a way to introduce, contextualize, and start a dialogue that really hasn’t existed in (with a few exceptions) academic circles.” That said, I’ll be curious to see whether the turnout is largely students or whether some scholar-colleagues will join us as well. Although some of the speakers are (aspiring) academics, I’m told that our profiles as bloggers were central to the invitation, “an interesting statement on the role of the internet in the circulation of these regional styles.”

The organizers tell me that they hope this weekend’s event will pave the way for two future shows involving some of Chicago’s best and brightest. (Their wishlist includes DJ Rashad, DJ Deeon, DJ Clent, Jammin’ Gerald, and Traxman). Nick, one of the organizers, adds: “Admittedly, the shows are super Chicago centric, but this is what I’ve played the most and what I’m the most familiar with (I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio). Working on planning some stuff next semester and bringing some other folks up.”

Sounds like a plan to me. I’m happy to be a part of the conversation, and I’m thrilled to chat with some smart participants/observers who’ll bring to the (round)table years of experience in and research on such crucial sites as Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, and New Orleans. No doubt you all know blogging brethren like Gavin Mueller, a perennially sharp critic of world2.0 and longtime ghettotech interpreter, but I’m also looking forward to meeting Al Shipley, the guy who’s writing the (kickstarted!) book on Bmore club, as well as Matt Miller, scholar of bounce and other dirty southness, and, last but not least, Ghettophiles‘ Neema Nazem, who first came to my attention as an acid-tongued but well-meaning interventionist in London’s burgeoning love affair with juke.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a party Saturday night featuring the mighty Dave Quam on the decks? YES.

I don’t have much more to add for now. Longtime readers should know that my pantheon of everyday heroes in recent years is remarkably populated by some central players in this story: courageous (if often faceless) kids dancing up a storm at school, at home, on the street, & on the screen –

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February 1st, 2011

Catch a Spark

If you’d like to hear more about how Masala’s collaboration with Ruff Riddims relates to the central questions of “world music 2.0″ — a term that has seemingly (thankfully?) gained as much traction as “global ghettotech” (if among the commentariat rather than, say, DJs and bloggers) — you should tune in to a recent episode of Spark in which I discuss the phenomenon with the show’s sharp host, Nora Young.

The full show, aired a week ago, is streamable/downloadable here, and it includes segments on Glenn Gould’s prescient technoptimism, online curation, toddlers and cavemen. You can listen to any of the segments individually over there (and check out a bloggy supplement I submitted), or you can just stream the world2.0 segment right here (it’s just under 10 minutes long, FYI):

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Because the show is based out of Toronto, it seemed a fine occasion to talk about my Canadian brethren at Masalacism — what they’ve been up to and how they fit into world music 2.0′s distinctive media ecology. I’ve been reading their blog for many years now, and we’ve collaborated on a variety of things, from gigs (in Montreal and Boston) to radio shows.

I can’t quite keep up with all the blogs as well as I used to (blame Twitter?), so it was a pleasant convergence that the Masala guys happened to post about Canada’s own A Tribe Called Red and their “electric pow wow” sound on the day before I spoke with Nora and the Spark crew. (Apparently, I failed to catch previous mentions over at kindred blogs, Mad Decent and Generation Bass.)

Staying in Canada’s remarkably wide world, then, the show afforded an opportunity to listen to and discuss ATCR’s remix of “Red Skin Girl,” which I described as stunning — a response that lingers. Note how well it fuses Northern Cree traditions with contemporary dubsteppery:

Red Skin Girl (ATCR Remix) by A Tribe Called Red

ATCR deserve their own post, opening into the fascinating questions around hybridity, modernity, and refiguring indigeneity, but aside from what I said on the show — noting the marked difference between what ATCR appear to be doing (i.e., inserting themselves into the global bass scene with an air of local authenticity) and what previous sorts of native/indigenous “world music” sounded like (i.e., New Age synthflute fantasia) — I’ve got to bracket that larger discussion for now.

Meantime, you should definitely check their Soundcloud page, especially the Electric Pow Wow Mini Mix (DL), and some of their equally amazing videos, produced by crew-member Bear Witness, a few of which I’ll embed below. Their provocative, propulsive mix of global dance currents (hardly limited to dubstep), traditional music, and surreal pop representations of Indianness (“I’m an Indian Too”!) adds another important accent to the conversation, to be sure.

Electric Pow Wow Drum from Bear Witness on Vimeo.

native puppy love from Bear Witness on Vimeo.

Pow Wow Riddim from Bear Witness on Vimeo.

Props to DJ NDN, Bear Witness, and the ATCR crew (those guys have a way with names, eh?), and thanks to the Spark team for putting together a great little show!

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February 1st, 2011

Airtime for Bots Brethren

Last week month marked the release of Airtime, an EP from Masalacism Records. A happy convergence for me, the project brings together two sets of friends from far-flung parts of the world: Canada’s Masalacists and Botswana’s Ruff Riddims. The EP features the singular style of MaSuper Star, a dynamic duo who teamed up last year with local producer Red Pepper, aka Moemedi Ramogapi, for an epic recording session at his studio in the town of Palapye, about 150 miles northeast of Gaborone.

I’ve been in touch with Moemedi since the spring of 2005, when he showed up in my inbox to thank me for some beat-making tutorials I had posted to the web — fruits of the digital music workshops I was giving in schools, community centers, and prisons in Boston, MA and Kingston, JA. He had tracks to share and questions about linking up with reggae vocalists and getting his stuff out there. I thought his early productions showed a lot of potential. I encouraged Moemedi to keep at it and sent his rough riddims around to friends like Ghislain Poirier and other DJs/bloggers with an interest in African hip-hop and reggae. I also recommended he check out Versionist, back when that existed, where his productions landed plenty of praise and constructive commentary. (Ah, the early days of p2p music industry.)

Moemedi and I have been corresponding pretty regularly ever since — mostly via gchat — and I’ve admired the ways he’s refined his operation, whether steadily improving his tools and skills as a producer, or crowdsourcing a design and building a beautiful studio

– or this latest turn: collaborating with nu-world labels, including the guys at Masalacism, Akwaaba, and Famula (which will release a Danny’s Bass record later this year).

Like lots of music-industrial activity today, it’s all an experiment, so in addition to collaborating with these three labels, Moemedi’s also releasing stuff directly. (Ruff Riddims’ biggest hit to date has probably been Skeat’s kwasa-house anthem, “Dumelang,” which spread like blogfire and found itself in regular rotation among the Dutty Artz and Ghetto Bassquake crews, to name a couple kindred collectives.)

When I first heard MaSuper Star, I couldn’t help but agree with Moemedi that, “they are FIRE, MOLELO.” I was quite struck by the combination of the duo’s stripped-down sound and Moemedi’s digital beats — especially on the title track, where the drums remind me a lot of the post-Coolie Dance riddims of 2004 (Scoobay!). Give it, and the rest of the EP, a listen:

Masuper Star – Airtime by Masalacism

I was convinced that this fusion of contemporary dancehall rhythms and acoustic elements could find an audience, especially overseas where the soukousy guitars would dovetail with a resurgent interest in afropop of all sorts (whether stoked by the likes of Vampire Weekend, The Very Best, or loving re-issues). Interestingly, and a little ironically, precisely because of this same presence — what Moemedi calls the “kwasa influence” — MaSuper Star might prove a difficult act to promote via popular media in Botswana. Local radio DJs, for instance, have refused to play some of Ruff Riddims’ productions because they’re supposedly “not urban”; according to Moemedi, they just want hip-hop. Apparently, a certain target audience rejects familiar guitar figures for differently accented signs of the global modern. But this all remains to be seen. I’m hoping, as is Moemedi, that his stable of artists can catch fire in Botswana as well as abroad.

The other odd side to this strange kind of currency is that Ruff Riddims’ more straightforward reggae and hip-hop productions are less likely to succeed in the metropoles of the so-called Global North, so suffused by such sounds as New York, London, and Toronto already are. To my ears, then, Ruff Riddims has a better shot at finding support in North America and Europe by pushing the productions that signify the difference being in Botswana should make (at least for certain listeners). In other words, to go for the niches opened up by “world music” as aesthetic and institution.

Far as I can tell, at least from reviews such as David Dacks’s recent piece in Exclaim, this hunch about the music’s resonance may be borne out with the release of Airtime:

MaSuper Star aren’t the future of music: they’re the present. These superstars are a duo from rural Botswana, composed of Kenny and Soops, who find their music being released in Canada thanks to the internet-driven forces of World Music 2.0. Soops plays a homemade guitar fashioned from a can, while Kenny sings. …These are street songs, simply executed and instantly hypnotic. MaSuper Star’s themes are universal, though far from the boilerplate topics of peace, love and world unity. Rather, title track “Airtime” is a plea from a long-distance love to send phone credits. Its hook is intoned by a plummy, British-accented voice: “You have no available minutes, please recharge and try again.” Everyday problems. …Kudos must go to the Masalacism label for making this available; they are changing Canada’s relationship with world music.

If you like this stuff. And I unabashedly do. I urge you to support all those involved by plucking down some digital dollars. This EP embodies a model of music industry that merits our investment: small-scale (but scalable), fair and collaborative, generous and open.

According to the guys at Masalacism, they’ve got a 50/50 deal with Ruff Riddims, after expenses (#realtalk). Guillaume elaborates,

Our expenses are quite limited but we’re doing a proper mastering in a pro studio (which as I understand isn’t that common for a net label) and some mailing expenses for Radio and Radio tracking, + some minimal marketing expenses in order to put the music in the store. The rest is pretty much DIY. Music is on sale on Itunes all over the world, Amazon and Emusic + on our own store: http://store.masalacism.com

The Masala guys also deserve credit for commissioning an amazing kuduro remix of “Airtime” from Portugal’s DJ Mpula, which cranks up the tempo a good 15bpm. And I guess somewhere in the calculus, according to David’s Q&A with Moemedi, I may myself merit some credit for serving as a crucial node in the network.

O brave new whirled,
that has such ethnomusicolobloggerDJs in’t!

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October 14th, 2010

Cumbia Worlds from Ol’ to Nu to You

a once-obscure music that enjoyed a fanatic embrace in the _______ slums of _______ has become a full-fledged global occasion –

This could be the mantra of global ghettotech. Could hardly have written it better myself. But I didn’t. Nor was it written, despite what might be its commonplace connotations, about reggae, or funk carioca, or kuduro, or any of the usual suspects. It was written about cumbia made in Peru in the 1970s, and I came across it not on an enthusiastic blog but via a careful press release announcing the second volume in the Roots of Chicha series. The appearance of this phrasing shows how even well-worn attempts to market “world music” can turn with the times and speak the language of resonant novelty. Global g-tech blogging begetting sexy new scenarios, new sites of authenticity. Old wine, new bottles.

The story of “world music 2.0″ however — and the built-in critique of that tag — is not all about newness, or some sense of progressive departure from previous, problematic regimes of representation, or visions of egalitarian peer-to-peer exchange and cosmopolitan conviviality in our brave, new, digital and diasporic age. (Booty-shaking sugar plums dancing in our embeds?) It’s also about a great many continuities with “old” “world music” and its commercial & discursive repertories — including especially, 1) how deals get done (or not at all); and 2) how musical wares get described, (re)contextualized, hyped, dressed up, pimped, punked, and truffled. In other words: New wine, old bottles.

This post is meant to serve as a follow-up to my previous thoughts on today’s world musics. The focus again falls on small, independent record labels, but unlike those mentioned in the last post, the labels I discuss below didn’t begin as blogs (and are not to be confused with them). In the interest of going deeper into context and credit and other #realtalk — from business practices to the language employed by labels and PR firms to frame their enterprises — allow me to try to tell three brief stories about a few kinds of cumbia circulating in the world today — particularly in world(s) beyond their home contexts, worlds where cumbia becomes, for some, “world.”

1. Barbès

The first thing I’m going to say about Barbès, run by Brooklyn-based Frenchman Olivier Conant, is that the two Roots of Chicha compilations have been a welcome presence in my life. They’re full of fantastic performances from rightly (locally) popular performers who were listening intently to the world around them — to cumbia, psychedelic rock, and huayno, among others — and whirling it up into their own special sound. The first disc lodged itself in my car for many many months back when it came out. And what I’ve heard of the second keeps the chicha torch aloft and blazing.

A hopefully unnecessary disclaimer: none of what follows is meant as an ad hominem attack. I’m interested in the larger structures that someone like Conan or his PR people have to navigate, as well as how they plot their way through. If I seem poke too much at the latter, or even to be calling names, it is intended more as a critique of the language that markets world music, or chicha, or cumbia — a discourse which implicates audiences & customers as well as producers & promoters. (That said, the unofficial subtitle of this post is: “How To Stop Receiving Promos” ;)

That said, let’s begin on the sound’s own terms, if you’ll permit the conceit. Check some of the tracks on the new comp:

The Roots Of Chicha 2 (Sampler) by pressjunkiepr

Ok, back to words. There are lots of things we could say about these songs. What the PR focuses on, however, is the heroic narrative of label-owner Olivier Conan, who saw (& heard) the value in cumbias amazónicas even when many in Peru could not. “Scorned by the middle-class and the official tastemakers,” we’re told, chicha has become a “full-fledged global occasion” and even recuperated back home, “thanks to the stunning success of a 2007 CD called The Roots of Chicha.” That’s actually the end of the sentence that I used as an epigraph (full text here); here’s the non-redacted version:

a once-obscure music that enjoyed a fanatic embrace in the Peruvian slums of the 1970s has become a full-fledged global occasion – thanks to the stunning success of a 2007 CD called The Roots of Chicha.

Chutzpah? Perhaps, but these sorts of claims are pretty par for the course in the world of music promo, never mind “world music” promo, where one classic trope is of the noble adventurer seeking out the golden nuggets of exotic lands. (Even if outstretched microphones have largely been replaced by crate diggers.) But the press release really hammers home on this narrative, suggesting it’s a psychological hook for all the curious, cosmo gringos who make up the album’s principal public:

News that a gringo was interested in chicha found its way in many of Peru’s mainstream magazines, newspapers and TV – including canal cuatro and the very official El Comercio.

The icky part is, the reason this sort of thing — ie, a curious gringo in the foreign press, or the “fancy-fish-out-of-water” — is remarkable at all is precisely because of the intense power asymmetries between, say, the US and Peru. Of course, also motivating this response is a degree of self/national pride that finds flattering any sort of outside appreciation — and there’s often an insidious, if perhaps also productive, dynamic at play in these exchanges whereby a proletarian music becomes a national symbol thanks to foreign affirmation — but those structural dimensions are not what receive emphasis here.

And such a campaign has effects. I mean jeez, even Mother Jones can’t resist going with a lede like this:

Imagine hiking in the Peruvian Andes and finding a group of chicha musicians: migrants playing a fusion of Cuban son, Andean melodies and psychedelic surfer rock, blended like the Inca corn whiskey the music is named after.

This narrative tack is striking given that Barbès is clearly attuned to questions of representation, or at least their uses. Take the assertion, circulating as promo, that vol. 2 is “an attempt to rectify some of the biases and inaccuracies of the first volume.” According to the website, the bar/performance space which bears the same name as the label “puts the stress on cultural variety, neighborhood conviviality” (& they really play my violin on that last note). All the while, Conan is well aware that, “Brooklyn may be the only place where middle-class gringos are playing the music with a more or less vintage ’70s approach.”

One reason I started with the sound files above is that I don’t want to dwell too much on the representational stuff when the music can also speak for itself (at least the music that passes through Conan’s filter). And I don’t mean to conflate marketing hyperbole with the valuable service that Conan’s efforts have done for chicha and cumbia, not to mention for many of the artists he’s featured.

Conan’s “attempt to share his enthusiasm” in the Roots of Chicha comps is, in many ways, laudable. Targeting a (relatively) wide audience by selecting popular tracks also ensures a certain degree of quality, the lingering resonance of previous moments of intense attachment, and Conan has indisputably helped to re-ignite the appreciation — economic, affective, and otherwise — of chicha. In this sense, Barbès deserves credit for inspiring others to go in search of great chicha and kindred forms of cumbia, including the guy who runs the next label I’d like to talk about.

But can we talk about value without mention of the label’s relationships to the musicians who provide the grist for the mill? How can we appraise this new wave of chicha appreciation without a sense of how Barbès is sustaining any chicha scene other than “middle-class gringo” Brooklyn’s? Why can’t the terms of the deal enter into the heroic narrative? Isn’t tracking down the musicians involved in the original recordings at least as romantic, if not more, than tracking down the recordings themselves? Why is there a significant, building “Fair Trade” / transparency movement in food but not in music?

Why, for example, doesn’t the following rycooderesque press release — issued by the same entity promoting Roots of Chicha 2 (and working to promote lots of other music I like — sorry, Ryan, but realtalk beckons) — in which the exchange between all involved is so crucial, talk at all about how this project stands to contribute to the scene from which it poaches?

In April of 2010, Cory Wong and Eric Foss of Secret Stash Records traveled to Lima, Peru with a translator and assembled Peña, an Afro-Peruvian ensemble featuring a handful of the best musicians within the genre. The group was a revolving door of sorts that included over a dozen players ranging in age from 24 to 65. In seven days they recorded over 50 tracks. With no access to a conventional recording studio they improvised by tracking in classrooms, living rooms, balconies, offices, and even on the stoop of a hostel. The sessions were fast, free spirited, and generally consisted of one or two takes per track. The result is an authentic display of one of the world’s most unique, unexplored and underrated musical styles.

Below are the full details and download links to an MP3 to post, the album, and more. I look forward to your feedback and hopefully coverage in your media outlet. [W&W note: I look forward to a leaner inbox after this post.]

Is this exchange or extraction?

I can think of at least one very successful example where the fairness of the deal (& correcting for unfairness in first dealings) became a crucial and appealing part of the release’s narrative. I’m thinking here of Greg Scruggs’s labors to put together Pancadão do Morro, a project & product that Greg referred to as “Fair Trade Funk.” In his own words –

Every artist has a contract in Portuguese, was paid a sum upfront, and will receive royalties. I can vouch for this personally, as I’m the one who has been orchestrating it all for my friends over at Flamin Hotz Records. Moreover, the CD itself is a gorgeous six panel deal, c/o BustBright, with cover art by funk legend Tony Minister, spot gloss lettering, and two booklets — featuring lyrics in Portuguese and English, artist bios, and photos. There is no anonymity here.

So put some names and beats with faces, add some well-mastered tamborzão to your collection, and support the hardworking MCs and DJs down in Rio: proceeds are going their way. Trust me, I’ll be sending the remittances myself.

Read the rest of that post for further details of how Greg worked to right some things and to write those things into the story of the release itself.

But back to Barbès. In the spirit of this post, let’s be fair in our appraisal. Aside from perhaps making the deals with musicians part of Conan’s heroic narrative, what else would we have the label do? Barbès is still a relatively modest operation, asking for donations to kickstart interesting projects, and so forth. All things considered, they’ve brought some wonderful music to my ears and no doubt have generated a significant degree of interest in, appreciation of, and opportunity for chicha and Peruvian cumbia. For that we can say, bravo.

[Update: Please see this follow-up post for a detailed response from Olivier Conan, which helps to bring more balance to the appraisal above.]

2. Mass Tropicas

Michael Pigott is a guy who lives in Western Mass, which he had the gall to call “the better half of Massachusetts” in an introductory email to me. He runs a label called Mass Tropicas devoted to small batch releases, so far mostly of weird and wonderful Peruvian cumbia. He deals directly with the artists themselves to license the tracks he releases, and he doesn’t do digital. At all. Instead, Mike stubbornly insists on durable, physical media — vinyl and cassettes — believing that the objects themselves have a way of preserving and instilling value.

While Roots of Chicha served as some inspiration for reissuing and recording some cumbia himself, Mike had been getting into the genre, especially of the Peruvian variety, over the course of several years thanks to a couple key figures: 1) his wife, who is herself from Peru, and 2) Bruno “Tunchi” Guerra, a photographer and mainstay in Lima’s punk scene. On visits, Mike would listen to the local cumbia station in his wife’s neighborhood, note the songs he liked, and then try to find them on vinyl. (Apparently, he boasts quite the collection of 45s.)

In contrast to Barbès reach for a broad audience, which entails reissuing formerly popular tracks (at least in Peru), Mike seeks to bring lesser known recordings to chicha’s expanding listening public (at least those addressed by hi-fi vinyl reissues). He sees the Roots of Chicha as an important “stepping stone” for people to “dig deeper” into his more obscure finds and favorites.

Mike described his operation as “DIY” and it’s clear that its infused by a certain punk ethos. (How DIY? you might ask: “All the records you touch, I touch,” Mike told me.) Small-batch cumbia appealed to Mike because pressing one’s own records is “sorta like punk rock.” His fourth and latest release, Ranil’s Jungle Party, a 12″ LP collecting some fine cuts from a local cumbia legend now running for mayor (and subject of a would-be documentary by Barbès), could hardly better embody the approach: Ranil’s records were originally produced and released by himself on his own label, so Mike dealt directly with the man himself. (Of course, this elides unresolved questions about who, if anyone, should have exclusive rights to a collectively produced recording, but since “backup” musicians have gotten the short-end in just about every other music biz scenario, we can’t begin to hold a label like Mass Tropicas to a different standard.)

One complicating factor in re-releasing Ranil’s music, however, was the fact that Ranil himself didn’t own any of his own records; and he had taped over the masters years ago to store recordings of his radio program! Here we see how the durability of vinyl and the diligence of the digger can prove paramount. Ranil no longer possessed any of his own records, but Lima-based collector and chicha connoisseur Victor Zela, with whom Mike has been sharing his enthusiasm for years, has every single one. Victor compiled Ranil’s Jungle Party, and Mike gives him full credit as a creative partner. (The artwork, a clear homage to the style of the day, was done by Tunchi, another Lima-based collaborator.)

About that artwork, though (& plz permit another quick foray into the jungles of marketing lingo) –

Tropical tropes abound, of course, but we also need to note that the imagery was itself lifted from Ranil’s original record sleeves. (We could also note that certain details, ahem, have been highlighted and amplified.) Whether kitschy or faithful or both, these pictorial gestures doesn’t absolve the copy, however, and we can pick up plenty of resonance with Barbés/PressJunkiePR in being informed that, with efforts like this record, Peruvian cumbia “has been rescued” — or that the reissue provides a “fascinating journey through time.”

So despite all the clearly thoughtful practices motivating Mass Tropicas, we still encounter almost inevitable notes of exotic fashioneering in the language on the record themselves, their promotion, and their inevitable reformulation in press coverage. Regarding the latter, one might read that Mike “researches the deepest streets of Peru’s forgotten music,” an interesting formulation in its familiar contour but shifting locus of the real, from the jungle to the streets, again reflecting perhaps a general recalibration (or widening of the rhetorical repertory) in “world music” discourse. (Then again, despite the prevalence of the rural/pastoral/traditional, urban sounds and imgs have enjoyed a persistent, if fraught, presence in world music bins. Indestructible Example A?)

If this sort of spiel about “fascinating journeys” can ring a little hokey to some of us, redolent as it is of Putumayo pap, I don’t think that’s because Mike is out of touch. Rather, he’s following a playbook that has produced its share of touchdowns.

But let’s talk about different notions of touch for a moment. Touch is clearly important to Mike, who touches every record he sends off. In particular, two kinds of touch: being in direct touch with actual people & directly touching actual physical objects. As with Greg’s ideas about “fair trade funk,” doing it right for Mike involves both the fairness of the deal and the quality of the product. A lot of cumbia artists on some fairly popular (bootleg) compilations have no idea. “These guys are still alive,” Mike told me. “It’d be nice if they knew they were appreciated.”

As for touching actual objects, not to mention being in touch, here’s a nice chunky plastic thing I got in the mail from Mike:

El Hombre Orquestra

Mike doesn’t really sell cassettes, yet. He tells me he’s had trouble convincing distributors to carry them, despite a minor current/recent vogue for them (indeed, a couple local producers slipped me their latest mixtape, on tape, just last week). I was happy to get the cassette since I’m lucky enough to have a car that plays them; this was true for Mike too, back when he got the idea of pressing up some of his own.

The El Hombre Orquesta cassette is from a limited run of 100, printed up mainly as an effort to promote El Hombre, aka Carlos Antonio, a sui generis one-man-band (and paraplegic) who Mike encountered while walking around in Lima. (Here’s an unrelated local news profile of him.) Singing songs while playing bongos, timbales, cymbals, wood blocks, and a halved soda bottle that sounds like a mean slide trumpet, El Hombre Orquesta has a sound all his own.

Struck by the sound, Mike asked him on the spot whether he could record him. Antonio told him, “It’s gonna cost ya,” and asked for $30. “I’ll give you extra,” said Mike, who then paid for $3 for a local practice space, recorded for 80 minutes, and gave Antonio $50, telling him he’d seek out a label back in the US to release his music. A relatively successful indie label specializing in what we might call “found sounds” of the wide world expressed strong interest, but eventually dropped the project. Having told Antonio that “next time I come down I’ll have an EP for ya,” Mike returned recently, gave him a bunch of cassettes and $200. El Hombre cried; he was touched.

3. ZZK Records

ZZK Records (pronounced zee-zek, Argentine-style, not Žižek), a label that started as a party, boasts a deep roster of hyper-creative pibes (yep, they’re all dudes), who make all kinds of exciting electronic dance music (especially the digital or “nu” cumbia for which they’re primarily known), run successful Kickstarter campaigns, and, having put their stamp on the nu world scene, are slowly but successfully wiggling their way into the potentially lucrative ol world music circuit (that’s 1.0, if you’re counting).

Recently, ZZK acts appeared at the 2010 Chicago World Music Festival, and they’re aiming to make it to Womex later this month. As the premier world music showcase in the world, Womex can be a huge platform, opening the golden doors to some of that ol world music industry money, where, especially in the live performance/festival circuit, there’s still a substantial amount to be made (unlike in the relatively tiny “global bass” scene, unless you’re fortunate enough to join the truffled classes).

For all its promise, Womex also presents significant risks for a fledgling label like ZZK, which still supports itself through all kinds of side/day-gigs (including a design firm, making somewhat more saleable use of their in-house talents). Simply getting to Copenhagen is taxing enough for an operation of this size to merit a kickstarter campaign for assistance. Everyday they’re hustling. But also touring a lot and making some great music and having fun.

By my watch, the ZZK crew got where they are today, notably, not merely though the various grinds above, but, in a nod to industry 2.0, by giving a lot of music away — especially in the form of mixtapes and bootlegs/mashups pushed onto the net (and in many cases, directly to bloggers in the nascent nu-world world). In this way, they share the plight of a lot of other small, independent labels (or artists) trying to build an audience and create some demand for (some commodification of) what they do in a saturated, “post-scarcity” music industry. ZZK effectively inserted their productions, style, and brand into translocal media flows by being savvy with what they make and share: mixtapes that blend their own tracks and other local flaves with global currents, mashups that lend a familiar tinge (in the form of say, a rap acapella) to their own electro-cumbia productions, videos that might find an eager embed on electronic / world / cosmopolatino blogs.

Although ZZK would prefer not to find its acts consigned to the marketological ghettos of “world” and “Latin,” such tags also offer certain footholds, crossover niches. When El G (aka Grant Dull, ZZK cofounder) and Lisandro of the Frikstailers came to Cambridge to play Beat Research this month, I had the opportunity to witness how the label attempts to work within the unwieldy boxes that litter the music industrial landscape. While Grant was being interviewed by a local guy who does an “alt Latin” radio show, I couldn’t help but appreciate how he tried to thread the needle, talking about the sound of the label, or specific acts, in a manner commensurate with their actual style and outlook and yet also in ways that make sense, that translate, that communicate to certain audiences. Hence, the Frikstailers were described at once as audibly “from south America” but, in the same breath, “very modern, contemporary.”

So despite the label’s nu-ness, it’s no surprise that the ZZKers selected to go to Womex are Tremor, the only “band” in the ZZK crew, and hence an act that already affirms certain entrenched ideas about “real” (world) musicianship. It probably also helps with the WM1.0 folks that they guys in Trebor play folkloristic drums (bombo leguero) and perform, according to ZZK’s own website copy, no less than an “interpretation of local musicology.” Indeed, once you read that amidst the mix of synths and drum samples one also hears “timeless Andean flute,” I think it’s clear that we’re treading familiar (“foreign”) territory.

I myself would probably leave the showcase featuring folkloric drums in order to see, say, a couple of guys banging on synths and laptops and DDR-pads, but I think it’s a while yet before the old world music guard is ready for the likes of the Frikstailers. Their loss, especially since the Friks’ productions may actually better embody the world-is-flat mythos animating a lot of WM1.0 fantasies. (Easy-listening reggae from any corner of the globe!) Like many of their nu-whirled peers, the Frikstailers find themselves immersed, at least part time, in a global culture flattened by the likes of YouTube and Twitter and mp3, where the real “world” music is the stuff we all hear no matter where we go: Justin (Bieber or Timberlake), 50, Britney.

The Frikstailers’ music features all sorts of referents, from the general to the specific — dancehall drums, cumbia percussion, that hip-house guy who says “oww” — but it’s pretty damn omnivorous in terms of what gets glitched and glitzed into a clubby, poppy frenzy. They don’t seem to proceed creatively with any self/audience-imposed requirements for local or Latin sabor. Their new EP reminds me as much of vintage Aphex Twin or the Black Dog as anything else. This stands in some contrast to, say, the nearly note-for-note renditions of Conan’s Brooklyn-based band.

But, of course, the choice is yours.

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September 30th, 2010

Nu Planetary Wot-U-Call-It 2.5.5

first page of returns for “world music” on google images –
world music 1

first page of returns for “global ghettotech” on google images –
global ghettotech 1

The release of Lamin’s EP leads me to think about all sorts of things, stubbornly but slipperily inserting itself into ongoing dialogues in my head and in the worlds of music discourse in which I find myself.

Is this African music? I dunno.

Is it world music? Gavinsays, fuckityesitis.

Is it global ghettotech? Shut yo mouth.

What it makes me think about in the context of all these questions is: to what extent do individuals like Lamin or collectives like Dutty Artz actively direct discussions about music today and boldly navigate the brave new worlds of post-scarcity music industry, and to what extent are their efforts inevitably shaped by, or folded into, those same discourses and forces?

This brings us back to the crux of the question about world music, or global ghettotech, or transnational bass, or wot-ever-u-call-it. What is the nature of the mediation of the encounter with difference that these terms tend to entail? Are we talking about translation, filtration, curation, collaboration, production, or some odd admixture of them all?

When I first started thinking aloud about open-eared music-blogging as a kind of translation for a new world/whirled music, I pointed to what seemed like some interesting, promising efforts in that arena: among them, the work of blogs like Masalacism, Ghetto Bassquake, Mad Decent, MuddUp!, et al.

These blogs seemed to be doing some interesting cultural work: playing off an emergent, inclusive interest in global hip-hop, dancehall, and international party/club culture, they sought out music with familiar-but-foreign signposts and in the process cultivated — for themselves and their readers/audiences — an open-eared orientation to a wide world of music that hadn’t really been on the metropolitan radar. These blogs differed widely in terms of the context or tone or clarity of what they were doing, but aside from some small but significant ideological differences, they seemed to be doing fairly similar things.

global ghettotech 2

I’m talking about championing genres like reggaeton, funk carioca, kuduro, cumbia, etc. And, for the record, I wasn’t the only one proposing that we might understand these activities as akin to — even as they diverged from and seemed to critique — what previously fell under the awkward umbrella of “world music.” XLR8R, for instance, ran a piece called “The New World Music” in August 2007, beginning, understandably so, with the acknowledgment that “World music” is a horrible idea and hailing such figures as Diplo and Maga Bo, who seemed to function both as curators of a certain sort, seeking out and sharing the latest greatest sounds on the planet, and as producers in their own right, making new music out of their digs and collabos.

Perhaps more than anyone, Diplo has been celebrated — as well as hit with the culture vulture tag, skewered as a newfangled Paul Simon, a privileged “First World” middleman/tourist/colonialist exploiting raw materials from the so-called periphery. But that sort of critique lacks nuance to say the least. While we no doubt need to be vigilant about asymmetrical power relations and questionable representational regimes, we also need translators and filters, especially good ones (and I actually think Diplo, generally, is a good one) — the sorts of thoughtful xenophiles that Ethan Zuckerman calls bridge figures (even if, um, Ethan’s prime example is Paul Simon).

world music 2

For the most part, these artists and blogs/collectives have grown over the years: increasing their number of collaborators and contributors (and encouraging kindred blogs to pop up — word to Generation Bass and Dave Quam), consistently broadening musical horizons (and, often, sustaining interest in former flavors-of-the-month), and expanding their range of operations to go well beyond “writing” a blog. Having effectively created markets and nurtured scenes around a particularly weighted (get low), open-eared approach to electronic dance music — heavily Afro/diasporic in style & militantly, but rarely smoothly, hybridized — many of the long-running blogs in this vein have launched their own record labels over the last year or so, largely specializing in digital releases.

Moving beyond simply posting mp3s found on 4shared, or YouTube embeds, or rips from “pirate” CDrs — all of these valuable activities, of course, which continue apace — and into actually “releasing” (& sometimes selling) music from the people and places they find themselves drawn to, or from a network of producers inspired to make something new out of these distinctive but overlapping styles from around the world, is an interesting development, to say the least, for whatever we want to call this scene.

global ghettotech 5

Some of the releases by these global bass blogs come from expected (as well as unexpected) bassy hotspots of the Global South, some are fashioned in the multiculti metropoles, and a lot of it blurs these lines so much it frustrates categorization. While the output has varied quite a bit across these labels’ efforts, in general the releases seem, significantly, to emphasizes whirledliness over worldliness — the latter is in there too, but generally as ordinary if not intimate cosmopolitan experience, not fanciful, distanced exoticism.

Take the following cross-section: from Dutty Artz, CIAfrica‘s decidedly rough textures or Lamin‘s disarming synths; from Mad Decent, the 3Ball MTY kids, who source their materials via random YouTube walks and (already!) remix commissions; or Botswana’s Ruff Riddims crew releasing reggaeton-inflected kwasa-house (which can’t get play on the radio in Botswana, ironically, because it’s not hip-hop or reggae enough) through Berlin’s Faluma; or Masalacism putting out Haitian-Canadian kreole-rap over dubstep-dripped beats; or Dave Quam initiating Free Bass with some footwork-inspired, hermetic jukery c/o a Washington-based teenager; or Ghetto Bassquake making all kinds of Hackney high life (including stellar remixes by Chief Boima and Uproot Andy, no strangers to the scene).

world music 4

What’s great is how these blogs, having initially demonstrated their openearedness and got tagged (or self tagged) as cued into the world / whirled / global / ghetto / tropical / bass thing, are now participating in it at another level entirely. It’s a moment full of possibilities and risks. And, yes, a time for #realtalk, as Tally put it, tossing the bloggy guantlet just the other day —

But I want to make sure our extended family understands what moves we are making, and why. This isnt abo’ut selling more albums then mad decent, or having hyper raves parties then trouble and bass. We are creating a sustainable business model that allows for our work to reach the world AND provide us with the resources to continue pushing beyond ourselves. Major changes are in order- and I dont want any of you- our extended DA family – to be left behind. One of the most important tenants we follow is transparency. WE ARNT TRYING TO HIDE BEHIND BIZ3RRE MARKETING AND EXPENSIVE GRAPHIC DESIGN. WE JUST DO THIS FOR OUR PEOPLE SO YOU KNOW Y’ALL CAN HAVE IT.

I’m gonna run a follow-up post, of sorts, in a day or two, trying to keep the #realtalk flowing by discussing a few other approaches in this weird “world” world. This is where the rubber meets the iPhone, seen.

But speaking of #realtalk, just yesterday erstwhile reggae scribe extraordinaire Dave Stelfox tweeted this:

"global ghetto"

A few minutes later, this infelicitous phrasing turned up in my inbox:

"Pan-Ghetto diaspora"

Like Dave and many others, I can find pretty irksome this use of “ghetto,” especially as sensational / salacious imagery or vague thematic gloss, in the circulation and marketing of so much of this stuff. That’s what I was trying to get at with “global ghettotech” in the first place. It’s a term that’s been surprisingly embraced in certain quarters. It was, however, as David Dacks noted way back, a sardonic term from jump, at least for me. I never meant it to be taken as at all “literal,” as Steve Goodman (aka Kode 9) suggests in Sonic Warfare. Rather, the term was supposed to finger a suspect ideological tinge to the representational practices around a set of global dance genres — a familiar litany which Goodman also rehearses while offering an ante-ideological affective-level theory of the dreadful, bass-materialist ontologies of international, urban soundsystem practice. (Or was that, “making sense of the new war economy attention and acceleration hype of hybridized mutant youth digital sonic shared p2p capital2.0 today“?)

The same thing that animates Goodman’s conjuring of a “Planet of Drums,” nodding to Mike Davis, is precisely what might be termed a “pan-Ghetto” condition. (But don’t get me started on “pan-Ghetto diaspora” — I have no idea what that means.) And the power inequalities Goodman emphasizes, not least the control over increasingly targeted and militarized urban soundscapes — ironically, according to Goodman, a contest fostering, with wicked feedback, all manner of resonant and recombinant electronic dance musics — are also the animating forces propelling the “global bass” scene, or wot-ever-u-call-it. (Don’t ask me.)

So before we too quickly condemn (all politically-correct-like) the invocation of the ghetto as a certain global locus, we should remember that an address to and across the world’s ghettos is often quite explicit in a lot of this music. I was reminded of this yesterday morning via Twitter as well, this time by Samim (another interesting node in the circulation of these sounds — in his case, as a cumbia smuggler), thanks to the following video produced by Maga Bo, but as his collaborator Teba says in the intro, “for all the ghetto youth dem all over the world” –

I’ll leave you with Bo’s video description at the YouTube page, which puts plenty of blogposts to shame. Note the amount of context and credit he provides. At once, translation and production:

After many visits to South Africa, connecting with the African Dope Records crew – Fletcher, Teba, Sibot, and Max Normal in particular, DJing all over SA from Cape Town to Joburg, producing and recording music, here is the third video clip to accompany my record, “Archipelagoes,” released recently on Soot Records. “Nqayi feat. Teba.” was also chosen to represent the sound of Cape Town on the latest African Dope Records compilation, “Cape of Good Dope 2.”

The video was shot over 2 days in Guguletu, probably Cape Town’s most notorious township and Teba’s home turf – with all borrowed equipment – borrowed camera, boom box, the car on loan, people leting us into their houses to film. Back in the day, Teba was a member of the super successful kwaito group Skeem, which put out several albums before he left to do more socially conscious work. He now leads workshops in lyric writing and gumboot dancing (!), is part of the African Dope Sound System, has his own live band and has collaborated with the likes of Stereotyp and SiBot.

A slow hybrid baile funk/macumba/ragga beat sung in Xhosa and English, the lyrics talk about the difficulties faced by youth in townships today and how society tries to force them to drink and take drugs. Nqayi means baldhead and refers to fake rastas posturing themselves, but then bending over to the pressures of society and shaving their locks. An interesting element of the lyrics to this track are in the chorus where he uses the Xhosa ‘q’ sound, a click made with the tongue and the roof of the mouth, as a percussive element. Check the end of the video for a quick lesson…..

Please post this to your blog, mybook, facespace, twittering twit, your neighbor’s refrigerator, the local cafe bulletin board as well as your good natured local DVD pirate or where ever you want!

Actually, I think I’ll leave the final word, for now, to Dutty Tally, writing from Rio:

#globalghetto

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September 29th, 2010

What Lamin Did

Last week Dutty Artz released a lovely, largely unpredictable set of 4 tracks produced by longtime blog/label staple but debuting artist, Lamin Fofana. (You can hear & buy individual tracks at Amazon and elsewhere around the web.) I wasn’t sure what to expect, never having heard any of Lamin’s productions. Sure, I’d heard mixes and podcasts, and I knew a thing or two about what Lamin likes through his steady blogging. Oh, and that he’s been working hard behind the scenes at MuddUp radio for a couple years now. But the staggering variety of those efforts still really left me wondering.

Lamin’s obviously a great listener, and I hear What Elijah Said as audible, irrefutable evidence of that. He packs a lot into these four tracks: sudden turns, suprising textures, development, drama and arc. Resisting genre-tags-as-(forestalled)interpretation through their promiscuous relationship to stylistic orthodoxy, his productions are little worlds of music all their own.

Speaking of which, Lamin also cooked up an interesting and apt promotional mix for the EP. #Calypso doesn’t directly feature any elements from What Elijah Said, and yet on the other hand, that’s precisely what it seems to contain: another kind of crucial context, a kindred or parallel sonic universe, something into which one might pass from the EP, and back, via emergent audio wormholes of varying size and character. Slip through and loop around again, & you’ll never grow bored –

Lamin Fofana, #Calypso

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

You could try to make a certain sense of Lamin’s music via his biography’s knotty routes (via DA) –

Lamin Fofana was born in the West African country of Guinea. When the political situation got bumpy, he moved to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where his routine involved listening to Goodie Mob and Organized Konfusion as well as attending Quranic schools/mosques. In 1997 Lamin’s family had to flee worsening conditions in Sierra Leone – losing friends, belongings, documents, a home. They spent several days crossing roads and bridges destroyed by rebels to prevent people from escaping. At the end of the year, Fofana found a new home in Harlem, New York, where he lives today.

But I actually think it’s the EP (and mix) which helps one to read his bio, not the other way around.

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July 15th, 2010

The Munchiton March Continues

Considering the prodigious and idiosyncratically imaginative output of Mr. Munchi, it’s seeming more and more apt to call what he’s doing something like a genre unto itself. Moombahcore? Nah, Munchiton!

Just yesterday I was flipping over his Amen-breaking, dembow-dripped, synth-cackle, “Datsik – Firepower (Munchi Moombahcore Rmx).” And then this morning I find the following in my inbox. Readymade blogpost hype? I’ll take it. Seriously, though, I really love the way Munchi explains his thinking behind each track and his general tracing out of all the influences (confluences?) coming together in his mad, moombah-fried mind:

I have been listening to alot of Cumbia/Chicha/Guaracha/Tribal these days
and it inspired me to dedicate this months promo to it!

After the Moombahton Promo things got pretty wild and it appeared almost everywhere.
While still experimenting with this genre (now Moombahcore), i found myself listening to more and more Cumbia. Especially when i got introduced to Sonido Martines’ Sonambulo Orientalista Mix. Without exaggerating, the mix was on replay for weeks.

More and more Cumbia seemed to cross my path and after hearing alot of
mixes (especially Toy Selectah’s), Eric Rincon, DJ Icon, Sonido Del Principe,
Uproot Andy, Kumbia Queers, etc. it was Tribal that really caught my attention.

This sound -although completly different- seemed so familiar and close to me for some reason.
Hearing this reminded me of Brazil’s Funk, Dominican Republic’s Mambo, Angola’s Kuduro, Puerto Rico’s and Panama’s Reggeton, Jamaica’s Dancehall, Baltimore/Philadelphia/Jersey’s Club Music, Chicago’s Juke Music and more recently Dave Nada’s Moombahton.

All these genres have these simalarities in them which i personaly like, they are from a located area and carry the tradition of those areas. I think Toy Selectah described this best. He said it was all Hiphop. The Hiphop of those reigons. Also they have a certain rawness, alot of bass and a straight-to-the-point-ness with often sexuality as theme. In the case with Mambo the FL-cheapness that i really appreciate.

So i started experimenting and while making the tracks i realized it has very much in common with Kuduro. Unexpected turn, but proven when i changed some things up. It went from full Tribal to 100% Kuduro. I kind of like these type of connections and also found myself making this tracks with Mambo ‘heart’. The rawness and ‘cheapness’ were elements of Mambo that i put into this ep. Also turning the sexual vibes a notch up as that was the only thing that seemed to be missing in comparison with the other genres. I didn’t want to exaggerate and experiment too much as the key for the promo’s still remains staying true to the genre.

So here it is! Cumbia XXX EP. let me give you a short explanation:

Mujeres Tan A Jarro

The vocals from one of my favorite mambo tracks ever. DJ Sensual has made so much good its ridiculous. matter of fact, search him on google and see if you get some hits. You probably another dude with the same name. I guess he stopped making music.. because after the transition of the computer mambo to the mambo we know now, he dissapeared in thin air. The little ‘faults’ are on purpose, as in the whole ep. They are everywhere: progress of the track, the beat,
effects, etc. Out of tone accordeon, annoying melody, Sensual’s cheesy voice, random moaning.
Damn, i fucking LOVE cheapness!!!

Leite Condensão

When the track starts you might think ”Dude, this isn’t Cumbia.” I know, have patience my friend after you hear the oh so familiar and overused reverse crash of reggeton, it introduces a rather non-hype buildup that is made of ingredients that cause hypeness. Afrojacks familiar b-more kickpattern with Bmore a la Cumbia.
And after the girl tells you what she is expecting from you, you get this Cumbia track oozing of Baile Funk (thats why the title is Portuguese of course) with a hint of Bmore. I didn’t spare the use (read: overuse) of random moaning. True story: I sampled random Brazilian Porn for this track.

You know, i get this feeling all the time with Cumbia. Especially with this track, like this relaxed type of hypedness. Its like “Shhh, im getting hype to Cumbia. Do it quietly tho.” while rockin Native American inspired dancemoves. No agressiveness, just vibin. Its all good manito, it is all good.

Bellakeo

Starting with a dosis of epic cheapness. A lot of reverb, explosions, overused Reggeton effects and airhorns. It gives you: the out of tone accordeon. Dude seriously, i thought that i loved the way Mambo used dirty hihats as guiros or the timbal of Reggeton’s Dembow. The cowbell, man that shit is gangsta. I mean, there is even a break in it that consists only of cowbell and bass. After that it gets wild with a good old Dutch House synth. Btw the b-b-b-b-Bellakeooooo is me! Recorded in 05/06 or something and now i could finally use it!

El Gallo

This one is my favorite as this is the cheapest of the bunch. The synth is made of a phone sound, when you press a button. Not sparing you on the obvious reference, the track will make it clear to you when a random rooster thinks its time to wake you up. Couldn’t leave this EP without the overuse of Dembow’s timbal. But no in contrary of what you might think, this track reminds me of this crazy ass dude in D.R. which nickname was El Gallo. This dude thinks about
sex and women all the time, drinks Brugal as it were water constantly and watches girls at night with his binoculairs as a hobby (they all know it and leave the windows open on purpose lol). Did i mention that he is funny as hell. Gallo, this track is for you!

Deja Tu Vaina Mujer

Ay Tan Sucia!
my bad Dave, you know i had to give a shoutout to the Moombahton movement, ya tu sae!!
O yeah and btw, deja tu vaina mujjjjerrrr!

Well thats all for today lol.
Let me know what you think of it!!

Download Link [320 Kbps]:
http://www.mediafire.com/?k0ndmwo3nzzgmzo

I think it’s an awesome earful. How about you?

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May 26th, 2010

Moar Munchiton

Munchi follows up his moombahton splurge with some flashbacks –

i totally forgot to send you some tracks i worked on in late 2009 that were bubbling but influenced by dominican music. like perico ripiao, bachata or dominican dembow. i had these finished but i was working on a whole concept thing there.

Munchi – Dominican Bubbling Battle 2009

Didnt have a name for it so i called it like that. Sampled and cutted up a perico ripiao song, vocals from dominican dembow and with the oldskool bubbling taste. this kind of oldskool bubbling was my favorite, all over the place and so much going on going from slow to fast. made this right after i saw a bubbling battle video from 1995.

And here’s the video in question. Inspiring indeed!

Seriously, what a style! Dude gets LOOOSE. He’s totally syncing with bubbling’s distinctive double-time/half-time herky-jerk, and, like the genre, seemingly drawing on two kinds of raving at once: of the dancehall reggae sort, and of the hardcore techno sort. I like the nods to robot-style popping-and-locking, the plasticman wobbling, and all the transmuted bits of bubbling — and that’s bubbling in the original Caribbean sense. Butterfly, butterfly, mek we do the…

Munchi also shares a couple of tracks that seem to spring uniquely from his Dominican-Dutch circumstances:

Munchi – Mambo Con Sazon

which he describes as

Bachata guitar with also the bachata percussion and the familiar bubbling slowing down and speeding up. I was plannin to put a female reggeton artist on this track she would fit the track perfectly with the energy she brings.

And here’s one more to round things out. Munchi sez:

I made this in 2007 and its mostly bubbling but it flows into baile funk and reggeton
and it got me a bit of exposure back then lol.

Munchi – Nex Aan Te Doen Prt. 1

If it wasn’t clear in my previous post, I love the way that Munchi’s productions are so situated in the particular musical-cultural networks (actual and virtual) in which he finds himself situated (and actively situates himself, as with such keywords as “baile funk” and with, y’know, enthusiastic emails to bloggers like me and Dave Quam).

In light of these latest, I’ve been thinking about Munchiton — a genre all Munchi’s own (even though he’s personally embracing the moombahton tag) — with regard to a resonant quotation from DJ Earworm in that “borrowing culture” documentary I shared last week:

…in the future, when people listen to music, everyone’s gonna have their own custom remix … You heard that new song, yeah, check out my version. Oh yeah, check out my version. That’s not gonna be DJ culture that’s just gonna be culture.

In an age of FruityLoopy GarageBands, I think we’re just about already there. Sometimes this is called “remix culture,” sometimes “participatory culture,” sometimes “read-write culture,” sometimes “free culture.” Before too long, though, Earworm’s right: we’re going to stop thinking of remix practice as the exception, instead realizing that the 20th century’s “read-only” broadcast culture was an anomaly in human history and embracing the imperative to mix-and-mash all the stuff around us as what culture’s really about.

Along these lines, I’m enamored of the idea that not only will everyone be enmeshed in collectively, co-creating culture, right down to versioning the latest global (or local) hits, but that these efforts, in any particular instantiation (e.g., Munchi’s work), might yet coalesce into something even more unruly and awesome: genres of our own. New whirled music. Munch, crunch, mulch. Repeat.

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April 29th, 2010

Moombahton, Munchiton, & Related Reggaetony Ear Candy


a moomba, apparently — no relation to afrojack, i don’t think

Reggaeton doesn’t die, it just continues to fragment and reconstitute in a thousand different ways. (Sorry about the passive language there — I don’t think reggaeton has viral/memetic agency, but I still find myself using that sort of shorthand/emphasis even when what I want to think about primarily is how particular people in particular places&times do something with the “genre”.) In this case, I’m not just talking about Dominican dembow or jerkbow, but other, equally odd revivalist fusions. I mean, it’s practically a personalized genre at this point!

First case in point: a couple weeks ago I got an email from a guy named Munchi, connecting dots and introducing prototypes —

There is this new thing going on that just has started but has huge potential. You see, I love Reggeton. But the things that came out these years (Regge-Pop) weren’t even Reggeton. I still have those great tracks on my mp3 in the time when Reggeton still was Reggeton. Althought there is a movement going on in my home country (Dominican Republic) where they use the Dembow with chopped up vocals or just make a party track, but that itself seems to be destroying the Dominican Hiphop market. Since everyone sees that the money is in the Dembow party tracks. But that is a whole other story. This type of Reggeton is just like those oldskool Playero songs.

This is a good thing but i dont see Reggeton getting out of the hole it is right now with this movement.

However, like i said there is a new thing.
You see i live in Holland and here we have Bubbling.

Holland always had its own thing i guess and with the Dutch House going strong at the moment, you certainly cant miss the Bubbling influence in it. Then of course when a couple of years ago Baltimore Club came out of nothing destroying every club in Holland ”Samir’s Theme” that influence got in it also. It evolved, just like the raggamuffin to bubbling and then dutch house (with the other genres of course). Puerto Rico and Panama had their own evolved version with Reggeton.

Now we come to the States, where the Dutch House thing is pretty big right now. Like the rest of the world. I don’t know about Reggeton but I guess it still gets played over there.

Those 2 genres met eachother there.

Dave Nada played Afrojack’s ”Moombah” (Huge Dutch House Track) & Sidney Samson’s ”Riverside” at 108 BPM. Almost Reggeton speed (96 BPM). He saw that the crowd loved it and he made the Moombahton EP.

This was just a month ago.

And I came across it and when I heard it, I couldn’t believe what i was hearing. The idea was so simple, yet THE chance for Reggeton to get out of its hole.

Eventhough that i love Reggeton, there are so many genres that are new and interesting to me. It’s all so inspiring and i want to make them all. So i haven’t been making Reggeton besides Dembow.

Yet when i heard this I immediatly made a Promo CD.
I worked the whole night and got 5 tracks.

You see Dave Nada had this fantastic idea, and with the Dutch House hype there is at the moment, its perfect. The genre is in its beginning, i dont know which way taht its going to go. I hear the Uncle Jesse rmx of whatyoudoin and i hear alot of percussion work. I hear people making the same as the original Dave Nada idea with just editing and slowing down dutch house. I also heard a juke moombahton rmx of Moombah which was fantastic. And what i did was make a house at a 108 speed with Reggeton samples. Also mixing it with cumbia/baltimore club/baile funk/merengue/miami bass/dominican dembow.

It felt so good that i could make ”Reggeton” again, with the inspiration i used to have while making it. I can see this becoming big. It has alot of odds for it, but im not even talking about that.

You see, like i mentioned before it all started with Raggamuffin. 2 different genres that evolved out of that in two different worlds are meeting eachother again after a long journey. And i think they will be stronger than ever.

Here are some links for you to check out:
http://soundcloud.com/davenada
www.nibootoo.net
http://soundcloud.com/unclejesse410/n-a-s-a-watchadoin-dj-alvaro-remix-uncle-jesse-moompatron-edit

This all happened today/yesterday, and im stoked.
I can’t wait to see this evolve and grow to something.
Let me know what you think and I hope to hear from you.

He included the five song EP, and I’ve been bumping it. (He also followed up with a buttload of bubbling videos, which I’ve not yet had the time to peruse. But, as Dave & I get grindin on that dreampipe of a book, I’ll be digging in.)

Up where they are, tempo-wise, Munchi’s tracks work well alongside Dave Nada‘s bangers and Chief Boima’s techno rumbas, and they flow well from slightly slower dancehall and reggaeton tracks. Like dembow or bubbling at their core, we hear a mix of styles indexed and flexed, suffused with some of the most cherished sounds and patterns casting about. And yet, for all their nods to the back and the side, they sound as here and now as anything. Which is to say, they sound inspired –

    >> Munchi, “La Brasilena ta Montao”

    >> Munchi, “Metele Bellaco”

I also kinda love that someone can be sent on a beatmaking binge like this. I suppose the same thing that Dave Nada put his finger on when he slowed down some Dutch house and sent a bunch of Latino highschoolers into frenzy is also vibrating over in the Netherlands (for Dominican kids especially?).

Or in California for college-going Colombian kids who grew up in Chelsea, Mass?

That’s what I have to surmise, reminded of some related sounds this past week when two Twitter frens tweeked out over the “Candy Flip Riddim”. The maker of that track, a guy named Johnny, first came to my attn last October via email from the moderator of dancehall.mobi, who pointed me to another track of his on YouTube, “Dembow Dynamics,” knowing that I’m a big fan of all things dembow. The email simply read:

I’m not sure if you guys do promo stuff but let me know if you like the sound. DIGITAL REGGAE for the world!

When I wrote to Johnny to ask about the track, he mentioned that a friend had played the track at a couple parties in Lawrence, MA, and “people were seriously diggin it.” Having done some beatmaking workshops up in Lawrence and neighboring Lowell, where I think I learned more about reggaeton than the kids learned about anything from me, I was intrigued to hear more about reggae/ton parties in Lawrence. Per Johnny:

Lawrence is the dancehall capital!!! (Strangely, I noticed that in Boston, reggaeton was bigger at spanish parties, yet in Lowell/Lawrence it was dancehall). I’m sure you probably heard of him, but if you haven’t, definitely check out Dj Styles on myspace. I remember in high school people would literally play the music straight from his page at parties, it was like the radio for Spanish people around Boston haha.

Although Johnny’s tracks could use a little help in the mastering realm (which I learned pretty quickly when trying to play them in a club setting — and which, yeah, kinda goes without saying in this brave new world of DIY/p2p music industry), I dig the mix of references in them and the way he mines the reggaeton oeuvre in the same way that reggaeton mines dancehall and hip-hop (and trancey techno too) for its own suggestive palette. Like Munchi’s experiments, Johnny’s music seems to express a return to roots (of a sort — DJ Blass is a root, right? rhizomatically speaking?) while offering an audible sense of reinvention.

I also found his description for “Dembow Dynamics” pretty interesting/provocative, especially the level of disclosure:

I want to sex dembow. This song is my representation of the night when dembow becomes a living female. My second credible riddim.

It’s funny how people say reggaeton is “dead” when in fact its creativity that’s dieing. Dembow is in my fucking SOULLLLLLLL!!!@!@!!!@!!!

I got shit from 7 different tracks:

Notch – Hay Que Bueno
Ranking Stone – Quiero Hacertelo
Don Chezina – Tra
Yaviah – Wiki Wiki
Unda Wata Riddim
Playero 41
Wisin & Yandel – Por Mi Reggae Muero

Those are directly in the track. other influences would include:

Dancehall, Diplo of course, Dj Blass, Electronica, SALSAAAAAAA, and whatever else I forgot.

Taking all these together, it’s striking how this sort of sound, shared among a few producers, can seem to voice a zeitgeist, to stand in for a multitude, when the evidence is emanating from 2-3 “bedrooms.” Funny how we can imagine a wider community of practice abstracted from but a few examples. (Or is that my tendency alone?) It makes me wonder how limited one’s claims about the meaning of this sort of “phenomenon” must be. But the fact alone of resonance — of, say, Moomahton especially, based on the rapid bloggy uptake and effusive, inspired acts like Munchi’s — seems to speak volumes about a broader (dare I say?) structure of feelings modulating with the music.

I hesitate to subsume this under the banner of global ghettotech or, as seen this week, “global ghetto house.” While there are global-ghettoey cross-currents here, as borne witness by Munchi’s and Johnny’s references to Bmore and Diplo, we might better attend to the far more specific genealogies that Munchi and Johnny draw, not to mention awesome myths of origins like Dave Nada’s. That the palette of what we’re calling here reggaeton (sometimes anachronistically) can go from largely based on hip-hop and dancehall to including a panoply of styles not limited to techno, (Dutch) house, electro, bachata, cumbia, and funk carioca, does seem to suggest that the old signposts have shifted.

The goalposts too?

[Update: Toy Selecta rightfully objects to me leaving raverton out of the constellation. He's been mining the same turf for two years now, and raverton certainly fits into the picture here. Beyond simply rounding out the picture, Toy's toying with reggaeton arguably made space for the likes of moombahton, finding favor at the Fader long ago. As it happens, just this week Toy unleashed his latest raverton opus, which I highly recommend.]

[Update II: Talk about timing, I see via Catchdubs that Munchi has posted a whole heap of other productions in this vein to his SoundCloud page. The Flashing Lights blog also includes a bunch of descriptions of several tracks, which go further into the sources & influences in the mix.]

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January 11th, 2010

Acid Washed Genes

I’m thrilled that Joro-Boro is due to join us tonight for a little Beat Research. A few months ago, I received a fortuitous email from him, linking me to a new mix he’d put together, full of what he called his “favorite local dirty sounds” — a familiar if distinctive melange of polyrhythmic electronic dance music from around the world, quite in line with the kinds of kulturmash I’ve here described as nu-whirled / global-gtech / world2.0, but notably, at least as focused on sonic significations of Euro as Afro:

Decompressia Tremens Mix by joro-boro

It was a fortuitously timed email because I had recently posted a note to this blog announcing the appearance at BR of Gypsy Sound System, and the comments rapidly turned into a debate about the use of the term “Gypsy” to promote music, especially by performers who are not themselves counted among the members of the “stateless diaspora” that Rozele trenchantly invokes. Far as I can tell, entrenched as particular positions get, there’s no easy answer on this one given how dispersed and diverse the so-called Gypsy / Gitano / R(r)oma / Sinti / Tsigane experience has been and continues to be. The argument is not unlike disputes over the use of nigga/er (or black for that matter), though obviously there are important differences between these terms and their historical and contemporary uses. Put simply, while some understand gypsy as a slur, others use it in a far more neutral manner, including acts of positive self-identification. I’ve seen countless examples of the latter (now leaping out to me) in the months since.

Contentious as the discussion was, I was glad we were able to have it — and I remain grateful for the conversations that can happen here (especially as my rate of posting dwindles in the face of having two-kids-under-two). I was definitely glad that Joro-Boro decided to add his experienced and thoughtful voice to the mix, like so:

i’ve been struggling with this issue since my early days in mehanata and the release of the compilation (which i wanted to call ‘new york gadjo underground’). i realized that there is a reason why it is problematic to find a name for this music and the reason is this: there is no such thing as gypsy music!

‘gypsy music’ is a name given from outsiders, it is a totalizing machine that forces unity onto divergent cultural forms based solely on the ethnicity of their producers. yes, there are stylistic proximities between a soleá and a russian gypsy ballad, the question is can we just leave them to ethnomusicologists, since they are already in heavy market use on the festival circuit (both in the u.s. and in europe)? this reminds me of the discussions on this blog about nu-whirled music and global ghettotech. similar excluding/exoticizing operations take place when one talks about “world music” and about “gypsy music.” can one talk about “black music” today?

it seems that there was (and still is) a need to argue the historic continuity of roma identity as a tool for gaining political recognition and building a pan-roma identity (toni gatliff’s ‘latcho drom’), but that is not the same as selling tickets or cd’s by advertising a “gypsy music”. a friend of mine from berlin – dj soko – has always managed to avoid the issue by presenting his music (released on three compilations already) and his party as ‘balkanbeats’. when he started using it, the term didn’t refer to just club remixes, but any danceable music from the region (including ska, reggae, jazz and folk). soko is the only one to officially feature a popfolk singer from bulgaria (azis) on a compilation, thus breaking the brass stereotype. and on that note, i only know of one european dj who freely includes chalga and turbofolk in his mixes – dj rasputin. if you happen to know of other ones, please let me know. balkan music is surely more than just brass bands and i usually try to focus on that “more”: the decompressia mix (thank you for posting it wayne!) does start with a shantel track (covering/remixing ciguli’s ‘binaz’), but then also includes examples of both popfolk (ivana with the party mix) and chalga (amet – dogovori) and closes with a fantastic dub track done by a romanian producer with sampled vocals from esma redzepova (zgomot’s miri kamli). i attribute this to the influence of the american environment of hybridity, since it seems that european dj’s usually stay within the confines of one style (i might be wrong – birdseed, can you help me on this?)

but back to gypsy sound system: yes, it is insensitive of them to use that name for the project. and yes, they are “remarkably nice, gentle, warm people” and also my friends, but that’s beside the point. what about gypsy punk? i still think that gogol bordello should have stuck with ‘immigrant punk’ as a much more appropriate name for their style. balkan beat box attempted a neologism with ‘nu-med’ – new mediterranean music (with influences from roma traditions as well as the entire mediterranean). a poster can surely advertise ‘olah music from hungary’ or ‘wedding brass band from bulgaria’ and use “gypsy” only in a footnote as clarification (eugene from gogol bordello usually justifies his use of “gypsy” with american ignorance and fear of the audience confusing it with romanian or italian – from rome – music).

With all of that in mind, and the mix above too, I recommend you to some additional disorientalism from Joro-Boro while you note the nuances, esp in light of the comments above, of his self-description:

Joro-Boro was born in Bulgaria.

He plays and promotes Etnoteck – the dirty and uninhibited side of globalization force-fed back into a party without borders, a three-day Balkan wedding in a post-national state where noise, libido and extasy detonate the market mono-culture.

He established himself during his seven year residency at the Bulgarian Bar (Mehanata) in New York City where he produced the compilation ‘New York Gypsymania’. He is a monthly host of MoGlo (Modern Global) on Radio New York WNYE 91.5 FM.

Joro-Boro is not an artist / charlatan / mythologist. Joro De Boro could be just the opposite.

Finally, I’ll close pace Jace’s strikingly germane (and Germanic!) recent comments on how brassy Europea has worked its way into WM2.0 –

Most world music 2.0 seems to envision itself sweating in unspecified sultry climes – the word “tropical” bloomed across countless flyers this year, clueing clubbers in to a fashion aesthetic of bright colours and a non-genre-specific approach to music. Schlachthofbronx whitens up the tropical, grafting Bavarian pride onto black bass influences. Their embrace of the Euro-exotic is at once perversely funny and functional: anyone who so wishes can now spice up an Africa-themed dance party with conservative Munich volksmusik – and the crowd won’t miss a beat.

Come to the Enormous Room tonight and we’ll count together how many beats we don’t miss!

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December 11th, 2009

Gazakly

An ethno-colleague, who shall remain anonymous, had her students listen to the Afropop program on World Music 2.0. She was kind enough to send me a hilarious response. I’m rather floored by the ways it mixes a (kneejerk?) resistance to exoticism and an insistence on indigenous originality. I wonder how many other listeners/readers either A) miss the point and/or B) are unable to hear what’s interesting in the music we’re talking about –

The music of the “World Music 2.0″ genre doesn’t seem to really hold up on its own. Listening to it is extremely boring due to its repetitive nature and lack of any interesting musical forms. The only purpose it seems to have is to provide a dance beat at clubs or parties.

Can this music even be considered world music anymore? It sounds so western that I cannot differentiate it from club music created in America and Europe. We established earlier that just because a song is made in a non-western country, doesn’t necessarily mean it can be considered world music. If a song is created in a western style by a non western artist, then it is not world music.

Are there a lot of issues with copyright and originality that arise due to the internet based nature of world music 2.0? It seems as though a lot of songs result from various mixes and beats created by non-professionals that are then changed as they spread across the internet.

For all the confusion here, that last sentence really hits the nail on the head!

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Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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