Search Results for ‘riddim method’

remix-mas! (riddim meth0d repost)

[I haven’t made another Xmas mix since this first attempt four years ago, and I’m not quite sure why. Despite my nostalgia for the sounds of the season, I think I quickly reach saturation. Anyway, I repost this for those of you who haven’t heard this before and are not yet feeling oversaturated. For those who’re seeking similarly woozy collections of nonstandard Christmas fare, do check out Gavin’s latest and Boomnoise’s 2nd volume of egg-noggin’ beats. This was originally posted on December 22, 2005.]

believe me, i’m sick of christmas carols, too. indeed, i was mildly horrified, but not so surprised, to hear them being played in the supermarket even before thanksgiving this year. usually, i can at least endure such schlock throughout the month of december, allowing the familiar strains to trigger my nostalgia reflex and paying more attention to wacky, 50s-era arrangements than invocations of baby messiahs.

despite their inextricable connections to crazy christians and consumerism-gone-wild, many of these songs still hold a special place in my grinchy little heart, so i’ve been wanting to put together a little remix/mix of them for a while now. of course, the inherent irreverence of messing with this stuff helps me to get over some of the piety, the schmaltz, and the kitsch. (actually, i like the kitsch – and i can even dig the piety, long as it’s nat king cole on the mic.)

thus, i offer what i hope is at least a more interesting, and fun, way to listen to these songs yet again. (and i realize i should have put this up far before people’s endurance approached the critical limits of this week. oh well.)

wayne&wax, remix-mas 30 min / 28 mb

the songs collected here are by no means an exhaustive sampling of the christmas carol oeuvre. rather, they reflect my own (and my family’s) idiosyncratic faves, from novelty numbers to true standards of the genre. above all, there’s plenty of nat king cole, who is my absolute favorite when it comes to interpreting this repertory. alongside nat king, you’ll find such commonly compiled christmas crooners as frank sinatra, johnny mathis, burl ives, dean martin, judy garland, bing crosby, and gene autry. you’ll also find some jazzy versions courtesy of vince guaraldi (of peanuts fame), duke ellington, and the ray brown trio. and it just wouldn’t be a w&w mix without such additions as an adapted favorite by samplee-of-the-year ini kamoze (all i really want for christmas / is to be a little bit more conscious), a jingle-bell-evoking beat by latter-day de la soul, and the christmas calypso classic, “drink a rum.”

beyond the simple but significant point of tune selection, you’ll note a number of other organizational principles at work here. for one, as usual, i’m playing a lot with tempo and pitch in order to make various songs work with each other and in the context of a mix. i’m also doing a lot of looping, finding some true 2-bar gems amidst all the string-section and peculiar-percussion wankery. my muse here is hip-hop, especially such loop-finders as prince paul, dan the automator, and madlib (whose 6 variations on in the rain is definitely a touchstone for the multiple loops/edits i attempt to wring from the various songs here). another point of reference might be the avalanches, whose deft recycling and repackaging of pop detritus is a model to which we could all aspire. there are also, without a doubt, a number of nods here to loop-master rza, in particular the creation of “harmonies” (which are really quite dissonant) that result from laying various string samples over other string samples, sped and slowed voices, etc. finally, the constant use of classic breakbeats to underpin all of this is also inspired by rza and “true-school” producers more generally.

at times the songs may sound a bit woozy, for i’m really messing with their warp-points, especially in cases where the performances are more rubato than regular. i also alternate between playing what are essentially whole tracks (with little more than a breakbeat on top), playing shorter loop-based portions, and playing segments of songs simultaneously. and of course, there is a heavy bit of echo/delay running throughout the entire mix, providing a bit more propulsion, polyrhythm, and psychedelia.

if you can bring yourself to listen to this sort of stuff voluntarily, i hope you dig.

a happy holiday and season’s greetings to all – and to all a good break.

5 comments December 18th, 2009

do you bun what i bun? (riddim meth0d repost)

[Sticking to the seasonal, here’s another musical maneuver I pulled on some well-worn Christmas fare. Given the recent resurgence of talk about homophobia in reggae — not to mention what must be some serious shadenfreude over Buju Banton’s arrest — I have to admit that, sharing Rizzla’s frustration, I’m a little ambivalent about adding, um, flames to the fire. But a lot of my thoughts below still hold, and I still find it unsettling that I can’t hear “Little Drummer Boy” without thinking “Fire Mek We Bun Dem!” This was originally published on Dec 14, 2005.]

bun santa!

as a sort of musical reflection/intervention on the murder of steve harvey, i offer a mashup that i’ve been thinking about putting together for a while.

wayne&wax (TOK vs. Johnny Mathis), “do you bun what i bun?

as with “boom bye bye” – that ever-so-catchy ode to killing gays by buju banton (who has recently been on trial for allegedly beating, with some help from his friends, six gay men back in June) – TOK’s “chi chi man” always struck me as similarly pernicious in its pleasures. by giving such sensual form to such violent thoughts, making it easy for hateful sentiments to roll around in our minds and on our tongues, these artists abuse some special powers. and though i’m not one to call for censorship, i do believe in the value of self-censorship and of community censure. at times, TOK and buju clearly suffer from too little of both.

i’ve always heard the chorus melody of “chi chi man” as an unmistakable riff on the christmas classic, “do you hear what i hear?” (one of my favorite renditions of which is the johnny mathis version used here). i’ve heard others claim, however, that TOK borrow the melody from a jamaican folk song. (can anyone confirm that? and, if so, which song?) regardless, i, and probably many other listeners, always hear it referencing the christmas carol. and although one doesn’t hear “chi chi man” too frequently ’round these parts – my brother called me one day from hartford, completely shocked that they were playing it on the radio – at this time of year, one does hear “do you hear?” and guess what it makes yours truly think of?

yup – TOK have colonized my musical imagination in this case, so i find myself dubbing “blaze di fire, mek we bun dem!” over the refrain to the song. it’s a little absurd, really. annoying, sure, but so’s the original by itself. it’s the cognitive dissonance that i find most striking: as this very (new testament) christian song overlays with the very (old testament) christian sentiment of smiting abominations, i find myself thinking about all sorts of amazing contradictions.

this mashup calls attention to the ridiculousness of TOK’s assertions. although the group boyband would likely claim to speak from a communal voice, when we hear the lyrics put in the mouths of shepherd boys, mighty kings, and people everywhere – never mind night winds and little lambs – the utter smallness of espousing such hatred is more than evident. its very christianity, of course, also comes into question. (but whose doesn’t these days?)

at any rate, i present it here in the hope that it might provoke more thought about the issue of homophobia in general and about music’s role in reflecting/informing people’s values (and, crucially, actions) around it. i agree with robert carr that “If the dialogue is going to be effective, it has to be clear that it is an internal dialogue, not something imposed from outside influences with different agendas.” but i’m not exactly sure where we draw the lines of internal/external. these lines are blurry. i hear TOK’s as well as more “homegrown” anti-gay sentiments here in cambridge, MA, and jamaican citizens (a large number of whom live outside of JA, let’s remember) encounter various perspectives, in public and private, with regards to sexual orientation. there are no discrete communities or cultures in the world. they all intersect and overlap.

so we’re in this together, don’t?

or to put it some other ways:
no man is an island. no island an island either. i land is your land. etc.

[quick technical note for those who care: i’ve pitched down the mathis version a bit, and i pitch up the TOK as the mathis modulates (twice!).]

here it is again:

wayne&wax (TOK vs. Johnny Mathis), “do you bun what i bun?

17 comments December 16th, 2009

screw christmas (riddim meth0d repost)

[This is the first in a series of several reblogged posts from the now defunct Riddim Meth0d blog. I figured I’d start with some seasonally appropriate fare, so look for a couple more X-mas related things to follow. This post was originally published on Dec 21, 2005.]

not to be a humbug, but it occurred to me that screwing (or is it unwinding?) one of the chipmunks’ christmas tunes would be a funny way both to reverse-engineer the song and to tap into the ’05 zeitgeist.

wayneandwax vs. the chipmunks, “christmas don’t be late slow”

despite its novelty, ross bagdasarian’s one-man band has proved an enduring cultural phenomenon, and the ‘munks christmas songs (and x-mas special) are as unavoidable as any other seasonal pap. somehow, at least for the first few encounters, i still find the chipmunks’ routine, especially on this song in particular, to be rather delightful. the way alvin pines for a hula hoop always makes me laugh, and the tight (extra tight when sped-up) barbershop harmonies never fail to strike a chord – even when dave claims that alvin is flat.

on this screw (but, sorry, no chop), the chipmunks’ “real” voices are revealed, though dave’s adult register, never sped-up to begin with, slurs along like houston’s finest. and don’t those horn blasts at the beginning sound sweet? chop-worthy to be sure, though working in 3/4 time would be a challenge for even the swishest of screwdrivers.

more holiday hijinks to come…

2 comments December 15th, 2009

Riddim Meth0d Riposte

Sadly, our ol’ group blog, Riddim Meth0d (actually, named after the article), has fallen into disuse and disrepair, w/ 400,000 unmoderated comments and countless foreign phishing outposts that have long slipped past the outmoded filters — not to mention, no new posts for almost 2 years now. I myself last posted there back in May 2007. I suppose I stopped in part because of a certain lack of collective drive, but also because I had enough — any and all, really — that I wanted to say here. (It was always hard to decide what should go there, as opposed to and/or cross-posted here.)

For a time, though, back in 2005-06, I was approaching Riddim Meth0d as its own special space for sharing what I’ve called musically-expressed ideas about music — things that I felt were especially consistent with our Mission Statement:

music leads us into the world.

music connects us with each other.

music speaks volumes about who we are and where we’re at.


we speak with music as well as words.

we are beat-matching, beat-mashing, and beat-fashioning people.

we dub history, version worlds, retrace tributaries, spin stories.

we see music as performance, riddim as method.

we are media restructurists.

we like to share.

-the riddim methodists

Mostly, I was posting what we might think of as “pedagogical mashups” — juxtapositions of tracks that seemed to signify on each other in interesting, even instructive, ways. I think many of them have held up over the years, and so, while we wait for Riddim Meth0d to receive the museum treatment (probably relocating, embalmed & phishy-free, to one of our own sites), in the meantime, just for my own records (and perhaps for some who missed the posts the first time around), I’m going to be reposting a bunch of my favorite contributions to the site right here at W&W. Just a headsup–

You’ll be able to browse them with this tag.

2 comments December 15th, 2009

Independent Riddim

Thanks again to Tom, our man in Panama, who recently pointed me to an additional, and interesting, instantiation of the Miss Independent riddim. As we heard previously, the Ne-Yo instrumental — most famously reappropriated in Vybz&Spice’s “Rampin Shop” — has become a veritable version in Panama, supporting no fewer than a dozen local voicings (and probably many more).

Tom shares with us the awesomely brash COMANDO TIBURON EL KID CON LA BANDA CENTENARIO DIANAS REMIX 2009 (and notes, helpfully, that “Diana’s is a musical style–Horns and rhythm section that gets used on occasion with the Panama Reggae Artists”). Chequéalo —

I did a little poking around and discovered that the meaning of las dianas goes a lot deeper than its occasional appearance in Panamanian reggae. This Miss Independent mash is therefore particularly interesting b/c of how strongly, supposedly, dianas represent Panamanian patriotism, see e.g. —

… Dianas con más de 100 años de rendirle tributo a la Patria. Se escuchan desde antes del nacimiento de la República (1891), cuando Panamá pertenecía a la Gran Colombia. Inclusive forman parte integral de las fiestas patrias.Parte del fervor de las fiestas patrias la implementan las famosas dianas, que tiene sus máximos exponentes con los miembros del Cuerpo de Bomberos de Panamá, aunque existen informes de que la Policía Nacional puede interpretarlas. … (link)

… Las dianas son una música originaria de Pamplona, España, donde se saluda al nuevo día con gaitas y tambores. Esta música llegó a Panamá en los inicios de la vida republicana con la variante de que sólo se tocaban con clarines y tambores. En 1950 el capitán Carlos Levi y luego el sargento AlfonsoDiez impulsan su popularidad, interpretándolas para saludar a la patria y a los mandatarios de la época. Tradición que ha perdurado hoy día. … (link)

Giving the Ne-Yo instrumental a dianas remix seems a pretty powerful gesture of nationalization. Try taking that away with a cease and desist order. Obviously, given my general sympathies toward samplers over samplees, I can’t help but grin (not least b/c I rly dig that beat) whenever I hear yet another version of what can only be described now as the Miss Independent riddim. Despite EMI’s best efforts, the cat is way out the bag. The track has, ironically and iconically, attained an inarguable degree of independence.

Further testament: that Sentimiento Reggaetonero CD I picked up in Mexico last week turns out to contain three tracks (out of 21 total) which feature a pista audibly indebted to “Miss Independent”: Arthur’s “Quedate Conmigo Esta Noche,” La Factoria & Original Dan’s “Olvidarte De Mi,” and Joseph’s “Dale Con Tu Amor.” At the same time — pace the riddim method — the riddim in these cases has been completely replayed and reconstructed, or relicked inna reggae parlance. I don’t actually think it even contains samples from the original, though it clearly closely mirrors — is ‘gestures to’ too subtle? — everything from the harmonic progression (bridge included), drum and synth rhythms, and timbres. The producer(s?) also add an unfortunate, if mercifully muted, marimba line —

Sin duda, the producer here — whoever it is (Pablito?) — has put their own stamp on this very popular, very public, and now very Panamanian instrumental. Interestingly, this latest remarkable versioning of Miss Independent also suggests a shift in significance for the riddim not simply within Panama, where it has moved squarely into the pop/balada sphere, but throughout the Latin American reggae/ton network, where Panamanian productions leave a long, large footprint. (Incidentally, Marisol LeBron has some fascinating things to say about the Puerto Rican reaction — macho, retro, and authenticist — to the significantly Panamanian-propelled romantiqueo turn for the genre.)

I’ll leave it here, for now, with a few choice bits about stealing and national pride from a recent interview with Panamanian reggae artist Eddie Lover:

Would you say Panamanian music is finally getting its due?

I wouldn’t say we’re “getting our due.” Although the roots of reggae lie in Panamá, los Boricuas took a huge step forward with the commercialization of reggaetón. We feel a certain amount of gratitude because they’ve opened doors and thanks to them, our music has been able to evolve.

Do you think artists from other countries steal their style from Panamá?

I think the influence of Panamá in what’s currently happening in reggaetón around the world is obvious. But I don’t want to take any credit away from anyone who decides to become a reggae or reggaetón artist.

The saga continues. Speaking of which, I’ll be talking about transnationalism, commerce, race, nation, narrative and reggaeton this very afternoon at Harvard; moreover, I’ll be joined by my co-editor, Deborah Pacini-Hernandez, who will be touching on similar issues with regard to cumbia. Deets here.

2 comments December 3rd, 2009

Run Riddim!

We steady tryna “step” our “game” “up” o’er at Riddim Method. To wit:

Some innaresting texty and mixty contributions c/o DJ Ripley.


DJ C’s B-series continues with “Bush”

to which, I might add — in spirit, since I don’t deign to mention Señor Shrub (it’s bigger’n him anyhow) — my own “America,” which I recently gave its own page here at the new&improved w&w.


DJ Flack offers up his latest bit of “video music,” which I had the pleasure of participating in. Check that cannonball form, yo —

to which, I might add, my own pool-inspired track, “Cypher by the Pool,” a splashy battle rap between me and my lil bro, which can also be listened to in context on the newly created No Substitute page.


Finally, I just posted a recently youtubed, vintage vid of New Edition gettin funky’n’free in the studio —

to which I might add this brilliant bit of audio, available on the Special Edition of Off the Wall (my fave MJ, for the record), featuring the Jackson kids jammin’ in the basement on a downhome demo version of, you wanted it you guessed it you got it, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” To top if off, playing the cowbell, cabasa, and empty bottles are Michael, rarely heard from Randy, and none other than lil Janet. Off the cuff, off the wall, off the meter.

Don’t know bout you, but I didn’t get enough. So why’d they stop?

1 comment October 24th, 2006


Once again it’s that time! I’ll be guesting at Boston’s Best Dance Night™, Picó Picante, this Friday–

Picó Picante November 2013

Picó is always the ideal occasion to break out treacly dancehall pop covers, classic reggaeton, salsa remixes, and azonto jams, among others, so, yeah, pretty much always ready for that.

And readers of W&W need no intro to headliner DJ Ripley — Riddim Methodist, PhD, & Dutty Artizt extraordinaire. But maybe you haven’t heard her latest?

A preview, perhaps, of what might be in store Friday night, given Picante proclivities and all, but Ripley reliably keeps her sets unpredictable. So it’s bound to be a fun one, twists and turns galore.

November 13th, 2013

Hello Stranger, My Old Friend

A couple weeks ago, as I was driving cross-country with my brother, we tuned into a show somewhere in Tennessee which was devoted to playing 50s and (early) 60s jams from the current week, however many years ago they may have hit. This was quite a treat, especially in comparison to insane-but-boring talk radio and endless middle-of-the-road schlock, as it offered up a lot of great songs from beyond the typical “oldies” cannon. One of the songs caught my ear at a certain point with its seemingly unremarkable riff “shoo bop shoo bop, my baby” which, as I sang it over in my head, started to recall a classic reggae riff.

Because my iPhone was running low on batteries and I needed it for navigation, I couldn’t Shazam the track then and there, so instead I scrawled “shoo bop shoo bop, my baby” on a scrap of paper and filed it away for later. I was a little afraid that a Google query for “shoo bop shoo bop, my baby” might be a total mess, but as it happens, when I finally tried it yesterday, it turned up the song right away. It’s this —

Listening back to it, especially the section from 1:40 onwards, I was struck once again by how much it appears to mirror (and hence probably informed/inspired) the well-worn horn riff in Alton Ellis’s “Still in Love,” originally recorded in 1967 for Studio One — thus four years after Barbara Lewis’s R&B hit, with which Ellis and Coxsone Dodd and the Studio One band were likely familiar, being such R&B heads — a riff which has reared its head again and again on songs that take flight from Ellis’s rocksteady hit (including, most recently and notably, Sean Paul’s hit version from 2002’s Dutty Rock). Here’s the original Ellis / Studio One version; sound like a connection/derivation to you?

I was curious to know whether I was imagining this relationship myself, so I asked Twitter to lend me an ear. I can’t say that the response was overwhelming, but I was thrilled that DJ Dabbler decided to do some digital sleuthing with me. Among other things, we discovered that not only had Alton Ellis re-recorded the song in 1977, but that ’77 also happens (tellingly? which came first?) to be the same year that another American R&B singer, Hawaiian crooner Yvonne Elliman, scored her own hit with “Hello Stranger”! Check em out below (btw, I wish that someone would video the Elliman record playing like these others — such a nice witness to material culture/history):

Although, as with the 60s examples, this still only suggests without confirming — and we can’t ask Ellis anymore, unfortunately — that some amount of borrowing/inspiration is happening here, Dabbler turned up another version that certainly offers evidence of some players in the reggae scene explicitly connecting these dots. Check out this version of “Hello Stranger” by UK-lovers group Brown Sugar (which features a young Caron Wheeler, who would go on to perform with Soul II Soul):

It’s pretty obvious that Brown Sugar here employs the horn riff from “Still In Love” to animate (and make more meaningful) their cover of “Hello Stranger.” This is all par for the course for reggae’s riddim method, of course, but still, a really wonderful example of how a little riff can do so much. I wonder where Barbara Lewis & co. might have heard it themselves. Seems like the sort of thing that might have been bubbling through R&B and doo-wop for a while. If you have any other leads or connections to offer, no matter how seemingly far-flung, I’m all ears!

14 comments April 9th, 2010

Beat Research Turns Six!

Tonight at the Enormous Room, we’re celebrating six years of “experimental party music” at Beat Research. It’s a little hard to believe that it’s already been so long. I can remember when Flack and Jake started the night back in the spring of 2004, and there’ve been countless good times in the years since. For my part, it’s been an honor and a pleasure to try to fill DJ C’s big shoes since we switched places (BOS->CHI) a few years back.

Srsly, tho, peep this selection of amazing folks who’ve graced our modest Monday stage (or lurked behind the bricks):

2562 | 5dots | 8GB | Aa | Aaron Spectre | Alex Incyde | Andrew Giessel | Al-Haca| Anti-Theory |B.Complex | Beat Diaspora | Beat Perv | Been Wrekt | Berk | Big Digits | Big Jawn | Blue Boy Productions | Bit Shifter | Brent Arnold | Brian Coleman | Brother Cleve | brynmore | Camp Sesame Crew | Cathy Cathodic | Cheif Boima |Cephalopod | Chernobyl | Chip Chop | Chris Devlin | Clouds | Computo | Covox | Cozmopolis | Cringer | Cyclevision | Dev Null | David Last | Descent | Disciple One | DJ? Acucrack | DJ Axel Foley | DJ BC |DJ C (BR co-founder) | DJ Contra | DJ Day Glow | DJ Duo | DJ Gaetano Fabri |DJ Ghostdad | DJ Itchy Fingers | DJ Jetsun | DJ Lone Wolf |DJ.NO.ONE | DJ N-RON | DJ Paul Dailey | DJ Protection | DJ Ray | DJ Refusenik | DJ RNDM |DJ Rupture |DJ RXM | DJ Sarafin | DJ Sigma | DJ Skunk | DJ Super Squirrel l DJ Teep | DJ Tiger Beatz | DJ Yamin | Eats Tapes | Eclectic Method | edIT | Edu K | eJK | Elephant Feed Monkey | Encanti | Eric Freeman | Eric Hnatow | Evaready | Exaltron | Filastine | FM Supreme | Fosforo | Fraction | Frank Heiss | Gnawledge | G Wrex | Geoff C | Ghislain Poirier | Gloob(ic) | Gregor | Gypsy Sound System | Haaksman DJ |Hamé | Hnatiw | High Priest | Horchata | Hosca | Ian Condry |Icaros | Illux | interim_ descriptor | IsWhat?! | Ivanna Bergese | Jackbackrack | Jam-2 | John Barrera | Joro-Boro | Jyroscope | Kalimba Sound System | Kat Fyte |Kid Kameleon | KID DiD | Kingdom | Lee Mayjahs? | Lenkadu | Long Ouyang | Local Fields | Mad EP | | Maga Bo | Marc McNulty | Mathhead | Memoryman | Micah Jackson |Mistaker | Moldover | Moogist | Morgan Packard | Nalepa| NIck Dawg |Norajean | Nth Synthesis | Ntone | Nullsleep | Os Santos | Oxytocin | Pace | Pandai’a |Pamelia Kurstin | Paral-lel | Peace and Quiet | Peter Kirn | Philomina | Plasticman | Ripley | Rizzla| Robot Kid | Rugged One | RQM | Ryan Durkin | Ryleseven | Scape | Scuba | Selsyn | Serious DJs | Society Suckers | Sonido Martines | Sosolimited | Soul Clap | Stu |Stuckka Vkarmany |Ted Thousand | Teleseen | <tfo> | The Riddim Methodists | The Statesmen | The Tourists | Tim O’Keefe | tobias c. van Veen | Triton | Valeo | Verbnine | Vex’d | X rae | Zayde Buti | Zebra Baby | ZEE | Zullo and more…

To do things right tonight, we’re psyched to have Vivian Host aka DJ STAR EYES as our special guest. A co-founder of the Trouble & Bass crew (and former editor of XLR8R) she’s a longtime purveyor of bleeding-edge clubb music. Beginning her DJ career as a teenager at old school drum&bass raves with the B.A.S.S. Crew and Eklectic, she brings years of mixing, producing, and knowing what’s up (and what’s down) to the 1s&2s. Come hear some of her “haunted haus” and help us raise a toast to dance music that’d make Descarte’s mind-body dialectic spin.

We wanna say how grateful we are to all the awesome artists and performers who come and play (largely) for the love, to the people who come out on a Monday night to hear tunes, shake tailfeathers, and make merry, and to the Enormous Room for playing gracious host to our unpredictable but steady rockin. Hope to see some heads&tails in the house 2nite!

567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
9pm to 1am, 21 plus, Free!

April 5th, 2010

Panamanian Reggae Rabbit Holes

Boima’s post about a Panamanian/Nigerian jerk-off made me wonder about this Suku Castro character calling out “TODO MUNDO JERKEANDO!” So I did a quick googlywuzzit on his name and landed on this page, which not only hosts yet another interesting example of jerk practice in Panama (a mix containing no Spanish verses but cut’n’pasting several Jamaican dancehall vocalists pon the Ur-a-Jerk riddim) but offers up an embarrassment of Panamanian reggae riches, from mamboton joints splicing Drake acapellas to samba-sampling Scaredem-style dancehall by none other than Suku himself.

This is all, sin duda, par for the course inna Panama where, as I’ve been noting, the ol’ riddim method is audibly alive and well. I’m gonna have to keep falling into these reggae rabbit holes to get a sense of how deep they go. & I’m grateful to Boima and any other digital spelunkers — never mind actual ppl in Pana — for leaving lights along the way.*

* Much as I attempt to avoid travel/tourist/adventure metaphors in my writing about music from other times and places, I kind of like ‘spelunker’ in this case for the way it calls attention to my being fairly in-the-dark here — both in terms of what am able to access and see and hear (via second-language internetting) and in terms of my understanding itself needing plenty more illumination (not to fall into an ocularcentric frame, but let me stop the self-conscious qualifying already…)

4 comments January 26th, 2010

A La Plenísima

Plena is Spanish for ‘full.’ But it has other meanings too, depending where yr @ —


In Puerto Rico, plena refers to street music played on panderetas (see, e.g., Sorongo‘s comments here).

In Panama, plena refers to reggae — homegrown reggae en español in particular.

The riddim method has been alive and well in Panama for many years. Before Puerto Ricans took up the mantle, it was Panamanian pioneers such as Nando Boom and El General who showed the way for gente to rap (or better, deejay) over dancehall riddims in Spanish. As demo’d by collections such as this one, a good number of formative Panamanian reggae jams were essentially traducciones of contemporary Jamaican hits. That tradition — of translating and transforming the latest greatest Jamaican reggae songs for Panamanian audiences — continues apace today.

When I was writing my chapter for our reggaeton book, I surveyed the contemporary Panamanian scene to see how that time-honored reggae tradition was faring and found a good number of cover songs amidst the current crop of productions. Here’s part of what ended up in a footnote:

… in 2006, one could hear Panamanian DJ Principal proclaiming himself “El Rey del Dancehall” with the same cadences and over the same riddim that Jamaica’s Beenie Man used to crown himself “King of the Dancehall” a few months earlier, or Panama’s Aspirante employing for “Las Cenizas Dijeron Goodbye” the melody from Jamaican singer Gyptian’s “Serious Times” over a reverent re-lick of the strikingly acoustic Spiritual War riddim that propels the original (though Aspirante changes the text from a meditation on the state of the world to a failed relationship).

All of this is un poco preamble to put into context the tip I received from a reader this week (thx, Tom!), reporting that Panamanian reggae artists are, unsurprisingly, enthralled by the “Miss Independent” riddim. No doubt this is well below the radar — none of these Panamanian versions are about to get played on, say, Hot 97 as Vybz’s “Ramping Shop” was — so I doubt that N_-Y_ or St_rg_te or E_I will be sending threatening emails anytime soon (certain vowels omitted to evade litigious Googlers).

Tom says that he counted no fewer than 11 (!) songs employing the riddim. Here are a few, including one which, funny and densely, simply features someone rapping in Spanish on top of Vybz and Spice’s song. The rest employ the instrumental riddim-wise —


     tommy real-atados.mp3



If you want to hear more along these lines, check out this mixtape of Panamanian dancehall, aka “Da Spanish Reggae Blue Print” —


& if you want to learn more about the plena / bultrón / reggae/ton scene inna Panama, check out the blog by MTVU Fulbright scholar, Larnies.

Finally, talk about plenathis site has more mp3s than you could shake a bot at. Basta! I’m full —

6 comments April 3rd, 2009

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

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

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com


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