Archive for December, 2008

December 7th, 2008

Frass Tea

  • "what i want to do by writing the names of anything connected with the 2.0 life we are living in the slums of the third world is to point out the gap between the reality we still live in and the ephemeral world of technologies."
  • ethan z offers some thoughts on the importance of "bridgebloggers" and "xenophiles" (as opposed to, as ethan often considers, homophiles) :: 'It’s been a challenge for me to define xenophiles as a category without falling victim to definitions that are trivial or superficial. It’s easy to dismiss the idea by suggesting that everyone who eats sushi and listens to world music is – or considers herself to be – a xenophile. Too loose a definition and “xenophile” ends up sounding like a synonym for “liberal”, “multicultural or even “politically correct”, which isn’t what I’m intending. Xenophilia is about connecting with people, not with cultural artifacts or other things. Liking Japanese food or Senegalese hiphop doesn’t make you a xenophile – xenophilia is about making connections across language and cultural barriers motivated by your interest in making better sushi or translating Daara J lyrics.'
  • on the ghanaian "invasion" of nollywood in the wake of the global financial crisis (h/t rachel) :: "In Nollywood, money is everything just like in any other show business. Nigerian marketers hold the ace because they fund most movie projects. Long before the global cash crunch became pronounced, Nollywood has been experiencing it own kind of cash crunch. Money has been scarce. And that is why it is real hard today to find a blockbuster movie featuring as many as four to five A-list artists in Nigeria."

videyoga ::

December 7th, 2008

Mzunguzungunguzunguzeng

I first stumbled upon Aaron Bady’s blog, zunguzungu, when searching some keywords along the nationalism / imperialism axis. And though lots of his posts have provoked my imagination, from incisive readings of The Wire and The Office to shock’n’awe as modern-day lynching, it was his blog’s title — for obv reasons, if you’re familiar with my Zunguzung meme-tracking — that grabbed my attention.

I still haven’t been able to answer droid’s question (in the first comment here), which I’ve myself long wondered, about where, if anywhere, Yellowman got that phrase / melody from. (I know, I should probably just ask him. Who’s got a link to King Yellow?) [Update: Actually, mystery solved! Someone else has asked him, I’m happy to report.] So I’m always on the lookout for clues. And though it seemed implausible that Yellowman would have encountered and employed an East African term for a white/mobile/dizzy person (see below), I had to inquire with Mr.Bady to see whether he might know something I don’t. So I wrote him and asked

do you have any sense of how far “zunguzungu” travels? i ask b/c one of the main threads of my dissertation (in ethnomusicology) revolves around a melody associated with yellowman’s “zunguzunguguzunguzeng.” i always assumed king yellow was just playing around with nonsense syllables (especially since much of the actual words in the song are pretty nonsensical), but now i wonder. i’d be surprised to learn that the term made its way to jamaica, especially since i’ve never heard it in any other context there, but i’m curious.

to which, Aaron replied

… wow. I had no idea that “zunguzungu” had such an interesting genealogy, and as you might imagine, I’m really interested to know more; I’ll read your post more closely after I teach today. I took the pseudonym because of its strictly linguistic connotations in swahili; “mzungu” means white person, sort of, but its at least partially derived from the word for spinning, or going around, and the question of why that became the root for “European” potentially has fascinating answers. One of these days, I’ll dig up more on it (though I think, as with much african historiography, the guesswork outweighs what is concrete in ways that make it more symptomatic than analytic), but what caught my eye was the ways that “mzungu” doesn’t actually mean white (it is possible for westernized Africans to be called mzungu) but actually references other ways of understanding identity that reference mobility outside of power structures, or something like that. Very speculative, and I don’t have the resources, but it’s an interesting question anyway (and I just started the blog with that name becasue it needed a name). That said,I recently learned that there’s a popular zong, in Tanzania I believe, about how the singer’s lover makes him dizzy, and he sings “zunguzungu.” I’ll see if I can track that song down.

Well, I’m happy to report that Aaron has tracked down — via Keguru in the comments here — not one but two songs that employ zunguzungu in the title/chorus (actually, kizunguzungu about which, more below):

Saida Karoli’s “Mapenzi Kizunguzungu”:

“Kizunguzungu” by Carter:

Re: ki, I had to ask

Quick, swahili-ignant question: what does adding “ki” to “zunguzungu” as these songs do, do?

To which, Aaron replies

Regarding “ki”, that question is (like your comment on the post!) exactly the right one to ask, but one I don’t have a real answer to (yet). Partly it’s because my practical swahili isn’t good enough to say for sure. I can give you a limited grammatical answer (and I’m going to spend some time listening to these songs and trying to figure it out from context) but advanced swahili is (for me at least) really easy at the beginning and gets more and more incomprehensible the better I get. I can get by on the street, but actually analyzing swahili writing is still incredibly difficult for me, and the more I understand it, the more I perceive weird nuances which are not only uninterpretable by me but might be more intrinsically uninterpretable in linguistic terms full stop.

My first thoughts (I’m actually going to blog on this once I’ve spoken to some better swahili speakers about it):

“Ki” could be an adjectival prefix (and that seems to be the assumption of the wikipedia page translation), but it belongs to a different noun class than “mapenzi” (love), so if it were simply “spinning love ” I would think it should be “Mapenzi Mazungu.” Ki can also be an “adverb of manner” so love were a verb one could speak of “love spinningly” but Mapenzi is firmly the noun form. This seems like the best bet for what it literally means though. I’m interested in the question, though, because while the prefix “ki-” is also the prefix used for languages (swahili is properly “kiswahili” and English is “kiingereza”) but that meaning includes without being limited to languages, meaning something like “the way of” in the sense that to speak English is to speak the way of the English. And since “wazungu” means “white people” but also maybe means (in a more literal sense) people who go around (and the etymological narrative I find most attractive is that “whiteness” is defined not by skin color but by mobility, something that seems to accord with how I’ve seen the term used (Africans can be wazungu too, if they’ve become Westernized, though it’s hard to gauge how much irony that always implies)), I’m charmed by the notion that love that spins one around might also be love that links one to mobility and has something to do with larger issues of global identity (since mzungu is by far the most commonly used variant of the “zungu” root form). But I’m still trying to figure out if that’s plausible, or if I just want it to be true. Also, doubling a word (zunguzungu instead of zungu) adds emphasis.

Those are Aaron’s not-fully-baked thoughts via email. As promised, he’s now blogged about it, collecting his thoughts and questions while connecting them to his dissertation research on Henry Morton Stanley (of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” fame).

Any Swahili speakers out there want to chime in?

13 comments

December 5th, 2008

We Be Ilvin

since fruityloopy music by multiculti youngstas has become all the rage, i figure i’m sitting on a goldmine, having run many an FL session with kids in boston and lowell, MA and, kingston, JA from 2002-04.

one of my favorite students — b/c of his enthusiasm and aptitude — was a lil dude aptly named ilvin. i first wrote about ilvin way back in april 03 on my “jamaica blog,” which now contains lots of broken links.

for those who may yet misunderestimate the role that tech like FL plays in a zeitgeist’s aesthetic, plz note the ravey stabs underpinning one of ilvin’s illest creations, never mind the oddly angular 16th-note sequencer-snapped melodies (do wait for the 30 sec mark!) —

[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/org/users/roxbury/ill6.mp3]

that’s some zappasynclavvy isoleekuduro ish, no?

hear more here.

1 comment

December 5th, 2008

Recent Kufiya Spotting @ the Enormous Room

how long have you had that scarf?

i dunno. two months?

where’d you get it?

at a second-hand shop in brooklyn.

do you know what it is?

is it israeli?

it’s middle eastern right?

all the high school kids in brooklyn wear em.

3 comments

December 4th, 2008

Odes on a Popular Plugin

videyoga :: (via)

1 comment

December 2nd, 2008

Iron Chic


videyogas ::

5 comments

December 2nd, 2008

A3rab Money Refix?


would you prefer to listen while looking at an img of what may or may not be a swank Dubai livingroom?

You may have heard — or at least heard about — the above, a remix of Busta’s infamous “Arab Money,” featuring Lil Wayne, Akon, Diddy, Swizz Beatz, T-Pain, & of course, Ron Browz. There are some significant, remarkable differences between this version and the original, leading me to wonder — via Marisol LeBron, who alerted me to the diffs — whether this is as much a “refix” as a remix.

As Marisol noted, the offensive / willfully ignant pronunciation, “A-rab,” has been replaced — at least in the chorus (Weezy brings out the hard A at the end of his verse) — by a more accurate “A3rab” (if slightly caricatured with an extra roll of the r). Moreover, you might notice that Ron Browz’s faux-Arabic hook has been upgraded from pure gibberish to quasi-Arabic, employing syllabic strings that at least resemble certain Arabic words (e.g., “hamdulilla,” “bismillah” [pronounced “bishmillah”]).

Marisol wonders (via email) “whether Busta is responding to pressure from the Arab community or whether someone just corrected him and told him that A-rab is typically considered derogatory.” I’m quite curious myself. Maybe Diddly will vlog it?

If someone gets a chance to ask Busta about it, could they also find out why he thanks Spielberg-Lucas in the intro for “directing this movie”? I didn’t catch any references to Tatooine, d’you?

Update!

Marisol, who sez she’ll be posting about this tomorrow, writes —

There is totally arabic in the song BISMILLAH AL-RAHMAN AL-RAHEEM which is at the beginning of every verse. The phrase signifies “in the name of Allah, the most gracious, most merciful” it is the first verse of almost every chapter of the Qur’an and is typically associated with daily prayers. A few of the artists are Muslim and would know the significance of the phrase, so why include it in a song about stacking chips and getting ass? It’s kinda crazy! I’m actually posting on it tomorrow.

Interestingly, when I asked some of my Arabic fluent students about the song, they disagreed that it was actual Arabic, though they also agreed that the conflation between “Arab” and “Muslim” in the song is an unfortunate and all-too-typical one —

Lisa:

There may be some words in the “Arabic verse” that might come from Arabic, but its definitely not Arabic. i’d say they recite words that are directly taken from Islam (or Christianity, for the Arabic speaking Christians) like hamdulilla – thank god, or bismillah-(pronounced bishmililah in the song) in the name of god. So i’d say these words might be taken from Arabic, but they r not pronounced in an Arabic accent… it sounds much more like something of indian music to me.

Noam:

I join what Lisa wrote, and I’ll just add the word ignorance….because the “Arabic” (dangerous, terrorist) stereotype goes together with Islam, but the truth is, and most people are not aware of the fact that most Muslims in the world are NOT EVEN ARABS! and thanks to Busta now, no one will go search and find this out so the Muslim Arab stereotype is here to stay along with “Arab Money”

Mohammad:

i definitely agree with you guys. its a very sad example of how brainwashed a lot of artists are by the media, and then brainwash the people. they can’t really tell the different between Muslims vs Muslim Arabs vs Christian Arabs Muslims etc.. so we hear the terms “hamdulila’ ‘bismila’ ‘habibi’ i have to say that i have met a lot of people that associated me with this words.. so its very common stereotype..

And it’s important to remember, as Marisol notes, that guys like Busta, Akon, etc., are well acquainted with various Arabic words and phrases for various reasons: whether from their own participation in or acquaintance with (African-)American Islam (or Senegalese Islam in Akon’s case) — notably a lot of the comments on the YouTube videos debate which of these artists is actually Muslim — or the longstanding colloquial use among African-Americans of greetings like “salaam alaikum” (which Busta throws into the mix here).

9 comments

December 1st, 2008

Hey, Big Lacuna

videoyoga :: (via ghisself)

December 1st, 2008

Knee High to a Duck

It was due to serendipity (and size) that my hip-hop books ended up on the bottom shelf.

But, boy, was that a good move.

5 comments

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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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