Not long ago, w/r/t global gobbledecrunk, I referred to an interview I gave recently to a Brazilian journalist. The journo in question is Camilo Rocha, who doubles as a DJ (& has a fab disco mix over @ Spannered). The piece was just published in Folha de Sao Paolo, apparently Brazil’s biggest newspaper.
I don’t really read Portuguese all that well (& my Portunhol only goes so far), so I asked Google to help me. I’ve pasted their quirky translation below (I like that Maga Bo becomes “Magician Bo”), but I encourage any of you lusophones to read the original. Following DJ /rupture (who notes, as do I, that all this activity is pretty “peripheral” in its own way), I’m also going to append my full interview text, since the article ended up far shorter than I expected and seemed to stray from some of the more sensitive / critical issues (blame the editors?) and since I did take the time to compose some lengthy answers (though, now that I see /rupture’s text, I think I prefer his more laconic approach).
Ciao for now —
Collaboration for the Folha de S. Paulo
Most DJs usually direct their ears for a few posamezne music of the First World, like New York, London, Berlin and Paris. In this decade, however, emerged a new category, that of the DJs “globalistas” which travel much further in their garimpagens music.
Names such as Diplo, DJ Dolores, Magician Bo, DJ / rupture, Ghislain Poirier and Wayne & Wax build sets incredibly varied, which may have American hip hop, techno or electronica German French, but also from Trinidad soca, Moroccan rap, funk carioca, kuduro, Angola, Jamaican dancehall, grime Cohabs of London or the Colombian cumbia.
The exposure of these rhythms “peripheral” already influences artists in various spheres such as band Bloc Party and the DJs / producers Simian Mobile Disco and Samim (which was one of the hits of the year with “Heater”, which joined with cumbia techno). Following is the phenomenon of Anglo-Sinhala MIA, the first popstar out of this trend and which launched this year praised the album “Kala.”
It would be all that a new roupagem for worn term “world music”? When talking with the Folha by phone, the DJ and producer Canadian Ghislain Poirier, which has just launched the album “No Under Ground” by the seal Ninja Tune (of dual English Coldcut), denies: “World music is more exotic, the sounds that played are more urban. They come from a common scenario: people without much money, making music in home studios or a laptop. is something more urgent. ”
Thanks to greater access to the Internet and technology, throughout the world there is an unprecedented proliferation of the sounds of the peripheries of the countries, most of them with strong and created electronic databases on laptops or PCs surrados, often with software pirates, and released via blogs, sites and sets the DJs “globalistas.”
The DJ and MC American Wayne & Wax, which is also etnomusicÃ³logo, baptized the movement of “global ghettotech.”
“Inventei that phrase to describe an aesthetic emerging between some DJs and bloggers, where they mix genres” global “as hip hop, techno and reggae, among others, with styles’ local ‘,” explained Wayne to Leaf. “But I am against the approach superficial and modista. I like to know the social and cultural contexts that shaped the sounds,” explains.
One of the “globalistas” is the pioneering DJ / rupture in Boston, USA, who first drew attention with a mixtape (set mixado) called “Gold Teeth Thief.” The September gave all that talk that figured among the ten best releases of 2002 of the prestigious British music magazine “The Wire”.
Through your blog and radio program “Mudd Up!” Rupture insane conveys a blend of rhythms from various parties. One of his special interests is the music maghrebi, from North Africa. “I [also] discovering the world of cumbia – there are many fascinating scenes of the past and present,” to the DJ.
The seal of Rupture, Soot, should launch within months of the album debut of another important behalf of the scene “globalista” Magician Bo, an American from Seattle who lives in Rio since 1999. Magician Bo has worked with Brazilian as BNegÃ£o, MC Catra, Marcelo Yuka, Marcelinho the Moon and Digitaldubs.
In the next year, he must start to give classes on digital production at the headquarters of AfroReggae in Parada de Lucas, in the River Currently, is in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, recording with local musicians and searching Ethiopian music.
“Churiadau electronic is the field where everybody can understand. The computer, which has been called the first” universal instrument folk ‘, is increasingly accessible. The volume of music that can be embedded in this’ global ghettotech’ is increasing in world. Death of record growth in traditional distribution of music on the Internet are helping this popularization, “says Bo Magician.
Already the DJ Dolores, best known Brazilian representative of this trend, says that “the computers are the drums today, a primal that each can use in your way.” In 2004, Dolores won the prize for best DJ in the category “Global Club” of Radio One, BBC English. Dolores has just returned from several concerts in the US and Mexico in the coming year to launch the album “A Real.”
Diplo is the best known name of this crop of DJs / producers. The American, 29 years was one of the main advisers of funk carioca abroad. Ex-boyfriend of MIA (whose first album he co-produced), Diplo played recently in Tim Festival.
He believes it is important to repay the local cultures. Through the project Heaps Decent, he’s been doing with young aboriginal music of a center of detention of children in Australia. Tapas must leave soon, in partnership with the Australian stamp Modular.
“Since these subcultures, in a way, help me to earn a living, I did something to help their development,” he explains. “In the coming months, I hope to do the same in the Cantagalo slum in Rio, with the help of AfroReggae and [anthropologist] Hermano Vianna.”
Interview w/ Camilo Rocha (11/20/07) ::
How did u get into music? Whats your background?
I’ve been an avid listener since I was a teenager, but I’ve only been a musician since I was 18 or so, when some friends gave me a guitar for my birthday. I played in some bands during college (blues, funk, rock), mostly playing bass, and I was also the lead MC for a live hip-hop group. I’ve been rapping since I was about 13. After college, I started producing music on computers — making beats, mostly sample-based hip-hop — and the laptop has been my primary instrument ever since. My self-taught beat-making pretty much coincided with my study of ethnomusicology (I’ve got a Ph.D. and wrote my dissertation on the historical relationship between reggae and hip-hop; I lived in Kingston, Jamaica for six months in 2003 conducting field research.)
You and DJ Rupture are from the Boston area, do you know each other for a long time?
We both attended the same college and had a lot of mutual friends, and I saw him spin at a few events back in the late 90s, but it’s only relatively recently — the last few years — that we’ve been in close conversation, largely thanks to the blogosphere.
You are a music ethnomusicologist. How did you get into that area? Where did you study? Are you doing any academic work at the moment?
I was inspired to become an ethnomusicologist when I discovered the field my senior year in college (I was an English major). I took a class on music and race in the US with Ron Radano and ended up studying with him in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was a real epiphany to discover that I could keep music central in my life and approach it from an intellectual / scholarly angle. Currently, I’m teaching at Brandeis University in Boston, offering courses on hip-hop, music and globalization, and “digital pop.”
Explain “global ghettotech” to those who don’t know what it is about
“Global ghettotech” is a phrase I came up with to describe what seems like an emerging aesthetic among certain DJs and bloggers. I’ve also called it “nu whirled music” to describe its (antagonistic but derivative) relationship to “world music” as well as the importance of fusion (mixing “global” genres such as hip-hop, techno, reggae, etc., often with “local” styles) in the concept. For me, global ghettotech describes the recent interest in such genres as funk carioca, kuduro, reggaeton, juke, grime, kwaito, etc. — genres identified with the ghettos of the former colonies as well as with the ghettos of today’s post-colonial metropoles. I want to stress that I use the term somewhat critically — I don’t mean simply to celebrate this kind of engagement. One thing I find really problematic about it, for example, is the flavor-of-the-month approach to engaging with “other” musics: e.g., “kuduro is the new baile funk!” When it becomes a surfacy, fashionable pursuit, it gets more problematic, for me, than when it is about finding new sounds in different places and really getting to know them and the social and cultural contexts that shape them — and in the process, learning about one’s own place (and, usually, privilege) in the global order.
How do you see the popularization of “global ghettotech”? Why has there been so much exposure and interest for these types of sounds?
I think a lot of it has to do with the advent of technologies that make it possible for people to produce music all over the world (e.g., FruityLoops) and to circulate music rather widely ( e.g., the internet, blogs, mp3s, p2p). In terms of interest, I think some of it has to do with a certain familiarity (i.e., hearing hip-hop and techno with new accents) and some of it has to do with seeking out the exotic (as with “old” world music).
I can see a lot of people here in Brazil viewing all this as a new kind of exploitation: guys from the first world shopping around ghettos of the globe in search of the new rhythms to feed their DJ sets, getting credit and fame while the original artists are not mentioned or soon forgotten. Is that fair or not to say?
I think that’s definitely a fair statement in some cases, but it’s important to look at the individual and how he or she engages with the people in the places from which those sounds come. Collaborating with people in Rio or Kingston is a lot different from downloading them. In that respect, there are plenty of elite or middle-class Brazilians who could be just as guilty of this sort of exploitation.
Does “global ghettotech” sometimes run the risk of being just a trendier guise for the rich world’s old taste for “exotic” (cultural tourism thrills as opposed to understanding and identification with the scenes it is exploring)?
Yes, definitely. And not just sometimes — a LOT of the time.
How is the acceptance in America for this kind of musical approach?
I’d say it’s still fairly marginal. It’s not as if this kind of music — even as projected by MIA or Diplo or Ghislain or /Rupture — is mainstream by any stretch. You don’t really see it on MTV or hear it on the radio. It’s mainly an internet phenomenon and confined to a few clubs nights / parties in big cities like New York, Montreal, Boston, etc. For the weekly that I do in Boston with DJ Flack, “Beat Research,” we play all kinds of genres, often touching on many that might fall under the “global ghettotech” umbrella, and we’ve got an open-minded audience that likes that sort of thing, but it’s still a pretty small scene.
Do you do a lot of travelling for music research? Tell us a couple of interesting stories about your travels.
When I’m lucky enough to find funding, I love to travel to new places and check out their soundscapes and pay attention to what is local and what is global and how people negotiate the two. I’ve spent a good amount of time in Jamaica, both doing research and collaborating with artists there (and I’ve written a lot about it on my blogs). Recently, I had the good fortune to spend several days in Rio, which I had been wanting to do for many years. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to go into many stories, but I often find that music is a great way to connect with people, especially when we share a love for, say, hip-hop or reggae and thus share a musical language, even if we don’t always share a spoken language.
A lot of ghetto music bypasses copyright as it is commonly made on pirated software and samples freely. Meanwhile, illegal downloading is threatening the music industry as we know it. Do you think we are going in an inevitable direction, where music will become free? Will that be a good thing and why? Should music have a price? Do you manage to make any money selling music?
These are very big questions, and it’s hard to say. It does seem like we’re moving in that direction, but there are many ways to commercialize music — selling recordings is a relatively recent way for musicians (or more commonly, record labels and publishers) to get paid. I think that performance will remain an important way for musicians to earn a living. I’m not sure whether music should have a price. I generally don’t believe in monetizing or propertizing things, music included, but I think I’m in the minority on that one. I’m glad, at any rate, that musicians continue to do what they do without much regard for outmoded copyright structures. Some — perhaps most! — of my favorite music is “illegal” music. Personally, I don’t make very much money selling music, which is perhaps part of the reason why I’m not very invested in music having a price. Most of the money I earn through music is from playing gigs, usually DJing, though I can’t say that I make a lot — hence the academic day job.
Do you sometimes feel there should be more political lyrics in global ghetto music (I’m thinking of Rio funk, reggaeton, kuduro and kwaito which are largely sexual and/or party-oriented)? Or maybe feel that these musics could have more of a commitment to change or denounce their situation (if you think they do promote some kind of social change, please explain why)?
Sometimes I might feel that way, but then again, I think that music about sex or pleasure or partying is already political in a certain sense. It depends very much on the social or cultural context, of course. It’s no surprise that the themes that dominate a lot of ghetto music have to do more with everyday concerns, or with transcending the stress of everyday life, or with pissing off the middle-class, the government, the power structure. As for promoting change, sometimes one sees that sort of thing, especially in the Rasta-inspired visions of a lot of reggae, but in general, people living in ghettos worldwide haven’t seen much change, don’t see much hope for change, and probably won’t change the focus of their lyrics until there is some real change in the social conditions in which they live. I guess it’s something of a chicken and egg question, but it’s not for me to tell people what to rap about. Of course, as a DJ it can often be uncomfortable to play songs that are overtly misogynist or which objectify women as sex objects (and little else). Perhaps that’s another significant appeal of “global” / foreign ghettotech: it’s easier to listen to booty music when you don’t understand all the words.
What new stuff (styles/artists/producers) have you discovered recently that has really impressed you?
I’ve been really impressed with a lot of the young juke producers coming out of Chicago: DJ Nate and DJ Clent especially. All the dance crazes on YouTube have also been very exciting. And the rise of interest in cumbia, reggaeton, and other music en espaÃ±ol seems promising too. Part of me really wants to see the US come to terms with its postcolonial, imperial self, and I feel that music can help to express a kind of cultural politics of conviviality that feels more and more needed in our polyglot cities. In general, I just love hearing people making music without much regard for the rules. I love DIY, p2p music and the internet has been making more and more of that available — and, even better, has been making it possible to connect directly to these producers rather than having to deal with all sorts of middlemen.
You said you just came back from Rio. Were you on holiday? Any interesting musical experiences?
I was there for a small meeting of musicians convened by the Future of Music Coalition to discuss, um, the future of music (e.g., media consolidation, internet opportunities, copyright issues, etc.). It was an honor and a pleasure to be there, among such company. So, not exactly a holiday, but very fun “business” for sure. I’ve been listening to music from Rio for many years — and not just funk, but samba, bossa nova, tropicalia, etc. — and so it was great to finally get a chance to see and hear the city. It felt like a really vibrant place, really “on.” I was amazed by the number of people partying in Lapa until the wee hours. I also had a wonderful time hanging out in the favela of Vidigal for most of an afternoon and evening. It felt like a warm, welcoming place, and it was great to hear some funk in its social context.
What are your plans for 2008?
Keep on teaching and writing and DJing, and hopefully getting back into more producing. I aways let my interests lead me where they may, though, so we’ll see…
26 thoughts on “Globalistas e Baptistas”
w&w – while its great to see the meme & critical discussion of ‘global ghettotech’ spreading, i suggest we take a lead from the google-aided machinetrans and employ a few of the neologisms thus provided: “posamezne music of the First World” and “Churiadau electronic” !
in the meantime, I’ll try to get MB to change his name to “Magician Bo”.
– dj rupture insane conveys
/jace — I totally agree with your call. After all, as Bo Magician says, “Churiadau electronic is the field where everybody can understand.”
I think we don’t give nearly enough credit to the first guy who tried to give this stuff a name, three-and-a-half years ago. Yes, “Shanty House” is a pretty crap name for it, but even Simon Reynolds used it briefly in his review of Arular!
I guess that answers the question, “what’s in a name?”
I’ve used “shanty house” here and there, but it’s never quite done it for me — in part because it’s one person’s coinage, rather than something that emerges from the zeitgeist. “Global ghettotech,” on the other hand, is a term that suggested itself to me precisely because of the rise in g-tech sightings around the web/world (e.g., MySpace self-descriptions and h–ster blog chatter). But you’re right, Matt definitely put his finger on the phenomenon way back when.
Props to Woebot; he’ll be missed on these internets.
I can personally attest to attempting to name the phenomenon “VÃ¤rldsstadsmusik” (Metropolis Music/World Urban Music, it kinda only works in Swedish) going back as far as October 2003. But that nomenclature was used only on my student radio show in UmeÃ¥ 2003-2005, so I guess that’s a failed meme as well. ;)
was great to read your and Jace’s take on this. Thanks for publishing the full text!
I wish to thank again all interviewed for taking their time. Due to limited space, answers had to be kept short and a lot of aspects had to be covered within that space.
Also, questions were put not only to be featured in the piece but to help me better understand the phenomenon.
But bear in mind that a whole new audience has now been introduced to this movement. Folha’s circulation is of approx. 300,000, the highest of all broadsheet papers in Brazil.
Ali Wade has just asked me to run Wayne’s full interview on Spannered.
Thanks for your interest, Camilo. Good to keep the conversation going. And I’m looking forward to seeing whether any of those 300,000 have 2 cents (or reais) to add.
By all means, feel free to reprint the full transcript of the interview over at Spannered.
Nice interview Wayne. Some really interesting points. The use of your Global ghettotech label some what confuses me however. When you previously said that the use of Ghetto Bassquake for a blog URL made you wince, i misunderstand how this use differs from your new label for a whole new genre of worldbass’d music or as you say “emerging aesthetic among certain DJs and bloggers”. I certainly don’t feel that ‘Ghetto Bassquake’ overtly glamourises the musical territories and local contexts of these styles anymore than ‘Global ghettotech’. If the misuse of these terms are to relate to the source writer and their personal seated interest in a genre, how do you judge if they are bandwagon jumping, adopting as you say “the flavor-of-the-month approach to engaging with â€œotherâ€ musics: e.g., â€œkuduro is the new baile funk!” Or if the user has a genuine long term interest & passion for the genre. is the issue here the use of word ‘ghetto’? And if it is such a delicate word then why propose it for use in a title a for whole new genre?
yes, very interesting comment vamanos. Personally, I’m totally not into using the term ghetto to describe music. Does “the” ghetto have a specific sound and are the sounds of the ghettoes somehow similar? Is there a similar ghetto mentality or aesthetic? In my experience in various “ghettoes” around the world, they all have very specific codes, languages, and aesthetics. The similarities among these ghettoes are irrelevant to a discussion about music. And, beyond any of this, much of the music that might fit into this genre isn’t even made in a ghetto.
I’ve also taken your guys’ lead and posted my full version of the interview on my blog –
BTW, Maga would be feminine if it were a portuguese word and it’s actually a bit closer to alchemist or mage than magician.
Oh man, Bo, you’re gonna make me Google translate you again? I should have realized that you would have conducted the interview in Portuguese. Wonder if Ghislain did his in French?
As for the use of “ghetto” here, there’s nothing inconsistent about my proposing of “global ghettotech” and my critique of “Ghetto Bassquake.” As man from AOL noted, my coinage is an “intentionally sardonic” one. I’m not about to tell DJ Slugo or anyone else who grew up in a ghetto (or favela) that they can’t label their music as such, but I’m definitely uncomfortable with the more privileged among us glorifying the ghetto — not to mention, as Bo points out in his comment, flattening out the differences between ghettos (despite some very real shared conditions among them). As Lord Jamar said, â€œThe ghetto is poverty and pain, mostly for black people.â€ And so I hope I haven’t been too misleading in (re)using a term that I initially proposed as a critical tag. Like I told Birdseed above, the term suggested itself to me precisely because I now see so much (unreflective) celebration of things “ghetto,” such as the titles of certain blogs (but you know we’re cool, Vamanos) or the number of MySpace jerks who claim to be making “ghettotech.” There’s a wink in the term that I hope comes across. My more recent proposal of “gobbledecrunk” as well as /Jace’s call that we adopt tags like â€œChuriadau electronicâ€ are meant to signify further on all this specious categorization and attachment to labels. I guess that wasn’t so clear.
That said, as I try to explain to Camilo above, and as I attempted to work out in my initial post on the subject, I don’t think we should necessarily dismiss out of hand all attempts to engage with and celebrate the cultural practices and expressions of ghettos worldwide. There’s something potentially progressive about that identification with the ghetto even if it comes from a position of privilege (from which we’re all writing). Recognizing that we’re living in a Planet of Slums or, as it was formulated over thirty years earlier, that “the world is a ghetto” is to take a position on global and local economies alike and, hopefully (though this may be naive), might lead toward taking political and activist positions for remedying these conditions, these gross inequalities, especially if we live in the seats of imperial power or around the corner from some projects, knomesayin? Hope so.
I do. Its all good in the long run. Which is what counts. The use of a word like Ghetto can always be perceived and used differently depending on the individual’s outlook and translation of the word, which is why its good to discuss the naming of a genre that will hopefully not be forgotten in music history.
Bo – I personally think Magician Bo is a very cool name.
Once again, I need to get that interview with Slugo transcribed ASAP. If I recall, he had some interesting perspectives on why “ghetto house” was/is “ghetto.”
I wouldn’t say that “global ghettotech” is a genre, really. More a meta-genre, or an aesthetic — an orientation on an emerging world of sounds (and a way of hearing & embracing them & expressing self/other) very much connected to our particular historical moment, our place(s) in the world, and the technologies, ideologies, and structural inequalities that give shape and form to the things we’re slinging around this internet and playing in metropolitan clubs (and the meanings we make of them).
And you are right. Genre is an unquestionably incorrect word in this context. Looking forward to Slugo’s piece.
Hi Wayne – thought I’d introduce myself as “man from AOL”. Glad you got some mileage out of ‘sardonic’ this year ;)
This is a great interview, both from the Q and A perspectives. Keep up all the great work you do on this site. Best to you and your family for 2008.
Hi, Wayne, how are you?
I’ve read Camilo’s article and I got very interested in what you and the other DJs said (despite the small size of it – believe me, it was not that small, considering the lack of space the Brazilian newspapers give to cultural issues nowadays). I’m currently working at a website sponsored by the Brazilian Culture Department called Fluxos Musicais (something like “Musical Flows”, in a bad-almost-Google-like translation). As me and my boss, Magda Pucci, work with world music in a radio programme, we at first intended to discuss the influence of migrations on nowadays music, but since it started we’ve decided to broaden the scope of subjects and became really curious with this other kind of flow, that doesn’t envolve people moving from place to place, but only their music.
If you and the readers are interested, I’ve tried to make a better translation to Camilo Rocha’s article, which I’ll paste below. I’d really apreciate if you could collaborate with our discussion, maybe with an article or a podcast. We could translate it into Portuguese and publish it in both languages.
[on my next comment I’ll talk more about what I think of ghettotech]
Most DJs direct their ears to some few musical Meccas in the First World, like New York, London, Berlin and Paris. This decade, however, a new category has emerged, the globalist DJs, who go much further in their musical prospections.
Names as Diplo, DJ Dolores, Maga BO, DJ/rupture, Ghislain Poirier and Wayne&Wax build amazingly diversified sets, which can have American hip hop, German techno or French electro, but also Trinidadian soca, Morrocan rap, Carioca funk, Angolan kuduro, Jamaican dancehall, London’s banlieu grime or Colombian cumbia.
The exposure of these “peripherical” rhythms is already influencing diferent areas, such as the band Bloc Party and the DJs/producers Simian Mobile Disco and Samim (who had “Heater” as one of his hits of the year, mixing cumbia and techno). There is also anglo-cingalese singer MIA, the first popstar to emerge from this trend and has released this year the much aplauded album “Kala”.
Would all this be a new costume for the worn down “world music” label? Talking to Folha by phone, Canadian DJ/producer Ghislain Poirier, who just released the album “No Ground Under” on Coldcut’s Ninja Tune label, denies: “World music is more exotic, the sounds we play are more urban. They all come from common backgrounds: people without much money, doing music in home studios or in a laptop. It’s something more urgent.
Thanks to a broader access to internet and technology, there’s an unprecedent proliferation throughout the world of the countries’ peripheries’ sounds, much of them with strong electronic basis and created in old, obsolete laptops or PCs, often with pirate softwares, and released on blogs, sites and globalist DJs sets.
American DJ and MC Wayne&Wax, who’s also an ethnomusicologist, has baptized this movement “ghettotech”. â€œIt’s a phrase I came up with to describe what seems like an emerging aesthetic among certain DJs and bloggers, in which â€œglobalâ€ genres such as hip-hop, techno, reggae, etc., are often mixed with â€œlocalâ€ styles”, explained Wayne to Folha. “But I’m against the superficial and trendy approach to it. I like to know the social and cultural contexts that shaped these sounds”.
One of the first “globalists” was DJ/rupture, from Boston, USA, who first called attention with a mixtape called “Gold Teeth Thief”. The set was so successful that it was selected on 2002 as one of the top ten releases on prestigious English music magazine, “The Wire”.
At his blog and his radio programme “Mudd Up!”, Rupture broadcasts an insane blend of rhythms from everywhere. One of his favourite genres is Maghrebi music, from North Africa. “I’m [also] discovering the world of cumbia – there are plenty of fascinating scenes, from the past and from nowadays”, tells the DJ.
Rupture’s label, Soot, should release in a couple of months the dÃ©but album of another important “globalist” name: Maga Bo, a American from Seattle living in Rio since 1999. Maga Bo has already worked with Brazilians such as BNegÃ£o, MC Catra, Marcelo Yuka, Marcelinho da Lua and Digitaldubs.
Next year, he’ll begin to teach digital production at AfroReggae’s office, at Parada de Lucas, [a poor neighbourhood] in Rio. Right now, he’s in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, recording with local musicians and researching Ethiopian music.
“Electronic beats are the place where everyone can understand each other. Computer, which was already called the first “universal folk instrument”, is getting more and more accessible to people. The amount of music that can be fit in the “global ghettotech” label is increasing all over the world. The death of traditional record labels and the growth of music distribution on the internet is helping in this spread”, he says.
DJ Dolores, the best known Brazilian artist in this trend, says that “computers are nowadays drums, a primal instrument that anyone can use in its own way”. In 2004, Dolores won the best Club Global DJ Award from BBC’s Radio One. Dolores has just come back from many shows in the USA and Mexico and shall release next year (2008) the album “Um Real”.
Diplo is one of the best known names of this DJ/producers’ harvest. This 29 year-old American was one of the main responsible on making funk carioca known abroad. MIA’s ex-boyfriend (and the co-producer of her first album), Diplo has recently played on TIM Festival [one of the most important festivals in Brazil].
He believes that it’s important to give something in return to the local cultures. With Heaps Decent project, he’s being making music with young aboriginals at a underage detention house in Australia. Track should be available soon, in a partnership with Australian label Modular.
“Since these subcultures, in a certain way, make me earn money, I did something to help on their development”, he explains. “On the next months, I intend to do the same on favela Cantagalo (Rio), with AfroReggae and antropologist Hermano Vianna.”
Hi Wayne – thanks for the continuing and intensely thought-provoking discussions around the ‘global ghettotech’ meme. I’ve only just intercepted much of this dialogue, and it’s given me great food for thought over the last few days.
One thought just won’t die down, no matter how often I try to send it to the Trash. I appreciate this is an obvious point, however the shift from analogue to digital, from the physical artefact to the ephemeral web page has radically reshaped the way in which information is transmitted, filtered and mediated. Whilst I adore the fact that the web has democratized cultural critique by putting the means of production in the hands of the masses, I can’t help but feel that rigourous ‘translation’ is becoming something of a dying art – or, at the very least, it is being marginalised by the increasing digital tidal wave of decontextualised publishing.
I feel this keenly as I’m inside that wave somewhere – I understand, and recognise, the risk in blogging about musicians and artists without recourse to contextualization; but I also recognise the urgent desire to transmit and share, unbound by critique. I also recognize the reality of being a blogger with limited time on oneâ€™s hands. But given that, whilst many of us donâ€™t blog to be writers, I agree that bloggers have a underlying responsibility to be respectful to those which we are writing about.
As I think youâ€™re suggesting (please correct me if Iâ€™m wrong), simple passion is no longer enough â€“ in a world where the marginalization of the authoritative voice will only become more acute; where digital distribution seems at odds with a sense of place or time; truth, context and integrity become harder to find. And so, it thus falls to bloggers â€“ myself included – to up their game and to rise above the noise of hipster transmissions. Perhaps this will lead to a shift in the blogosphere in the coming years â€“ a shakedown of sorts? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
I agree that it’s rather difficult to put all “ghettotech” genres into a same classification, but I think it’s important to analize the phenomenon both in its musical and sociocultural aspects.
Musically, it seems easy to find some characteristics that are common to all these styles: the use of electronic beats, essentially old synths and keyboards (seen as outdated by many), that replace harmonic (usually less important here) and melodic instruments and also produce the hard beats and heavy grooves that give them this “danceable universality”. They’re sung and often have symbolic elements close to the MC and the DJ in rap. And they appear specially in countries facing a techno-urban-economical transition: places of rural traditions that have faced recently with urban and industrial booms and the sudden appearance of huge, unequal, poorly-structured metropolitan areas.
The keyboard-factor is really something that fascinates me. I don’t know if you know forrÃ³ from Northeastern Brazil – and also from SÃ£o Paulo city, that has received millions of migrants from the Northeast -, so I’ll talk briefly about it. Since the 90’s, keyboards have massively replaced the accordion and the percussion instruments (triÃ¢ngulo and zabumba), which were the three basic elements of forrÃ³. So, you had three instruments and three musicians, and now you have only one that do all of it in a much easier fashion. Now you can create your own music. Even though these keyboards are considered outdated by both people from more developed countries and the Brazilian elite, they’re still seen as modern by poorer people – and they’re much cheaper now than they were before.
And how does it work with the audience? Upper class, scholarized, non-Northeastern or without NEastern descent people usually see it as a dilution, as an inpoverishment of the music. They nowadays worship the old, traditional forrÃ³, which has been adopted by young bands from SÃ£o Paulo that claim to make the “real forrÃ³” (though they add some pop or reggae flavour). So you see urban people doing a rural performance and people with a countryside history using technology to reinvent their music and find ways to make it known easily.
Funk carioca, now that has gained international fame, is a little bit more widespread through Brazil. Still, most of the older people still see it as “crappy music and crappy lyrics”, as many young ones too. By the same reason, many upper-class youths started to apreciate it – it’s about sex, drugs, guns and taboos. To those people, the music looses its link to the social environment or, still, romanticize the links that the lyrics have to these subjects. I mean, in Rio you can go to a favela and listen to Tati Quebra Barraco for 5 reais (almost US$3), but in SÃ£o Paulo she can be found in a fancy hip club, playing to the ones that are willing to pay 30 reais (more than US$ 15) to shake their booties confortably way from the poorer (and, usually, darker – cause racism is strong but silent in Brazil) people.
[I’m starting to get a little lost here with myself, I need to organize the ideas better.]
I mean, why is funk starting to penetrate other social segments and forrÃ³ eletrÃ´nico, for instance, isn’t? Is it the subject envolved? The way the music is performed? Is it a matter of cultural identity? Or of xenophobia (many Paulistas – people born in SÃ£o Paulo – have prejudice against Nordestinos)?
To Americans, probably the “ghettotech” styles are seen indistinctedly one from the other, since they all come from fairly known cultures and countries with internal social matters that are not transferred through the music – hampered not only by the language barrier, but also because the rhythm is much more accessible than the information, even on the Internet.
But, as a middle-class young ‘white’ ‘intellectual’ Brazilian, I see that my friends rather dance wildly to Dahler Mendi’s ‘Tunak Tunak Tun’ bhangra or any kuduro than a pancadÃ£o from Deize Tigrona. I think exotism plays a really important role here – they’d also prefer to dance tecnobrega or a guitarrada, from ParÃ¡ (do you know them?), which is still little known here in Southeastern Brazil, than a forrÃ³ eletrÃ´nico that can be listened in any big popular comercial center in SÃ£o Paulo.
But of course that this ‘exotic’ explanation could unveil a lot of other meanings concerning social relations and hierarchies. I’m analizing it from a country that has the greatest social unequality in the world and, at the same time, brags about its diversified cultural inheritance, so it has its own peculiar aspects to be considered.
I’m really interested in understanding how this process works in other parts of the world. I think there should me made a research on ghettotech’s main producing countries to see how these newly-internationally-hyped genres are seen in their own countries, among the different social classes and age groups.
[that was pretty long. i hope i can be clearer in suggesting a debate next time]
Thanks for the continued conversation, AndrÃ© and Stu! (And for the tweaked translation — I’m tempted to give it a whack myself at this point.) You both make really great points, and I don’t mean to sit silent in response. Just finding myself very occupied at the moment with the beginning of a new semester and a new class I’m teaching (about which, more soon). Meantime, I welcome any others to add their two cents to this increasingly rich exchange.
I know I’m coming to this rather late, but just ran into this topic/article the other day and wanted to drop my 2 cents…
I want to first respond to AndrÃ© and say that I think exoticism is a definite factor in what draws Americans and perhaps Europeans to the sounds of “ghettotech”, but definitely not THE defining reason in my eyes. I think that a lot of it also has to do with the quality of sounds used in these styles and an odd familiarity in the beats or melodies. Baile-funk, for instance, is in part so popular in the States and Europe because it is an obvious offshoot of a familiar American music form (Miami Bass/Hip Hop–I realize I’m not stating anything new here…). I also think that many Americans have become attracted to these styles of music as a reaction to the political climate of the past 8 years…
The main reason that a form like electronic forrÃ³ doesn’t attract the same attention is that it generally does not sound “rough in the right places” to the American ear…
Now onto what I initially intended to write about…
I’ve frequently heard producers and DJ’s in the last few years quoted as saying that “computers are the new drums”. I gotta say that this really irks me (and I’m not just saying that up because I’m a drummer…because I also happen to be a producer).
It really doesn’t make any sense, especially in light of the cost difference between these 2 musical devices. Even the cheapest computers in a place like Brazil are not affordable to many middle-class families, much less to the poor people who frequently wind-up creating these influential genres such as “baile-funk”. The reason why drums/drumming have flourished in places like Rio or Salvador or Recife is heavily due to the fact that you can pretty much make your own instrument from trash if you haven’t the cash to buy one.
The other factor that statements like these overlook is community. Drum groups like IlÃª AiyÃª or an escola like Mangueira (pardon the fact that all my examples are Brazilian) thrive on communal energy, which is in part what makes the music so amazing. Perhaps when a producer plays a piece for a party it could be said that it is “communal” music because it inspires the crowd to dance, but most of the time there is nothing communal about the nature of it’s creation.
There’s more I could say on this but my time is short and I’ve already blabbed on enough for now…
Thanks for keeping the conversation going, Kiddid. I think you’re right when you say “rough in the right places,” as a way of nuancing the notion of the exotic — it’s more of a foreign-and-familiar thing than simply foreign, innit, though I think that “rough” (as with “raw,” etc.) is yet another way of coding race (and class, inseparable as they are) into aesthetic judgments.
And, indeed, the question of race/class relates rather directly to your discussion of computers vs. drums. Though I think you make a good point about access, a lot of what seems so endearingly “rough” about funk carioca, kuduro, grime, juke, et al., is precisely that they seem to exploit cpu tech “on the cheap” — to use trashy software, trashy hardware, etc. Part of that is, of course, just myth; but part of it is indelibly true. These are FruityLoopy genres for a reason.
I absolutely agree with what you say about the endearing qualities of these music’s. There is a certain conceptual tightness inherent which makes them even more attractive to many Americans, especially to those of us who were previously interested in the whole punk/noise aesthetic. This is more the direction I was coming from when I said “rough in the right places”. To many of us these musical forms come across as protest music reacting in creative ways to oppressive environments. Subversion through inspiration. Take that famous Funkadelic title and reverse it, “Free your ass and your head will follow”.
That may sound crazy but that’s my perspective on it. I personally can’t relate to electronic forrÃ³ styles because they don’t appear to offer (in form) this possibility of social liberation. The irony is that within these very same forms we find so fascinating and with such perceived potential for liberation, like funk carioca, there are all kinds of other oppressive subtext to the music (specifically sexual/gender based).
Onto the “Computers VS. Drums” thing:
Again, I’m definitely all for both. I just think it’s a little naive to suggest that a computer could be a fitting substitute for an instrument that is 25 times cheaper, or free even. For me this seems to be a touchy subject…Perhaps sparked by fear, funny enough…
Artists should never forget how to do things by hand. The virtual world is not eternal…
Oops…let’s get exact here, “Free Your Ass and Your MIND Will Follow”. Sounds a little more poetic.
I decided to tune up the English translation a bit more —
“Globalists” Seek Peripheral Sounds
by CAMILO ROCHA (translated by Google, André Albert, and Wayne Marshall)
Folha de S.Paulo, 26/12/2007
Most DJs direct their ears to a few musical Meccas in the First World,
such as New York, London, Berlin, and Paris. This decade, however, a
new category has emerged, globalist DJs who go much further in their
DJs such as Diplo, DJ Dolores, Maga BO, DJ/rupture, Ghislain Poirier
and Wayne&Wax build amazingly diversified sets, which can include
American hip hop, German techno or French electro, but also
Trinidadian soca, Morrocan rap, Rio funk, Angolan kuduro, Jamaican
dancehall, London grime or Colombian cumbia.
The exposure of these “peripheral” rhythms has already influenced
artists in other spheres, such as the band Bloc Party and the
DJs/producers Simian Mobile Disco and Samim (whose big hit this year,
“Heater,” mixes cumbia and techno). There is also Anglo-Sinhalese
singer MIA, the first popstar to emerge from this trend who this year
released the widely acclaimed album “Kala.”
Could this all simply be a new guise for the well-worn “world music”
label? Talking to Folha by phone, Canadian DJ/producer Ghislain
Poirier, who just released the album “No Ground Under” on Coldcut’s
Ninja Tune label, disagrees: “World music is more exotic, the sounds
we play are more urban. They all come from common backgrounds: people
without much money, doing music in home studios or in a laptop. It’s
something more urgent.”
Thanks to broader access to the internet and other technologies, there
has been an unprecedented proliferation of sounds from the world’s
margins, often with a strong electronic basis, produced on old,
obsolete laptops or PCs, often with pirated software, and released on
blogs, other websites and in globalist DJs’ mixes.
American DJ and MC Wayne&Wax, who’s also an ethnomusicologist, has
baptized this movement “global ghettotech”. “It’s a phrase I came up
with to describe what seems like an emerging aesthetic among certain
DJs and bloggers, in which ‘global’ genres such as hip-hop, techno,
reggae, etc., are often mixed with ‘local’ styles,” explained Wayne
to Folha. “But I’m against a superficial and trendy approach to it. I
like to know the social and cultural contexts that shaped these
One of the first “globalists” was DJ/rupture, from Boston, USA, who
called attention to the aesthetic with his “Gold Teeth Thief” mixtape.
The mix was so successful that it was selected in 2002 as one of the
top ten releases by prestigious English music magazine, “The Wire.”
At his blog and his radio programme “Mudd Up!” Rupture broadcasts an
insane mix of rhythms from all over. One of his favorite genres is
Maghrebi music, from North Africa. “I’m [also] discovering the world
of cumbia — there are plenty of fascinating scenes, from the past and
from nowadays,” says the DJ.
In a couple of months Rupture’s label, Soot, will release the debut
album of another important “globalist”: Maga Bo, an American from
Seattle living in Rio since 1999. Maga Bo has already worked with
Brazilians such as BNegão, MC Catra, Marcelo Yuka, Marcelinho da Lua
Next year, he’ll begin teaching digital production at AfroReggae’s
community center in Parada de Lucas in Rio. Right now, he’s in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, recording with local musicians and
researching Ethiopian music.
“Electronic beats can be understood by the whole world. The computer,
which has been called the first ‘universal folk instrument,’ is
becoming more and more accessible. The amount of music that can fit
under the “global ghettotech” label is increasing all over the world.
The death of traditional record labels and the growth of music
distribution on the internet is helping with this popularization,” he
DJ Dolores, the best known Brazilian “globalist” DJ, says that
“computers are the drums of today, a primal instrument that anyone can
use in their own way.” In 2004, Dolores won the award for best “Club
Global” DJ from BBC’s Radio One. Dolores has just come back from
touring the USA and Mexico and will release his album “Um Real” next
Diplo is one of the best known of such DJs and producers. The 29
year-old American was one of the main figures responsible for
promoting funk carioca abroad. MIA’s ex-boyfriend (and the co-producer
of her first album), Diplo recently played the TIM Festival [one of
the most important festivals in Brazil].
He believes that it’s important to give something in return to the
local communities. With the Heaps Decent project, he has been making
music with young aboriginals at an underage detention house in
Australia. Tracks should be available soon, in a partnership with
Australian label Modular.
“Since these subcultures, in a certain way, help me to earn a living,
I did something to help their development,” he explains. “In the next
few months, I hope to do the same in the favela of Cantagalo, in Rio,
with AfroReggae and anthropologist Hermano Vianna.”
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