Archive of posts tagged with "babylonia"

January 29th, 2009

Showtime (for Lawsuits), Unfinished Business (for Lawyers) has the scoop today on a lawsuit instigated by producer Dave Kelly —

In Jamaican dancehall culture, “re-licking” a riddim has undoubtedly been a way of life. Almost monthly there seems to be a remake of a dancehall, reggae or rocksteady riddim that originated anywhere from just a few years ago to decades ago, often with no thought, care or compensation being made to its original composer or creator.

One veteran dancehall music producer however is not taking the re-lick of one of his creations so lightly. Dave Kelly, owner of Madhouse Records and producer of numerous classic dancehall riddims (including the Joyride, Bruk Out, Bug and Eighty-Five riddims) has reportedly sued for royalties off Linton ‘TJ’ White’s Unfinished Business riddim which was released last year. Notably, Dancehall.Mobi posted about the Unfinished Business riddim when it was just released, and highlighted that it sounded remarkably similar to Dave Kelly’s Showtime riddim which was released circa 1998.

The Unfinished Business riddim has spawned several local hits, and two international hits in Mavado’s “So Special” and Serani’s “No Games”, and White has acknowledged that the royalties from the riddim are presently tied up in litigation. It’s not known exactly how the proceeds from the sale and licensing of songs on the Unfinished Business riddim would be shared, but there are rumors that Kelly has claimed as much as 45% of the rights to the riddim.

Here are the two riddims in question, made available by for the sake of comparison —

Showtime vs. Unfinished Business Riddims

To my ears, the only thing the two riddims have in common is the admittedly obvious and distinctive “hey” sample. I can’t recall any examples right now, but I don’t think Unfinished Business is the first riddim to re-use that particular sound. I wonder whether Kelly was even the first to use it — or where he sampled it from. As central and important as that little sample is, asking for 45% of the rights seems far too greedy, and dangerous.

The layers of hypocrisy run deep on this one. Plenty of Kelly’s riddims are themselves re-licks or employ recognizable (and presumably unauthorized) samples. The Eighty-Five riddim — which underpinned Cham’s huge hit “Ghetto Story” — quite clearly versions (and samples) the Sleng Teng. Another of Kelly’s famous productions, the Playground riddim, centrally employs a sample from the Roots’ “Section.” [Oops: the Playground riddim was actually produced by Jeremy Harding, who I often confuse with Kelly for some reason.] And the Joyride riddim is audibly indebted — check that offbeat organ stab — to the riddim underlying, among others, Conroy Smith’s 1988 hit “Dangerous” (which, notably, is the first track in this bit of “Joyride” juggling posted to YouTube, showing how listeners/selectors connect Kelly’s riddim to the earlier production by Hyman “Jah Life” Right). [Hmmm: Gabriel rightly points out in the comments that the Jah Life version of “Dangerous” was produced later — 1996 it turns out — and hence is a re-lick of Joyride rather than vice versa, so I guess I will have to temper my criticisms here somewhat. Still, the overall thrust of my argument remains the same.] Indeed, it’s a wonder that Kelly hasn’t yet sued Christopher Birch over the similarities between Baddaz and Joyride, but maybe that’s because Baddaz has yet to produce equivalent hits to Mavado’s “So Special” and Serani’s “Playing Games.” So, the question for the suddenly litigious Mr.Kelly is: are you willing to give up similarly large chunks of the rights to your riddims to — among others, no doubt — King Jammy, the Roots, and Jah Life?

Hope so. Because if people start litigating around re-licks like this, the whole riddim system — which has for decades propelled the most prolific music industry in the world — is in danger of collapsing in on itself.

As I’ve argued (along with Peter Manuel), the riddim method has long operated as though rocksteady and reggae recordings were a creative commons from which musicians draw (relatively) freely. The adoption of international/US copyright law by Jamaica in the 1990s has thrown a wrench into what was an otherwise pretty organic cultural system (sure, it has its flaws, such as exploitative producers taking credit from day-laborer musicians, but that’s another issue; producers still get the spoils under current copyright).

Responses to riddim re-licking used to be more creative. As I wrote back in 2005, referring to David Katz’s oral history of reggae during the lawsuit between Scientist and Greensleeves —

perhaps it was better when these things, in lieu of any kind of laws in place or in practice, were simply settled musically. with no legal recourse available, sugar minott and coxsone dodd would simply stay one step ahead of the competition [note: for those unaware of the “ethnic” dynamic in jamaica, think of yellowman’s “mr.chin” as a kindler, gentler, perhaps more insidious “black korea”; which is to say, there’s a similiar dynamic happening there, but accented differently; note also, however, that minott dismisses such attitudes as immature–an important qualification]:

Though the advent of rockers stole the fire from Bunny Lee’s flying cymbal, the Revolutionaries’ habit of adapting Studio One rhythms naturally caused most offence at Brentford Road, particularly after many of Coxsone’s artists defected to Channel One. Coxsone’s greatest weapon in the war of styles turned out to be Sugar Minott, a man with his ear constantly on the pulse of Jamaica’s dancehall scene. ‘It was a living war with Channel One,’ laughs Minott. ‘They used to call me “Coxsone’s Boy.” When they made “I Need a Roof” for Channel One, I immediately knew what it was, because I’m an expert in music and rhythm [i.e., riddims] from [when] I was a kid. So I went to Coxsone and said, “Look, it’s “Mean Girl.” We went to buy a flask of rum, so I was hyped up, did over “I Need A Roof.” Me and Tabby them was friends, but I didn’t care because I was like “Channel One? I hate Chinese.” That was my thing in them times–I was young that way: “I’m not singing for no Chinese.” There was a next one called “Woman Is Like A Shadow.” Coxsone called me and said, “I want you to sing this music, listen that tune,” so I thought it was an old song from some old group that never came out and he wanted me to do it over, but I didn’t know it was a Meditations song that never even came out yet. I did over “Woman Is Like A Shadow” and it came out before the original, because the original used to play on the sound. When my version drop in, the whole of Baktu was looking for me–it was a war with Channel One. Every time they try to do a Coxsone song I go and tell him, so they came and fling bottle and stone to mash Coxsone’s studio. They had the force–everybody was following the Chinese. Somehow Coxsone and Joe Joe got in some fight and that was that.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, Joseph Hoo-Kim contests Sugar’s version of events. (p.227)

In short, lawsuits such as this one threaten the very vitality of Jamaican popular music. I hope Dave Kelly, who himself stands on the shoulders of giants, reconsiders. And I would urge the Jamaican government to reshape their IP laws in a manner that attends to distinctive local creative processes.

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January 4th, 2009

Inshallah Stencil


December 15th, 2008

Gyangsta Flicks

Pace this post (see comments for continued convo), thx to Christina — who also wonders how hip-hop’s use of East Asian imagery fits into all of this (I think it leans more toward the I-talian than the A-rab) — for pointing me to three mashup “valorizations of the gangsta” via the dancehall/Mavado’s imagination (both of which take strong cues from hip-hop and Hollywood). These are easy fits given what Erin MacLeod calls the “melancholy, sweeping, and spooky strains of cinematic dancehall” —

So when is Jollywood (heh) gonna get into the global “film” game? No doubt Kingston could give Lagos and Mumbai a run for their money.

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November 21st, 2008

Skin Care Adventure

  • Mark Anthony Neal — 'Never before has a First Lady's body been subject to the amount of scrutiny and surveillance as is the case with Michelle Obama; she has been rhetorically poked, prodded and groped. Many would have found such a line of coverage unfathomable and even offensive if applied to women like Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, or Roselyn Carter, as was rightfully the case with depictions of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential "MILF." … Underlying this notion of "realness" that Michelle Obama embodies are notions of accessibility and availability. If there is anything that the history of black women in this country should teach us, is that the idea that black women's bodies were accessible and available to any–and all–concretely frames our understandings of black women's histories whether it be the spectacle of the "Hottentot Venus" (Saartjie Baartman), the tragedy of Crystal Mangum or the nameless and faceless victims of sexual violence and rape.'
  • this happened — 'The largest of these exhibits [at the 1904 St.Louis World's Fair] was the Philippine village, a 47-acre site that for seven months in 1904 became home to more than 1,000 Filipinos from at least 10 different ethnic groups. The biggest crowd-drawers were the so-called primitive tribes — especially the Igorots, whose appeal lay in their custom of eating dog.'
  • "NYAHBINGHY ORDER IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY RAS TAFARI IS LIFE REGGAY IS DEATH" :: bobo dreads explain why reggae is too enmeshed in babylon / "the world" for true/turbaned rastas to participate :: some thoughts about reggae — "satan music that" "reggae more bring crime and violence" "music is food for the soul, but which music … man say you have a right music and a wrong music" "reggae promote sex and oralism" "it water down and a turn streggae" "it's distracting to the nation … it elevate the rest of the nation, the indians, the chinese" "death music" "reggae is satanism" "it nuh teach no one nothing" "reggae could only provide the material thing" "bun reggae"
  • interesting reasoning about 'interesting reasoning about reggae by bobo ashanti' — including some discussion of racism in partic rastafari mansions :: plus, this interesting bit at the end — 'As is pointed out in the comments of the Bobo interviewed at Bull Bay, even if you are a very true and good Rastafarian, and your lyrics are very true and spiritual, if you are involved in the Reggae industry you will have to compromise your livity at some point. … That doesn't mean that for many of us the Roots/Rastafarian side of the music isn't an inspiration and a positive thing in our lives still. Just have to be honest about it, coz even then, of course it is not a pure thing untainted by "Babylon".'
  • radiolab is back, with an episode on choice :: can't wait to listen, but i can't decide when/where would be best (thx again, forestfruits)
  • on the use of music as torture by the US military — and more banally by the author & his mom (h/t forestfruits)
  • fascinating profile of a fascinating thinker re: culture & ownership, gifts and value (thx, dominic) :: (non)money quote — 'The literature on gift exchange — tales, for example, of South Sea tribesman circulating shells and necklaces in a slow-moving, broad circle around the Trobriand Islands — gave him the conceptual tool he needed to understand his predicament, which was, he came to believe, the predicament of all artists living “in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities.” For centuries people have been speaking of talent and inspiration as gifts; Hyde’s basic argument was that this language must extend to the products of talent and inspiration too. Unlike a commodity, whose value begins to decline the moment it changes hands, an artwork gains in value from the act of being circulated—published, shown, written about, passed from generation to generation — from being, at its core, an offering.'

videyoga ::


November 9th, 2008

Digihad Dancehall, Only in London Innit?

Speaking of the belly of the beast, somehow I missed this first time around, but a UK-based jihadist rap group known as Soul Salah Crew released a Diwali-propelled critique of the War on Terror® back in 2004. That in itself is not exactly surprising. The UK has been the seat of some searing Islamist critique for some time. What is most striking to me is how easily and un-self-consciously the group expresses their critique through the anti/Babylonian language of reggae and hip-hop —

Some interesting discussion on that video, as you might imagine, including some similarly global youth vernacular (in this case, internetese / 4changuage) employed by “hijabiflower” to lol @ anti-muslim trolls:

America is now broke, Iraq is doing better, and Bin Laden (the actual bad guy) has gotten away with his crime and is living it up somewhere in the mountain with his huge CIA paycheck. Thats called OWNAGE

Be forewarned: the comments, like the video itself, contain some highly disturbing content, much of it — seemingly — c/o US gringo jingos.

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November 9th, 2008

Babylon Spit Shine

c/o Ivanna B (aka DJ Philomena), one of my fave “local” DJs / dancers / artists / people, don’t miss this month’s stateside / tri-city showing (NYC, Boston, Providence) of politically & culturally charged art (drawings, prints, sculptures, photographs, mixed media, video and more!) from Chile & Argentina —

more info:


September 26th, 2008

Don’t Start Thinking About Tomorrow

photo by {?N.tella}

videyoga :: see, e.g., 0:31 & 1:23

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September 18th, 2008

Talib Qawwali

  • nice piece on "sissy bounce" in new orleans
  • siva takes on the myth of all "kids these days" being "digital natives" fluent in info/communication technologies (as well as the general problem of generalizing and generation-alizing) :: i have to admit that his account rings true with my own experiences teaching undergrads, plenty of whom still claim (and show themselves) to be technologically illiterate in various ways :: and his class/ist critique is well worth considering, 'But Palfrey and Gasser did not need to render young people exotic to make their points. The concept of "born digital" flattens out the needs and experiences of young people into a uniform wish list of policies that conveniently matches the agenda of digital enthusiasts and entrepreneurs of all ages. Indeed, it is interesting that Palfrey and Gasser deny that their subjects constitute a "generation," conceding in their introduction that they are describing only the challenges of privileged young people.'
  • having been a reader of anne's blog for the past couple years, i'm excited to see that she's finally completed her dissertation and, as one would suspect, has made it available in digital form
  • a persuasive critique of accounts of modernity & their implicit exclusions: '…it bugs me that Berman’s modernists and his (implied) non-modernists seem to inhabit the same space of “modernity” only the former “chooses” to be at home in it: presuming a choice where there’s actually an economic rationality to make the choice for you is the sort of myth that keeps the whole capitalist carnival ride going merrily round and round. But while Berman can safely imagine a purely urban space of modernity, he can do so only by carefully forgetting that there is no urban modernity without its dark double, that economically, politically, even conceptually, urban modernity cannot exist without its inverse. And by happening to fail to mention it, he participates in exactly the conceptual process of making it disappear from view.'
  • great post (as usual) over @ zunguzungu, moving from palin (implicitly) on the bush doctrine, to Abdul JonMohamed on Richard Wright, to DFW on kafka, to some sudanese kid on the US killing machine, to this kicker of a conclusion: "And it makes me imbue this upcoming election with a symbolism that raises the stakes so far above and beyond their already frighteningly high level that it makes me wonder if the gods are just fucking with us. Seriously, are we living in a didactic morality play? Are we _really_ presented with the choice between a person whose identity is defined by his time as a bomber in an American war of imperial aggression and a guy with a “Muslim” name who wears centuries of America’s violent racial oppression on his skin? Are you fucking serious?"
  • take the black star line, right on home :: dr.auratheft puts together a mixx of nothing but tunes devoted to marcus garvey
  • need to read again & more closely, but this appears to be an interesting, marxy take on reggae production, emphasizing the rel btwn capital and labor (h/t john eden)
  • "There is an essential moral difference between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin; just as (in a comparison that Zizek, to his credit, does not shy from), there was an essential moral difference between Stalin and Hitler. Zizek condemns the currently fashionable habit of lumping Stalin and Hitler together as totalitarian dictators. The difference, as in the Presidential race today, has to do with hypocrisy. Stalin professed support for human rights like free speech, for self-determination, for peace, and for harmony and equality among individuals and peoples regardless of race, ethnicity, etc. … Of course, in fact Stalin was a megalomaniacal tyrant who ruled arbitrarily, violated all of these ideals, and put millions of people to death; but Zizek is entirely right to suggest that such hypocrisy is morally superior, and far to be preferred, to Hitler’s overtly racist and anti-democratic ideology — which he unhypocritically put into practice."
  • new documentary on (putting on a festival for) hip-hop in morocco
  • nice piece by jace on digital/analog africa, copy and aura :: "Digital Africa is exemplified by the trio of expat Africans who run New York City’s bootleg CD-r mixtape industry. Contemporary vinyl production continues, but it caters to specialist markets: DJs, audiophiles, collectors. Nowadays the most obscure group (or an unaffiliated fan) maintains a page on Rupert Murdoch’s MySpace site. If a band is unGoogleable, then it effectively doesn’t exist. If it is Googleable, then it’s only a click away, whether you’re on Azerbaijani dial-up or squinting at a Blackberry in east London." :: "Fela’s axiom – the notion that the golden age in music is always now – may trouble collectors. But those who locate their golden years in 1970s’ West Africa are in luck: 2008 is a great year for it."

videyoga ::

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August 26th, 2008

Inadequate Blackmail

  • 'Daddy Yankee called Mr. McCain “a fighter for the Hispanic community” and “a fighter for the immigration issue.’’ Mr. McCain, who noted that his wife, Cindy, had gone to Central High School, said, “I just want to say thank you, Daddy Yankee.’’ ' :: (thx, bracken)
  • "The Boston Police Department is proud and pleased to announce that this year’s Caribbean Festival was conducted in a successful manner as thousands attended and enjoyed this year’s festival and parade. The Boston Police Department did make 23 arrests. Of the 23 arrests, four were made in connection to gun-related offenses. In addition to the arrests, the department is pleased to announce the safe and successful return of several children lost during the festivities. … Moreover, Operation PAWS, a citywide warrant program conducted to combat and prevent gang violence, was employed the week leading up to this year’s festival. As a result of Operation PAWS, Boston Police arrested 56 individuals. In addition to the above, numerous intelligence gathering efforts, information analysis and video surveillance provided essential aid and support to all officers assigned to the festival." :: report includes blotter of incidents from the festival
  • "Boston police are crediting the success of this year's Caribbean Festival to the arrests made before the event. … 'The crowd was not as big as it usually is but it was very peaceful, and I didn't see any rowdy behavior,' said parade marcher Diana Peterkin. 'I felt comfortable. I felt safe.' Festival organizers supported the sweep, saying they didn't want the festival to be ruined by a few criminals. In addition to the 56 captured, police also arrested 23 other people. Four of those arrested face gun-related charges."
  • "Nearly 100 Boston police officers fanned out across the city yesterday and arrested dozens of suspected gang members and alleged criminals as part of an aggressive preemptive strike against violence at today's Caribbean Festival, a cultural event that has often been marred by shootings and stabbings. … Shirley Shillingford , president of the carnival, said the efforts are necessary. 'When you think about the amount of money that people put into paying for their costumes and the amount of work that goes into putting together this event, it would be really pathetic to see even one person come out and do anything that will give a bad image to the carnival that we work so hard to put on,' she said. 'It takes a drop of poison to contaminate a whole bucket of water.' "
  • "Have you ever thought that you're also raw meat?" :: félix jiménez y miguel rodríguez casellas offer some theoretic-poetics on "corned beef chic, or the audacity of contempt"
  • ' "Ambient advertising"—the business of putting adverts in public spaces—is a booming industry. It has outgrown all other advertsing sectors in the last three years. In 1995, it hauled in profits of £10 million. In 1998, these have grown to about £58m. It has taken the metaphorical advertising phrase of "selling space" literally, snatching up the places where your eye falls, and—in that pervasive new corporate ethos—making them work harder. ' (via shaviro/

videyoga ::

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July 4th, 2008

Duty Wine

11:29 AM
a: hey duder
morning! U-S-A
me: and a happy independence to you too, good sir
kinda gray so far, but we’re hoping it clears up
a: ya no doubt
when you headed over?
me: oh we’re there now
just dropped a grant at wholefoods
a: hahaha
what should we bring? we’re just getting around now
me: and we’ve got some farm-fresh meat too
long as it’s not raining, we’re grillin and chillin at least
it’s our patriotic duty
so when are you going to grill/what should we bring with?
me: not sure exact when we’ll start, depends who’s here
whenever — prolly a couple hours from now — and through the pm
a: kk, wrd
too bad its not so warm huh
me: um, in terms of bringing — we’ll have: some burgers, a couple sausage, asian slaw, potato salad, grilled corn/pineapple/peaches/bananas/asparagus, and watermelon
also, chicken and quinoa-beet salad
and we’ve got beer & wine
a: !!
me: so, um, not sure ?!
a: !!
me: patriotic DUTY mang
a: DUTY w(h)ine
me: oh man that’s sooo the title of my next blog post
a: =)
me: but, srsly, if you can think of anything else you might like ;)
a: uh i just got some greenzzzz
me: only red, white, blue today remember
a: but i’ll run that list by [redacted] and ask her
me: whatever’s clever
a: ah, ok
no prob
me: here’s hoping it warms up
i was joking about the colors
these colors don’t won


July 3rd, 2008

linkthink #2303: Remember When Heavy Metal Was Scary

videyoga ::

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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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