Archive of posts tagged with "middleeast"

October 3rd, 2008

Half Baked Alaska

videyoga :: kitsch-hop edition

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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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August 15th, 2008

YouTube, America, Distinguished Guests, Crumbs…

videyoga ::

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July 28th, 2008

Linkthink #0443: New American Menschery


videyoga ::

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July 11th, 2008

Where Do I Begin (To Tell the Story)?

As long as we’re on the topic of “Arab Face” I’ve decided to dust off and finish up this post that’s long been sitting in my drafts folder. (It’s post #100, and I’ve recently published #400, if that’s any indication of how long it’s been on a backburner.)

There are countless twisty, tangly stories of sounds & images & ideas going from there to here and back again. They make for rich discussions of allusion, appropriation, borrowing, copying, re-use, remix, and the like. And they’re often a lot more complex than any ol’ East/West, North/South dichotomies can explain. The question of exploitation — of big pimpin’, eh? — typically looms large, especially in an asymmetrically dominated/accessed global economy. But the evidence of cultural vitality, and the degree to which that depends on mimetic representations, is perhaps what should assume the foreground.

What I like about the example clustered around Truth Hurts’s “Addiction” is how it calls attention to the both-waysness of such phenomena. I’m afraid it’s a LOT more complicated than any of the accounts I’ve yet encountered online. And the misconceptions around the case are quite telling, especially as they’re used to cast aspersion on this party or that. It’s taken me quite some time to try to piece things together, verify certain claims and discount others, and I have to admit that there remain a number of details I’ve yet to pin down. Perhaps putting this out there will help tie up loose ends.

Most readers are no doubt familiar with the Truth Hurts song&video —

As you probably know — given that the initial $500M lawsuit made some news — the filmi sample for “Addictive” comes from a song called “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai (Kaliyon Ka Chaman)” as composed by Bappi Lahiri, sung by the great Lata Mangeshkar, and featured in this scene in Jyoti (1981). That initial lawsuit was instigated by Saregama India Limited, a major film and music firm based in Kolkata which, presumably, owns the mechanical rights to Jyoti and its soundtrack. Later, the composer himself would also sue Dr. Dre & co. (“Addictive” was produced by DJ Quik for Dre, who exec produced the Truth Hurts album), for the more modest sum of slightly more than $1M. Both cases, predictably/typically, were settled out of court.

And yet, one bit of misinformation among others is the falsehood that Lata herself instigated a suit. Richard Roughinhere, for example, whose nu-whirled blog has become increasingly devoted to Bollywood, is unfortunately guilty of spreading that rumor when he wrote about hip-hop sampling B-wood a while back. Unlike MIA’s apparently licensed versions of filmi songs, Richard writes that “Addictive,”

was done without permission and resulted in a big law suit from Lata Mangeshkar, which I think is kind of unnecessary…but never mind.

Now, I appreciate Richard expressing his liberal opinion about sampling practices, but it doesn’t serve anyone — least of all a towering figure like Lata, who nonetheless (presumably) holds no rights for most of the 30,000+ (!) songs she recorded — to get the facts wrong when we’re talking about allegations of appropriation and exploitation.

[Update (7/14): Richard has been in touch, and I owe him an apology for the accusation above. He points out that there are several sources which seem to allege that Lata either sanctioned the lawsuit or was perhaps even party to it. I still need to see some more conclusive evidence (i.e., legal docs or Lata’s own words), but plenty of reporting and discussion on the web — thin as it is — does suggest that Lata might have, at the least, given her blessing to the lawsuit by Saregama. I’m eager to know whether she holds any rights to the recordings, or whether it’s a matter of pride / permission / “moral rights” for her.

Update II (7/14): I found one legal document pertaining to the case, from August 07. It names Lahiri and Saregama as plaintiffs (not Mangeshkar) and discusses the interesting fact, which the defense — for Universal / Interscope / Aftermath / Dre — attempted to use to its advantage, that the two parties (Lahiri and Saregama) each separately filed in early 03 for the US copyright to “Thoda Resham.” I have read in a few places that both claims were settled out of court. As late as fall of 07, however, the case was proceeding. Interestingly, a judge ruled that Lahiri did not appear, under Indian law, to own the copyright for “Thoda Resham” as recorded in Jyoti having signed that away long ago to Pramod Films, the production company which made the film and later sold these rights to Saregama. Given that ruling, I don’t see why UMG / Dre would settle with Lahiri except to put the thing to sleep.]

Another major source of confusion around this case is that another song, “Kaliyon Ka Chaman,” released the same year as “Addictive,” is sometimes identified as having refashioned the Lahiri composition first. Even though it’s an “interpolation” rather than a direct sample, in Indian parlance this “cover” version is known as a “remix.” Notably, “Kaliyon Ka Chaman” has stood at the center of some rather contentious local debates about the value/originality of “remixes” in India, inspiring such alarmist turns of phrase as “musical terrorism.”

A huge hit in India, “Kaliyon” helped to launch Meghna Naidu‘s buxom, er, career. Interestingly, like “Addictive,” it was distributed by Universal, which, oddly, decided to license the rights to “Thoda Resham” for “Kaliyon” in India while failing to do so for the Truth Hurts song:

Coincidentally, UMG’s foreign subsidiary Universal India sought and was granted permission to license the song for an unrelated use as a cover 12 days before Truthfully Speaking was released June 26, furthering the suit’s claim that “the defendants clearly and admittedly knew their activities were, and currently are, infringing on [Seragama’s] copyrighted work.”

A Universal Music Group spokesperson had no comment on the matter.

Here’s the video for “Kaliyon Ka Chaman.” Look familiar?

Sometimes people are pretty quick to point fingers. The person who posted the above to YouTube declares that Truth Hurts “ripped” the above “off” rather than vice versa. (Indeed, the video has been titled “truth hurts addictive kaaliyon ka chaman ripped off” — lest one miss the description.) Although I haven’t been able to verify the comparative release dates, I have to admit that I find it really implausible that the song&video for “Kaliyon” were not themselves directly influenced by the Truth Hurts production rather than vice versa. (Please, correct me on this point if you have any evidence.) There are several bits of circumstantial evidence that seem to affirm the “originality” of the Truth Hurts version, including that quotation above which notes that the Lata sample was cleared for “Kaliyon” only 12 days before Truth Hurts’s album was released (and well after her single had entered heavy rotation).

Let’s agree on this much (though I hope to confirm this soon, and I think the genealogy is obvious): the two songs and videos are so similar in structure and imagery that any thesis of independent emergence seems absurd. The choreographed Indian-inflected bellydancing, the shots panning up and down the bed, the same use of the same parts of the Lata song, the same overlayed drum patterns, the mutual use of melodies unrelated to the Lata original — all suggest that one came first.

Beyond the licensing timeline (and in the current absence of release dates for both), DJ Quik’s story about how he encountered and hooked-up the sample would seem to offer strong evidence that it was Jyoti rather than “Kaliyon” which inspired the making of “Addictive.” According to Kevin Miller, whose “Bolly’hood Remix” explores the practice of sampling Indian music in hip-hop,

DJ Quik first heard the Lata Mangeshkar song while watching the Hindi film Jyoti on Z-TV, and subsequently looped large sections into a framework over which the R&B lyrics were laid.

Elsewhere, Quik has described it himself in the following manner, which seems to square —

“I woke up one morning, … I turned on the TV and landed on this Hindi channel and just turned it up real loud,” Quik explained this past summer. “There was a commercial on, and I just got up and went into the bathroom and started brushing my teeth. I’m brushing, and before I knew it, I was grooving. … [The beat on the TV] was just in my body. I went back in there and looked at the TV — there was a girl on there bellydancing, just like real fly. So I pushed record on the VCR.”

Moreover, a blurb from March 02 about the making of the video suggests that the choreography and setting was, if cliche, also in its way “original” — a classic bit of US orientalism, conflating South Asia with the Middle East:

The video, directed by Philip Atwell (Real Slim Shady, Bad Intentions), complements the song’s East Indian sound with belly dancing choreographed by Fatima Robinson, and her body decorated with henna art.

And yet, if one checks the Wikipedia entries for “Addictive_(song)” or “Truth_Hurts” one finds the following text pasted, verbatim, into each article:

Though the original song, Lata Mangeshkar’s Thoda Resham Lagta Hai, was used as the main base of the track within the chorus, the modern-style beats, rhythm, melody and even the video was copied from the original remake (first version), UMI10’s Kaliyon Ka Chaman Jab Banta Hain featuring Meghna Naidu. This original remake was highly popular amongst the youths in South Asia, though it was almost non-existent within the West due to the language barrier. The first version was therefore only deemed popular to a specific niche market and culture. Although very little was changed to the original remake of the classic song, Truth Hurts’ version was more marketable for mainstream release and therefore became more popular internationally whilst the original remake wasn’t known to exist.

That’s a lazy bit of revisionism there, Media Research (if that’s your real name) — and offers no evidence to support its rather far-reaching claims. That this blurb now turns up in the descriptive texts for YouTube instantiations of these videos, and fuels ignorant debate which can spiral into nat’list&racist vitriol, is troubling to say the least.

Setting the record straight here is important, not least because misunderstandings about the (multi)direction(ality) of influence and borrowing and copying and ripping off can so quickly lead to charges of “cultural imperialism,” as Lahiri himself gave voice when bringing forth his lawsuit.

In an age of waning/maintaining Empire, such charges should not be taken lightly (that is, if we believe in cultural politics and understand how they can be linked to subjugation as well as subversion). Indeed, there is already enough to address w/r/t what Sunaina Maira would call the “imperial feelings” staged by “Addiction” and its video, without needing to discuss questions of international copyrights and wrongs.

The conflation of Arab / Middle Eastern symbols and the sounds/images of South Asia has been a common thread in hip-hop’s new millennial orientalism. Such careless, ethnocentric representations are problematic not least because they contribute to the kind of us/them discourse which subtly and powerfully dehumanizes people who can easily enough end up on the wrong side of a Blackwater scope. Or, to return to Kevin Miller’s analysis:

Other Indian elements—such as henna hand designs and head movements characteristically used in Indian dance—are freely mixed with Middle Eastern elements—most apparent in the profusion of belly dancing. An indulgent fantasy space is thus created through the collapsing of two or more distinct cultures—an action that denies an accurate reference to the geopolitical origins of the Mangeshkar sample, yet at the same time pays homage to the eclectic fantasy sequences so common to the Bollywood cinema.

Maira goes a step further in her work on bellydance in the US, concluding that

Belly dancing is seductive, not just because it is sensual or titillating, but because it lures viewers into a liberal Orientalism that evades the violence of U.S. penetration of the Middle East and assaults on Arabs and Muslims in the United States and taps into a larger, and quite pervasive, cultural imaginary of “un-free” Arab and Muslim women needing emancipation by Western modernity and “democracy” that is used to justify the War on Terror.

Maira’s critique would appear to apply to all instances of bellydancing in the US (at least by non-Arabs), regardless of how conflated Arab gestures may be with, say, Indian ones (or New Age ones for that matter). This is especially true since, as she argues, such mixtures are endemic: “The belly dancing subculture loosely mixes symbols and references to the Middle East, various parts of Asia, and Africa.” But before we rush to condemn Indian-accented bellydancing as, in itself, a form of orientalist conflation, we should note, as Maira herself does, that the story of bellydance is inherently one of international hybridity, with roots in the subcontinent among other places. Indeed, it is more significant that despite such hybridity — in the form’s historical formation as well as reinterpretation in the comtemporary US — bellydance is repeatedly, ironically, perniciously reduced to a symbol of an “ancient” Middle East:

… while belly dance is hybrid in its origins — variously linked to India, Egypt, North Africa, Central Asia, Turkey and the Levant — its reinvention as a putatively “ancient” Middle Eastern dance form in the West is significant becase it has continued to be a popular site where actual Middle Eastern or Arab individuals step out of public view.

It’s worth noting, in this light — at least in defense of the dancing in “Addictive” — that the routine cooked up by choreographer Fatima Robinson for Truth Hurts, which certainly seems to my eyes to offer a mix of Arab & Indian movements and postures (however stereotypical), has direct precedent in the scene from Jyoti which included “Thoda Resham” and which DJ Quick taped from the TV. I confess that I know little about the history or forms of bellydance in India, but I think the dancer/actress in Jyoti, Aruna Irani (herself of Iranian-Indian heritage), actually is bellydancing (if with an Indian accent). Her routine may be a hodgepodge, as a lot of bellydancing is, but it certainly seems to contain elements related to bellydance — at least to my amateur eyes (expert opinions welcome).

[Update: while reading Nabeel Zuberi’s informative article “Sampling South Asian Music” this morning (12 July), I encountered the following, albeit brief, affirmation of the use of Arab forms in Jyoti: “DJ Quik’s account is testament to Bollywood’s exotic fascination with Arab culture…”]

So despite that one critique of the Truth Hurts video is its conflation of such (presumably “ethnically” / nationally distinct?) things as henna and bellydance — not unlike Erick Sermon rapping about scooping up “an Arabic chick” over a filmi sample — the Indian-accented bellydance in the Truth Hurts video (just see the image at the top of this post), which appears to have inspired rather similar moves in “Kaliyon Ka Chaman,” is not itself necessarily a particularly American invention.

Opposing US military/economic imperialism is one thing; opposing US hip-hop producers’ forays into “foreign” territory is another (despite parallels to US bellydance). Bracketing (for now) a discussion of Lahiri’s own “sampling” practices, is the composer right to charge “cultural imperialism”? For Chris Fitzpatrick, a former features editor @ popmatters, it would seem so. In an article on “Addictive” penned for the website, Fitzpatrick advances an overbearing but by no means invalid critique of hip-hop orientalism in the would-be New American Century. But he undercuts his argument by voicing a bit of paternalistic orientalism of his own, playing preservationist for the pure, pristine, and timeless traditions of the East (/Third World). Writing about hip-hop’s orientalist producers (e.g., Timbo, Dre, E.Double, R.Kels), Fitzgerald argues that —

They set imperialism to a new bass-heavy beat, claiming traditional “third world” art forms as hot commodities.

The aural and visual epitome of this “new beat” is the Henna-soaked music video entitled “Addictive” by Truth Hurts, featuring Rakim. DJ Quik produced the song, sampling traditional Hindi music. Although the track is centered on sounds from India, the video features choreographed belly dancing: a Middle Eastern dance form. This odd combination is indicative of a typically totalizing Western mentality: India, the Middle East, what’s the difference? The entire “third world” is one big backwards and “underdeveloped” wasteland, right? Wrong, but such assumptions are embedded into every note, chant, beat, image, and dance in “Addictive,” relying on the romantic notion that the Middle East and India are inherently mystical and sexy, as if everyone studies the Kama Sutra, practices Tantric Sex, rides magic carpets, and belly dances naked in the moonlight.

While the video’s “exoticism” may seem exciting to the average Westerner, who’s more used to grinding and grabbing on the dance floor, it comes with imperialist undertones. “Addictive” paints a Westernized Middle East, offering a luxurious palace-turned-nightclub, full of beautiful models slinking and gyrating sexily on the dance floor, in “ethnic,” sequined costumes and Henna.

Bollywood may indeed be “traditional Hindi music” in its way (and draws on what might rightly be called “traditional” Indian music of all kinds), but not in the way that Fitzgerald imagines or projects here. “Assumptions,” you say? “Chants,” eh?

The question arises: If it’s not so clear-cut that the direction of influence / appropriation / exploitation / representation is a one-way (East–>West) street, how do we proceed with any conversation about musical/cultural value that grapples honestly with the question of cross-cultural exchange?

I ask because charges of cultural imperialism — whether overblown, reflexive, or sincere — can distract us from some of the more positive politics of culture on both sides of the fence (you make a border real by policing it). In these cases above, and in those below (just wait), we can hear — in addition to rehashed stereotypes — examples of what we might consider “convivial appropriation,” attempts to take part in global modernity (and local multiculture) by expressing a cosmopolitan orientation, to demonstrate open-minded, up-to-the-time tastes, all the time vibing ineluctably — I’m afraid — with the shimmer of difference under advanced global/gunboat capitalism. This is as true in LA as Bombay — sorry, Mumbai (which raises the question, shouldn’t we be calling it Mollywood now?). To put it another way, per Michael Taussig, we can hear&see in “Addictive,” “Kaliyon Ka Chaman,” and even in “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai,” the power of mimesis to “explore difference, yield into and become Other.”

Although an argument about musical mimesis — whether we want to call it copying, allusion, or influence — arguably extends to all instances of performance and production, it merits emphasis that in genres such as hip-hop and filmi the incorporation of previously recorded riffs, rhythms, and all manner of musical material is especially essential to the creative process and often crucial to the production of meaning in moments of reception.

Dancehall too. Many readers are no doubt familiar with yet another recent use of “Thoda Resham” — and, like “Kaliyon Ka Chaman,” one inspired directly by “Addictive”: the Bollywood riddim, aka “The Indian” as it was known in Jamaica, a place where East Indians have been a visible minority since the L19C. One review of the riddim notes that its appearance accompanied several other eastward-looking productions (a trend that I discuss in a piece I penned a few years back for XLR8R on Jamaica and the War on Terror):

“Bollywood” is a great bouncing riddim, actually Computer Paul’s JA rub from “Addictive”, the worldwide hit by Truth Hurts, which was produced by DJ Quick from the Dr Dre camp. Musician Paul “Computer Paul” Henton has used a sample of “Kalyon Ka Chaman” sung by Lata Mangeshkar and has also added an indian-like riddim drum pattern in order to keep up with trendy dancehall riddims like for example “Tabla”, “The Return” and “Diwali”.

There’s actually a lot more going on in Computer Paul’s / In The Streetz’s “rub” of “Addictive” than the addition of an “indian-like riddim drum pattern” (whatever that means — it actually sounds more like a stripped-down version of the percussion lines in both “Addictive” / “Thoda Resham”), including a wheezy synth line, a buzzy bass (giving it that ol’ 3+3+2 bomp-bomp), and the kind of layered variation one expects with post-millennial riddims. And when one takes into account the various other songs, melodies, & texts alluded to by the artists who “voiced” the riddim, this is — par for the course — one deeply intertextual production. As is typical for riddims these days, the Bollywood supported around 2 dozen official/sanctioned voicings, including such local hits as Beenie Man & Robyn’s “Red Red Red” (which interpolates as it critiques Khia’s “My Neck, My Back“) and, my fave, Tanya Stevens’s, “Addicted” — an obvious nod to the Truth Hurts song (and perhaps a bit of counteraction to Truth Hurts’s sometimes submissive lyrics) which includes some wonderfully assertive innuendo about men who brag about their prowess yet “cannot pitch a tent.” But I digress.

Back to filmi. No one well acquainted with the filmi tradition would deny that it too is an inherently intertextual genre, and composers have long drawn from local folk, classical, and pop music as well as the folk, classical, and pop traditions of the wider world. One favorite of mine, an example that I often use when teaching classes about Bollywood/filmi, is “Engal Kalyanam” (from Worlds of Music, a textbook I once used), which alternates between obvious rock’n’roll tropes and more local sections and includes Woody Woodpecker’s trademark® laugh as a recurring interjection —
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/EngalKalyanam.mp3]

As I reported last summer, after a great overview of the “musical bondage” between Bollywood diva Asha Bhosle and her husband, composer RD Burman, one of the presenters, Shuchi Kothari, was quick to point out — when asked whether hip-hop appropriations of Bollywood were more “ignorant” than vice versa — that Burman was quite “cavalier” in his borrowings. And the same could be said for just about any Bollywood composer.

Lahiri is no exception. Indeed, this page details but a few of his many, many “borrowings” from the likes of Beethoven, Barbara Streisand, Boy George, and Beverly Hills Cop, to name a few beginning with B. (Interesting, innit, that in all the discussions of MIA covering the filmi hit “Jimmy Jimmy” few mention that Lahiri “borrowed” liberally from a Canadian disco group for the “original.”)

Given the degree of intertextuality in Bollywood, and the craze for “remixes” (i.e., covers), it is perhaps of no surprise that other composers attempted to capitalize on the success and resonance of “Kaliyon Ka Chaman.” (And, lest we forget, so did Lahiri, rather forgettably.)

A Kannada-language film called Rakta Kanneeru, for instance, includes a song called “Ee Deshadali Karunaadu Ide” which quite obviously and audibly takes its cues from “Kaliyon Ka Chaman” (and hence from the Truth Hurts and Lata versions as well). Perhaps predictably, given the degree of “derivation,” some viewers/listeners do not regard it very highly and accuse the director, Sadhu Kokila, of the same sort of “blatant” “copying” as Dre/Quik. As posted on a Kannada-centric messageboard (note, interestingly, the assumption that Meghna Naidu’s version is itself an unauthorized remix.):

Innu blatant copies irbekaadre intha chikka putta songs na bittbidbeku :)

Another example –

Kaliyon ka chaman by Lata ==>
Silently stolen by Dr. Dre to make Truth Hurts ==>
Back to unauthorized remix in Hindi featuring Meghna Naidu ==>
“Ee Deshadali Karunaadu Ide” … Terrible song in Raktha Kanneru by Sadhu Kokila

Judge for yourself. Here’s that one — a clear rip-off of a clear rip-off of a clear rip-off, right?

Listen to Raktha Kanneeru – kannada Audio Songs at MusicMazaa.com

As I hope I’ve been able to show to this point, setting the record straight — or telling the story right — is important not just b/c of charges of imperialism or orientalism and their implications, but b/c of our very understanding of commonplace cultural practice, especially in the age of mechanical/digital reproducibility.

Given this state of affairs, I’d like to recuperate the idea of “copying.” Sometimes in copyright/left/wrong conversations “borrowing” starts to feel like a euphemism, especially when we’re talking about digital sampling. So let’s call a spade a spade, but more than that, let’s use the more inclusive term, for it is true that sampling and recomposition each constitute, in their own ways, direct forms of copying. One may seem more “exact” to certain observers because of the way it approximates the sound of the original at such an infinitesimal level of detail. But they are both uses of rather precise, powerful technologies (digital sampling and “Western” notation) to do essentially the same thing: to recontextualize a previous performance for a new creation. Indeed, along these lines, it’s interesting that the term remix refers to this very process — making new, audibly, from old — in both “teh West” (and the wider world) as well as in India, though in the former(s) as a result of sampling and in the latter via recomposition / rearrangement.

A lot of this is, of course, nothing more than mental hand-wringing. For despite the occasional chilling effect brought on by a lawsuit, culture continues to make copies. Or to put it another way, people do. Copying and transforming cultural forms — sometimes (often?) just by making a bad copy — is not simply commonplace but crucial, and our world is richer and funnier and more connected (intertextually, symbolically, even socially) for it.

The advent and mainstreaming of the mashup is a prime example of how copying continues unabated and takes still more ostentatious forms because of the magic of binary code (0s and 1s are waaaay easy to cut’n’paste). So isn’t it fitting that a (presumably Indian?) bloke who calls himself DJ Brown Fiyah (a layered, appropriative name in its own right) mashed together “Kalion Ka Chaman” and Usher’s “Yeah” —

Or — look ma, an analog “appropriation”! — what about this blazing new joint from Maga Bo, which ended up in my inbox earlier in the week and, wouldn’t you know, opens with a pretty familiar vocal melody (which has nothing to do with Lata, btw; it’s all Truth Hurts, and yes it turns up in “Kaliyon Ka Chaman” too) —

Both examples above are, I submit, rather clear instances of how people use recognizable bits of “foreign” / global culture to articulate something new — and, notably, something locally meaningful which nonetheless can resonate in the wider world.

Just culture at work here, people. Plain and simple Rich and complex.

But in case your sense of injustice is still seething, perhaps in sympathy to Lata Mangeshkar, who, if anyone, is perhaps the artist most deeply uncompensated in all of this (not that she’s doing too badly, all things considered), allow me to pose a commonsensical counterfactual: how much do you think Stevie Wonder should sue for Lata for her performance on “Aate Jaate Hanste Gaate” (from Maine Pyar Kiya [1989])?
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/AateJaate.mp3]

It’s a silly question, isn’t it. Not least of which because Stevie and Lata are both quite well-off. But the example gets us back, yet again, to one of the most troubling aspects of all this: the tendency for people to couch their (often ignorant) criticisms in value-laden double standards. The Wikipedia page for Maine Pyar Kiya, for example, currently reads:

The opening track, Aate Jaate, is said to have been inspired by Stevie Wonder’s 1984 single, I Just Called to Say I Love You, while the track Mere Rang Mein Rangne Wali was directly inspired by Swedish rock band Europe’s 1986 single, The Final Countdown and theme from Love Story’s Where Do I Begin. The track Antakshri was a medley of various Bollywood songs based on the Antakshari game, which was popularized with this film’s release. The remaining tracks, including the popular Dil Deewana, were original compositions.

“Said to have been inspired by”? Really? Is that level of vague attribution not a little odd in such an audibly obvious case? I mean, I guess if you put it that way (who “said,” btw?), that’s not, like, copying at all. But please explain, given this wording, how other instances of “borrowing” on the soundtrack can be described as “directly inspired by” (my emph) or a “medley of” or, even, “original”?!? There is a spurious sort of double standard at play here, which is one reason I’m so interested in the particular, tangly, but in many ways representative & suggestive case of “Addictive.”

As a sidenote, tho — incidentally but not insignificantly — I am very pleased to be better acquainted with all of these tracks, including the one I’ve used for the title of this post, as well as Europe’s over-the-top synth anthem and the filmi track that combines the two —
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/MereRang.mp3]

Yes, there are structural/financial issues at issue here and I’m far from an apologist for imperialists or capitalists, but these lawsuits and biased Wiki edits are not going to correct anything. It’s the latter that cause me more concern. I’m happy to let rich people sue the pants off each other. Who cares? I take issue more strongly with the sticky memes of originality and ownership projected so strongly by the plaintiffs of such suits. They propagate notions of “intellectual property” (a bad idea to copy, IMO) wholly out of step with cultural — indeed, intellectual — practice. They favor certain notions of musical labor or process or value that primarily or exclusively benefit themselves (and often hypocritically at that).

Truth hurts.

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July 10th, 2008

linkthink#2931: On the Radio

videyoga :: (via)

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July 2nd, 2008

Sticky! Sha3kira Ma3shup & “Arab Face”

Really enjoying the discussion on that sha3bi post — please help keep it going if ur so inclined. This post is mainly a way of bringing that discussion “to the top” but I might as well share a related find…

It’s not embeddable, but this video mashup of a sha3bi song and a Shakira/Beyonce vid is pretty awesome in its way. Serves the girls right for putting on “Arab Face” (pdfs are [still] the new mp3s) and busting some “bellydance” moves (see, e.g., 2:50 — are those hieroglyphics?).

I wonder, tho, whether this is an ironic appropriation? I guess I’ll ask fantomme.

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June 30th, 2008

linkthink #8233: Time Passes and Things Look Different

videyoga ::

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June 27th, 2008

8 Mile on the Nile

In my sha3bi searches last night I came across all kinds of odd & awesome stuff. And I don’t say ‘odd’ as an uninformed outsider (though I am one, relatively speaking), but b/c some of the cha3bi vids one finds are truly bizarre mashups of footage ranging from what looks like a Francophone African music video (Reunion? really?) to clips from Tom&Jerry —

But one of the best things I came across is a video of a more traditional — indeed, acoustic — mulid street performance than the soundsystem-propelled events portrayed in Jennifer Peterson’s article. According to the uploader, this depicts “men whoop[ing] it up on the streets of Al Hussein [Cairo]” in a post-mulid mood. One can certainly see connections to the recent/remix version of mulid/inshad/sha3bi, though one also gets to see/hear the improvised poetry a bit more, which inspires one commenter to call it “8 Mile on the Nile ;)” — watch the MC with the frame drum step up around 1:12:

The other thing I find uncanny about this clip — given the way that “ghettotech” has emerged in “nu-world” discourse — is how the call-response chants from 0:47 to 1:07 sound pretty much exactly like several ghetto-tech/-house/juke tracks. I don’t know what they’re saying (sounds like “yeah yeah”), but it would mix very well with any number of tracks that anchor themselves with a repeated “uh oh!” or “hold up!”
Hold up wait a minute – DJ Chip

I know I’ve used it before, but, that said, I can’t resist ending with this gif —

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June 26th, 2008

Not Too Sha3bi?

Thx to my man Motaz, an Egyptian/Cairovian musician and activist currently residing in Cambridge, for pointing me to Jennifer Peterson’s excellent article —

     Sampling Folklore: The re-popularization of Sufi inshad in Egyptian dance music

— which not only, beyond some linkthink, merits a post of its own here (for a few reasons), but inspires some further thinking re: the whole whirled debate we’ve been having (which I’ll get to in a moment).

First, what I like about the article: the content. Peterson offers a richly contextualized (if awkwardly “scare-quoted”) portrait of the mulid remix scene — a Cairo-based circuit of bedroom production and street/soundsystem dance which reanimates the Sufi inshad tradition for an urban youth audience. I confess to knowing relatively little about sha’bi (alt., sha3bi / shaabi / shabbi / cha3bi / etc.) or baladi, though I’ve always got my ears perked & eyes peeled for any kind of musical-cultural phenom that brings together computers, giant stacks of speakers, time-honored traditions, and street dance.

Not only does Peterson offer a fascinating history and contemporary account of mulid/inshad and its relationship to pop/dance music in Egypt, she bolsters her account with some great audio and video examples — something that music journals are pretty (remarkably) slow to do in their migration online. Props to Arab Media & Society for supporting such a multimedia, widely accessible form of publication. They will be a better read and referenced and respected journal for doing so. (Though, I have to confess that my own jury’s out on whether their “peer-reviewed” commitment is retrograde or not — I understand what they mean, and I’m sure it’s useful for certain academics competing for status and resources, but I’d argue that “peer-review” on the internet is another thing entirely.)

Check the article for the examples, which are better encountered in the context of Peterson’s narrative. But do permit me to embed a couple awesome clips of mulid-related dancing —

What strikes my admittedly outsider eyes most about these is the presence of familiar figures — dance moves that would look more recognizable if the guy in the green were wielding a glowstick rather than a knife: sufi trance meets psy-trance…

This mulid remix scene is undeniably, as the practitioners themselves dub it, “haaaaaardcooooore” (gaaaaaaaaaaamid) and would hence seem to fit rather well into the global g-tech constellation, the ruffneck “nu world” music that constitutes a recurring concern on this here blog and others on the ‘osphere. And yet, I’ll be surprised to see mulid remixes, or sha3bi more generally, start to turn up with any frequency on hipster muxtapes.

I’m not sure exactly why that is, though I have a nagging feeling it has to do with race. It’s conspicuous that so many of the genres that have found favor among the bloggers and DJs and tastemakers and downloaders associated with this nu-whirl biz — funk carioca, kuduro, cumbia, reggaeton, dancehall, kwaito, coupe decale — are marked, implicitly or explicitly, as black. They’re either Afrodiasporic (“New World” innit) or straight-up African (of course, extricating the two is downright impossible at this point — see, e.g., kwaito). And this is something I was trying to get at with my “coinage” of “global ghettotech” — i.e., that race as much as class is a prevailing dimension of our engagement with these genres.

That’s not problematic in itself, I hasten to add, for aligning oneself / identifying with the struggles and triumphs of the black poor of the world is an obvious thing to do. But all this talk of “global,” of “world,” starts to seem like a crock when we look at the actual genres that accrue cachet. Where are the Asian, Middle Eastern, or even European standard bearers for the global proles, if that’s what we’re repping? (Or are we repping something else?) Sure, we may talk from time to time of Belgian jumpstyle or Malaysian shuffle, but when we look at the mp3s we share and play in our DJ sets and radio shows, the skewed representation is clear. So what’s the deal? Is it merely a matter of New World blackness retaining a certain resonance (for a variety of reasons, some more insidious)? Or is there a special sort of xenophobia operating here? Or both or neither? I’m more curious than rhetorical on this point.

After reading Peterson’s article I wrote to Jace/Rupture, who offers one of the more longstanding examples — among the usual suspects — of a DJ/blogger/middlemang based in the US/Europe digging for and sharing and grappling with and spinning/mixing/mashing Arab music. Considering the uptake that his cumbia blogging has received, I wondered how his forays into Maghrebi territory compared, online or in da club. His reply —

i would love it if when i
blog/play maghrebi + berber stuff it rcvd a similar blogospherical
echo as w/ the cumbia/etc … but it simply hasnt happened

Which is basically what I expected him to say.

I’m not sure quite what to make of it, but as someone who likes to make a lot — perhaps even make a living — on making mountains of meaning from molehills of music, I wonder what the world would be like (sound like?) if we could embrace the sha3bi remix scene like we embrace lots of other remix scenes. Could we, in doing so, remix our ideas about Muslim societies and cultural practices? Remix our foreign policy? Remix ourselves?

If it would prove persuasive, I’d say that Muslim is the new black, but I’d hardly be the first.

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June 26th, 2008

linkthink #813: Travel Agency

videyoga ::


Bees In The Key of A from brynmore on Vimeo.

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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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