Archive of posts tagged with "traxx"

January 26th, 2010

Panamanian Reggae Rabbit Holes

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

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

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

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June 29th, 2009

Pop Goes the World

There’s little I can add to all the tributes and reflections gumming up the web these days, but like so many others I feel compelled to say something. Inspired even. I found Andrew Sullivan’s and Jeff Chang’s posts pretty resonant, Jason King’s too, among others, and I’ve been particularly struck by all the MJ music I’ve been hearing in the street and on the radio — and especially all the callers explaining to DJs how his passing feels like losing a family member.

Of course (of course?!), my experience of sharing the loss and the joyous, deeply-embodied memories of his music has probably been most strongly textured by Twitter, where I hardly needed a hashtag to hear from dozens of friends and “friends” about the man we all knew and loved (despite his serious problems). Many have made mention of the Twitter effect on MJ’s death — not to mention MJ’s effect on Twitter. Sasha Frere-Jones noted the irony in turning the radio off and letting the TV sit dormant while he and James Murphy’s people received and tapped out tweets on their phones and laptops. Ethan Zuckerman, who wrote a script to track Twitter activity (post-Moldova and the like), announced on Thursday night that 15% of all tweets were about Michael Jackson, a remarkable statistic given that he’d never seen Iran or swine flu top 5% (others have placed MJ’s footprint at 30%, though Ethan offers some important qualifications here).

I admit that it was pretty surreal “watching” MJ die via Twitter. One tweet it was cardiac arrest maybe, a few more speculated wildly, the stuff of rumor: a coma? stopped breathing? There were a couple dreadful say-it-aint-so’s, and then, before long, the news was pouring in, confirmed, unbelievable but not surprising.

Weird as it was initially, though, it quickly turned cathartic — in a beautiful way — as disbelief morphed into something more like eulogy and second-line at the same time and the “digital bouquets” began piling up. What was especially mindboggling, as I settled into a several hour face-to-face listening session with some friends, was the knowledge, repeatedly suggested by my phone, that millions of us (a wild extrapolation, I know) were listening to Michael Jackson’s music at the same time. A realization that made me wonder aloud whether anything like it had ever happened before in the history of world culture.

I suspect not — for Michael Jackson is a sui generis pop star, unrivaled in popularity (never mind Lennon’s claim to be “bigger than Jesus,” MJ just might), who, beyond his remarkable talents as a singer, dancer, and songwriter, happened to come of age at just the right moment in global media, a moment that may not ever be reproduced. In a piece published last Friday, Jody Rosen hits the nail:

Weeping for Michael, we are also mourning the musical monoculture—the passing of a time when we could imagine that the whole country, the whole planet, was listening to the same song.

Though that era may be over and the mainstream dissolved “into a trillion scattered data-bites,” at least on Thursday night and Friday, and to some extent through the weekend and still today, that’s kinda what it feels like, as if we’re all listening to the same thing. Not one song, but one artist’s oeuvre is suffusing soundscapes the world over in a manner that can only be unprecedented and seems unlikely to happen again. (But go ahead, make me myopic.)

I guess my relationship to MJ and his music is not unlike others of my generation. I know many of his songs by heart. A Victory Tour ’84 poster hung on our bedroom wall. Had a birthday cake with his face emblazoned on it sometime in the mid-80s. Wore a pin with his Thrillery face on it back when I was 8 (a tweeted remembrance that found itself in SFJ’s NYer post).

Michael Jackson was incredibly awesome and deeply flawed, and so was his music. He produced a bewildering number of absolutely flawless songs, don’t get me wrong, but he’s also responsible for some of the schlockiest, heavy-handedest pop ever crafted (as well as plenty of unremarkable clunkers). He practically invented the modern r&b power ballad, complete with gospel/kids choir and gear changes run amok (not a good look, IMO), so much so that soca star Machel Montano, mourning his loss, erroneously included R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” (“I Can’t Believe It’s Not MJ?”) among Jackson’s anthems.

I’ve actually been a little surprised that I haven’t (yet) seen many Michael Jackson remixes and DJ sets making the rounds. Perhaps people have been too busy remembering in real time. So I was glad to see Hank Shocklee ask people to send some his way. I did a little digging and a little on-the-fly warping and I came up with a trio of tracks, one made by me, that offer some new angles on ol’ MJ, transposing him into house, jungle, and reggae —

     * Masters At Work’s remix of “Rock With You” (mp3 | YouTube)
     * DJ C’s remix of Shinehead’s cover of “Billie Jean” (mp3)
     * and my own mix’n’mash of MJ’s “Billie Jean” vox + Sly & Robbie’s “Billie Jean” riddim (mp3)

My own effort is a lot more slapdash than the sophisticated, detailed productions by MAW and DJ C. More mashup than meticulous. What I’ve done is added the acapella from “Billie Jean” to Sly and Robbie’s slinky reggae version of that song’s instrumental (actually, it’s just one of their versions — they also support the Shinehead cover that DJ C remixes, as it happens). I’ve applied a little delay and other bits of digital manipulation to MJ’s voice, hoping to estrange a little so well-worn a performance, and I’ve cut and pasted some chunks of the riddim around to maintain the right harmonic motion at points where they diverged.

While we’re on the subject of remixes and the like — or, of how Michael Jackson’s very public presence inspires waves of activity across public culture — it’s worth noting that there’s also already been a corrido composed in his honor:

MJ’s reign as global pop king is perhaps still ungraspable. Thomas Friedman-esque anecdotes only go so far. We need greater data, quantitative and qualitative, and more local histories of his presence and influence and resonance. Emma Baulch noted on the IASPM listserv that “In Indonesia, Bad and Dangerous were more successful than Thriller, in terms of official sales.” But she pointed out that this fails to account for pirated sales (and, I’d add, other forms of informal / non-commercial circulation).

Of course, there may be no better bizarro embodiment of MJ’s global reach than those memetastic Filipino inmates doing their pitchframe-perfect re-enactment of the “Thriller” video. Then again, we should bear in mind that the Philippines is perhaps something of a special case.

Given all this activity, not to mention the reports of off-the-charts sales in the wake of his death, I do wonder how we would begin to take measure of such a thing as Michael Jackson’s global popularity. How do we get a grasp on the actual immensity of the event? What do we know, for example, about MJ’s YouTube views? — & not only on the thousands of instantiations of his songs and videos that fans have uploaded but even on the handful of tracks that sampled his songs and also have become shrines of sorts?

Speaking of shrines, which indubitably contain a range of images of the man (as this post itself does), I have to note that when I think of MJ, I seem to picture him as the blur in between the black and the white, the lean mean singing-and-dancing machine and the media freakshow, the unbelievably awesome and the transmogrified tragic. Having first grown up with his music and later grappled with him as an embodiment of American racial imagination, I still have more questions than answers. And one of the most notorious questions is the one posed over 20 years ago by Greg Tate: What’s Wrong With Michael Jackson?

Upon reading Tate’s piece again, I wonder how much the man (in the mirror) was precisely that: a cipher upon which we read the twisted American story in growing contortion, progressive disfigurement, a grotesque from which we could not, cannot, turn our heads. A sad story, to be sure. But a narrative that, as Michael showed as well as anyone else, leaves plenty room for improvisation and for (occasional) transcendence.

This was my initial, and remains my lingering, impression on the death of Michael Jackson —

And I’ll leave it there for now. Thx for letting us rock with you for so long. So long…

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June 19th, 2009

Well-Tempered (& Notso) Sounds for Baby

As can be imagined, I give a lot of thought to the soundscapes my two daughters soak in, especially when so much of it is structured by me — at home, in the car, or anywhere else I can plug my iPod/Phone, whistle a tune, or bang out a rhythm.

When I’m selecting a kind of background music, something to inject a little colorful noise into our home, I tend to draw on particular playlists I’ve put together. These are labeled, for better or worse (I know there are categorical / ontological problems with these, but let’s set those aside for now):

baby-music-perse: id est, per se; baby music qua baby music; kids songs; sing-alongs
baby-music-tonal: baroque, classical, romantic, minimalist
baby-music-weird: whale song, Indonesian jaw harp, Ghanaian “honk horn”
baby-music-worldy: mostly traditional music from SE Asia, Africa (N and S), Middle East

I also draw heavily on folders labeled things like jamaican-jazz, electronic-fun, ambient-music, technos, all-gamelan, and so forth. Mostly instrumentals, or some foriegn language vocals; very little, if any, English language. (I tend to find English vox distracting, hence not as easily “ambient” as I want.)

As I mentioned way back when, I’m concerned with exposing my children to as wide a range of musical forms and aesthetics and tonalities and ontologies (what is music?) as possible. And I do feel some need to foreground non-Western music given how inevitably “Western” so much of what they hear elsewhere tends to be. I’m not joking when I say that I don’t want their hearing to be “ruined” by too much (Western) tonality. And so I’m careful to balance Mozart with mbira, Bach with Bali; indeed, never mind balance, I’m hoping to submerge the so-called “common practice” “canon” in the vast oceans of the music of the world.

What has been interesting, however, is the discovery that I actually find myself gravitating frequently toward baby-music-tonal, which may take liberties in its interpretation of “tonal” (putting Riley and Reich and Rachel’s alongside Bach and Chopin) but remains fairly anchored in what we might (as well) call “Western tonality.”

I think it has a lot to do with the mellowness of solo piano stuff (won’t wake the kids!), though I have to admit that — as much as I seek to counter the influence of Western art music and think Mozart-for-Babies is a bunch of bullshit — I am also a believer in the potential effects of (slowly, somewhat subconsciously) comprehending the often wonderfully symmetrical (and asymmetrical) forms so powerfully modeled by something like Bach’s fugues (or his Goldberg Variations, which, in the form of Glenn Gould’s landmark 1955 recording, kicks-off the playlist). I am persuaded — or inclined to believe — that hearing and listening to such forms and retracing them in one’s mind might help to build all kinds of conceptual bridges. Good grist for the mind’s mill. Can’t hurt anyway, I don’t think — at least not in the healthy company of all kinds of other forms.

Given this apparent predilection — as well as my boom-bap leanings — I was delighted to hear that Mad EP, a fine cellist and beatsmith (and hence a fan of Bach & Shostakovich as well as Dilla & FlyLo), not to mention a devoted dad, recently put together 24 Breakbeats, one for every major & minor key. Stream or download here; & share it with the kids (of all ages) —

I definitely want to share some of my favorite baby/kid music here in the near future. There are some truly striking and beautiful songs in those playlists, most of which go well beyond the typical w&w fare. (I also listen to “acoustic” music! SRSLY) Perhaps a mix of some sort is in order. It’d be the sort of thing, like Ripley’s recent & radical contribution to the repertory, that would hardly scream “kids” and might, I would hope, work in a variety of settings and for young & old alike.

Also: still very much open to recommendations! The last round bore some sweet fruit.

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April 21st, 2009

One Song

Sick of that “One Love”? Try this one —
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/who-one.mp3]

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April 3rd, 2009

A La Plenísima

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

                    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     RUFF DAD ft VYBZ KARTEL & SPICES REMIX.mp3
     [audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/RUFF_DAD_ft_VYBZ_KARTEL_SPICES_REMIX.mp3]

     tommy real-atados.mp3
     [audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/tommy_real-atados.mp3]

     SCAREDEM FISH feat SUPPOSE —- ESTAN DEAD.mp3
     [audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/SCAREDEM_FISH_feat_SUPPOSE_—-_ESTAN_DEAD.mp3]

     EL_HOMBRE_INDICADO_-_CARAMEL.mp3
     [audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/EL_HOMBRE_INDICADO_-_CARAMEL.mp3]

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

                    

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

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

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March 7th, 2009

Covers, Blurbs, y Otras Traducciones

Amazing how an Amazon link makes our book finally feel real. (Pre-orders in teh house!)

And though they don’t have any imgs yet, I’m happy to report that I do, and — having lobbied HARD for this particular photo by Miguel Luciano to grace our cover — I’m thrilled to share it with y’all:



On the other hand side, I may be as excited about the back cover as the front, since we were able to land such luminary thinkers and wordsmiths re: music and race and nation as Jeff Chang, Mark Anthony Neal, Juan Flores, and Residente (!).


Since I’m in a sharing mood, here’s a pdf of an article by Flores that makes a wonderful argument about diaspora “as source and challenge” what with its many “cultural remittances” “from below.” (Incidentally, Centro is offering many more pdfs at their site; see, e.g., the 2004 issue on “Rican Structing Roots / Routes,” from which this piece comes.)

Flores’s narrative centers on salsa and rap, but I’ve found the thesis utterly illuminating wrt reggaeton (as readers of my chapter in the book will see) —

>> Flores, Juan. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro Journal 16, no. 2 (2004): 282-93.

& while I’m at it, here are two excerpts featured on a relatively recent Tego mixtape (almost a year old now, actually). I offer these up as each wonderful examples of how reggaeton “works,” if you will, consistent with the rich remix/reference culture that it is.

The first is a reworking of Fabolous’s unavoidable track from last year (and/or 2007), “Make Me Better” (incidentally, is it just me or does that central string motif sound awfully close to a recurring bit from the Lost score?). We hear here, among other things, how reggaeton artists — just as their “underground” bredren did in the 1990s — continue to version contemporary US/urban pop, translating and transforming the sounds that surround us:

>> Tego Calderón (feat. De La Ghetto), “Tú Me Haces Sentir”*
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/Tego-Tu-Me-Haces-Sentir.mp3]

As you hear toward the end there, that track leads into a rowdy cumbia parody (sounding remarkably similar to a Manu Chao song in the chorus). I like how it shows reggaeton’s ability to incorporate / allude to other genres — and the “cultural work” inherent to such (re)figurations — not to mention how it shows off reggaeton’s (and Tego’s) sense of humor, with El Negro Calde putting on an extra coarse accent for “realism”:

>> Tego Calderón, “El Hijo’e Puta Sin Saludar”*
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/Tego-El-Hijo-Puta-Sin-Saludar.mp3]

* for some reason, the tracks above sound distorted when listened to through the player; click on the song titles to hear more clearly.

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February 12th, 2009

But Siriusly, Folks…Back to Work!

You may have heard, somewhere in the background perhaps, that Muzak filed for bankruptcy.

Here’s an MOR-perspective podcast about it, bordering on inanity —

A better use of your time & in the pdf-blog spirit, here’s a musicological analysis, written 20 yrs ago (!) by me ol’ advisor —

     >> Radano, Ronald M. 1989. “Interpreting Muzak: Speculations on Musical Experience in Everyday Life,” American Music, 7, pp. 448-460.

& here’s a track I made 10 years ago (!) called “Elevator Hip-hop”; it samples the Beach Boys —
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/music/elevator-hip-hop.mp3]

this is that same track, bit-crunched & chopped & dancehall’d up —
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/music/elevator-click-hop.mp3]

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January 31st, 2009

All Your Bass Are Belong To Us

I promised to post about “raveyton” a long time ago, and twice. A recent ghettobassquake post serves as a fine reminder. Noting that reggaeton synths have been “sliding into more Trancedelic wave forms,” Sñr Vamanos acknowledges that “[d]ramatic synths have been there for a while.”

Sin duda! Working in an utterly omnivorous genre, reggaeton producers were waaaay ahead of the trans-regional trancehall curve.

Allow me to offer an excerpt from my chapter in the forthcoming reggaeton book (pre-orders available!) which describes the turn toward synths — even if often samples of synths — among late 90s underground/dembow/reggae/ton producers:

Around the same time the genre was becoming known by a new name, the music had begun to accrue several of the stylistic features that propel today’s radio-friendly, club-ready confections. The advent of new music production technologies, in particular synthesizer and sequencer software, has a great deal to do with this shift in sound. Programs such as Fruity Loops, with telltale “pre-set” sounds and effects, served to expand and change the sonic palettes of reggaeton producers. In part because such programs were often initially developed as tools for techno producers, the genre started to move away from reggae and hip-hop samples and toward futuristic synths, cinematic strings, bombastic effects, and (especially just before a “big” downbeat) crescendoing kick drums, snare rolls, and cymbal splashes. The latter formal devices sound more derived from trance-style techno anthems than anything else, if also, notably, sometimes syncopated in a manner more reminiscent of breaks in salsa or merengue. Established producers such as DJ Playero, DJ Nelson, and DJ Joe, as well as relative newcomers such as DJ Blass, helped move the genre’s primary sound sources from samples to synthesizers, introducing the use of heavier kick drums, ravey synth “stabs,” and trancey arpeggios as well as cartoonish digital sound effects (wind blowing, explosions). Their productions were not uniform or mutually indistinguishable, however, and each offers an interesting look at the development of the genre during a crucial transition.

[Several] tracks on Playero 41 strongly embody the genre’s new techno- and pop-oriented directions. Notty Man’s “Dancing,” for example, features various techno synths, evoking the distinctively “squelchy” sounds of the Roland TB-303 and employing the characteristic filtering, or frequency sweeps, of electronic dance music. Daddy’s Yankee’s “Todas las Yales” is another case in point. The track begins with a “detuned” synth riff evoking any number of trance or techno tracks. As a four-on-the-floor kick drum augments the riff, one could easily mistake it for a standard, if not cliché 90s club anthem, at least before the dembow drums enter. Once the 3+3+2 snares come in, along with Yankee’s voice, there is no mistaking the track for anything other than reggaeton; nonetheless, it offers a clear example of how synthesized (and/or sampled) techno references came increasingly to supplant the genre’s affinity for hip-hop and dancehall sources. The track still moves somewhat starkly between a hip-hop groove and a dembow rhythm, however, and such alternation maintains connections to mid-90s style. Moreover, at points Yankee propels his lyrics with a couple (characteristically “out-of-tune”) melodies borrowed from Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” (1984) and the Bangles’ ballad “Eternal Flame” (1989). Although these references to 80s pop hits might seem slightly odd here, not to mention rather far from the symbolic links which borrowed hooks from reggae or hip-hop songs might once have evoked, they are actually quite consistent with what has long been an ecumenical outlook for the genre—an approach derived in part from hip-hop’s and reggae’s own voracious practices. Finally, “Todas la Yales” also offers a window into the enduring presence of Jamaica via Panama: the term yales, which Yankee at times interchanges here with mujeres (i.e., women), comes from the Panamanian slang guiales, which itself adapts gyal, a Jamaican creole version of girl or girls.

Productions by The Noise and DJ Joe during this period demonstrate similar trends. On The Noise 9 (2000), for instance, one hears the telltale sounds of Fruity Loops pre-sets and effects alongside other synthesized sounds, especially the pounding bass drums for which techno is known. One also hears, however, the same big bass synths, chopped-and-stabbed hip-hop references (e.g., squealing Cypress Hill samples), repeatedly triggered vocal lines, allusions to dancehall melodies (Ruben San crams several into a single song), and Dem Bow samples (especially the snares, but also the riddim’s resonant bass drum) for which melaza had been known. The Bam Bam, Fever Pitch, and Poco Man Jam riddims also rear their heads in the mix. Although the pistas still shift in shape and feel at regular intervals, sometimes fairly radically, the music is less pastiche-like than on earlier recordings, however, and the song forms more closely resemble standard pop fare. DJ Joe’s millennial mixtapes also seem to confirm these directions. Whereas the producer’s late 90s mixes retain a great deal of melaza style, shortly after 2000 the influence of Fruity Loops and nods to techno become far more pronounced. With the exception of Dem Bow drum samples, by the release of Fatal Fantassy 1 (2001), big, cheesy club synths, digital explosions, and melodramatic percussion crescendos dominate the tracks’ textures, overshadowing any sample-based connections to earlier styles. Vocalists still employ dancehall related melodies as well as various pop allusions (including the 50s hit “Mr. Sandman”), though one also hears a refinement of such a melodic approach: a distinctively Puerto Rican approach to melodic contour and vocal timbre—often evoking the nasal singing styles of many soneros—seems to emerge after a decade of recycling a handful of tunes. A connection between the sounds of techno and the sexual already appears rather reified by this point, underscored in DJ Joe’s case by the suggestively (mis)spelled reference to a popular video game (Final Fantasy) on his Fatal Fantassy series.

Despite these parallel movements across the reggaeton scene, during the first few years of the new millennium DJ Blass might rightly be credited as most audibly promoting the tecno sound, conflating it with sexual license, and ushering in a good number of the elements which remain staples of the genre today and mark most of its mainstream hits. Blass’s Reggaeton Sex series employs the futuristic, tactile synths and bombast of rave-era techno and contemporary trance to great effect, creating physically and psychologically compelling music over which (male) vocalists and (female) “phone-sex” samples repeatedly invoke the body and the bawdy. Over saw-tooth synths and ping-pong arpeggios, crescendoing kicks and snares and cymbal crashes, vocalists exhort (and/or order) women to “move it,” perreo, and do a fair number of other, more explicitly sexual acts. Rather than the pliant, reggae-derived basslines of the mid-90s, synthesized bass tones serve instead to accentuate the kick drums on each beat, often with a I-V (“oompah”-style) movement and sometimes tracing out simple chord progressions—a rudimentary rhythmic and harmonic role for the bass which has remained a feature in a great many commercial reggaeton productions. Against these steady bass tones and heavy kicks on each beat, the snares—sampled from Dem Bow, Bam Bam, and other favorite reggae riddims—frequently come to the fore, pulling against the foursquare feel with their 3+3+2 accents and making quite prominent what is, at times, the only audible, timbral connection to the genre’s underground roots. Gesturing to the regularly shifting forms of the mid-90s, Blass often switches between different snare samples at 4, 8, or 16 measure intervals, creating a subtle sense of form against the otherwise somewhat static synth vamps.

That Daddy Yankee track described above, “Todas las Yales,” has to be heard to be believed. You’re very welcome —
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/Playero41-TodoslasYales.mp3]

Funny story — I sent that track to techno sage Philip Sherburne (almost three years ago!) and he responded, somewhat stunned:

… those vaguely detuned chords are a pretty standard trance trope – a popular present on synths like the access virus, which are highly valued in trance circles.

thanks for sharing, i had no idea that reggaeton was going in this direction. is this an anomaly?

to which i replied:

i think reggaeton already went in this direction, actually, with producers preferring techno-y synths (often b/c of the adoption of digital sequencers, e.g., FL — pace your lil jon observations) to hip-hop and dancehall samples since the late 90s, if not a little before. i’m still trying to get a date on this track, but i think it’s from around ’98, which is almost ten years ago! pretty wild. …

if indeed this is from ’98, does that change your reading?

in turn, sez phil —

this is eight fucking years old? whoa. it doesn’t change my reading, necessarily, but it blows my friggin mind….

in that case, it does make me feel like reggaeton’s regressing (unless there is similarly bananas shit out there, but i haven’t heard it, not in 2006 anyway).

I couldn’t resist pointing out to Philip, neologist extraordinaire, that there was an artist on a DJ Joe album named “Microhouse.” (Good luck hunting that one down!)

Speaking of neologists, Simon Reynolds, to whom I also sent the track, said something pretty Simon-esque in reply —

all those riffs sound like anagrams of each other!

Speaking of anagrams — or perhaps analogs — it’s worth noting that reggaeton is not a lone vanguard in this regard. So let me to make another promise and offer, at some (not so?) future date, a similar look at funk carioca’s own millennial flirtation with ravey synthstabs & techno kicks, experiments which well predate the pós-baile-funk efforts of guys like DJ Sany Pitbull.

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January 20th, 2009

Giving Away the Ending

It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a mix with y’all (not incl that brief bit for Blogariddims 50). No good reason for that. I’ve been DJing every Monday night at Beat Research and I’ve got as many ideas for thematic, quasi-pedagogical mixes as ever. Blame time (or lack thereof). The time it takes (me) to lovingly craft and edit and frame a mix.

Indeed, I even have to beg a little more time before I present the mix in its entirety. (Soon come!) But I’m eager to share something. So I’m going to leave you for now with the end of the mix, a mashup in standalone-ish form. Better than played on its own, I highly encouraging juggling it into a series of selections on the super-cinematic Beauty & Beast riddim(s) (co-sign on the Vegas and Chino tracks, btw!).

One of the things that most struck me about the Beauty riddim was the unexpected entrance of a distorted guitar at around the 2 minute mark — riffing on a melody, no less, which ineluctably (to my ears anyhow) invokes Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City.” It’s a jarring moment and seems as much an odd joke (“hey, remember Miami Vice?!”) as a perfectly genuine tribute to a pop-rock song that is no doubt now heard, (second) naturally, as an “oldie” and a “big tune” in Jamaica (where American pop, of even the schmaltziest sort, holds a special place in people’s hearts).

I assume everyone’s with me on this. If not, I’ve taken the liberty of making it painfully obvious —

Daseca + Glenn Frey, “You Belong to the Beauty” (w&w mash)
[audio:wayneandwax-belong-to-the-beauty.mp3]

Note: I start the track at the point in the version where the guitar comes in — which should make it a nice drop if you’re juggling on the riddim and want to throw this in (but caveat DJ, the Frey song is not so easily reaccented for some listeners). Also, just technically speaking, I’ve pitched up the Frey song a couple semitones so that it better harmonizes with the Beauty.

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January 13th, 2009

House Kwasa Kwasa House

I still haven’t been able to send him those guitars, but Red Pepper has the Ruff Riddims studio up and running (and blogging!) — and it’s not like there aren’t guitars or guitarists in Botswana.

Indeed, the first track I’ve heard out of the studio, “Dumelang” by Skeat (pronounced Skee-tee), is an ebullient bit of kwasa house (aka, house kwasa), including that trademark kwasa-kwasa guitar (nodding to the noodly lines of soukous). No doubt it’ll be a local hit. But will Vampire Weekend fans dig it?

Skeat, “Dumelang”
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/skeat-dumelang.mp3]

Skeat’s 17. Lots more songs in him. In this occasionally audible interview, he sounds young and confident about his mix of “traditional, house kwasa, kwaito.” I look fwd to hearing more.

Plus, the hip-hop/reggae/r&b of Tebza Rocker! Stay tuned–

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December 16th, 2008

Holidazeeee

It’s that time of year again, even if the incongruously balmy weather suggests otherwise. So, this past weekend Bec & I made another set of black cakes. This time, in anticipation, we started the fruits soaking in black-strap rum and Manischewitz a couple weeks in advance. And man, did they come out sweet.


To vibe with the Caribbean Christmas recipe, we listened to a whole heap of panang of course (h/t). How can you go wrong with songs about how great it is to eat a food and drink a rum and have a jolly time with friends & fam? Well, I s’pose you could introduce daggering to the whole(some) equation–

Dagger Dagger (2008 St. Lucia Parang) http://www.myspace.com/mantius – Mantius Cazaubon



In a slightly more (?) traditional vein, some friends around the ol’ ‘osphere have been putting together some xmassy mixes. I highly recommend Gavin’s and Siebe’s seasonal selections. Plus, DJ BC put together another Santastic comp, which includes a bassliney / dubsteppy remix of the Chanukah song by my partner in Beat Research, DJ Flack.

For my own part, I’m sorry to report that for a third straight year I have failed to put together another Christmas mix of my own, but for those of you who haven’t yet heard it, or — as with things like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story — are happy to revisit such fare every December, allow me to point you once again to my “Remix-mas” (originally posted here):

Wayne&Wax, “Remix-mas” (30 min, 28 mb)
[audio:http://riddimmethod.net/music/wayneandwax_remix-mas.mp3]

My failure to produce is not exactly for want of trying. Over the last few years I’ve put together a couple flailing attempts at Christmashy things, some more successful than others. Most of them quite odd (nature of the beast?). If you’re in the mood, have a listen / read on —

2005TOK vs. Johnny Mathis, “do you bun what i bun?”
[audio:http://riddimmethod.net/music/wayneandwax_do-you-bun-what-i-bun.mp3]

2006Jacob Miller + Nat King Cole, “The Blazing Yule (Dread the Halls)”
[audio:http://www.wayneandwax.com/wp/audio/wayneandwax_BlazingYule.mp3]

2007“refried pasteles”
[audio:http://wayneandwax.com/music/refried-pasteles.mp3]

We’ll see. I may yet have another odd attempt in me. Til then, hope these (good) tide(ings) you over!

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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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