Chacarron Spanish Meaning Of Essay

January 11th, 2018

¡Antigua Vaina!

This mix amplifies the resonances between the music of 19th century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk and the bedrock rhythm of reggaeton and a great deal of recent pop music — a/k/a, dembow. As much a tribute to Gottschalk’s faithful fantasias as to the numerous architects of dembow aesthetics, we hear in their juxtaposition how one particular Afrodiasporic beat has served as foundation for social music and dance across the Americas and across time. While it is tempting to interpret the recent ascent of dembow and other 3+3+2 “electronic tresillo” rhythms as part of a new wave of Afro-Caribbean influence on pop and club music, Gottschalk’s parlor proto-dembow of the mid-19th-century reveals this recent prominence as less a sea change than an old tide washing ashore once more — and, moreover, that the US is no exception in this pan-American history, no island unto itself.

This mix may be a novel confection, but the music here is more than a BRAND NEWWW NOW TING. It’s an ancestral wellspring. Not ¡NUEVA VAINA! but ¡ANTIGUA VAINA! — an ancient thing. Get hip already–

w&w, Louis Dembeau Gottschalk (¡Antigua Vaina!) [MP3 13:46 31mb]

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tracklist:

Bamboula: Danse des Negres, Op. 2 (1849)
The Banjo (Grotesque Fantasie), Op. 15 (1854)
Ojos Criollos: Danse Cubaine, Op. 37 (1859)
Danza, Op. 33 (1857)
Souvenir de la Havane, Op. 39 (1859)
Souvenir de Porto Rico: Marche des Gibaros, Op. 31 (1860)
b/w “Panameña” (Colon/Lavoe, 1970)

Historical Context

170 years before “Despacito” made the dembow as ubiquitous as ever, an 18-year-old composer and piano virtuoso from New Orleans deployed the same Afro-duple rhythm to score a remarkable international hit of his own. Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Bamboula” took the Parisian salon scene by storm, and among others, Chopin sang his praises as the most impressive musician the United States had produced. Subtitled “Danse des Negres,” the composition was inspired by the songs and dances of Place Congo, or Congo Square, a public site where free and enslaved Africans would gather on Sundays to participate in a market and in collective singing and dancing. These gatherings began during French rule and continued for decades under the Spanish before New Orleans became US territory, and Place Congo remained a rare site where African and Afrodiasporic drumming and dancing were permitted even into the Anglo-American era.

Gottschalk’s oeuvre bears early witness to the popularity of certain Afrodiasporic rhythms that have become central to the entire world’s popular dance music. Fifty years before ragtime would popularize “syncopated” dance music and revolutionize the world of popular music and publishing, and 150 years before dancehall’s and reggaeton’s global pop insurgence, Gottschalk’s representations and “souvenirs” of the folk/dance music of New Orleans, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, et al., offer a wonderful sort of musical record — before audio recording was possible. In this sense, I’ve been using Gottschalk’s music in my classes to discuss the epistemological issues associated with recovering the musical past, and I like to compare him with the likes of Lomax, Gershwin, perhaps even a Diplo — as well as to Dvorak, Chopin, or Ellington for that matter.

His efforts were certainly received among his publics and contemporaries as of-a-piece with other attempts to use folk sources as the basis for art music. In some way, a composition like Bamboula is as close as we can get to hearing Congo Square — or at least echoes of the songs and rhythms that animated the dances there. The question of what Congo Square sounded like is what Ned Sublette, in The World That Made New Orleans, calls “the city’s great musical riddle” (121). It was in Sublette’s work, in fact, where I first began to learn about the significance of Gottschalk to American musical history (i.e., American in the broadest sense — not, as I joke with my students, the “greatest” sense). Incidentally, Sublette specifically invokes Gottschalk to discuss this great riddle. Allow me to quote Ned’s punchy prose at some length:

Congo Square occupies a central place in the popular memory and imagination of New Orleans. At the core of it is the city’s greatest musical riddle: what did it sound like? Since we don’t have recordings, we don’t exactly know. But we have some knowledge of the instruments that were played at Congo Square.

And I think I have a pretty good idea of at least one rhythm that was played there.

… It’s a simple figure that can generate a thousand dances all by itself, depending on what drums, registers, pitches, or tense rests you assign to which of the notes, what tempo you play it, and how much you polyrhythmacize it by laying other, compatible rhythmic figures on top of it. It’s the rhythm of the aria Bizet wrote for the cigarette-rolling Carmen to sing (though he lifted the melody from Basque composer Sebastián Yradier), and it’s the defining rhythm of reggaetón. You can hear it in the contemporary music of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, to say nothing of the nineteenth-century Cuban contradanza. It’s Jelly Roll Morton’s oft-cited “Spanish tinge,” it’s the accompaniment figure to W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” and you’ll hear it from brass bands at a second line in New Orleans today. At half speed, with timpani or drum set, it was a signature rhythm of the Brill Building songwriters, and it was the basic template of clean-studio 1980s corporate rock. You could write it as a dotted eighth, sixteenth, and two eighths. If you don’t know what I’m talking about yet, it’s the rhythm of the first four notes of the Dragnet theme. DOMM, DA DOM DOM.

It’s the rhythm the right hand repeats throughout “La Bamboula (Danse des Negres),” Op. 2, a piano piece composed in 1848 to international acclaim by the eighteen-year-old Domingan-descended New Orleanian piano prodigy Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1830-70). A stellar concert attraction of his time, and, in this writer’s opinion, the most important nineteenth-century U.S. composer, Gottschalk’s legacy is inexplicably neglected today in his home country. As a toddler, he lived briefly on Rampart Streetm about a half mile down from Congo Square, at a time when the dances were still active, and he would have, like other New Orleanians in the old part of town, been familiar with the sound of the square. Some have suggested that Gottschalk was not trying to evoke the sound of Congo Square literally in the piece. But I think Gottschalk was telling us something: when they danced the bamboula at Congo Square, they repeated that rhythm over and over, the way Gottschalk’s piano piece does, the way reggaetón does today–and over that rhythm, they sang songs everyone knew.

Frederick Starr identifies the basis for the main theme of Gottschalk’s “Bamboula” as a popular song of old Saint-Domingue, “Quan’ patate la cuite,” which Gottschalk learned from Sally, his black Domingan governess. Was Gottschalk, a programmatic composer, drawing a sound portrait of a dance at Congo Square? And might he be inadvertently telling us that the singing, drumming, and dancing circles put popular melodies into their own rhythms and style? (121-125)

Sounds a lot like reggaeton, dembow, and dancehall to me! And not just in conceptual terms — i.e., invoking familiar melodies over cherished rhythms. What is especially striking is that the rhythmic figures in question are, in essence, one and the same: that ol’ 3+3+2, especially in the form of a tresillo (A) or habanera / tango pattern (B) and/or as the slightly embellished, 5-strike form (C) that became a signature rhythm in ragtime (and appears in so many other styles since, including as a common 4th or 8th measure turnaround in reggaeton productions).

A:
B:
C:

Indeed, the words that may have underpin “Bamboula” as a Place Congo chant themselves appear to engender this 5-strike rhythm:

The word bamboula here, notably, sits at the crux of the dembow rhythm. You could imagine J Balvin saying it instead of “Beyoncé” or “C’est comme-ci … c’est comme-ça” or Wyclef subbing it in for “Bonita … Mi Casa” or Lionel Richie putting it in place of “Fiesta … Forever.” In other words, this figure’s been around, still underpins so much, and as such offers a wonderful way to counterpose seemingly disparate songs and styles.

And that’s how we arrive at this mix, at least conceptually. The technical aspects are another concern entirely. I’ll offer some discussion of those dimensions below for anyone who’d care to read further.

Technical Notes and General Poetics

I’ve sought to bring these two bodies of work — Gottschalk and dembow — together on each other’s terms as much as possible, honoring at once (while also inevitably violating) the aesthetic priorities of programmatic classical and reggae/ton.

Let’s talk about the violations first: in order to match up Gottschalk’s music with dembow loops, I have had to remove nearly all of the rubato elements — i.e., expressive tempo dynamics — from the performances of his work. I suppose I could have attempted to impose rubato effects on the drum loops, but I actually believe that the grooves that inspired Gottschalk were unlikely to feature as many timing variations as he builds into his compositions and his modern interpreters bring to bear on them — correctly so, given that many of these pieces invite such a capriccio treatment, leaving timing decisions to the whims of the performer. So I decided to “flatten” out this aspect of Gottschalk’s music, turning elastic tempos into entraining, locked-in dance grooves. (I also shifted the various tempi of his compositions so they all roll along at a rather reggaetony 100bpm.) This, of course, required meticulous, Ableton-abetted “warping” at the level of nearly every measure (and sometimes every beat), and it probably took up the largest chunk of time of any of the procedures involved in the production of this mix.

I have also, rather than honoring the full integrity of his composition, employed selective fragments of Gottschalk’s works — namely, the parts of his compositions that feature tresillo-style figures. This “sampling” strategy seems, to me, consistent both with reggae/ton practice and with Gottschalk’s own tendency toward a certain level of pastiche, quotation, and recontextualization.

Moreover, the drums here — that is, the dembow loops (including two of the most common “Dem Bow” pistas and a handful of Sly & Robbie loops, many titled “DembowLoop5,” etc.) — are as important and as prominent in the mix as the piano. This is a duet of sorts, and so I am necessarily bringing a strong reggae/ton presence to the proceedings, including the use of airhorns, sirens, winking samples, and other classic mixtape / DJ drops, as well as drums that punch aggressively through the texture.

On the other hand, I have attempted to honor and employ some of the affordances of classical music in the mix, and this includes manipulations of the dembow drum loops. For one, I have attempted to be mirror some of the intensity dynamics in Gottschalk’s music by lowering and raising the volume of the drums at appropriate times. More radically, I have chopped, layered, and rearranged the various drum loops to the point where they closely match and complement the rhythms of Gottschalk’s pieces. The drums in this mix sometimes sound less like loops than through-composed elements. In this sense, I am frequently following Gottschalk’s lead, even as I submit his music to a somewhat quantized groove.

While Gottschalk’s rhythmic vitality is what I’m mainly looking to harness and highlight here, the degree of melodic variation and harmonic transformation in his music offers a refreshing contrast to the more repetitive melodies and reduced harmonic structures of reggae and reggaeton. Notably, and usefully, Gottschalk often builds these variations in a manner that mirrors the additive and subtractive layering in a reggaeton track. This provides an opportunity to underscore, beyond their Afro-duple rhythms, other things these genres have in common despite the fair distance between them in terms of time and aesthetics.

Gottschalk’s works and reggaeton productions both tend toward clear demarcations of regular, sectional development. In reggaeton, this has tended to be marked with shifting snare samples, reflecting an earlier practice of swapping out favorite loops during maratón rap sessions. In the classical forms Gottschalk was working in — if often such permissive / vague forms as fantasie or caprice — we hear this approach more in terms of sectional melodic variation and harmonic development. Together in the mix, these parallels work strikingly well — as well, I think (and hope), as the fundamental rhythmic overlap that inspired this entire exercise.

Implications and Reflections

Formally speaking, Gottschalk favored fantasies and caprices, especially for his lively piano pieces, and I myself have made some capricious choices that I hope are in the spirit (both of Gottschalk and of reggae/ton). One of these involves bringing in an excerpt of Willie Colon’s and Hector Lavoe’s “Panameña” toward the end of the mix — a decision that posed substantial technical / aesthetic difficulties. (Because each piece takes a slightly different approach to re-harmonizing the song, I’ve settled on a slightly sour, “woozy chipmunk” attempt to make them mostly line up.)

Even though “Panameña” is in a different key than Gottschalk’s Souvenir de Porto Rico, I couldn’t resist putting them together as both cite the same Puerto Rican folk song, an aguinaldo often sung as “Si Me Dan Pasteles.” The reference appears in the montuno section of “Panameña” where it serves as a potent invocation of Puerto Rican identity amidst a broader message of pan-Latinidad. As Lavoe sings,

yo canto guajira
yo canto danzón

le canto un bolero
canto un guaguancó

pero no me olvido
del aguinaldo
pero nunca olvido
el aguinaldo

The sonero’s sentiments are affirmed as the chorus responds with a distinctively Boricua refrain, “lo le lo lay” — honoring Puerto Rican musical forms alongside the Cuban and pan-Latin forms that Lavoe cites.

One thing that I hope my mix does, which is one thing that I believe Gottschalk’s music does, is to extend this idea of the deep, audible, palpable connectedness of the Caribbean and Latin America — of the diaspora and the creolized New World — so that it also includes the United States, not as an outlier or an exception but as one node among many in a network, at once a source and a destination, a distinctive set of social and cultural contexts which are, nonetheless, enmeshed in hemispheric and trans-Atlantic connections.

Among other things, this mix is, then, a proposal that we hear the US’s own Afrodiasporic heritage as alongside and inextricable rather than exceptional — and inextricable because of the echoing legacies that are a consequence of slavery and the creole societies that follow in the wake.

This is, finally, simply, a souvenir, of Moreau and dembow both — for me and for anyone else with whom it resonates as something to think, sing, or even dance along with.

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October 5th, 2011

The African Americas Project & the Mystery of Dem Bow

I’m headed down to the University of Delaware tomorrow for “The African Americas Project,” a two-day symposium bringing together quite a mix of artists, musicians, and scholars to explore the connections between Latin America, the Caribbean and the US.

For my part, I’ll be talking about “Reggaeton’s Afro-American Address,” by which I mean the ways that reggaeton — despite a certain divisiveness — is best understood as a genre articulating a powerful synthesis of Afrodiasporic style which directly (and indexically, musically/semiotically speaking) addresses an Afro-American listening public (and here I use “Afro-American” — an outdated term in the US — in the broadest sense, as a term encompassing Afro-Jamaican, Afro-Puerto-Rican, Afro-Panamanian, and African-American styles and practices).

I’ll make this argument by revealing the secret of the mystery of the mighty dembow. Here’s a hint: the loop that turns up in the lion’s share of reggaeton productions is not sampled from Shabba’s seminal song, despite what Wikipedia and everyone else says. Nope. What you think was made in Kingston actually hails from Long Island! But you’ll have to catch the talk, or wait for a forthcoming article, to get the full scoop.

It’s an honor to be part of a program featuring so many distinguished speakers, among them keynoter Franklin W. Knight, a towering figure in Caribbean Studies. You can see the full program here (PDF), but let me also note, with some excitement, that another participant is none other than Jamaican filmmaker Storm Saulter, who will be screening Better Mus Come and other works tomorrow afternoon (and, awesomely, offering comment on the music panel I’m a part of on Friday).

If you’re in the area, do drop by. Should be a stimulating session.

Also, how refreshing to be described as a “DJ, technomusicologist, and journalist”! Works for me.

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March 10th, 2011

Social Media & Electro Diasporas

This Saturday I’ll be at Cornell, speaking on a panel alongside some esteemed colleagues. The subject at hand is, more or less, the animating force behind this blog in recent years: “(post-)regional dance musics and their transformation through the internet” —

The students organizing the event have an ambitious agenda for digging deeper into this stuff. They envision Saturday’s panel as “a way to introduce, contextualize, and start a dialogue that really hasn’t existed in (with a few exceptions) academic circles.” That said, I’ll be curious to see whether the turnout is largely students or whether some scholar-colleagues will join us as well. Although some of the speakers are (aspiring) academics, I’m told that our profiles as bloggers were central to the invitation, “an interesting statement on the role of the internet in the circulation of these regional styles.”

The organizers tell me that they hope this weekend’s event will pave the way for two future shows involving some of Chicago’s best and brightest. (Their wishlist includes DJ Rashad, DJ Deeon, DJ Clent, Jammin’ Gerald, and Traxman). Nick, one of the organizers, adds: “Admittedly, the shows are super Chicago centric, but this is what I’ve played the most and what I’m the most familiar with (I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio). Working on planning some stuff next semester and bringing some other folks up.”

Sounds like a plan to me. I’m happy to be a part of the conversation, and I’m thrilled to chat with some smart participants/observers who’ll bring to the (round)table years of experience in and research on such crucial sites as Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, and New Orleans. No doubt you all know blogging brethren like Gavin Mueller, a perennially sharp critic of world2.0 and longtime ghettotech interpreter, but I’m also looking forward to meeting Al Shipley, the guy who’s writing the (kickstarted!) book on Bmore club, as well as Matt Miller, scholar of bounce and other dirty southness, and, last but not least, Ghettophiles‘ Neema Nazem, who first came to my attention as an acid-tongued but well-meaning interventionist in London’s burgeoning love affair with juke.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a party Saturday night featuring the mighty Dave Quam on the decks? YES.

I don’t have much more to add for now. Longtime readers should know that my pantheon of everyday heroes in recent years is remarkably populated by some central players in this story: courageous (if often faceless) kids dancing up a storm at school, at home, on the street, & on the screen —

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April 16th, 2010

big gyptian (riddim meth0d repost)

[Ok, here’s another oldie-but-goodie from the Riddim Meth0d vaults. Plenty of readers are no doubt familiar with this post/mashup, especially since I’ve revisited the issue. In the time since I wrote it (almost 5 years ago!), I’ve also had the strange fortune of submitting a brief report — about the significance of “Big Pimpin” to Jay’s and Timbo’s respective oeuvres — to the lawyers working for the heirs to Baligh Hamdi’s copyrights. (For the record, while I don’t want to contribute to bad legal precedent, I’m generally ok with taking some of the money that explodes outward as rich people sue rich people, as long as I get to tell the truth as I see/hear it. Also, this likely won’t go to trial.) This example also finds its way into a chapter I’m contributing to a forthcoming book on Pop-Culture Tools for the Music Classroom. Finally, I want to thank the lovely humanitarians at archive.org for preserving the post and — more importantly — the comments on it. I’m happy & relieved to recover the comment thread from the initial RM post, which I will paste in at the bottom of this re-post. It’s hard to lose conversations to the e-ther, even little ones. For the record, this was initially published on 19 September 2005.]

riffing off pace’s east-meets-west blend and continuing my experiments with mashes of musically-related songs, i offer up an orientalist oddity: jay z’s “big pimpin’,” as produced by timbaland, mixed with abdel-halim hafez’s “khosara,” the song that provided timbo with the inspiration for the slinky, flute-propelled loop that undergirds j-hova’s jam.

wayne&wax, “big gyptian” (j-hova v. abdel-halim hafez)

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although there was some controversy about the similarity between “pimpin'” and “khosara” (including talk of a lawsuit), timbaland apparently escaped penalty, at least at present, because in this case he replayed – i.e., re-recorded – the two-bar section (rather than digitally sampling it), and the sense appears to be that the underlying composition was not original and/or substantial enough to be infringed in this case. you will hear in the four-bars that begin my mashup that timbaland’s beat bears a very strong resemblance to the original. [note from 2010: i have since changed my opinion on the question of whether this features a sample or not, based on irrefutable evidence.]

this is not an unambiguous case. because the music in question is a short loop and it is re-recorded rather than sampled, it seems reasonable for timbo to get off the hook. of course, not only is the musical reference a clearly recognizable one, the two-bar phrase in question is an important part of the original, serving as an intro and as a recurring riff (notably, returning after the vocal section). at the same time, the fact that, according to this article, label owner magdi el-amroussi would have denied timbo the ability to use this fragment – “Because he’s changed the composition” – also seems to argue for timbaland’s right to do it. despite that timbo and jay used the flute loop to craft a somewhat crass (if catchy) song about pimpin’, the world would be worse off with such arbitrary, authoritarian restrictions on derivative works, whether the so-called owner of the copyright is disney or a seemingly stodgy label owner.

what i like about this mash, as with the “code of the beats” experiment, is that one gets to hear more of the original, which is great in its own right, and thus one understands the sonic inspiration at work here. at the same time, hearing the source alongside the “derivative” track offers new ways of hearing the originals. in this case, one gets to hear how timbo’s interpretation changes the original: rather than a recurring motif, the flute loop now undergirds the entire composition, moving its emphasis toward rhythmic repetition and bass frequencies. similarly, rather than supporting some southern-fried, slap-a-bitch rap, timbaland’s breezy beat, enhanced by additional winds and strings, instead accompanies the mournful, melismatic singing of abdel-halim hafez, the “king of arabic music.”

although timbo’s beat has always had me open, i gotta admit that jay’s lyrics (and those of his cohorts) tend to put me off. frankly, they make me cringe. as much as i can see the attraction of expanding the pimp-metaphor (as with the hustler, badman, etc.) and of playing the role – at bottom, it is a position of power, par excellence perhaps – i just can’t get with the misogyny when it comes down to it. similar to oliver, i have a hard time recuperating exploitation. so, rather than playing any of the verses, or even the chorus, what i have done here is to “dub in” a few of the phrases in jay’s verse that seemed more “positive” or at least could be interpreted that way. “love ’em” (without the “leave ’em”) seems about as good as it gets, though i found some others, too.

after putting the phrases together, i was struck that the line “take ’em out the hood, keep ’em lookin’ good” suggests quite another set of meanings when heard in the context of egyptian music: one can either hear jay-z critiquing conservative islam’s call for women to wear veils – recalling vybz kartel’s “you nuh haffi hide your face like bin laden gal” – or one can hear him assailing the american-style interrogation techniques so symbolized by hooded abu ghraib prisoners.

and despite its appearance before 9/11, “big pimpin'” does tap into our historical moment nonetheless, sitting alongside a host of other orientalist beats in hip-hop, dancehall, and various electronic genres. the resonance of middle eastern music in the world’s (urban, popular) musics has been building for some time, reflecting centuries of history of interaction, not to mention a contemporary and increasingly visible and audible cultural presence in the US.

even so, representations of middle-easterners and islam in the US (and, say, UK) remain as stereotyped and distorted as the “eastern” musical figures in contemporary popular music. the article in al-ahram notes that the hip-hop press completely conflated various asian/orientalist signifiers when trying to describe the egyptian sound of “big pimpin'”:

The identity of the composer of the song, though, has been lost within the crazy machinations of the hip-hop world. A review of the song on MTV describes it as “Bollywood-wigged NOLA bounce stutter-stepping,” ignoring its Egyptian roots. Another review describes the beat as featuring “Z droppin big willie rhymes over a swaying, South-Seas flavoured groove that’s a happy musical marriage of Brooklyn and Bali.”

so it is also my hope that a mashup of this sort can serve to bring a little more awareness to the actual music whose ghosts and caricatures today haunt mainstream radio and the global underground alike. the hafez original could serve as a window into a wonderful world of truly amazing music, which, really, should only further justify the existence of timbaland’s homage. (let’s face it: they’re not exactly competing in the same market; one’s existence does not diminish the other – on the contrary, they enrich each other’s resonance.)

i recommend tracking down the original recording of “khosara” – never mind various live versions – and giving the song a listen. it certainly holds up on its own. (i’m sayin’, how do you think it came into timbaland’s hands?) in fact, given that the infringement suit seems like a non-issue, and considering that so many of us really dig the same sounds that inspired timbo and jay-z, it would be dandy if hafez found new listeners by virtue of timbo “putting him on.” you can find one version of “khosara” on CD here (and listen to a real-audio file of the whole thing), and you can hear much, much more from him here. enchanting stuff, no doubt. listen to this alongside some um kulthum, and you’ll get a good sense of mid-20th century egyptian popular music.

a word on technique: i have pitched the hafez recording up slightly in order to match the timbo version (since the latter had the more compelling, bumping center, which i would rather not distort). when the hafez makes harmonic changes, however, i shift the timbaland up in pitch to match it (which, yeah, sometimes sounds a little weird – but this is all kind of weird to begin with, no?). i have simply replayed the first vocal section of the hafez after the jay-z-quoting dubby section in order to give the track’s form a kind of roundness. because the hafez original is substantially longer than i imagine most people’s attention spans are, i decided to excise the rest of it. (when i tried out an earlier mix of these at a boston-based college-bar, it was clear that heads were not ready. it nearly caused a riot on dance floor, and not in a good way. but i insisted on making it through at least one round of hafez’s singing before bringing back the jay-z. the manager thought i had lost it. i quit that gig shortly thereafter. when i played the same sequence at beat research, where there also happened to be some egyptians in the house, people went bananas for it.)

one final note: i’ve added some additional, locally-inflected percussion here. having added this mash into my set at the boston bounce party a couple weeks ago, i already had the two tracks arranged with some bounce-y beats underneath (i.e., all the percussion that enters after the first eight bars). i decided to leave the beats in because they give the track some nice extra drive (if obscuring some of the halftime feel of the jay-z) and because i’ve been enjoying this odd beantown groove lately. “big pimpin'” and “khosara,” both with tempos in the mid-130s, were well suited to a boston bounce refix. it’s kind of a funny tempo, i think – unsettling with its constant question, “too fast or too slow?” – but between grime, garage, b-more, techno, soca, electro, and the occasional uptempo hip-hop or dancehall oddity, among others, beats in the 130-140 bpm range seem all the rage of late. at any rate, what’s another node in the network? shit’s messy enough to begin with. i think that’s why it sounds so good.

in case you missed it at the top:
wayne&wax, “big gyptian” (j-hova v. abdel-halim hafez)

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December 10th, 2009

Loo$e Change, Tight Flick

I enjoyed this so thoroughly yesterday that I need to post it here. Thanks to Frank Roberts for the tip. Becca called this 15 minute film “pitch perfect,” and I think she’s right. Hope you dig this as much as we. Someone needs to give Mykwain Gainey the resources to produce a series or something, preferably along these lines (and IMO with basically these same production values — so simple, so brilliant, so affective).

Loo$e Change from Mykwain Gainey on Vimeo.

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October 7th, 2009

Hit Dat ___

Not sure what to make of the casual misogyny (metaphor?) at the heart of this — a generalizing of hoe — but, that aside (if I may), I gotta say that I can’t get enough of dudes dancing lithely on their front lawns (wait for 1:10 in the video below). Apparently, this joint’s on some Dallas Boogie ish (h/t) —

After watching the following montage of “Hit Dat” clips there’s no denying that it’s a bonefide D-Town “movement” (the opening brass band bit, per yesterday, was the clincher in convincing me to post this) —

iNdustry2.0 is herrrrrrrrrrrrrr–

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April 13th, 2009

Now That’s What I Call Music Industry

@noz sez sometimes RT can mean “real talk”; here it’s both re: Lil B (RT@noz):

The 19 year old Pack frontman currently maintains 114 myspace pages (not accounting for the “SECRETE” [sp] pages he hints at in blog posts) all launched over roughly the last eight months and each showcasing five or six original songs and freestyles. He calls them “NOVELTY PAGES”, but that’s a disservice to the music within. The pages are numbered chronologically and listening to them in order is like reading an abandoned space journal, a slow descent into madness. Except it’s the good kind of madness.

On the earliest ones he was rapping regular over hit instrumentals and beats that could have been out takes from The Pack’s major label album. The songs have actual hooks, the lyrics about girls and partying. But as time goes on he gets progressively looser with it. The beats get faster and more adventurous, the fidelity lower. He starts to abandon traditional rhymes completely around the page #60, veering towards some sort of spoken word hybrid. By the late 90s he shouting on Chicago juke records and mumbling about shooting bitches in the bra over distorted as all fuck house. In the hundreds he’s rambling about eating with monkeys in space and having flashbacks to the East Bay Vivarium where he was moved to lie about having a pet iguana in a poetry contest. Sometimes he’s singing, sometimes he’s half rapping, sometimes just talking. Always he sounds just a little gone, but mostly joyous even in dark moments. The cynic could chalk this oddness up to trend hopping, a natural outgrowth of the cool-to-be-different Kanye/Wayne era. The realist might say drugs. It may be a little bit of both, but a third factor looms apparent on B’s suddenly immense catalog.

“When you’re on the internet time speeds up.” It almost sounds like a mission statement when B gargles these words on “Time”. …

See CBRAP for audio — oh, and about 100 MySpace pages.

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January 26th, 2009

Are You African-American?

from a blog and forthcoming documentary re: “How rapid immigration from Africa and the Caribbean is transforming the African American narrative” (via) —


The Neo African Americans @ Yahoo! Video

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December 11th, 2008

See, Saw, Seen


  • The Best Recordings of 2008: Sasha Frere-Jones: Online Only: The New Yorker

    i <3 SFJ for sentences like this — "The song is rooted in the jiggling rhythms of James Brown, the motherlode for sampling producers from the eighties, and now entirely irrelevant to any rap being made in New York, Atlanta, Rio, or Miami." — point taken, but isn't contemporary crunk pretty much based on kraftwerk's automatonization of JB's funk? if so, "entirely irrelevant" perhaps overstates things, tho i appreciate another fine sentence/assertion which follows — "This song must sound like jazz to Soulja Boy Tellem."

    (tags: newyorkercriticismfunkhip-hopsampling)

  • Brazil Soul Power

    an excellent, engrossing, flashy site about brazilian soul, aka the roots of baile funk, back when the sounds of james brown (& philly, motown, and memphis) were moving the masses, prior to the kraftwerk/miami-bass invasion of the 1980s

    (tags: brazilfunkacademichistoryrioaf-amsoulraceblacknessradionationinterview)

  • The Phoenix > News Features > Graffiti wars

    a looong piece on the relationship between graf writers and authorities in MA

    (tags: graffitipoliceurbanartbabyloniahip-hopmassachusettsjournalism)

  • High Tech Soul: The Creation of Techno Music on Vimeo

    "HIGH TECH SOUL is the first documentary to tackle the deep roots of techno music alongside the cultural history of Detroit, its birthplace. From the race riots of 1967 to the underground party scene of the late 1980s, Detroit's economic downturn didn't stop the invention of a new kind of music that brought international attention to its producers and their hometown."

    (tags: technodocumentaryvideodetroitracetech)

videyoga ::

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November 2nd, 2008

Palingenetic Ultranationalism

  • The Elephants Child: ring ring ring

    rachel re: ring tones, txt speak, & refurb'd nokia nat'lism

    (tags: cellphonesvideoglobalnationlanguageblogpost)

  • ffm713's blog – FFM presents The Pen & Pixel Madhouse – Skyrock.com

    73 pages of pen&pixel rap album covers (via noz)

    (tags: hip-hopartdesignalbumgangsta)

  • Palingenetic ultranationalism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    you can't make this stuff up, ppl

    (tags: politicspolitrickselection08wikipediafascismnation)

  • unkut.com – Unkut Originals – Bob James Unkut

    nice rundown of 'nautilus'-sampling songs, including streams of most of the most notable

    (tags: samplinghip-hopproductionblogpostaudio)

  • Transition Magazine | Cosmopolitanism, Blackness, and Utopia: a conversation with Paul Gilroy | by Tommie Shelby

    'PG: For Du Bois, their culture is what allows African Americans to be a world-historic people, to sit at that table and offer the world a conception of freedom which is richer, more complex, more compelling, and more dynamic than any conception of freedom which has been articulated previously. … This is a different freedom. This is not the freedom of the ancient Greeks; this is not the freedom of the Prussians; this is a distinctive conception of freedom which is won from an experience of suffering—not the redemption of that suffering, but the product of it. And so, however pompous it may have sounded in Du Bois’s mouth, I actually think that it’s kind of right. I do think that if we’re looking at the globalization of African American culture, if we understand why everyone in the world is doing hip hop—and it’s not just because Coke and Nike tell them to—there’s something about this vernacular culture which does exactly what Du Bois imagined it would do.'

    (tags: cosmopolitanismblacknessaf-amcultstudscultureidentititityphilosophyglobalizationhip-hopacademicinterview)

  • Transition Magazine | Guyanarama: In Search of Walter Rodney | by Achal Prabhala

    'One day, while idly browsing the collection of a cultural studies institute in Bangalore, I found _Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual_, a slim pamphlet published by the Africa World Press. There was Rodney, a young, working-class activist, campaigning door-to-door for the PPP before falling out with it; years later, there he was again, reprimanding Stokely Carmichael for inciting Africans against Indians in Guyana. He tackled Soviet Communism and local Marxism, socialism and the state, the Pan-African world and his Guyanese location. The text was incredibly sophisticated, a vivid mix of theory and experience, every word of it ringing true—the sort of book that you read with a secret smile and trembling hands, since it seems to have been written especially for you. The French Marxist Louis Althusser might have called this “interpellation.” But then Althusser was criminally insane, and I was so awed by Rodney that I could only think of it as an invitation.'

    (tags: guyanacaribbeanindiamarxismcapitalismwalter_rodneyblacknesscalypsoessay)

  • The Thug(s) and the Candidate: Musings on Black Masculinity | Critical Noir | Blogs | Vibe.com

    'One of the prevailing theses of the current election season is that Senator Barack Hussein Obama is not the round-way-brand of black man. Such a premise is palpable only to the extent that one chooses to read Obama against the image of marketplace confections of black masculinity, particularly those that legibly erect centuries' old tropes of danger, bestial behavior, and sinister eroticism.'

    (tags: racehip-hopelection08obama50centmasculinityaf-amcriticismblackness)

videyoga :: (h/t kevin)

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Archive of posts tagged with "UK"

August 1st, 2013

Perfect Blue Gardens

Blue Gardens, the new release on Keysound Recordings, is the brainchild of a new musical talent who goes by the name E.m.m.a. Simply put, it’s some of the best music — and one of the more coherent albums and promising debuts — I’ve heard in years.

My fave tracks are ones like “Shoot the Curl” or “Marina” with their sweetly curdling tunes and clicky soca, where melodies accrue & break & creak & whirr against a solid but shifting Carib-UK backbeat.

Honorable mention to the first single and the album’s one vocal cut, “Jahovia.” It’s great to hear Rebel MC riding the rhythm inna a classic reggae-rave fashion while E.m.m.a.’s newfangled textures let you know this is something else. Wicked video too, since somehow, synaesthetically speaking, the music already sounds like washed-out technicolor reels, full of sharp hue-turns —

Plus, you gotta love the array of influences E.m.m.a. pulls into the mix —

“American Nostalgia, Point Break, American high schools, bubble gum, picture houses, Coney Island, Hollywood, proms, Long Island, picket fences, boardwalks, Baroque tonality, Wendy Carlos, Delia Derbyshire, Jeff Wayne, Westerns, sci fi, spaghetti western soundtracks, Encarta ’96: genuinely these are in my mind,” she explains. “I just think the idea of the monopoly the Encarta encyclopaedia had on knowledge is ridiculous in the context of the present day. I’m not ashamed to say it’s my muse.”

And while I really should work to find more words to describe this music I’ve been enjoying so much, I like how it speaks for itself. And how E.m.m.a. does too. Plus, Joe Muggs sorta said it all already —

In essence, E.m.m.a. takes the rugged grooves of UK pirate radio, and adds an extra layer of melody and harmony which connects them back into the much longer history of synthesizer music as well as into a broader, vaguer realm of the imagination. Her synth timbres touch on sci-fi kitsch, Kraftwerk, early video games, the experimental home-listening techno of the 1990s, while the melodies they play have a suspended, dissipating quality, as if caught from a dream just at the point of waking.

Her beats, too, have an uncanny quality, generally touching on several points in UK soundsystem history – garage, rave, grime, the 2008-10 urban house sound of “UK funky”, the more undefinable sounds of “post-dubstep” – sounding familiar but not quite placeable in time. Despite the oddness of this, and despite its clear scholarliness in its sourcing of underground sounds, it’s a welcoming album, one which should be heard well beyond the usual circle of bass music fans. A haunting dream but one well worth getting caught up in.

I’d like to leave it there, but I want to take the opportunity to let this post stand as a long overdue bigup for Martin Blackdown‘s Keysound label, consistently representing as it reimagines the sound of London. His program with Dusk on RINSE is, rightly, an international fave. I’ve had a few posts about their music & label sitting in my draft folder for literally years; and I’m remiss for not better publicly registering my enthusiasm for projects like Margins Music (which is, IMO, a 21st century London classic).

It may be high time to dust those drafts off. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get the good word about Keysound’s latest & greatest. Martin & Emma both bring big ears to what they do, and mine are grateful for it. Yours will be too.

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November 13th, 2012

Gone for November

What a weekend on the way!

First, this Friday, I’ll be honored & pleasured to drop some gems at the Good Life (downstairs to boot!) for an absurd iteration of Picó Picante, my favorite local dance party. (And apparently Boston’s too!) In addition to resident DJs, Pajaritos and Oxycontinental, I’ll be joining downstairs headliners Uhuru Afrika (hosts of a longstanding pan-Afro night that sets live master-drumming over dance music from across the continent); meantime, upstairs will be locked to the sounds of several of my fave DJs, all with local ties: False Witness, Blk.Adonis, Dev/null, and LA-transplant & master mind-fader, Kingdom. (I’ll be kicking myself for missing whomever’s playing upstairs opposite me.)

It’s gonna be bonkers, sin duda. After this summer’s well received reggaetony set, I’m gonna have to up the ante, especially with downstairs’ subs to exploit. Trust it’ll be another crunk genealogy of some sort. Bottom-line: there’s nothing like playing to a room full of smiling dancing people. Can’t wait!

Then, on Sunday Nov 18, I’ll be at the Queens Museum in conversation with Apache Indian and DJ Rekha–

Felicitously — and aptly — the event is tied to an exhibition I’ve been wanting to check out, Caribbean: Crossroads of the World. What better angle to take on an English-born Punjabi bloke who raps over dancehall rhythms in a convincing Jamaican lilt, chatting bout arranged marriages with good creolized girls who “talk the Indian with the patwa” while proposing fusions of ragga and bhangra that, alongside contemporary Bally Sagoo, sketch out the blueprint for the entire genre as it’s known today.

A pioneer crossover artist, in his heyday Apache Indian addressed massive public followings in the UK and India, while enjoying a rare bit of outsider success in reggae and rap networks. And you can hear why. No more indebted to his namesake, Super Cat (aka the Wild Apache), than, say, Sean Paul is (which is to say, deeply indebted), Apache Indian distinguishes himself with a mastery of form that exceeds imitation. Man sound real, as they say. Check the original Don Raja stylee —

His knowledge of & affection for Jamaican music clearly run deep; note the fidelity to classic 60s style in what may be his best known song (thanks to inclusion on a few film soundtracks) — and, yes, he clearly enjoys playing “the Indian” in a Jamaican context (and the reggae guy in an Indian one):

Of course, all of this is to say that he sounds about as British as anything (or anyone) else. And his recordings embodied as they emboldened a generation of Asian youth who grew up amidst England’s unruly and often Caribbean-accented multiculture, and who wanted to own all of that — and to make it their own thing (no matter how Jamaican it might sound). Directly or indirectly, Apache Indian’s performances always raise questions about race and nation, (cross- and intra-)cultural dynamics and traditions, mutable and fixed positions. And this is irrespective of whether he’s performing in full Jamaican regalia, some bhangramuffin ensemble, or Putumayo-pleasing homeland garb (b/w Rastafarian rhetoric)–

Lots to talk about, no doubt. The event is free and open to the public, so come on thru!

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March 16th, 2012

Rapping to the Beat

Funny as it may be, I’m pretty sure Run DMC’s “Roots, Rap, Reggae” (featuring Yellowman) is the first “reggae” song I ever knew. As an occasionally awkward and awfully chintzy attempt at reggae via New York, it’s an odd introduction in nuff ways. On the other hand, there are a couple moments in the song, especially during Yellowman’s verses, which make it a really excellent primer.

One such moment is King Yellow’s wonderfully concise (if slightly defensive) assertion that “reggae music is not so strange” (which served as an apt epigraph to my dissertation). But it’s a different line that I want to draw your attention to here.

At another point in the song, Yellowman offers the following definition:

Reggae music is rapping to the beat

Of course, that makes a lot of sense in a song with Run DMC, as if Yellowman wants to assure listeners that reggae really is not so strange — in fact, from a certain perspective, he suggests, it’s essentially the same thing as hip-hop. This is hardly pandering on his part, certainly by the mid-80s, when a great deal of reggae was just that: rapping over beats.

But we can extend his definition even further — back to the pre-reggae days of ska and rocksteady even, to the early days of soundsystems and mic-wielding deejays, when Yellowman’s “talkover” forbears were rather profoundly revising what it means to make music in the age of its technological reproducibility.

I’m hardly the first to propose that the conceptual and artistic innovations that emerge from Jamaican soundsystem practice, especially during the late 60s, deeply inform musical production and practice throughout the late 20th century and well into the 21st. Even so, I often find that this remains an underappreciated revolution. So it’s a lesson I’ve been trying to impart in my own classes, guest lectures, and other talks for some time.

Toward that end, I’m once again grateful to Roifield Brown for helping me to make these points — and make them more publicly — thanks to his solicitous interviewing and careful editing. Roifield’s latest episodes in his podcast series include some of my thoughts on these matters — pertaining both to the initial rise of deejays in Jamaica and to how Kool Herc transmitted & transmuted these practices to help bring hip-hop into being:

Of course, it’s hard to just talk about New York in this regard and leave out London. UK soundsystem formations — from faithful to faithfully mutated — are key to understanding the resonance and reverb of Jamaican soundsystem culture, and there are few who’ve done as stellar and vibrant a job of representing that side of the story as London’s Heatwave.

You could say that I’m grateful to them too — as a teacher, researcher, and as a listener. I’ve been using their classic mix An England Story in my classes for years now. There’s simply no better resource for audibly apprehending the links that run through reggae, rave, jungle, garage, grime, and so on. So I’m pleased to note that the Heatwave has produced a fine supplement for me, my students, and unenrolled enthusiasts too: the SHOWTIME! DVD.

The DVD is gathered around a historic stageshow that the Heatwave presented last summer, bringing together an epic posse of UK bashment luminaries. Interspersed between the lively show segments are illuminating interviews with some pioneers of the scene, many crucial in forging a distinctly Jamaican-British accent. (I myself might have like to see & hear a little more from the hip-hop and grime scenes, which are represented thickly on the mix, but I can appreciate and respect the focus on reggae here.) As for further explicating the significance of the DVD and what it means, I’m going to leave that to the ever-sharp Dan Hancox, who published a deeply contextualized review just this week.

I showed some scenes from the DVD a few weeks ago in the latest incarnation of my global hip-hop class, and I can’t resist sharing an excerpt here featuring none other than Wiley, probably the UK’s most relentless, restless exponent of JA-indebted production over the last decade —

“They must have installed it in me,” he says, referring to the ways that reggae (or, rapping to the beat) insinuated itself into him — and notably naming Yellowman as prime perpetrator (perpetuator?).

Installed! I really love that. What seems at first like a bit of mispeaking actually proves entirely eloquent. He’s talking about enculturation, yes, but the slip of install for instill also says something about reggae as conceptual framework, reggae as software, reggae as operating system, reggae as memory.

Rapping to the beat by any other name, no matter wot-u-call it.

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February 9th, 2011

New Lambada New Lambada New Lambada New Lambada

Thanks to DJ Effresh for putting me on to yet another interesting instantiation of the “Lambada.” Here’s Vakero, one of the DR’s fiercest MCs, jumping on a dembow-influenced reworking of a truly perennial tune, as hashed out here, way back when —

Discussing this over at my/our Buzz, Birdseed pointed out that there’s a recent UK funky version of the tune as well:

Kaoma – Lambada (Terror Tone Remix) by Terror Tone

Obviously, this sort of thing is very up my musicological alley. I love to tell a good audible story, where a particular set of materials is transformed over and over again, according to its new context(s).

And while I’m not really interested in abstracting any rules for what makes one tune more transposable than others — IMO, there’s far too much contingency involved to open into the realm of the generalizable — one consistent thread that emerges across such case studies is that, as with participatory culture more generally, they very often present, in the words of Henry Jenkins, “relatively low barriers” to entry and engagement.

This is certainly true for the “Lambada,” and nothing says it better than Vakero’s shameless chorus on the track above: “la la la la la la la la la la la la la laaaaaaaa.” I mean, c’mon, anyone can do that! That’s how I’ve been singing “Lambada” for years.

Which brings me to my second example (and explains the repetitive title above): Juan Bago’s “Pan con Queso” (h/t Monika Fabian):

I’ve been a big fan of Wiz Khalifa’s relatively vapid but awfully catchy ode to his favorite colors ever since it first came out. (Indeed, I even cooked up a quick mashup to draw out the beat’s relation to the Triggerman.) I think it was Catchdubs who, in my feeds, first pointed out the obvious: You can change the chorus to be about anything! Any four-syllable phrase anyway.

And I can absolutely vouch for the plasticity of the tune. Indeed, since it entered regular radio rotation, my two toddlers have been singing it non-stop (they easily relate to songs about colors, of course), and we’ve all had fun for the last few months slotting all manner of four-syllable phrases into the hook. (Especially other color combinations, duh, in order to, say, suit the sippy-cup of the day: pink and purple, pink and purple, pink and purple, pink and purple.) [Update!Sharesister Lily notes that there actually exists a lilgirls’ version of the song called “Pink and Purple“! My daughters are delighted.]

So it doesn’t surprise me that there would be dozens and dozens of remixes (or whatever you insist on calling them) in which people substitute their own favorite four-syllable phrase. But few (that I’ve seen anyway), have come close to approaching the panache and piquancy of “Pan con Queso.” Washington Heights representando! Long live the Dominican YouTubosphere! Viva la “Lambada”!

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September 2nd, 2010

Global Reggae

Next week I begin teaching my second course at MIT. It’s a new syllabus, though it draws on certain materials I’ve used before. In contrast to previous offerings, however, this will be the first time I teach a class with a primary focus on reggae outside of Jamaica — on what I’m calling here “global reggae” or “reggae as transnational culture.”

No doubt we’ll encounter a good number of themes resonant with the inextricably related subject of global hip-hop. But I’m also keen to identify particular dimensions of reggae’s transmission and transformation abroad that might, for significant reasons, diverge from the reception and refiguring of hip-hop around the world. We’ll let you know ;)

Meantime, if you happen to know any MIT students to whom this sort of course would appeal, by all means point them this-a-way. And if you spot any conspicuous absences in the syllabus below — a work-in-progress, as always — please do point them out, make recommendations, & feel free to offer critiques, supplements, and blessings.

21F.035 / 21M.539 Topics in Culture and Globalization
Global Reggae: Reggae as Transnational Culture

Fall 2010
MIT

Wayne Marshall
Mellon Fellow in the Humanities
Foreign Languages and Literatures
Music and Theater Arts

Tuesday/Thursday 12:30-2:00 pm
Room 14N-217

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Reggae is incontestably one of the most popular musics in the world. Despite its origins in the working-class urban culture of the relatively small country of Jamaica, reggae artists have powerfully projected their voices outward (in part via the imperial networks of the UK and USA) and one can hear reggae today in almost any corner of the globe—not just Jamaican reggae, but local versions and fusions with nearly every other conceivable genre. Reggae precedes the global reach of its progeny, hip-hop, but, in its dancehall guise, it has also in turn piggybacked on hip-hop’s own impressive international spread. As remix approaches and massive sound systems have become increasingly common worldwide, reggae stands as a remarkably influential template for world music, electronic dance music, and popular music more generally. Itself constituted by international flows of music and musicians but increasingly produced outside of Jamaica, reggae thus offers a rich resource for the examination of today’s global circulations of music and media.

This course considers reggae, or Jamaican popular music more generally—in its various forms (ska, rocksteady, roots, dancehall)—as constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways, cast variously as Jamaican, Caribbean, Afrodiasporic, and/or black, and recast through the cultural logics of the new spaces it enters, the new soundscapes it permeates. By reading across the reggae literature, as well as considering reggae texts themselves (songs, films, videos, and images), we will scrutinize the different interpretations of reggae’s significance and the implications of different interpretations of the story of Jamaica and its music. We will attend in particular to how reggae informs notions of selfhood and nationhood, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, religion and politics—in particular places and at particular times.

Although Bob Marley still serves as the most ubiquitous symbol of reggae (and, indeed, of Jamaica), the reggae tradition and repertory go far deeper and represent a great deal to listeners and practitioners. In its shifting shapes and forms the genre has served for four decades as a potent symbol of independence and social critique, communitarian commitment as well as rugged individualism. While certain core values appear regularly in reggae, the genre also offers a rather flexible palette for a wide range of ideological positions, from Pan-Africanism and other forms of transnationalism to utterly provincial nationalism, from peaceful and respectful postures to aggressive machismo and militancy, from tolerance to its own forms of oppression. Perhaps most notably, reggae has made such scripts of personhood and nationhood available not only to Jamaicans but to people around the world who have adopted the genre’s gestures as their own.

Beginning with a consideration of how Jamaica’s popular music industry emerged out of transnational exchanges, the course will proceed to focus on reggae’s circulation outside of Jamaica via diasporic networks and commercial mediascapes. Attending to how the genre’s pliable but distinct forms have been, in turn, transformed in particular localities, the course will help to illuminate ongoing dynamics between the global and local. Among other sites, we will consider reggae’s resonance and impact elsewhere in the Anglo Caribbean (e.g., Trinidad, Barbados), the United Kingdom (including British reggae styles but also such progeny as jungle, grime, and dubstep), the United States (both as reggae per se and in hip-hop), France and Germany, Panama and Puerto Rico and other Latin American locales (e.g., Brazil), Japan and Australia, as well as West, South, and East Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda).

COURSE SCHEDULE

JAMAICA

Bilby, Kenneth. “Jamaica.” In Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae, ed. Peter Manuel, 143-182. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995.

Veal, Michael. Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007. [Intro & ch. 1, p. 1-44]

Thomas, Deborah. “Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical ‘Tripping’ on Black Vernacular Culture.” In Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica, 230-62. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.

Chude-Sokei, Louis. “Post-Nationalist Geographies: Rasta, Ragga, and Reinventing Africa.” African Arts, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Autumn 1994): 80-84, 96.

Patterson, Orlando. “Ecumenical America: Global Culture and the American Cosmos.” World Policy Journal Vol. 11, No. 2 (1994): 103-17.

Watch: excerpts from Roots, Rock, Reggae, Harder They Come, Dancehall Queen, Third World Cop, Shottas

UNITED KINGDOM

Bennett, Louise. “Colonization in Reverse.” (1966)

Jones, Simon. Black Culture, White Youth: The Reggae Tradition from JA to UK. London: Macmillan, 1988. [ch. 2, 4, Conclusion, p. 33-56, 87-118, 231-40.]

Gilroy, Paul. “Between the Blues and the Blues Dance: Some Soundscapes of the Black Atlantic.” In The Auditory Culture Reader, ed. Michael Bull and Les Back, 381-95. Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers, 2003.

Hebdige, Dick. Cut’n’Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music. London: Routledge, 1987. [ch. 11-12, p. 90-117]

Sharma, Sanjay. “Noisy Asians or ‘Asian’ Noise?” [p. 32-60] & Shirin Housee & Mukhtar Dar, “Re-Mixing Identities: ‘Off’ the Turn-Table” [p. 81-104]. In Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music. London: Zed Books, 1996.

Quinn, Steven. “Rumble In The Jungle: The Invisible History of Drum’n’Bass.” Transformations, No. 3 (May 2002): 1-12.

Watch: excerpts from Reggae In a Babylon, Babylon, Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music
Listen: “An England Story”

UNITED STATES

Chang, Jeff. “Making a Name: How DJ Kool Herc Lost His Accent and Started Hip-Hop.” In Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005. [ch. 4, p. 67-88]

Kenner, Rob. “Dancehall,” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 350-7. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Marshall, Wayne. “Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme”
.

Marshall, Wayne. “Hearing Hip-hop’s Jamaican Accent.” Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 34, no. 2 (2005): 8-9, 14-15.

Koppel, Niko. “New Roots in the Bronx for a Lion of Reggae.” New York Times, April 12, 2009.

Faraone, Chris. “Reggae Revival.” [on reggae in Boston] Boston Phoenix, May 21, 2009.

Stephens, Michelle A. “Babylon’s ‘Natural Mystic’: The North American Music Industry, the Legend of Bob Marley, and the Incorporation of Transnationalism.” Cultural Studies Vol. 12, No. 2 (1998): 139–167.

Watch: excerpts from Sound Class, Marked for Death, Belly, Predator 2

COSTA RICA

Putnam, Lara. “The Weekly Reggee: The Greater Caribbean Jazz Age and Youth Dances in Limon, Costa Rica, 1930-1932.” Unpublished/forthcoming.

PANAMA

Bishop, Marlon. “Spanish Oil.” Wax Poetics 43 (September 2010).

Worfalk, Clayton. The Roots. Big Up Magazine, 2008.

Twickel, Christoph. “Reggae in Panama: Bien Tough.” & “Muévelo (Move It!): From Panama to New York and Back Again, the Story of El General.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 81-88 & 99-108. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Nwankwo, Ifeoma C. K. “The Panamanian Origins of Reggae en Español: Seeing History through ‘Los Ojos Café’ of Renato.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 89-98. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

PUERTO RICO

Giovannetti, Jorge L. “Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols.” In Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas, ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Flores, Juan. 2004. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro 16, no. 2 (Fall): 283-289.

Marshall, Wayne. “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reggaeton, ed. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 19-76. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

CUBA

Davis, Samuel Furé. “Reggae in Cuba and the Hispanic Caribbean: fluctuations and representations of identities.” Black Music Research Journal Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2009): 25-50.

Hansing, Katrin. “Rasta, Race and Revolution: Transnational Connections in Socialist Cuba.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4 (2001): 733 – 747.

Baker, Geoffrey. 2009. “The Politics of Dancing.” In Reggaeton, eds. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 165-99. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Fairley, Jan. 2008. “How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender and Sexuality in Cuba.” In Reggaeton, eds. Rivera, Marshall, and Pacini-Hernandez, 280-96. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

BRAZIL

Behague, Gerard. “Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-95).” Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 79-90.

de Araújo Pinho, Osmundo. “‘Fogo na Babilônia’: Reggae, Black Counterculture, and Globalization in Brazil.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn (New York: Routledge, 2001), 192-206.

dos Santos Godi, Antonio J. V. “Reggae and Samba-Reggae in Bahia: A Case of Long-Distance Belonging.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, ed. Charles A. Perrone and Christopher Dunn (New York: Routledge, 2001), 207-219.

Neate, Patrick and Damian Platt. Culture Is Our Weapon: Afroreggae in the Favelas of Rio [ch 3, 4, 7, 8].

Goodman, Steve. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. [ch. 31, p. 171-5]

Watch: excerpts from Favela Rising, Favela on Blast

WEST, EAST, AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

Akindes, Simon. “Playing It ‘Loud and Straight’: Reggae, Zouglou, Mapouka and Youth Insubordination in Côte d’Ivoire.” In Playing with Identities in Contemporary Music in Africa, ed. Mai Palmberg & Annemette Kirkegaard, 86-103. Nordic Africa Institute, 2002.

McNee, Lisa. “Back From Babylon: Popular Musical Cultures of the Diaspora, Youth Culture and Identity in Francophone West Africa.” In Music, Popular Culture, Identities, ed. Richard Young, 213-228. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

Savishinsky, Neil J. “Rastafari in the Promised Land: The Spread of a Jamaican Socioreligious Movement among the Youth of West Africa.” African Studies Review Vol. 37, No. 3 (Dec 1994): 19-50.

Remes, Pieter. “Global Popular Musics and Changing Awareness of Urban Tanzanian Youth.” Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 31 (1999): 1-26.

Gilman, Lisa and John Fenn. “Dance, Gender, and Popular Music in Malawi: The Case of Rap and Ragga.” Popular Music Vol. 25, No. 3 (2006): 369-81.

Watch: excerpts from Living the Hiplife, Buchaman

JAPAN

Sterling, Marvin D. Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae and Rastafari in Japan. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010. [Intro, ch. 1, 3, 5, 6]

Dresinger, Baz. “Tokyo After Dark.” Vibe, 2002.

Wood, Joe. “The Yellow Negro.” Transition 73 (1997): 40-67.

AUSTRALIA & BALI

Maxwell, Ian. “Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 259-79. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

White, Cameron. “Rapper on a Rampage: Theorising the Political Significance of Aboriginal Australian Hip Hop and Reggae.” Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol. 4 No 1 (April 2009): 108-130.

Baulch, Emma. Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali. Durham: Duke University Press, 200 [ch. 3, p. 73-90]

That’s it, for now. There are plenty of holes that I’m aware of (anything on roots reggae in Cuba, say [update: after one day of comments, that’s been ameliorated; new readings now above!]), and surely plenty more that I’m not. Then again, I’m finding the extant literature on local reggae scenes outside of Jamaica fairly impoverished at the moment. (Nothing on Italian sound systems? Really?) The course can’t exactly be comprehensive — we only have so much time — but I would love for this post to serve as a spot for collecting some good materials. So, as they say inna di dancehall, send on!

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April 9th, 2010

Hello Stranger, My Old Friend

A couple weeks ago, as I was driving cross-country with my brother, we tuned into a show somewhere in Tennessee which was devoted to playing 50s and (early) 60s jams from the current week, however many years ago they may have hit. This was quite a treat, especially in comparison to insane-but-boring talk radio and endless middle-of-the-road schlock, as it offered up a lot of great songs from beyond the typical “oldies” cannon. One of the songs caught my ear at a certain point with its seemingly unremarkable riff “shoo bop shoo bop, my baby” which, as I sang it over in my head, started to recall a classic reggae riff.

Because my iPhone was running low on batteries and I needed it for navigation, I couldn’t Shazam the track then and there, so instead I scrawled “shoo bop shoo bop, my baby” on a scrap of paper and filed it away for later. I was a little afraid that a Google query for “shoo bop shoo bop, my baby” might be a total mess, but as it happens, when I finally tried it yesterday, it turned up the song right away. It’s this —

Listening back to it, especially the section from 1:40 onwards, I was struck once again by how much it appears to mirror (and hence probably informed/inspired) the well-worn horn riff in Alton Ellis’s “Still in Love,” originally recorded in 1967 for Studio One — thus four years after Barbara Lewis’s R&B hit, with which Ellis and Coxsone Dodd and the Studio One band were likely familiar, being such R&B heads — a riff which has reared its head again and again on songs that take flight from Ellis’s rocksteady hit (including, most recently and notably, Sean Paul’s hit version from 2002’s Dutty Rock). Here’s the original Ellis / Studio One version; sound like a connection/derivation to you?

I was curious to know whether I was imagining this relationship myself, so I asked Twitter to lend me an ear. I can’t say that the response was overwhelming, but I was thrilled that DJ Dabbler decided to do some digital sleuthing with me. Among other things, we discovered that not only had Alton Ellis re-recorded the song in 1977, but that ’77 also happens (tellingly? which came first?) to be the same year that another American R&B singer, Hawaiian crooner Yvonne Elliman, scored her own hit with “Hello Stranger”! Check em out below (btw, I wish that someone would video the Elliman record playing like these others — such a nice witness to material culture/history):

Although, as with the 60s examples, this still only suggests without confirming — and we can’t ask Ellis anymore, unfortunately — that some amount of borrowing/inspiration is happening here, Dabbler turned up another version that certainly offers evidence of some players in the reggae scene explicitly connecting these dots. Check out this version of “Hello Stranger” by UK-lovers group Brown Sugar (which features a young Caron Wheeler, who would go on to perform with Soul II Soul):

It’s pretty obvious that Brown Sugar here employs the horn riff from “Still In Love” to animate (and make more meaningful) their cover of “Hello Stranger.” This is all par for the course for reggae’s riddim method, of course, but still, a really wonderful example of how a little riff can do so much. I wonder where Barbara Lewis & co. might have heard it themselves. Seems like the sort of thing that might have been bubbling through R&B and doo-wop for a while. If you have any other leads or connections to offer, no matter how seemingly far-flung, I’m all ears!

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January 31st, 2010

Global Hip-hop

Since I’m in a syllabus sharing mood, I figured I should finally get around to posting the one I put together in Spring 2008 for a course on “Global Hip-hop.” A series of case studies examining how hip-hop travels outside the US, what it carries with it, and how people adapt its forms to their own ends, it was a hugely fun class to teach, and I was thrilled by the response at Brandeis. (At 150 students — which is where we finally capped enrollment — it was easily the biggest class I’ve taught, as well as the largest that Music or AAAS had hosted in years.) I’m sorry that I can’t include here all the audio and video that we reviewed (never mind pdfs), but poke around the webz and you’ll find lots of the examples referenced in the readings, as well as many of the articles themselves.

I’ve posted other syllabi here, fyi.

AAAS 135b:
GLOBAL HIP-HOP

Spring 2008
Brandeis University

Wayne Marshall
Florence Levy Kay Fellow
Music / African and Afro-American Studies

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Over the past several years, hip-hop has been heralded as a global phenomenon and an American export par excellence. Although a flurry of books, articles, and college classes have begun to examine the cultural, social, and political significance of hip-hop’s worldwide resonance, studies of the genre rarely focus on the specific ways that hip-hop travels, how it is engaged, represented, reproduced, and changed in various locales around the world, and how it animates local cultural politics despite carrying such strong, and sometimes contradictory, connotations of what it means to be American and African-American. This course considers hip-hop as itself constituted by international movements and exchanges and as a product that circulates globally in complex ways, cast variously as American, African-American, and/or black, and recast through the cultural logics of the new spaces it enters, the new soundscapes it permeates.

A host of questions arise in considering the scope and significance of global hip-hop: What does the genre, in its various forms (audio, video, sartorial, etc.), carry with it outside the US? What do people bring to it in new local contexts? How are American ideologies of race and nation mediated by hip-hop’s global reach? Why do some global (which is to say, local) hip-hop scenes fasten onto the genre’s politics of place and community, of struggle and opposition to the status quo, while others appear more enamored with hip-hop’s portrayal of personal gain, hustler archetypes, and conspicuous consumption? How do hip-hop scenes differ from North to South America, North to South Africa, Europe to Asia? What threads unite them?

In pursuit of such questions, we will read across the emerging literature on global hip-hop as we also explore the growing resources available via the internet, where websites and blogs, MySpace and YouTube and the like, appear to be facilitating a further florescence of international (and peer-to-peer) exchanges around hip-hop. We will consider a number of case studies of hip-hop scenes around the world as well as closely related (and sometimes antagonistic) musical/stylistic offshoots and hybrids, including: Puerto Rico (reggaeton), Brazil (funk carioca), England (grime), South Africa (kwaito), Tanzania (bongo flava), Jamaica (dancehall), Germany, Japan, Kenya, Cuba, Morocco/France, and Australia. We will also examine the international roots of hip-hop in multicultural New York and how American hip-hop figures the foreign (as in “orientalist” gestures and other sonic representations of otherness). Larger themes to be explored include postcolonialism and globalization, mass media and migration, race and nation.

MAIN SOURCES

Basu, Dipannita and Sidney J. Lemelle, eds. The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005.

Condry, Ian. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Forman, Murray and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Mitchell, Tony, ed. Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

20% – Class Attendance and Participation: all students are expected to attend all class meetings and to participate in discussions, especially in Thursday sections

40% – Weekly Wikipedia Edits: each week students will make a small but substantive edit or addition to a Wikipedia article related to course materials. Students will also post a brief note to an open thread on LATTE explaining what they have done and why.

40% – Final Paper: a 10-15 page essay investigating a hip-hop scene outside the US: what representations exist and/or frame the scene’s narrative, how does the global/local dynamic play out, how does it compare to other places, etc.

CLASS CALENDAR

Week 1: Introduction & a Brief History of Hip-hop’s Roots in Multicultural New York

Kelley, Robin D.G. “Foreward.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, xi-xvii. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Mitchell, Tony. “Introduction: Another Root—Hip-hop Outside the USA.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 1- 38. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Chang, Jeff. “Inventos Hip-Hop: An Interview with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 255-261. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.

_______. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-hop Generation. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005. (Chapters 1-4.)

Flores, Juan. “Puerto Rocks: Rap, Roots, and Amnesia.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 69-86. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Hebdige, Dick. “Rap and Hip-hop: The New York Connection.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 223-232. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Marshall, Wayne. “Hearing Hip-hop’s Jamaican Accent.” Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter 34, no. 2 (2005): 8-9, 14-15.
http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/isam/NewsletS05/Marshall.htm

Week 2: Hip-hop in Jamaica, Jamaica in Hip-hop

Patterson, Orlando. “Ecumenical America: Global Culture and the American Cosmos.” World Policy Journal 11(2): 103-17 (1994).

Thomas, Deborah. “Modern Blackness; or, Theoretical ‘Tripping’ on Black Vernacular Culture.” In Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica, 230-62. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.

Kenner, Rob. “Dancehall,” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 350-7. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Marshall, Wayne. “Bling-bling for Rastafari: How Jamaicans Deal with Hip-hop.” Social and Economic Studies 55: 1 & 2 (2006): 49- 74.

_______. “Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme”

Week 3: Hip-hop, Reggae, and Reggaeton in Puerto Rico

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances and Raquel Z. Rivera, “Reggaeton Nation.” NACLA News. 17 December 2007.

Santos, Mayra. 1996. “Puerto Rican Underground.” Centro 8, no. 1 & 2: 219-231.

Flores, Juan. 2004. “Creolité in the ‘Hood: Diaspora as Source and Challenge.” Centro 16, no. 2 (Fall): 283-289.

Giovannetti, Jorge L. “Popular Music and Culture in Puerto Rico: Jamaican and Rap Music as Cross-Cultural Symbols.” In Musical Migrations: Transnationalism and Cultural Hybridity in the Americas, ed. Frances R. Aparicio and Cándida F. Jáquez, 81-98. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Marshall, Wayne. “From Música Negra to Reggaeton Latino.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Week 4: Hip-hop vs. Reggaeton in Cuba

Pacini-Hernández, Deborah and Reebee Garofalo. “Hip Hop in Havana: Rap, Race and National Identity in Contemporary Cuba.” Journal for Popular Music Studies, 2000: 1-41.

Baker, Geoffrey. 2005. “¡Hip hop, Revolución! Nationalizing Rap in Cuba.” Ethnomusicology 49, no. 3: 368-402.

_______. 2006. “La Habana que no conoces: Cuban rap and the social construction of urban space.” Ethnomusicology Forum 15, no. 2: 215-46.

_______. 2008. “The Politics of Dancing.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Fairley, Jan. 2008. “How To Make Love With Your Clothes On: Dancing Regeton, Gender and Sexuality in Cuba.” In Reading Reggaeton (forthcoming, Duke University Press).

Wunderlich, Annelise. “Cuban Hip-hop: Making Space for New Voices of Dissent.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 167-79. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Eli. Inventos: Hip Hop Cubano. DVD. (2003)

Week 5: Hip-hop vs. Funk in Brazil

Behague, Gerard. “Rap, Reggae, Rock, or Samba: The Local and the Global in Brazilian Popular Music (1985-95).” Latin American Music Review 27, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2006): 79-90.

Sansone, Livio. “The Localization of Global Funk in Bahia and Rio.” In Brazilian Popular Music & Globalization, 135-60. London: Routledge, 2002.

Yúdice, George. “The Funkification of Rio.” In Microphone Fiends, 193-220. London: Routledge, 1994.

Cumming, Andy. “Who Let the Yobs Out?” (Stylus)

_______. “Interview with DJ Marlboro.” (Hyperdub)
http://web.archive.org/web/20040422141408/http://www.hyperdub.com/ softwar/marlboro.cfm

Scruggs, Greg. “Stirring the Pot.” Beat Diaspora, 17 December 2007.
http://beatdiaspora.blogspot.com/2007/12/stirring-pot.html

Week 6: Hip-hop meets House in South Africa

Robinson, Simon. “That’s Kwaito Style.” (Time)
http://www.time.com/time/europe/html/040419/kwaito.html

Clark, Grant. “Kwaito: The Voice of Youth.” (BBC World Service)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/rhythms/south africa.shtml

Steingo, Gavin. “South African Music After Apartheid: Kwaito, the “Party Politic,” and the Appropriation of Gold as a Sign of Success.” Popular Music and Society, July 2005.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2822/is_3_28/ai_n15648564

Stanley-Niaah, Sonjah. “Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto.” In Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, ed. by Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, 193-217. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007.

Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster Rap: Hip Hop in the Post-Apartheid City.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 208-29. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Ariefdien, Shaheen and Nazli Abrahams. “Cape Flats Academy: Hip-Hop Arts in South Africa.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 262-70. New York: BasicCivitas / Perseus Books, 2006.

Salkind, Micah. “Kwaito Culture as Nonpolitics In A Black Atlantic Creative Context.” Kwaito Genealogy, 13 Dec 2008. http://kwaitogeneology.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/kwaito

Week 7: Hip-hop in Kenya, Bongo Flava in Tanzania

Lemelle, Sidney J. “‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Rebensdorf, Alicia. “‘Representing the Real’: Exploring Appropriations of Hip-hop Culture in the Internet and Nairobi.” Senior Thesis, Lewis & Clark.
http://lclark.edu/~soan/alicia/rebensdorf.101.html

Ferguson, James. “Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the ‘New World Society.'” Cultural Anthropology 17, no. 4 (2002): 551-569.

Martin, Lydia. “Bongo Flava: Swahili Rap from Tanzania (CD review).” (Afropop)
http://www.afropop.org/explore/album_review/ID/2604/ Bongo+Flava:+Swahili+Rap+from+Tanzania

Mueller, Gavin. “Bongoflava: The Primer.” (Stylus)
http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/pop_playground/bongoflava-the-primer.htm

Wanguhu, Michael. Hip Hop Colony: The Hip Hop Explosion in Africa. DVD. (2005)

Week 8: Postcolonial UK Soundclash: Hip-hop, Reggae, Grime, and Bhangra

Gilroy, Paul. “It’s a Family Affair.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip- hop Studies Reader, 87-94. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Hesmondhalgh, David and Caspar Melville. “Urban Breakbeat Culture: Repercussions of Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 86-110. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Frere-Jones, Sasha. “True Grime.” (New Yorker)
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/03/21/050321crmu_music

Chang, Jeff. “Future Shock.” Village Voice, 19 January 2004.
http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0403,chang,50366,22.html

Sharma, Sanjay. “Noisy Asians or ‘Asian Noise’?” In Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music, ed. Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk, and Ashwani Sharma, 32-57. London: Zed Books, 1996.

Week 9: Hip-hop and Raï in France / North Africa

Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. “Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities.” Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3- 39. [Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 198-230. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.]

Swedenburg, Ted. “Islamic Hip-hop vs. Islamophobia.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 57-85. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Rosen, Jody. “David Brooks, Playa Hater.” Slate, 10 November 2005.
http://www.slate.com/id/2130120

Prevos, Andre J. M. “Postcolonial Popular Music in France: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the 1980s and 1990s.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 39-56. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Helenon, Veronique. “Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 151-66. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Meghelli, Samir. “Interview with Youcef (Intik).” In Tha Global Cipha: Hip Hop Culture and Consciousness, ed. by James G. Spady, H. Samy Alim, and Samir Meghelli. 656-67. Philadelphia: Black History Museum Publishers, 2006.

Week 10: Hip-hop in Germany

Bennett, Andy. “Hip-Hop am Main, Rappin’ on the Tyne: Hip-hop Culture as a Local Construct in Two European Cities.” In That’s the Joint!: The Hip-hop Studies Reader, 177-200. New York; London: Routledge, 2004.

Pennay, Mark. “Rap in Germany: The Birth of a Genre.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 111-134. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Brown, Timothy S. “‘Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 137-50. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Week 11: Hip-hop in Japan

Condry, Ian. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Wood, Joe. “The Yellow Negro.” Transition 73 (“The White Issue”): 40-67.

Week 12: Hip-hop in Australia and the Pacific

Maxwell, Ian. “Sydney Stylee: Hip-Hop Down Under Comin’ Up.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 259-79. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Mitchell, Tony. “Kia Kaha! (Be Strong!): Maori and Pacific Islander Hip-hop in Aotearoa-New Zealand.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 280-305. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Henderson, April K. “Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. By Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180-199. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006.

Week 13: Conclusions: Brave New World Music?

Christgau, Robert. “Planet Rock: The World’s Most Local Pop Goes International.” Village Voice, 2 May 2002. http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0219,christgau,34334,22.html

Schwartz, Mark. “Planet Rock: Hip Hop Supa National.” In The Vibe History of Hip-hop, ed. Alan Light, 361-72. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.

Chang, Jeff. “It’s a Hip-hop World.” Foreign Policy 163, Nov/Dec 2007, 58-65.

Host, Vivian (and contributors). “The New World Music.” XLR8R 109 (Aug 2007): 64-73.

Marshall, Wayne. “Global Ghettotech vs. Indie Rock: The Contempo Cartography of Hip”
http://wayneandwax.com/?p=205

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September 1st, 2009

Mobile Music & Treble Culture

I’m in the process of working up a short essay on the topic of “treble culture” for a volume on “mobile music.” I’m hoping that some of my awesome readers/interlocutors might lend me a hand (and/or ear). There are two main areas in which I am interested:

1) the rise of “treble culture” and the crucial relation to music technologies (incl mobile devices)

2) the effects of “treble culture,” esp as, ironically, a means of filtering “bass culture”

With regard to the first point, I’m hoping to offer a historical overview of the attenuation of bass frequencies in consumer/commercial music culture with the successive advent of particular player/media technologies. In particular, I intend to trace, alongside an increase in audiophilia and high fidelity, a steady march toward consumer-end devices that have different priorities and have, in effect, progressively moved us toward a rather trebly everyday engagement with music. There are plenty of technologies which have contributed to this “rolling off” of bass frequencies. Here’s a partial list; if you can think of other notable factors/tech (esp particular devices and their quirks), please make a note in the comments:

* vinyl records, esp 78s, 45s, and 33 rpm LPs (the 12″ single, with its deeper grooves, offers an exception)
* early AAD CD transfers, which often didn’t account for the bass boost in record-player pre-amps
* lo-fi speakers, portable radios, boomboxes, headphones, cellphones, etc. (recognizing a wide degree of difference across brands & platforms)
* audio compression (in the studio, but also for radio, in clubs, etc.)
* MP3 (and other file format) compression

With regard to the second, I’d like to explore the cultural/phenomenological significance of this trend — what is gained & what is lost, besides certain frequencies — using some ethnography and interview data. In this sense, I’m interested both in listeners’ perspectives and experiences (how frequently do you encounter, or practice, treble culture?), as well as producers’ (from savvy 80s hip-hop heads pushing stuff “into the red” to compensate for attenuated bass to the more recent mid-freq emulation of bass in bassline, niche/electro/blog house, etc.). Please feel free to share any and all thoughts on this. It seems to me that “treble culture” is increasingly broadcast across our city soundscapes. Tell me about the kids on the bus, walking down the street, outside the club, huddled around computer speakers. I’d love to offer more cross-cultural/geographical context than my own curious ears and eyes have witnessed.

Getting us toward phenomenological effects, consider some of the following perspectives (all, admittedly/interestingly, “British”):

Don Letts: “It’s disturbing when I see kids on buses, listening to music on their phones, and it’s just going: tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, with no bass. Bass culture is Jamaica’s gift to the world and technology is, kind of, ruining that. Bass is sexy. Women respond to bass.”

Kode9: “there’s a particular kind of bass sound which really fucks me off. … a kind of lowest common denominator way of getting people to move. … a complex of frequencies which works on even the shittest soundsystems. And you can’t underestimate the impact having to play on shit sound systems has on a music culture…”

K-Punk: “Both dubstep and minimal techno only achieve their full potency when played on a club soundsystem. The subtle pressure of sub-bass, the way it moves the very air itself, the hypnotic pulse of the drums, not to mention the role of the dancing crowd iself: none of this can be replicated at home, still less on iPod headphones.”

Finally, here is my (lengthy) abstract, in case it provides further food for thought:

Since the advent of the handheld radio, listeners have long adopted portable music technologies and adapted to the (often tinny) range of frequencies supported by such devices. For their part, producers have tailored their mixes in order to exploit the popularity of such technologies. From one perspective, then, the rise of personal mobile devices — especially mp3 players and cellphones — represents yet another stage in a historical continuum which includes the boombox and the walkman. There are, however, significant differences presented by the latest wave of mobile music products and practices, especially with regard to their ubiquity, their social uses, and their narrow frequency ranges. Whereas previous portable music devices certainly enjoyed some popularity, even that degree of usage stands in stark contrast to the present: today most people — in the overdeveloped world, that is — have a cellphone, an iPod, a laptop on their person, much of the time. (And cellphone usage is rising drastically in the “developing” world.) These digital devices have become, for many, the primary interfaces with sound recordings, especially in the form of mp3s, compressed music files that allow for easy circulation and storage by adding a further layer of frequency range constraint (albeit mostly out of the range of human hearing). While some bemoan the social isolation symbolized by Apple’s white earbuds, remarkably, especially among young people, these personal portable technologies also enable the sharing of music in public. It is not uncommon in major cities such as New York or London to observe a crowd of teenagers clustered around a tinny piece of plastic broadcasting a trebly slice of the latest pop hit.

Despite ongoing endeavors in audiophilia, some of the most commonly used devices for listening today — cellphones, mp3 players, laptops — were not designed with high fidelity as a priority. Rather, as size constraints and style have dominated design, certain sonic dimensions have been conspicuously left out, namely bass. So ironically, even as what Linton Kwesi-Johnson calls “bass culture” remains strong as ever through the global reach of hip-hop, reggae, and other electronically-produced dance music, we simultaneously witness a filtering of such low-end-centric genres through what we might rightly call “treble culture,” as mediated by mobile music devices and their physical limitations. The attenuation of bass is a product not just of the size of these devices but — as highlighted by the issue of bandwidth (both internet/wifi and telephonic systems) — results also from the transformation of sound into digital representations capable of being easily transmitted and stored (i.e., “lossy” encoding).

But beyond tech specs, the rise of “treble culture” calls attention to a number of crucial intersections between music, technology, society, and culture. In offering a history of treble culture, this essay will place today’s digital mobile music players alongside twentieth-century precedents, considering their relative frequency range constraints as well as their relative popularity, but it will also attend to the new practices emerging with such devices: the class issues surrounding cellphone vs. iPod use, the racially-tinged discourses around public projection of mobile sound (or “noise”), the socialization of such technologies via communal listening practices, and the representational strategies on the part of producers and engineers to compose music that “works” through such devices. Just as Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” was meant to evoke grandiosity through even the most “consumer-end” radio, the recent embrace of mid-range synth lines and square waveforms suggests a kind of zeitgeist aesthetic feedback loop, a way of suggesting bass amidst all the treble. As an utterly mundane — indeed, naturalized — and yet largely unexamined phenomenon, the advent of treble culture merits a serious and critical appraisal.

Hit me on Twitter, in the comments, etc. Tell me all about those trebly slices of life you’ve been a part of and/or a witness to. I’d love to collect some anecdotes, find some angles I hadn’t considered, flesh out my brief history, and so on.

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March 16th, 2009

Real Talk, Lads

So, yeah, inundated by mixes, but finally got a chance to check out last month’s Rinse FM set by Butterz (ft. Terror Danjah), which shows grime (& its bastard cousin, dubstep) alive&well & wot-u-call-it as ever.

Comfortably contentious even! Esp w/ the notion that grime might be less than alive & well.

I love the moment at ~17min, during Durrty Goodz’s bracing “Grime Killers” (which assails “fake journalists” “talking bout ‘grime is dead'”) [currently streaming here], when you hear what sounds like a phone exchange on the radio. Cueing the listener to pay special attn, Butterz interjects, “Yeah, this is what I’m talking about.” We hear a classic bit of pseudo-socio-psychology (sampled from a radio talk show, it appears), blaming grime and other popular pursuits for the corrupt condition of “kids these days” (actually “young black men and women,” accding to one commentator).

Butterz offers cutting running commentary on the condescending hand-wringing —

caller: why is it that all these young rappers who are writing lyrics and poetry can’t even be successful in english?

butterz: coz they want to do grime, idiot!

caller: they’re writing poetry for goodness sake!

butterz: not poetry, bro.

He bigs up himself (!) for “real talk” (a hip-hop expression, signified pon by the well-Bri’ish “lads”) during an attempt to explain by indicting teachers for not capturing youths’ imaginations as popular culture does (“either sport or rappin”), noting that young people “aren’t looking for sustainable careers.”

What I love most, though, is “not poetry, bro.” This gets at a longstanding pet-peeve of mine among hip-hop apologists — and that includes hip-hop scholars and conservative critics alike. I’m afraid that a number of hip-hop scholars have wrongly affirmed the language of elitist legitimacy in their projects to validate the genre (this was more a problem in the 90s than this decade). Describing rap as “street poetry” always struck me as worse than inadequate (even if a truism sometimes spoken by my favorite rappers).

Butterz resists the conservative critique that follows the reified/received wisdom that rap is poetry (whether in hip-hop or grime) precisely because he doesn’t want to cede that ground of critique to conservative critics. Grime is grime. English is English. Poetry is poetry. Maths is maths. Yuzimi? Don’t reduce grime’s particularity to some primitive version of what is recognized by the broader society and keepers of the canon. Chant dem dung. Brush them off. Tek weh yuself.

Real talk, lads. But build them sustainable careers, seen? We wanna keep on listening across the pond.

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July 22nd, 2008

Linkthink #833: Beyond a Boundary


  • YouTube – Roots Manuva – Again & Again

    “With this record I was trying to tune into that old Channel One, Studio One aesthetic.” :: roots manuva hits that ball out the park on this lead single (prod. by shyFX?!) :: rodney da realest, u done know

    (tags: reggaehip-hopcricketcaribbeanvideoyoutubelondonUK)

  • Cabeza!

    “A virtual label whose main goal is to distribute suburbia music. Cumbia, dancehall, reggaeton and any other rythm that started in the slums and made its way to the dancefloor.” :: nueva BA stylee spot for whirledwide bastard bassquakery, neat but sloppy?

    (tags: cumbiabuenosairesargentinablognetlabelaudiomashupdancehallremix)

  • Amazon.com: Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street: Patrick Burke

    read my friend and colleague Pat Burke’s book — it’ll make you smarter and, more specifically, give you a richly textured sense of what jazz and related/imbricated performance practices said about race then, and now

    (tags: racejazzbookacademicethnomusicology)

  • Web Use Project: Papers

    collection of articles about the participation gap, the access divide, and assorted/related tech-cultural topics

    (tags: techacademicarchivedigitalculture)

  • Michael Heller’s Gridlock Economy. – By Tim Wu – Slate Magazine

    “Property, to Heller, is not holy water but more like fertilizer. Add too much, and everything dies.” :: Tim Wu reviews new book on property creep, the market, and the anti-commons

    (tags: bookreviewlawpropertycommercecopyrightcapitalismcommons)

  • Law Blog – WSJ.com : Michael Heller and the Perils of Too Much Ownership

    interview with author of _The Gridlock Economy_

    (tags: interviewlaweconomicspropertycapitalismcommonsbookacademic)

videyoga ::

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June 24th, 2008

Flag This: A Glance @ Google Nationalism

What can be gleaned by glancing at the first page of returns via Google Images for certain nations and their flags?

I don’t know exactly, but I found the results fascinating enough to take several screenshots. I do like the play between a sort of repetitive stability and the occasional, odd (but telling) aberration, e.g., the sudden appearance of Superman, George W., Pitbull, flames, sneakers, or a bikini-clad babe —










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Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

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