Naturally, the music I got out of the Hungary visit was Vietnamese Pop

Via a poster at the extremely rainy Jozsefvarosi Piac, aka the Four Tigers, aka the Vietnamese market...

I found this site, with its major, arena-sized diaspora tour of Vietnmaese artists. Of course, though most of it is shit, some of it is inevitably to my tastes:

Bugger all good Hungarian stuff though. Oh well, I'm off to Finland over the weekend. Serious posting resumes in July.


Another Hungary Holiday - Hip-Hop?

I still don't understand why Hungarian music is so shit. In an attempt to rectify this fact I'll spend some time during my annual holiday in Budapest trying desperately to find anything that appeals to me, with very little hope in my heart. I want to belong to a people that actually make good music, but I think I'm resigned to supporting the Swedes.

This year, I thought I'd at least try to find some appealing local hip-hop. Now, if this were Poland I could happily find all sorts of material to my liking, and most other neighbouring countries are fine. But just like with locally flavoured pop, Hungarian hip-hop is particularly, almost studiously awful. The actual rapping, for the most part, is actually fairly good, but the production is intetionally ghastly - ridiculous sub-underground boom-bap, badly sampling shit soul tracks in a throwback to Europe ten years ago or (very, very charitably) the US twenty years ago.

Take this event, which I might attend 'cause it's cheap (click image for info):

These are some of the top local artists, it seems. All of them have recorded music videos. And all of them are bloody, bloody, awful. Presenting, with their most popular videos off YouTube: Hősök, NKS, Bankos, Norba, Punnany Massif, Akkezdet Phiai (best of a bad lot, though more because it's quirky than with a good beat) and Funktasztikus. Punnany Massif (whose name is both the worst and the most promising on here) even have a track which manages to actually make 3+3+2 sound insipid and over-serious! Apparently this kind of "jungle rap" (which bears seemingly only a fleeting resemblence to actual jungle) has some sort of presence in Hungary, though I'm not particularly hopeful because the manic energy which makes actual jungle interesting is totally absent.

I'm going to have to go beyond the surface to find anything decent, it seems. I've been hunting around for anything to my tastes on Youtube, and this guy comes closest to qualifying so far:

Not only is the name of the artist excellent, he seems to have actually got essential things like bass and rhythm down. And he does electro house remixes. Always a good sign.

As usual I'll have plenty more to say on the subject end of next week when I'm back.


Car Audio Bass as a Precursor to Dubstep

No one, honestly no-one except the mad Russian/Ukrainian guys at collector's blog Drop Da Bass, seems to like car audio bass. A genre of slowish, instrumental Miami Bass from the mid-nineties specifically geared towards car tuners and audiophiles, it's not dirty enough for the hipster crowd, not pretentious enough for progressives, too aloof for the inner city and too foreign for ravers. Even respected bass historian Pappa Wheelie, who loves the most ridiculous extremes of bass music, claism that "even the artists and fans of Car Audio Bass feel their branch of Bass sounds sterile".

But maybe the time for the genre has come? Because as I've been finding out after downloading too much content off the aforementioned blog, there's a strange resemblence between some of the tracks and that most current of electronic genres, dubstep. The common heritage in electro, breakbeat hip-hop and dub/techno really shows, and bar the drum sounds there's quite a bit that could almost pass at Forward.

Here's three tracks with an obvious bent towards the same sort of thing dubstep is trying to go for. And then I've even left out the track which actually has surprisingly authentic-sounding wobble bass in its dubsteppy middle-eight.

Def Bass Crew - Bass Bender

Drum Machine Overdrive - Thumpin' Bass Beat

Bass Boy - Blinded by Bass (Slowed Down by DJ Deep and Techmaster PEB)


Esoteric Research Methods #7: Twitter searches

I've been using Twitter, a bit infrequently, for something like a month now, and I think I might be getting into it soon. The crowdsourcing has so far not been a great success, but there has been an unexpected side benefit, which I had no idea the platform could be used for: term searches. I realise the idea is old hat to most of you, but it certainly has helped me find new music, and not least gauge the attitudes of the general tweeting public on musical subjects. Coupled with a decent machine translation software and some of the results are interesting indeed...

I'm currently using twitter software tweetdeck, which can be set up to include panes of search results. For instance, one of my most active searches is the one for manele, which tends to produce something like 30-50 new tweets a day. Some of these are about some shit resort on Hawaii, but a great majority are actual Romanians who write their thoughts about the music I'm interested in. With the translation software included some of them are gold. This one I'm even considering including in my eventual Master's thesis, because it shows off attitudes I've also picked up through other research:
"Gypsies manele not play for them but for the Romans [read: Gypsies don't play manele for themselves but for Romanians]" Madalin Voicu
Madalin Voicu is a well-known Roma musician and politician, and his attitudes towards manele is precisely reflective of both the general disdain from the Roma towards the music, but may also be getting at an actual ethnological point. In any case, both the quote and that someone decided to tweet it is interesting - what's the tweeter trying to say?

Tweets can also help expose structural racism in Romania. Both from tweeters, and from stuff tweeters get upset about:
At Hosting-blog.ro not allowed to manele - http://bit.ly/JiF7P - any files or text. :)) Broken!
Here is a blog hosting service in Romania which, in its terms of use, specifically forbids manele lyrics over any other genre (!).

Of course, a more conventional research object would be finding new music, and here twitter searches oblige as well:

Decent stuff on the border of manele and hip-hop, though a bit commercial. I'm not gonna post the pirate links I keep getting as well, though.

I've got similar searches set up on a variety of musical subjects, occasionally scanning though them. Tallava basrely ever produces anything worthwhile, while kwaito is occasionally fascinating...


Hipster Blogging vs Party Politics: Two Tribes?

I've spent the past two weeks campaigning at a smartly-designed home-made campaign chest (literally a chest of drawers! ha ha) adorned with rainbow flags and crooked, home-cut graphics I made myself. We had little rugs. We had a banner with little hearts cut out. So why aren't the hip kids taking my flyers?

The people who pick up party information are, frankly, squares; the people I love in this blog, the radically self-expressing kids and working-class outsiders, couldn't give a toss. Past me walked sneering emos, bored hip-hoppers, disinterested otakus, indie kids, no-one giving a damn about our political message at all. But why not? The suggestion from my party colleagues when I brought up the issue was that these people aren't really radical, only posers - or maybe it's us that are mainstream-establishment and, in reality, politically conservative.

But in actual fact I'm convinced that both (left-wing and feminist) political activists and self-expressive extremes are incredibly radical, politically. So why is it that we can't meet up? Why does it seem that we're doomed to be two separate tribes?

An interesting (though slightly depressing) perspective on this comes from political philosopher Hannah Arendt, whose thought I was recently reintroduced to by pirate thinktanker Rasmus Fleischer (in Swedish). According to her, the two groups are engaged in completely different political projects that are largely incompatible with each other.

The political activists are engaging in poiesis, work, the building of something. Anything they say or do is aimed towards creating something, namely a political movement or a successful party or an ideal society. But in this work, Arendt argues, they lose themselves. The ultimate aim may be political, but the individual expressions are empty and in some sense lies - they're merely means to an end and tell nothing about the person who makes them, more than what they are: feminists, or whatever.

By contrast, the self-expression of the kids is really, inherently, deeply political. It's praxis, action, the expression of the self of a free individual. It reveals who they are to the world, thus in that moment they are free and have agency. As Arendt sees it, if poiesis gets to overtake praxis then totalitarianism looms.

I'm not sure I completely agree with her, but I do see how the two ways of thinking are really hard to combine. I've really been wrestling with the question of whether I should blog about my political activity because that's what engages my mind at the moment, or whether I should avoid it, because it just feels untrue. Both to me and to the blog readers, it feels as if I'm not really being honest and expressing what I really think when I'm trying to convince people to act in a certain way. At best, it's just so completely square.

Like, pretty much, all overtly ideological pop music. I've always disliked progg, backpacker rap and roots reggae, because the music tends to be incredibly banal and boring and the lyrics hackneyed doggerel, and by Arendt's account this would be because they're not really self-expressive at all. Only by revealing the underlying who can you get that complexity and that rush of freedom that god pop music has. Pop music (like my blogging, I guess) has consistently been ruined whenever ideologies have entered the picture, and made pop music subservient.

What I fervently hope, though, is that feminism as a rather exceptional (and experimental, h/t Rasmus) ideology has the potential to turn things on their head and make ideology subservient to pop music, or at least to praxis. If we make self-expression and agency central concerns (as indeed they should be in feminism) then we're half-way towards solving the problem, and if we co-operate with the cool kids on their terms we're much more likely to successfully integrate. Look forward to at least one event this fall where we're trying to bring in some of the best queer clubs in Stockholm...

Another (perhaps contrary) consequence, which might please my regular readership, is that I'm bringing my feminist blogging elsewhere and focusing on the music here. I'm not quite ready to reveal the project yet, but it'll be a group blog in Swedish. More news coming up!


Vote, dammit, vote

I'm preparing a post about my ambivalence to the idea of party politics, but right now I'm too far gone into this campaign to be able to say anything other than this. Would you please go ahead and vote for the Feminist Initiative in the European Parliament elections? It's the clearest and most decisive statement against the growing tides of far-right ideology sweeping over Europe. If you can't find our ballots at your particular polling place, you can take an empty ballot and write "Feministiskt initiativ" on it. Nothing else, no names, or the vote won't count!

But, you're thinking, what is the soundtrack going to be like? You obviously pick a political stance according to your taste in music, and I don't blame you. Well, in a bizarre turn of events we've suddenly gone completely poptimist, after Benny from ABBA donated a million crowns (additional link link link link in Swedish) for a last-minute ad campaign. Now everyone is going around humming ABBA tunes in Sweden's most radical mainstream party - a beautifully ironic juxtaposition against the self-righteous prole-hate of the 70s progg movement, who denounced ABBA as reactionary.

You can be safe in the musical context as well. Please go right ahead: lay or your love on Fi.


Pop-Political Tracks #2

Under this heading I thought I'd occasionally take up deeply political tracks that are at the same time decidedly commercial and mainstream within their contexts. I've been inspired, in part, by Vybz Kartel whose letter to The Star defending his seemingly puerile music shows a deep appreciation of a whole set of political issues and problems. Politics goes way beyond the folksy protest song and permeates all sorts of musical discursive practice, from subtle suggestion to mere existence. Very post-structuralist.

Cherelle - Affair

I especially like this one because it has one overt message (of sass) and a subtler one.