Long time no blog post. Were we talking authenticity...?
I've done another stint at the Gagnef festival, which still is an immensely interesting place to be. For once, though, I was really made to think by an artist instead of the audience.
DJ Edgar is an old Rio funk DJ, doing stints with the legendary Furacão 2000 way before the funk we know even existed. For the past several years he's been touring Europe instead, doing well-crafted sets with good-quality MPC work. The thing is, though, he's pretty much stopped playing straight-ahead funk entirely, a fact which he readily acknowledges by calling his music "pós-funk" or "funk na Europa" – funk remade for Europe. Essentially, he plays some sort of tamborzão bmore, chopped up remixes of tracks well-known to his audience. This would include stuff his specific fans would be familiar with – Calabria, of course, and the emerging global ghettotech canon with tracks like Township Funk and Wegue Wegue (h/t Vamanos via Boima for the idents). He also plays the season's inevitable jacko tracks, as well as a whole bunch of classic european hits from Das Boot to The Power.
However, except for prohibidão classic Rap das Armas (which totally doesn't count, since it's bizarrely #1 on the Swedish singles chart at the moment) he didn't play any Brazilian tracks at all. And I'm going to go ahead and say that it's a good thing.
It's really facile to want to see artists from the third world as some sort of ethnographic artefacts, living field recordings of untainted culture. Perhaps this sort of attitude is more associated with the traditional view of "world music" (although god knows they went in and tainted it whenever they got the opportunity), but I think it's fairly prevalent in the hip-hop/global ghettotech generation, too. The (tourist) desire to experience and describe precisely the real thing, whatever that is, is still a feature of most Eurocentric relations with marginal culture.
Of course, you're never going to experience music the "right" way anyway. You're always going to be the outsider, no matter how much you familiarise yourselves with the codes. In music as relational as funk (or just about any DJ music, for that matter) it's always going to be central how the audience feels for the material being played, and each and every dancer's instinctive feelings towards the tracks they hear, deeply imprinted in their cultural backbones. The DJ, too, works completely in relation to the audience, gauging their reactions and moulding her set accordingly. Straightfowardly transposing a DJ set which works for an audience intensely familiar with twenty years of Brazilian radio and television and charts is never going to work in that context.
Perhaps its a matter of staying true to the DJ as an artist and a craftsman, too. A "living stereo system" playing a field-recorded mixtape is far from the full extent of what a DJ can and should do. I would definitely acknowledge some adaptation can be fairly appaling (I'm particularly allergic to warping music to be more "conscious" or "wise") but at some point its worth seeing it from the artist's viewpoint, and consider the motivations as much as the results. DJ Edgar, I think, seems fairly far from losing himself.
Obviously its not all clear-cut and it's always worth it to consider how he ended up in Europe in the first place, at whose behest, and if his being here is part of a discursive agenda. I'm not going to blame him for coming here, any more than I can blame any other diaspora, but there's plenty of examples (since Leadbelly and beyond) of artists being misrepresented for social or monetary gain. I don't get that sense at all here, but I'd definitely like to find out more.
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