Too tikitech to keep up

Well, the tikitech meme certainly seems to have caught on, considering the amount of submissions readers send me. So I'm bunging together a few in the same thread. First, here's one from Wayne which I think requires no explanation:

[Blog post illustration from Dancing Cheetah about Gazelle's track "Chic Afrique"]

This might have just hit the safari-oriented tikitech motherload: Besides the gif, from the band's myspace, we've got the band name (!) and the blog name (!!). Disappointing lack of jungle sounds in the actual tracks though, only the usual cod-Jamaican toasting.

Next up, Canalh again spots this gem that quite simply switches continents but keeps the animal theme running from the same European vantage point:

[Soundcloud artwork for Max Le Daron's Rave Mundial vol. 1 mixtape]

Finally, DJ Umb submitted the poster of this club night, which I think makes for an interesting border case. There's no immediate association here between the African (as a concept) and the animal/safari/jungle thematic - it's a house night, apparently. Hasn't that kind of cheap, kitschy exotica always existed, outside of any trend and without connection to anything actually from Africa? Maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong, and I'll put it up.


Carling Music

Carling is a dreadfully bad lager beer served in second-rate pubs and rock nightclubs all over England. It has an unpleasant, chemical taste, made with cheap ingredients in as cheap a manner as possible, and sold at a premium.

And yet a lot of people drink Carling. Whatmore, for a lot of people Carling (and similar overpriced "brand" lager) is the only beer they have ever drunk. What always makes me scratch my head, though, is that these are the same people who claim to not really like beer. Now, if I honestly don't like something, and yet would want to learn to like it, I would absolutely not start with what the real fans think is disgusting! I don't much like coffee, never have, but if I'm forced to drink it I obviously try a cup of freshly made cappuccino over some old perculator gunk (just like the experts claim I should) - and yet most coffee drinkers start from the bad end and work themselves up to the cappuccino.

It's an eternal mystery of human pyschology that I think can't adequately be explained away by marketing and gullible consumers, nor by price. The most plausible theory I've heard involves the fact that the drinkers think they're making a compromise. If I don't like beer, they argue, the people who like beer must be wrong; therefore if I pick the stuff they hate, it must be the closest to non-beer - and thus acceptable. It's wrong, of course, but not the most stupid conclusion to make.

And so there grows up an industry of deliberately non-good-beer-like beer, your Budweisers and Heinekens and Carlings. And of course, there's plenty of music that somehow tries to emulate it.

One of my favourite Swedish language music bloggers at the moment is Inanna, who writes the uncomfortably personal and insightful You Care Because I Do. In a retrospective review of M.I.A's "Galang", she notes that music magazines when picking their "best of the year" lists will fall for what she calls "consensus pop", music that appeals both to the indie faction and the hip-hop faction as they vie for power in the magazine newsroom. Her examples are stuff like Gnarls Barkley, NERD, latter-day Outkast, The Avalanches or Hot Chip, and of course M.I.A herself. And yet this sort of middle-ground music is often just not very good - at least when compared to the stuff either faction would actually have liked to put in there.

I think this is certainly a kind of Carling music. The people involved think they're compromising, yet what they end up with is just mostly bad. And, just like Carling drinkers, it's so surprisingly predictable what a person who doesn't really like hip-hop (or whatever) will listen to in a given genre. I had dinner with an record collecting friend in the summer and I could almost have used my Derren Brown-like telepathic powers beforehand to deduce what kind of hip-hop he likes, which came up in our conversation: Dead Prez. The Roots. "Dirty detroit stuff" like Immortal Technique. Him and seemingly literally every other Swede.

Dude is only 21. It's not an age thing. But he's got his musical background in indie, and so he listens for stuff that's present in indie, "live-sounding" breakbeats, "grit" (whatever that is), political sensitivity. And he believes that the hip-hop as present in the working class he doesn't trust is its literal opposite, thus making this particular universally-selected subset of groups acceptable. In short, he's a musical Carling drinker.

I think this would kinda be my answer to Sasha Frere Jones, too. I realise the guy has a background in funk and thus likes hip-hop insofar as it sounds like funk, what he sees ahistorically as "blues-based swing". And then he notices that hip-hop has shot off in this entirely other direction, sounding swish and effervescent and harmonically complex, and he doesn't like it at all. A smart listener, at this point, would go down the cappuccino route: pick the most extreme music of the new generation, the stuff that the young kids make and like, perhaps even the stuff with the most extreme qualities other than what you previously liked. Try to force yourself to listen to it and like it, and notice the sheer quick-moving dynamism of a style hurtling off in a totally unexpected direction.

Instead what we get is Carling music. SFJ somewhat pathetically champions dull boom-bapper Freddie Gibbs, who is totally a cop-out to the "blues-based swing" and steadfastly sitting in that old Tupac-shaped hole and not moving anywhere. It's not counter-edgy or a compromise, it's just bad.

Perhaps if you don't like beer, dude, you should stick to alcopops.


Yet more tikitech - and sexism

As if it needed proving that tikitech themes and signals go beyond just the visual presentation, Chief Boima sent me a link to this mixtape via Facebook. The intro, especially, is very tiki - the recorded "jungle animal" sounds are textbook exotica, as well as neatly connecting to the Safari theme. Boima writes:

"[T]he Intro is so Tikitech it's not funny. I don't know Croatian, but check "Dobro Jutro is Afrike Intro," with the loop of Wyclef talking in Haitian Kreyol. I'm not sure but assume they are taking a vocal sample unintelligible to them, and putting it in a "tropical", or more specifically African context, to create the nonsensical "tribal" chant thing common to these types of productions. What stood out for me is that the sample they use to me is very recognizable and so in the wrong context. I mean big up these girls for trying something new out in New Zealand, but it's just an example of what you were looking for in my book."

Just as interesting however, which Boima also points out, is the reaction that the mixtape at global ghettotech high castle Mad Decent. It's hardly surprising, but disturbing nonetheless, how much casual sexism the DJs face because they're female - commentary about their appearance, that they are only posted because they're female, and a bunch of negative commentary you rarely see connected with male DJs. I think there's a couple of posts worth of material, at least, to be made around the construction of gender in global ghettotech, and I hope to return to the issue soon.

(Meanwhile, perhaps it's worth considering why a "summer mix" with "cheesy" elements doesn't fit into the supposedly inclusive global ghettotech archetype...)


Meanwhile, back at the tikitech...

Canalh alerted me to another instance of the pervasive safari-meets-global ghettotech stereotype, which I almost missed because the artists concerned (Crookers) are only marginally part of the scene. Then, of course, I saw the track listing...

(Post illustration from Crookers' own blog for a mixtape.)

More than two tribes

More observation that's in line with the previous post today, and perhaps with this.

The label "tribal", that's been used in electronic music for almost twenty years, is seeping back into daily usage in the blogosphere. Rather than refer to vaguely afro-exotic percussive house or (at the extreme end) dark, meth-fueled "pots and pans", this is apparently the word de jour to use to describe the end of global ghettotech that's arrived from European electronic music. Examples include Douster being described as "tribal electro-house" here, double whammy "tribal and tropical" here, DJs adding "a tropical fruit basket of electronic flourishes that elevate the track into a genuine electro-tribal banger" here and, inevitably, Secousse described as a "tribal riot" here.

I seem to remember having had discussions about the appropriateness of the term a few times in long-lost commentary threads, but again it's not hard to see why someone would vaguely object. The association to exotica, ruralism, "world music", new age cluelessness is very strong.

Which is why it comes as a fun surprise to hear of the genre that's known in Mexico as "tribal", which Soundgoods has put up a mixtape of. Apparently, this hard, slightly cumbia-inflicted music has been paraded around under a series of different banners in the music blogs, but the local casette merchants only knew it as "tribal". And it totally is! It's full of the same kind of chanting-tribesman clichés as tikitech and tribal house. Urban kids with computers latching onto rurality and (fake) tradition, while deeply immersed in their modernity - at some level it has to be slightly culture-awesome.

Suomibhangra - the good brownface?

In an attempt to further muddy some conceptual waters, I present you this finnish music video:

Shava are probably the only representatives so far of the genre of Suomibhangra, a Finnish take on the South Asian diaspora dance genre, bhangra. One one level there's a lot to be critical of here, perhaps - the wilful exoticism, the fake Indian dancers, the almost-brownface of someone like the "Finnjabi bad boy" in the video.

On the other hand, though, which I think is perhaps more interesting, there's the reaction in the bhangra community. I actually found the track on a bhangra blog, it's been reposted and become popular on a bhangra youtube channel where it's generated positive comments, the band has toured to desi audiences in Canada and it's played on several bhangra radio stations... The bhangra community is not offended at all, they rather like it. (For as they say: Imitation is...)

So who's right? Us radical critics or the people we think we're defending? Perhaps it's worth thinking about.


Hey hey, my my, tikitech will never die

I'm thinking of making a series out of this, like Ted Swedenburg's kufiyaspotting. Hopefully it won't last as long, but here's more safari kitch in connection with global ghettotech music, again with the caveat that the music totally demands it, especially the artist's name. What they're called, you ask?

Why, Monkey Safari.

This post illustration, this time probably taken from the artists themselves, is on leading Hungarian global ghettotech blog Ghetto Bazaar. Monkey Safari's music is described as "roppant szórakosztató, söt, lökött ghettotech" ("cracking entertaining, even crazy ghettotech" - I'm sure the inhabitants of detroit are forever grateful to you for passing on their genre name, Wayne). A little further down they're described as doing a remix in the "now fashionable tribal tech-house style".

And there's a mixtape. The mixtape contains what seems like a fake zulu choir. This shit really has gone full circle. Bonus: another mixtape.


Genre of the Week: Logobi

Wow. Something is really brewing, again, on the streets of Paris.

Sometimes you find about new music from strange sources. The video above was posted today, not by one of my usual sources, but by Momus. Consequently I know nothing more about the genre than I can find by googling, which isn't much.

The dance above is called logobi or logobie or logoobie, and it's pretty much entirely new, with no references existing prior to 2007 and exploding in content and popularity this year. It seems to have derived to a certain extent from coupé-decalé, though it's considerably stiffer, jumpier and has almost tektonik-style arm movements. The practitioners seem fairly uniformly to be very young, black french kids, though rarely as young as this:

Socially, these kids all seem to have god-awful, mid-nineties-looking blogs on social networking site skyrock. It's a good place to search for tracks of the associated music, which annoyingly often is anonymous and untitled, appearing under the heading "logobi instru", just "instru" or sometimes "coupé decalé instru". The latter ought to give some indication into the origin of the genre, as homegrown instrumental versions of coupé decalé, and indeed the very earliest material seems to be just that. Dancers then chant stuff over them.

However, more recent instru has evolved in a completely different direction - it's been totally infused by european dance music, and to a certain extent kuduro and hip-hop, while retaining a basic coupé decalé beat. The influence is not, as expected these days, primarily from commercial trance and electro house; instead the genre contains copious amounts of dubstep (like here) and hard trancey techno, like jumpstyle (e.g. here). Some of the best material fucks around with the beat as well, like this track.

It's fairly exciting music all round - there's a huge variety of percussive sounds (including timpani, orchestral hits, cymbals and snaps), it's varied, rich and polyrhythmic in interesting ways. None of it has settled to form yet, and all the artists creating seem to be around 14, which is definitely a plus.

Now please, all those of you with a finger in the francophone-African air, can you compliment this picture with some history and connections?


Where's all this relentless experiencing coming from?

What's the deeeal with experience? In southern Sweden, one of the regional newspapers has done a brilliantly-conceived survey of all the members of parliament, asking them about their cultural preferences. I love that sort of thing - there's plenty of material to be analysed and indeed articles have done so already. I'm probably going to give it a go at some point myself.

Meanwhile, though, I have a huge gripe about the survey, or rather one of the questions asked. The parliamentarians are asked to provide their favourite movie and book, but when it comes to stage performance, art and (for the purposes of this blog most obviously) music, the question is modified to "what is your greatest experience of...?" But, I mean, who cares? The question tells nothing about the people involved but only of their past selves. Personally, my greatest musical experience is undoubtedly Neil Young at Roskilde in 2001. But I've heard and taken part of much better music since then, just not experienced it so unequivocally and intensely, and my tastes have changed almost entirely.

I don't much like the sort of vulgar phenomenalism that these questions entail either. Music as something to be "experienced" in and of itself smacks of 19th-century darkened concert halls and direct communication, while I've been enjoying music mainly in a functional setting for the past few years of my life, on the dancefloor on both sides of the deck or in a radio studio. Or just listening to it at home or watching videos or whatever. It's always been mixed up with other stuff (great dancing experiences, for instance), and it's not really active, reflective experiencing as such.

What do you think? Do you primarily like music because you experience it? What relationship does your favourite music have to your greatest musical experiences?



Jamaican music has long been a contributor to the European avant garde and you'd be hard pressed to find a contemporary highbrow genre in the nebulous art-popular field that doesn't reference or relate to (at least) dub in some way. Glitch, for instance, definitely counts dub among its chief influences, as Jamaicans were among the first to create music on a larger scale by consistently misusing technical equipment to create strange noises.

Well, in autumn 2009 this influence seems to have gone full circle. Listen to these two recent tracks by major Jamaican dancehall artists:

Black Ryno - Pon di Earth (produced by Demented)

Busy Signal - Black Belt (produced by Kirkledove and Jukeboxx)

The riddim (Arrhythmia) of the first track has a second "snare drum" totally done in glitch style with some sort of noisy digital cut thing, whereas the "metronome" in the second track seems to be made up of skip-around clicks. Brilliant! I'm not going to claim it's a conscious connection, but some people in Jamaica are obviously fucking around with their machinery... AGAIN.


While on the UK Funky note...

I'm totally chuffed at the way mzansi house number Turn Me On by Black Coffee has become a huge hit in garage circles in Britain. Not only is the exchange aspect marvellous, but the tune is great as well, a really sophisticated, slightly trippy number with deep house jazz chords and nicely soft-padding percussion. This is emphatically not the type of music lifted by "global ghettotech", and it's great that it can transverse the continents without a Galliano-style explorer attached.


African Music's Fictional "Africa"?

Quick question. A lot of people, including me, seem to think Argentinian producer Douster's track "King of Africa", for all it's hipster irony, perpetuates some incredibly old and tired stereotypes of what "Africa" stands for. The video hardly seems to make matters better...

Besides the animals and the crazy-dancin' tribesmen (full respect to the dancers, I'm thinking from the video-makers perspective), there's the whole reduction of Africa, one of the world's most diverse continents, into a single unified exotic whole.

I don't seem to recall a similar outcry, though, when funky used a similarly hackneyed idea of what "Africa" means during its African tribal craze last year. I mean, Donaeo, an "African warrior" with his stick in his hand?

Is it, pardon me for asking, different when black people have a shallow, unitary, hackneyed idea of what "Africa" is? Is "Africa" as Hollywood extravaganza really that different from, say, "Africa" as supreme, wise spiritual homeland? Obviously there's a line somewhere, I draw it too, but what, ultimately, should we think of actual, you know, Africans who have a hackneyed, unified idea of what Africa is?

Or whatever. Are we to take this as a more "genuine" idea of what Africa means, and therefore deny third world musicians the ability and agency to be stuck in precisely the same shitty paradigmatic discourses we have (or construct equally stereotype-laden ones of their own)?