2010-01-14

Mainstreaming Music 2: Whatcha gonna do?

Say the assertion that pop music of the third world is approaching a convergent style is correct. Well, then, shouldn't we be hearing pop music from all over the world in mixes and eventually the hit lists right about now? Well, it doesn't really work that way, and one place this becomes apparent is in the mixtapes, DJ sets and blog posts of the insiders in the global ghettotech world.

If a lot more of the musical resources in the third world - at least in the forward-looking parts of various cities and countries - are being channelled into producing "mainstream-pop-sounding" music, then this certainly doesn't reflect on the output of western DJs, for perfectly understandable indie reasons. But it presents an interesting question: if the music of the world's urban centres is going out as it changes, what's coming in instead? What new sources of music are western DJs turning to as the normal output goes more mainstream?

As I read it, there are three concurrent trends in types of music that, if you want, can be somewhat attributable to the (possibly) increased lack of non-mainstream popular music from the developing world.

1. The traditional

One type of genre that has always been resistant to trends, by definition, is the traditional, conservative one. These used to be consistently shunned by the always teleological fans of bass-oriented city music - you'd never hear any, say, bachata in mixtapes five years ago - but seemingly not so any more. Two genres in particular that focus on acoustic instrumentation and unbroken traditions going back decades have had a major resurgence in the global ghettotech community: cumbia and funana, both of which have been featured in very straightforward old-fashioned forms alongside newer derivatives.

Some types of traditional music has always had a popularity in local communities, including the two above, so right now this seems more like a positive expansion of the definition than anything problematic. But there's always the chance it might lead in the future to the kind of west-imposed "tradition" that World Music used to peddle, so watch out.

2. The cosmopolitan

The educated middle class has always been extremely adapt at extending the shelf-life of dead working-class genres - boom-bap underground hip-hop is but one in a seemingly endless series that springs to mind. Combined with the middle-class propensity for "fusion" and "neo-folk" cosmopolitanism it's almost a surprise that global ghettotech stayed committed to the urban poor as long as it did. Now, it seems, middle-class producers with good access are as much the order of the day. DJ Umb, in particular, has been pushing completely delocalised, cosmopolitan variants of dubstep and other previously geographically constricted musics, often fused with a local flavour.

Again this is probably a good thing as long as it's actually an extension - I heartily dislike the stereotype of the third world as a mass of anonymous poverty. On the other hand, it risks overshadowing the music of actual marginalised groups and individuals, being easier to access and ethically straightforward. We still need to put in that hard work to find music that doesn't have immediate access to the blogging world, or we risk tilting the stereotype the other way.

3. The fake

And obviously, if you can't have music that sounds appropriate from the third world, you can go ahead and make it conform to the right stereotype yourself... This is another explanation for the ascendancy of tikitech and faux-"African" imagery, that the real Africa is no longer African enough and needs to be augmented.

A milder, not necessarily bad version of making music more "local" while being an outsider exists, of course. As if to prove a point, after reading my last post on the subject (!), Canalh went ahead and cumbified the Kreyol hip-hop track I used as an example of mainstreamness, adding a layer of faux-local onto the international! And you know what? I kinda like it! On a conceptual level not least because, as Jace so eloquently put it, it's the white men wearing the red thongs and body paint and the black guys who wear the jeans. And that, surely, can't be all wrong.

10 comments:

wayneandwax said...

I can't really take the time to turn this post into swiss cheese, but reading it, the exceptions leap to mind. your categories strike me as pretty dubious, all of em.

i appreciate you trying to read all this diverse activity, and i'm sympathetic with some of your critical impulses, but this narrative ain't carrying the weight.

Birdseed said...

I think you may have overread my statements, in that case - I was trying to spot trends, and maybe those too are exaggerated, but certainly these three types appear alongside the traditional urban fare, non?

One interesting thing to know is whether anyone - anyone at all in the west - plays soundalike mainstream tracks from, say, Nigeria. Any ideas?

wayneandwax said...

been regretting the grouchiness of my first comment, though my reaction still stands.

i see your point(s), but i still think you may overstate things based on a small sampling pool.

as far as playing what you call soundalike stuff, i know that i do, as does boima. and ghislain's two african rap mixes from a few years ago were pretty much filled with the stuff (though it rarely sounds as much alike as you maybe let on up there). and that's just a few folk.

but it's true that there seem to be a growing number of DJs content to mix stuff inspired by the wide world but produced in middleclass euroamerica.

Anonymous said...

PART 1

Hey long time...thought you were dead..lol, of course only kidding and if you were I would have paid my condolences by now to someone and plus it wouldn't be nice if you were...dead, that is..lol

Anyway, completely missed this stuff, cause I'm a lazy bastard and haven't checked in to your blog for a while now....

Going to your first article:

"Both traditional world music and global ghettotech has been extremely good at defining what The Other does as something radically different from "the west"......

Well I tend to disagree with that cause my whole point about Global Ghettotech (and maybe not in the Wayne wax sense or the way in which he maent to express the term) is that it is NO DIFFERENT to Western Club Music...

I think I've been trying to bang on about this for quite some time, that it is not "thirld world" club music but just "club music" like any other club music.

As for the categories, well there might be some merit in what you're trying to convey as some people are likely and would fit into those categories and maybe so too for the same reasons you've espoused.

I think the world music fraternity will continue their (at times) neo-colonialist exploitation of that more traditional/organic/roots based form of music and so I don't think there is anything to worry about in that respect.

Indeed, not only the old world music fraternity but the Global Ghettotecher's or Transnational Bassers', whatever you wanna call them, are also using the Ghettotech/Transnational club music as a means of reference to go back and explore the roots of it.

Just like we did when we first heard bands like Led Zeppelin who led me back to eplore the roots of their music, the Blues and even middle eastern music etc etc

Music is all about feeling and whether it's sound-alike or fusion, we'll play it, blog it and hype it if we're feeling it whether or not it's hip.

Well when I say "we", I mean Gen Bass at the very least...


DJ UMB

Anonymous said...

PART 2

I'm just not feeling pop that much the mo'..unless it's been dubstepped.

I've loved Arabic Pop in the past and in fact did very successful club nights in the past based just around Arabic Pop. I've even done DJ mixes for the BBc based on that stuff including regularly sending loads of ARABIC POP (NOT HIP HOP) over to Tim Westwood, of all people, for his Middle Eastern gigs...

So, on one one hand I think you gotta be careful johan for jumping to assumptions again about people too quickly and I say this knowing that your assumption about me being "cosmopolitan" was not damaging or critical but in fact pretty cool. BUT I think I and other people are more than just that too.

The blog just reflects what we personally listen to at the moment and are into and that changes frequently. We're not journalists, as you can tell by our writing..lol, and we don't aim to be or want to be either.

Sometimes, I think some of these things have to be taken with a pinch of salt. I acknowledge that you could be right in some instances with reference to other people and blogs, including being right about me/us from time to time.

But sometimes I don't know what you're driving at with any real clarity or if it is of any major concern.

But I see your point about POP from so called "third world" countries and my experience is that a lot of people think its cheesy and uncool and not hip. I experienced the same thing right at the outset with the Arabic Pop nights I use to do but that soon all changed when they realised 90% of my crowd were women belly dancers, then suddenly it became ultra hip.

So I'm afraid deep seated prejudices about pop from other countries still exists in the west and hence why it is not played as much as I would like to hear it played in the west. it's given a sort of "PEASANT" like status at times and I think that is the reason why it's not as widely consumed as it ought to be. Cause it's a bit beneath the West, if you catch my drift.

But that might soon change. With the great interest in the club stuff from these countries, I think it's only a matter of time before these same peeps start digging more of the localised forms of pop too.

So we'll see but it's early days but I think there's a great chance of that happening.

I know this is all over the place but they're just immediate thoughts straight from my brain as I read your piece.

DJ UMB

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

¡ Hi everyone! I want to launch a “Fakestep mainstream trend” we are three Mc’s and one Dj, anyone interested ¿??

Well.. your post just twist ideas. Johann, you sometimes wrote faaaaaaar better man, I bet you didn’t work a lot on this one? Or my english going worse every day ¿ First of all, A remix has intrinsically a fake essence, since it’s not the original… And that’s what makes it special! I feel soooo special to be the example of a new trend category of yours ¡!! But no one could not be very proud to be the example of the “fake” category. But what’s make me laugh is that one should be even more ashamed to categorize a creation as “fake” on a very serious way and ending up being totally wrong.

I’ll quote you and put you at the right pitch man…
- "of making music more "local"". I am of french nationality so i have alwas been connected to the “créole” world (and to the french arabs and to the gypsies). I was doing occitan/european trad music in my occitany, I live in Medellín, home of Discos Fuentes, I do remixes, I do cumbias! Do not need to “make my music sound more local”, I am “there”, I am feeling it, I am part of it and… I am local (I guess that’s what annoy you in a way: how to analyze that: white middle class men, hit by the crisis, emigrate to the third world and end up making music cause he loves it and doesn’t care. That style isn’t fitting any categories, damned…).

- "a layer of faux-local" I am a cumbiambero man ! You like it or not, sure I am white/western/middleclassy, do not see the point !! That guacharaca sounds “faux” or what? Come on… I am not the type of DJ's running from an airport to another to catch some crowd at big gig’s (and I admire them a lot musically but that’s still not my way of living): I live deep and rooted in every country who is enough kind to adopt me and offers me some work. Is that fake? This remix is the fruit of that passion man, life passion/musical passion, it can’t be fake, like it or not.

To follow your quote on Jayce Clayton simplist “garment categories”, hear that: “I work with the funk, I eat with the funk, I sleep with the funk, I live with the funk”, you know Lord of the Underground “Chief Rocka” (you surely know the clip since you speak from hip hop : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFbLRZCExBk). See this man with blue hat, in used shorts and converse with this ridiculously distinct style in their clip at 2:00? If i hadn’t pointed out this guy to you, you wouldn’t have ever noticed him! Does he need to dance “more local”? He just does it cause he feels it, he LOVES it (and probably everyone does! Except analysts!!). He’s “there” and he is part of it, even if he’s out of the “category”. Well… That’s me! Hoooo Joahann in what category will you put him? Fake? Ja ja ¡ Noooo.

Just change “funk” in that song for anything that root me in the place I live, and you’ll have my anthem (could be arepa, gifutti, tea, beer if we leave the musical field). Cause of my very nomadic life, I developped a type of adaptation based mostly on music. I have the roots of a mangrove tree (palétuvier), the only tree that move over the streams, mainstreams, static waters and the rest. I have been listening for cumbia for ten years now (way before the nu-stuff) and i live in Medellin for twor years. I am cumbia and that’s not fake.

Finally my friendly student…I agree with some assertions of W&W, especially this one man: do not take a single example to illustrate your ideas !! One can begin to make musical statistics (the mathematics name of "trend") with... 100 !!! (and that’s quite a little number scale man). If you don’t take this into account, you'll have bad bad notes in your next essays…

Fake…

Fake you!

Anonymous said...

¡ Hi everyone! I want to launch a “Fakestep mainstream trend” we are three Mc’s and one Dj, anyone interested ¿??

Well.. your post just twist ideas. Johann, you sometimes wrote faaaaaaar better man, I bet you didn’t work a lot on this one? Or my english going worse every day ¿ First of all, A remix has intrinsically a fake essence, since it’s not the original… And that’s what makes it special! I feel soooo special to be the example of a new trend category of yours ¡!! But no one could not be very proud to be the example of the “fake” category. But what’s make me laugh is that one should be even more ashamed to categorize a creation as “fake” on a very serious way and ending up being totally wrong.

I’ll quote you and put you at the right pitch man…
- " making music more "local"". I am of french nationality so i have alwas been connected to the “créole” world (and to the french arabs and to the gypsies). I was doing occitan/european trad music in my occitany, I live in Medellín, home of Discos Fuentes, I do remixes, I do cumbias! Do not need to “make my music sound more local”, I am “there”, I am feeling it, I am part of it and… I am local (I guess that’s what annoy you in a way: how to analyze that: white middle class men, hit by the crisis, emigrate to the third world and end up making music cause he loves it and doesn’t care. That style isn’t fitting any categories, damned…).

- "a layer of faux-local" I am a cumbiambero man ! You like it or not, sure I am white/western/middleclassy, do not see the point !! That guacharaca sounds “faux” or what? Come on… I am not the type of DJ's running from an airport to another to catch some crowd at big gig’s (and I admire them a lot musically but that’s still not my way of living): I live deep and rooted in every country who is enough kind to adopt me and offers me some work. Is that fake? This remix is the fruit of that passion man, life passion/musical passion, it can’t be fake, like it or not.

To follow your quote on Jayce Clayton simplist “garment categories”, hear that: “I work with the funk, I eat with the funk, I sleep with the funk, I live with the funk”, you know Lord of the Underground “Chief Rocka” (you surely know the clip since you speak from hip hop : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFbLRZCExBk). See this man with blue hat, in used shorts and converse with this ridiculously distinct style in their clip at 2:00? If i hadn’t pointed out this guy to you, you wouldn’t have ever noticed him! Does he need to dance “more local”? He just does it cause he feels it, he LOVES it (and probably everyone does! Except analysts!!). He’s “there” and he is part of it, even if he’s out of the “category”. Well… That’s me! Hoooo Joahann in what category will you put him? Fake? Ja ja ¡ Noooo.

Just change “funk” in that song for anything that root me in the place I live, and you’ll have my anthem (could be arepa, gifutti, tea, beer if we leave the musical field). Cause of my very nomadic life, I developped a type of adaptation based mostly on music. I have the roots of a mangrove tree (palétuvier), the only tree that move over the streams, mainstreams, static waters and the rest. I have been listening for cumbia for ten years now (way before the nu-stuff) and i live in Medellin for twor years. I am cumbia and that’s not fake.

Finally my friendly student…I agree with some assertions of W&W, especially this one man: do not take a single example to illustrate your ideas !! One can begin to make musical statistics (the mathematics name of "trend") with... 100 !!! (and that’s quite a little number scale man). If you don’t take this into account, you'll have bad bad notes in your next essays…

Fake…

Fake you!

Birdseed said...

Hi Canalh! Fauxstep sounds like fun!

As Wayne has put it nicely in another comment thread, music always has a component of real and a component of fake. Personally, I tend to lean towards mostly the fake! I actually really liked your track - I'm not throwing it into the same category as tikitech, as you see - precisely because of the delocalised nature of cumbia or whatever... I afford that courtesy to the genres I normally listen to, why not to you? :)

UMB - Finally had time to read the stuff you've written -- my last exam was this morning, I've been bogged down as fuck, hence the slow posting rate -- and it's really good! In fact, I'm going to break it out into a post of its own for futher discussion when I get back to Sweden. :)

オテモヤン said...

オナニー
逆援助
SEX
フェラチオ
ソープ
逆援助
出張ホスト
手コキ
おっぱい
フェラチオ
中出し
セックス
デリヘル
包茎
逆援
性欲