Okay, a comment then: Ethnic re-thonging

There was plenty of things wrong in spirit with yesterday's commentless blurb text, but the one that really has stuck with me today is one that for the most part is a factual error.

The text calls the use of percussion from a number of genres "tribalist", including, absurdly, kwaito. Kwaito, whose percussion is derived straight from Chicago house with some hip-hop additions. (Here's a kwaito man practising his "tribalist" drumming.) I would just laugh at it, normally, as a clueless ignoramus using bigoted language to sell mediocre music, but there's a process at play here that scares me.

Because, it seems, even in 2010 we can't imagine South African music as something not "tribalist". And it seems we do our darnedest to make sure it stays that way.

Last year Jace, aka DJ Rupture, wrote a great article channelling a lot of peoples' discomfort about the ethnification of third-world musicians. Along with many others, Jace has used his music and writing to do precisely what he suggests in the article - put a thong on the westerner, showing how all music is equally mixed, equally "ethnic", part of the same global rhizomic conversation. On the other end, it's been demonstrated again and again that supposedly "western" traits like electronics and modernity are extremely adaptable and easy to integrate by those so-called "tribal" people, who seem to have no problem at all ignoring "their" tradition once technology is available to them.

And yet, the same dichotomy seems to persist.

The Eurocentric elite world: neutral, modern, cosmopolitan, free

Everyone else: ethnified, ancient, bound by tradition

You'd think with stuff like kuduro and kwaito finally penetrating to our latitudes we'd have lost this divide by now. But its power is strong, and it seems like we're not done putting the thongs on the natives, not by a long shot. My very first textbook about reggae kept harping on about oil drums and bamboo poles, however irrelevant they were to the contemporary music; the writer from 14 tracks above has to make sure that it's the non-"western" genres that are declared tribalist. Factual truth - like the fact that South African DJs have been doing house fusions much longer than any of the musicians on his compilation - doesn't really matter, as the important thing is to make sure the dichotomy stays intact.

Then yesterday I came across this. A dude in Berlin taking club music and making it "ethnic", that traditional worldbeat exercise circa 1990. One portion mainstream, "western" club music, one portion of someone else's tradition, and bang, you've got the neutral-ethnic dichotomy enforced in a single track.

What's fascinating, though, is that every one of the supposedly neutral genres evolved, the ones that are eventually "ethnified", originally come from marginal communities in some way. Dubstep and grime are from the Black Atlantic diaspora and the urban poor in England. Jamaican dancehall - which only recently seems to have turned cosmopolitan and neutral, witness the amount of western-produced tracks called something-riddim recently - is of course from Kingston's poorer neighbourhoods to a large extent. This is another tactic in the maintenance of the dichotomy: appropriation, not in the accepting-and-receiving-influence sense, but taking a cultural expression from somewhere and wholly taking over the interpretative space around it. In this case, carefully whitewashing any trace of supposed "ethnicity" from dubstep, grime, dancehall, and making them fit neatly into the "western" slot of the worldbeat dichotomy.

And yet, we're all ethnic. And we're all modern and rootless. Jace and others have done a lot to make this apparent, but it seems that there's still plenty of people around who want to slip music into one category or the other, for possible later fusion. Either music has to be "tribal" or it must be appropriated and neutralised by the west. And that makes for a very boring world indeed.

Left without comment

"14 tracks: Global Ghetto House

From Dalston to Durban a prominent Afro-Latin accent is dominating dancefloors. In the kinky riddims of new producers like Julio Bashmore, Greena and Douster, tribalist percussion is gleaned from Kwaito, Soca and Cumbia and raved up with explicit House references to Masters At Work and a plethora of underground dance styles absorbed via youtube. Depending on their own generic roots, a load of international producers, new and old, are mixing these memes with their own riddmic DNA to create fresh and fascinating forms. We love tracking these developments and this weeks 14 tracks is devoted to those heads who're creating a new mongrel sound, using tracky NY & Chi-town templates with elements of European party tracks to nice up your area..."
(h/t Dubbel Dutch)

Lisbon trip music #3: Funaná, Batuko and a smidgen more Kuduro

This is what you get when you don't post your new record finds immediately: high-profile sites like Ghetto Bassquake and Discobelle get there first. Oh well, at least it'll teach me not to dawdle, and I do have a second CD to show off with.

Projecto Funaná & Batuko 2010 was one of the first records I bought, and it's a banger. Every blog I've read seems to have gone with the high-profile male performer and the lead-in track on this one (I have to pinch myself not to start making modernity and gender analyses), but some of the other music on here is just as interesting. This one is lighter and subtler yet has these magical show-off synth vs. accordion passages:

Isa - Bu Podi Vivre (Mediafire)

And then there's the Batuko. Never really got into the genre before - a capella chanting doesn't appeal to me much - but plonk in synth drones and you've got créol-deconstructed, counterpublic Deep Forest, except with humour. You've gotta love it, right?

Voz D'Africa - Mudjer Soltera (Mediafire)

(Incidentally, I also like the self-proclaimed status as the Voice of Africa, in relation to this.)

Funaná e Batuko 5 was my other purchase, and this one included some really good stuff too. This piece of pure stereo mayhem - headphones are a must - is quickly emerging as my favourite Funaná track ever:

Zé de Titina - Passa Sabe (Mediafire)

Some crazy distorted vocals and super-spread, super-diverse instrumentation, it all gets a ridiculously intense towards the end.

Next, since I have a soft spot for small children recording pop-- here's the Cape Verdean entry in the youngness league, Telmo. He sounds, and looks, to be about four.

Telmo - Amor (Mediafire)

And finally, for some reason, maybe cross-promotion, there's a ridiculously hard-hitting Kuduro track on the CD as well, totally intense stuff on the border towards gabba, if you can imagine African gabba.

Puto Cossa - Ja Ta De Mas (Mediafire)

But wait, there's more! Next up, whenever that may be, is kizomba and zouk...


Lisbon trip music #2: Nacobeta & Puto Português

This Kuduro album was easily the most pushed all over Portugal when I was there, and listening to it I can see exactly why. There's a lot of straightforward hit bangers, of course, but also a couple of those vaguely polyrhythmic-sounding weird tracks that Kuduro seems to be thriving on. Here are my two favourites:

Nacobeta & Puto Português feat. Vui Vui - Manda potência (Mediafire)

Nacobeta & Puto Português - Baba Bum (Mediafire)


Lisbon trip music #1: a couple of Costuleta vids

There's probably more interesting stuff forthcoming, but at least I got a couple of videos up in YouTube that no one has posted there before. Both are from Costuleta's 2009 DVD Bomba Kuduro, which SoundGoods already posted some tracks off.

Tchiriri, his big hit, has a dozen videos it seems but this one is a bit different, since it focuses on Costuleta dancing. As you may know dude only has one leg, so it's fairly unusual stuff.

This was the most experimental video of the bunch, and one of the best tracks, I think:

Plenty more to come of course.


Lisbon pics, thinks, and a track

internet aqui dentro

Many more pics in the Flickr photostream.

Portugal is an interesting and complex country and I didn't get anywhere near penetrating it, I felt, so no real travel report forthcoming this time. I'll share some stray impressions and pics though.

Street Sounds

Car audio blaring: Reggaeton. Kizomba. Free jazz. Car audio demonstration at the Praca de Espanha market: Hip-hop. Street vendor's music: Funana, reigning supreme. Bollywood a distant second. A guy in the appartment opposite my hostel: Minimal techno.

"Street" Art

Grafitti wall, Faro

I've travelled Europe from Dublin to Moscow and Lofoten to Naples, and I've never seen a country with as much grafitti as Portugal. Huge legal walls eveywhere, "street art galleries", exclusive hipster-minimal stores selling spray cans... and shitloads of illegal tags, paintings, defaced advertising, what have you. The more central and prestigious, the more grafitti, very sporadically cleaned off - as opposed to the pristinely kept street surfaces, cleaned off daily by huge crews. The picture above, incidentally, is from a seaside resort, but could just as well have been both the suburbs and the heart of Lisbon.

Actual, You Know, Streets

In Damaia, an African-dominated suburb next to Buraca of Son Systema fame (I resisted going there just for the photo op), I shopped for records at the HQ of label Sons D'Africa and the comparison with the hip and prestigious Bairro Alto was telling. Large swathes of Damaia are - like touristy Alfama in the city centre a thousand years earlier - permanentized slum, former shacks with added pavement, electricity, mortar and postboxes, retaining a labyrintine layout and touches of organic colony-building. Precisely the same values that makes Alfama and Bairro Alto attractive are here the hallmark of slum... Shaded courtyards, narrow picturesque alleys, tight neighbourhoods.

Honestly, which is the shabbier-looking of these two alleyways?



Favela Chik

If you felt I was being to uncritical of life in squatter settlements in the last comment, at least I didn't have a drink at this place:

Favela Chic

And a teaser track...

I've got shitloads of music, including videos once I figure out how to upload them, and that deserves posts of its own. As a teaser, though, here's some music from a country I've never considered before: Guinnea Bissau. It's a strangely beautiful track that seems to bring together African and Portugese sensibilities in a fascinating Créol way, but don't worry, there'll be plenty more modern Kizomba, Kuduro and Funana coming up shortly.

Dupla di Forombal - Badjuda di Caió (MediaFire)