linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on


local art hapnins

three items of interest for boston-area art nerds contemplatives:

1) COLLISIONnine [via jackbackrack]
Art Interactive, 130 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge
Jan 28 - Feb 12 2006, weekends 12-6pm
Opening Fri Jan 27 6-9pm
Collision 9 is an experimental art show where artists invent new
technologies, new art forms, and even new forms of life. Collision Collective is a group of artists from MIT and the Boston area exploring new technologies.

C9 artists include burak arikan, ernesto arroyo, lenardo bonanni, joe dahmen, philip decamp, ammon embry-pelrine, mike everett, chris fitch, amber fridjimenez, rob gonsalves, john hart, jackbackrack, heather knight, brian knoth, nick knouf, georgina lewis, christine liu, elizabeth marley, dan roe, mary sherman, gemma shusterman, erica von schilgen, william tremblay, and ryan wartena.
2) We Made It [via crashingjets]
Second Gallery, 516 East 2nd Street, South Boston
January 28 - March 10 2006, Wed-Sat 12-6pm
Opening Sat Jan 28 6-9pm
Installation and Video by Diane Carr, Brendan Harman, Michael Mahalchick, Frankie Martin, Andy Meerow, Paperrad, Ezra Rubin
3) Step Right Up [as previously noted]
Locco Ritoro Gallery, 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston
January 6 - February 18 2006
Second Opening Feb 3 5-8pm


electro class: a crunk genealogy

cross posted to the riddim method | giffordization by 893

next tuesday is the first meeting of my electronic music class at the harvard extension school. this will be the second year i've taught the course, and i'm excited that this year the class can be taken from a distance as well as here in cambridge. i look forward to having some non-local perspectives added to the already rather diverse set the extension school attracts.

we'll be starting off with a bang--or at least an eerie sort of hum: the renowned--and awesome--theraminist, pamelia kurstin, (who's playing at beat research the night before) will be the first of many talented guests to share perspectives on techniques and technologies with us (and usually, hopefully, a wicked demo). over the course of the semester we'll also be joined by paul dailey, DJ C, DJ axel foley, david day, DJ BC, keith fullerton whitman, and DJ flack.

i've been making gradual changes to the syllabus, and i still view it as a work in progress and as a growing resource for various people hoping to learn more about some of these musics, these artists, and their socio-cultural and historical contexts. (so feel free to leave some feedback, perhaps in the comments here, but bear in mind that i'm also trying to keep this manageable as a set of course materials. if anything, i'm looking for better musical examples and readings rather than more.) before you pass judgment on my "ivory tower" canonization (if that's your inclination), please see my disclaimer from last year, which still holds. see also, this interview, which i hope provides further insight into where i'm coming from in putting all this together.

ultimately, i'm hoping to share what i've learned about the vast world of electronic music, a world about which i am deeply--omnivorously--curious, a world which increasingly intersects with every aspect of musical experience, and a world with its own myths and ideologies--some derivative of dominant discourse, some radically insurgent, expansive even. what i hope to do with the class is to generate a critical discussion--not critical meaning bad but critical meaning good incisive--of musical experience, musical practice, and musical subjects in the digital age.

if you're interesting in joining the conversation, i'd love to have you along for the ride. (but don't sleep: registration ends feb 5 and class starts jan 31.)

considering the course's attention to historical connections and its emphasis on the post-african funky side of the electronic music narrative, one might rightly dub this a crunk genealogy. as a bit of a demonstration (or an extracurricular exposition, if you will), i've put together a little mix, an embodied crunk genealogy, to give shape and form to one of the course's major themes: electro legacies.

the mix uses bambaataa's "planet rock"--or at least its predominant rhythmic pattern--as its thematic "dem bow", as its "amen", as the musical thread running through it. (let me be clear: these songs--except for a couple, such as "mentasm," which i've remixed by layering an electro pattern on top--all share a similar rhythmic pattern, the one powerfully promulgated, but not by any means created, by "planet rock"; they do not all employ samples of "planet rock," though some do.) of course bam's and baker's beat for "planet rock" derived no small inspiration from kraftwerk's "numbers." (it's essentially a re-lick.) but kraftwerk were listening to the same funk and rock that bambaataa was--much of it latin-tinged. the underlying beat in "numbers," "planet rock," and indeed in most every track in this mix is essentially a 3:2 clave played against some steady snares. it's one of those things that's become so common that it's heard as quintessentially american (which it is), despite its strong connections to latin musical culture.

the mix begins by (playfully) submitting stockhausen to the post-african repetitions he decries. after spinning karlheinz into an electro frenzy and mixing him with plastikman--one of the very "technocrats" he attempts to advise--the mix moves onward and outward to trace a cycle though various styles. one hears how rave/'ardcore borrows from electro and techno and then feeds back into brazilian funk, altanta crunk, and the sundry global forms created by various members of the electro generation, those for whom the crunk-clave provided a ubiquitous, slightly syncopated pulse. and a sizeable generation it is, for as you may know, electro morphed into freestyle and freestyle set the template for the next 20 years of teeniebop pop. that a clave-derived pattern underlies it all should not surprise: the clave propels much early and classic rock, a good deal of pop ballads and soul numbers, and a good many jazz tunes. (what do you think jelly roll was referring to when he spoke of jazz's "spanish tinge"?)

i'll leave it at that for now and let the sounds speak for themselves. the mix takes some wild turns as i try to thread the electro beat through a few decades of electronic music, and it ends up in an strange spot indeed, with a mashed-up jason moran giving "planet rock" the sort of modernist interpretation it calls for while aphex twin pursues a sort of drill'n'bass romanticism, an odd cluster of associations and allusions--and that about says it.

wayne&wax, "a crunk genealogy" (27 min | 31 mb)


stockhausen, excerpts from "zyklus," "hymnen," "gesang der jungliche," und "kontakte" (w&w "post-african" remix)
plastikman, "gak"
kraftwerk, "numbers"
afrika bambaataa & soul sonic force (w/ arthur baker), "planet rock"
autechre, "crystel"
kraftwerk, "trans-europe express"
gary numan, "cars"
cybotron, "clear"
missy elliott, ciara, fatman scoop, "lose control"
foreigner vs. missy/cybotron, "urgent" (rndm blend)
SD boys, "planeta dominado"
joey beltram, "mentasm" (w&w crunkt-up mix)
usher w/ lil jon, "yeah" (w&w crunkt-up mix)
2 bad mice, "bombscare"
the juan maclean, "my time is running out"
outkast, "the way you move"
tagteam, "whoomp! (there it is)"
matmos, "lipostudio"
bambaataa, "planet rock" (reprise)
jason moran, "planet rock" (w&w remash)
aphex twin, "4"

// *** //

finally, i plan to make each month's "wicked wicked thursday" (every fourth thurs at river gods) a night where some of the course's guests and i play through the previous month's music, all well-mixed'n'mashed, of course. tomorrow night we'll kick it off as i play through the mix above and pursue related strands while pace digs into the "weirdo" electronic side of his library of vinyl archive and blends some breakbeats 'pon top. should be a good vibe and a good semester.


you say effect / and i say affect

if only this had been as good as its unwittingly sophisticated title promised


been mired in papers and exams from fc-46.

it's been surprising to discover that a remarkably small number of HU undergrads appear to know the difference between affect and effect. (granted, it's a tricky one.) lack of adherence to basic essay structure is another woefully common error. don't get me wrong: i'm no stickler. but it really does help to get that thesis out in front--or at least state your argument clearly and directly at some point. few essays are in need of epic, abstract, or folksy introductions (and that goes for conclusions, too), and the biggest word is not always the best.

[full disclosure: i used to walk around with strunk&white in my back pocket. and this is my favorite rule. no, i don't follow it nearly enough.]

among the 40 or so papers that i read, there were essays on race/ethnicity/pigmentocracy, (legacies of) slavery, contemporary economic issues, costs and benefits of tourism, and the problem of AIDS. unsurprisingly, popular culture also provided a favorite realm for research topics, and the perennial favorites stacked up thusly: three a piece on reggae, ganja, and baseball. (bear in mind that all essays had to focus on the caribbean.) i read only one paper about pirates. and none on che.

speaking of che, did you see this che-trooper thing?

i'm really beguiled these days by such simple but profound image/video manipulations. from giffords to stabilized zapruders to bigfooted fakers, folks are using computers to make us see things in amazing ways.

the revelations are sometimes staggering..


before i leave the school stuff behind, allow me to share my favorite wrong answers. they all have to do with the identification of daddy sharpe, jamaican deacon and leader of the christmas rebellion of 1831. one student pegged him a posse leader, another said he was a dancehall DJ, and a third, recognizing the relation to senor yankee, declared him a reggaeton artist!

tra tra-tra tra!!

you can get a different kind of schooling over at redefinition radio, where kevin beacham has been broadcasting and archiving a wicked series on the history of hip-hop and reggae (see january 06). i don't have to tell you that that's a subject near and dear to me. and kevin's been doing it justice, digging up some gems and telling a great sonic story about a longtime relationship. (thanks to oh word for the tip.)


and because graders always need more excuses for procrastination (or, more charitably, taking a break), special thanks to cottoncandyhammer, that comber of the interwebb's wacky corners, for digging up--among too many other gems--an amazing(ly addictive) garfield randomizer.

here's a remix i clicked together. it's not the most accomplished, but you get a sense..

finally, because it's good and i just can't resist: hua hsu on crack.




i've got a long, linky piece on reggaeton in this week's phoenix. it's my latest take on the subject, and after noticing recently that my "so many snares" post from last summer found itself on a "best music writing" list for 2005 (and one for/by "rockcritics" at that!), i find myself in the strange position of wondering whether this piece in print will live up to the blog-post that preceded it (and which essentially opened the door for it).

not that y'all needed another reggaeton article. clearly, the music has become the darling of the NY international press, and that's part of what i wanted to try to get at in the phoenix piece--to examine the differences between reggaeton's presence in the mainstream soundscape and its representation in mainstream discourse. (not that the folks linked to in that first sentence don't get at these things, but i wanted to bring a bit more of the ethnomusicologist in me to the proceedings.) between attempting to provide an overview for those who have somehow managed to stay oblivious to reggaton's inroads and attempting to provide a depth and breadth of analysis not often found in the mainstream press (never mind sticking to a rather generous word count!), i found writing the piece to be something of a challenge.

i hope it lives up to the prominence it was given. (cover story!) but i'm not sure that a newspaper article can really ever communicate about music the way that a blog or a DJ mix can. one of the things that made the blog-post special, i suppose, was its combination of text and audio (and images), or as they put it over at rockcritics.com: "aural demonstrations of what's being explained in detail." in an attempt, then, to augment this latest texty thing i'm throwing at you, allow me to "throw some bows" at you, too. dem bows, that is.

i posted a "dem bow mix" over at the riddim method. check it out, download it, and let it provide a jump-off for further travels. reggaeton's a rich, rich world (and getting richer)--and opens up to many others. i'm just scratching the surface blin-blin.


restorative justice, jamaican style

upon hearing the phrase above, plenty of folks would probably imagine guns rather than computer labs, but there is a movement afoot to change all that, beginning in one of the best places to begin if one wants to rehabilitate a society--its prisons. (we'd do well to start there here, too. but maybe JA can serve as a beacon.)

hear more about it tomorrow night at harvard law school, when kevin wallen, the man largely responsible for the progressive strides at tower street and south camp, will join courtney kazembe and "corrections expert" rubin "hurricane" carter (!) to discuss the project, its goals, and its underlying philosophy.


listening to the leichers'

no, those aren't the leichers, they're the barrys

i've just launched a new project over at the riddim method: it's a sonicultural journey--a field trip across the musical landscape of my wife's grandparents' mid-twentieth-century record collection (which they recently gave me).

i hope to make this a series of sorts, a regular kind of thing, so join me for the maiden voyage. it'll be fun to have as many passengers aboard as this lil' boat can hold.

as an embarkation, my initial post offers up two songs that i've digitized from the collection, but for those who want to hear a bigger chunk right away, i'll be playing through many of my favorites tomorrow night from 9-11 (tues, 1/17) at brainstorm, the biweekly freeform free-for-all at river gods, hosted by so and formerly co-hosted with ben walker, the latest case of a great boston-based talent lost to the media monster to the south. (good luck, ben! we'll be listening.)


T&T's reggae rennaissance

keep your ears open for prophet benjamin

just got a note from my man danish, a trinidadian selector/music-enthusiast who moved from new orleans to atlanta to san juan in the last year. every now and then danish hits me up with his impressions of the trinidadian or jamaican or wider caribbean music scene. his keen observations often identify emerging trends, as in this missive from last august, which i should have posted immediately as it is now out-of-date (and already was referring to a trip taken in june). still, as sudden as stylistic shifts can be in this music, his thoughts here remain an incisive summation of recent movements in reggae:
I was in JA in June for a couple weeks and just wanted to bounce off you what I noted as the current trends in the dancehall space.

- firstly, pertinent to your recent blog post, there are a couple riddims in JA (one of which has a Bounty called 'top billing') that actually have the drum pattern AND tempo of reggaeton...yuh know how the radio is, many times they do not tell you the riddim names. Reggaeton really is on de up and up...heard a track or two in France, even back home in T&T we're loving it (as we enjoy all 'wining' music).

- secondly, the 'one drop' seems to be no longer at the top, in my books. Sad to say, this was inevitable..phases in dancehall are, almost by definition, fleeting. This was one was positive for the most part but it has given away to something I rank as delightful, Man...I callin it 'retro'...Starting with the 'sleepy dog', a classic sounding ol' school riddim, slow tempo with a WICKED ol' school style Assassin, and another strong track from Vegas. The runaway tune on de riddim is Buju's 'Zoom Zoom' that sounds like it was recorded 12 years ago! Buju in particular has spearheaded this retro revolution and is singing girls tunes in the same vein as 'voice of jamaica' days...The 'throwback' riddim rewords the riddim of 'coca cola bottle shape' with some strong tracks from Vybz (showing his versatility with a ol' school pattern), Ele (for a change) AND Buju! De Buju DONE de place...'mi baby mother seh mi bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad'...brrrrrap!
for those who are curious about the contemporary scene in T&T, i offer up (immediately this time) some selections from an email i just received from him:
Was just home for Christmas/New Years as is customary, and it's an extra-exciting time for me as it is the start of the Carnival season and new releases-a plenty are pouring forth from the illegal street vendors, radio stations, etc.

First thing to note: in the wake of the monumental success of Marlon Asher's "G#nja Farmer", it's heralded the era of 'Trini Reggae' with a cadre of talented local artistes making some truly quality conscious reggae music (the most prolific of which is a Bobo named Prophet Benjamin). There is a recently released compilation 'Reggae Roadblock' featuring the local reggae hits, both by lesser-knowns as well as a ragga-soca artist Benjai (with a WICKED weed tune called 'I got something'). Boss, it's truly an excellent conscious compilation, and has garnered immense support from the local party goers and radio DJ's (who often sadly are more partial to Jamaican and American artists/music outside of Carnival season)…so much so that the Carnival fetes thus far would feature at least Prophet Benjamin (who apparently has a WICKED combo with Bunji Garlin)…that is new ground, King...local reggae acts in Carnival fetes? And I know us, as a people, will appreciate it.

In the future, we might witness a couple more of the popular ragga soca artists voicing conscious reggae tracks; I know they have the talent to do so and with the slew of 'conscious soca' over the past few years from the likes of Maximus Dan, Bunji Garlin and even Machel Montano (known as a slackness artist for years, but perhaps on the best in the game), it's a natural progression (even moreso with the 'mainstream' reggae community's current love affair for the one-drop).
and before i could post this here entry, i received the following follow-up:
Am tuning into what's probably the top urban station at home www.red967fm.com online and just heard de Prophet Benjamin/Bunji compilation and it WICKED! Is actually a hype ragga soca track bunnin fire on police, etc…
so, yeah, go search this stuff out if you want to hear what's running the airwaves in trini today. (and try these sites for some audio teasers: trini jungle juice | toronto-lime | 1extra.) meantime, i'll be sure to keep you posted of danish's musical intimations in the future. dude's off to india in a couple weeks, so who knows what news his next email will bring.


aural joyrides and other diversions

jace's joyous post reminds me of my favorite joyride chune: tanya stephens's cocksure self-assured instruction-manual for clueless (crazy?) men:

tanya stephens, "yuh nuh ready"

which reminds me of my favorite example of a male rapper employing a feminist slogan to big-up himself, w/ seemingly no concern for the homoerotic implications:

phife dog, "his name is mutty ranks"

the track above comes from tribe's uneven, but underrated, love movement. (someday folks are going to appreciate that jay dilla was on some shit on this one, even if they miss ali shaheed's butter beats.) this is also just one of many, many little references that phife, as a good trini boy, makes to caribbean music, especially reggae and calypso. of course, "mutty ranks" never really found his solo shine, but then again neither did tip, which remains a great mystery to me.


in other news,

siebe thissen, aka dr.auratheft, has added a few new mixes to his carefully curated collection. (find tracklist/notes here.) the "wareika hill" mix offers up jamaican jazz equally inspired by count ossie and sun ra, while the "freedom inc" mix brings together mingus, rza-on-mingus, wiley (!), and sly&robbie, among others.

the link from tofuhaus also drew my attention to distinctly jamaican. ecumenical in its conception of what might fall under that rubric and featuring heaping portions of music and info, this one's worth checking on a regular.



another funky podcast from atari over at the woefully sluggish reasoner, this time linking funk to the broader brazilian soundscape. check the bailectro sabor! viva favela!



remember that re-tooled trailer of the shining?

well, these are less developed--and different--but great all the same:

weekend at biggie's | kickback mountain



twink: kids rekkids deconstructed, recreated, and thoroughly fuctwit.

and dude's from boston to boot!? w00t!

(ahem, go pats!!)


keep the links

  • i'm not surprised that scientists are using jamaican dancers to study links between dancing ability and mate quality, though i think the researchers would do well to read up on the history of dance inna the dancehall first. how else to know which dances are supposed to be symmetrical?

  • my main man marvin has not only garnered recognition--and sponsorship!--for his plans to take a team of jamaican kids to a robotics competition in LA (observer | gleaner), he's also started a blog, so we can cheer him on as he continues with his innovative educational initiatives back a yard.

  • the jamaica-born prof i've been teaching for this past semester just wrote a contentious, provocative review of two new books on (american) black (cultural) identity. [read it while it's free only registration is required.]

  • also in the times this past sunday, an article on reggaeton that gives a pretty good sense of the scene in san juan, interviewing artists and audience members and recommending a bunch of clubs to boot. [read it while just go to the library or something.]

  • in other reggaetony news, apparently the genre has found favor in uganda.

  • but whatchu know about africa? (maybe you should read more blogs.)


chasin' jason chase

jason chase is a boston somerville-based artist who paints truly amazing hyperreal portraits of suburban/middle-brow/ubiquitous american material/visual culture (among other things). sometimes there's an implicit critique to his representations of well-worn brands and "landscapes" (e.g., strip-malls). sometimes the point is much more explicit, as in his evocations of the violence lurking just beneath all the candy-colored crap.

readers of this blog might remember jason's work from my rave of last may, or from my recent link to his and caryn o'connell's click-through flotation device.

at any rate, don't take my (big) word(s) for it--see jason's paintings for yourself. better yet--see them in person. you might not be able to tell from jason's generous web-shots, but many of these paintings are HUGE. seeing them up close, looming over you in their larger-than-lifeness, is definitely the way to go.

tonight is the opening reception of a show introducing jason's art to the greater boston community. it's at the locco ritoro gallery from 5-8pm. the show will be up through the 18th of february.


giff riff

as promised in the last post, i've got a bunch more giffords to point you to.

inspired by umeancompetitor's gorgeously glitchy gifs, and assisted by mr.893's lovely tutorials, my untwistably twisted partner has been scouring flickr's most "interesting" pics and, through the magic of math and movement, turning them into stunning little works of webart.

she's put up a little gallery here. check it out!


should blog acquaintance be forgot

it's been a busy, if festive, few days. nuff prepping, partying, and cleaning up.

we riddim methodists had a blast on new year's eve--thanks again to everyone who came out and got down!

pictures (and possibly audio) to follow.. [here's a teaser]

meantime, train your eyes on one of becca's first homegrown giffords !!

much more giffordogenesis to come!!

best wishes to you and yers in '06.