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


in the socket

photo by pantagrapher

i'll be waxing and wayning in new york citay** this wednesday (3/1) at the knitting factory, old office. mainly, i'll be rapping, which, for those of you who know me more through my blogging, sort of sounds like my blogging but faster and more rhythmic.

the bill is more of a sanger-sangwriter thang, but on the interesting side of that divide. the mastermind behind it all is me old friend and collaborator, andrew scandal, a relatively recent boston->brooklyn defector. (which is exciting b/c we're good buddies and it's always fun to hang out, but which is especially exciting b/c these days we're both using sony-manufactured "in-the-pocket" "in-the-socket" drummers: his a boombox, mine a vaio.)

i'll be rockin' the mic and the 'top from 10-11. before me, it's kat hayman from 8-9 and scandal from 9-10, and then after me, ill paisanos will bring it all back home.

** citay, a/k/a ezra f & co., is not involved in this event. i just thought i'd link him here since he calls his band/project "citay" and because he's got a new cd out that you'll prolly like if you like weird 70s rock. (no offense, ez.)


dailey grind

paul dailey demonstrates on the decks

in our electro class this past tuesday, paul dailey gave a detailed demonstration of how he approaches his craft as a techno DJ. his suggestive mini-set had to be limited due to the class's time restrictions as well as the fact that he had a gig in providence later that night.

but tonight--(wicked wicked) thursday, 2/23--paul will get a chance to stretch out a bit more when he joins me at river gods for my monthly special (which i'm devoting this spring to the music of our electro class--and the guests who share their skills with us). while i mix selections from the avant garde to the minimalist, from soul and funk to disco and dub, from house to techno to electro--a partial crunk genealogy, if you will--paul will be digging out some house and techno classics and connecting them to some recent favorites.

given the lil pub's cozy confines, it should be more of a chill vibe than an all-out foot stomper, but you never know what can happen with the right music on the right night. should be fun, at any rate, especially for all us students of electronic music (whether enrolled in the class or not). 9pm-1am. no cover.

finally, while we're on the topic of classic electronic dance music, i should point you to nate harrison's wonderful little videomentary on the TB-303, the instrument of acid house (and a whole lotta styles that followed). you may have come across harrison's amen break bit recently, which--thanks to boingboing--seems to be enjoying a (well-deserved) second or third fifteen minutes. don't miss it.

and if you like that sort of thing, you might check out vintage synth explorer and virtual drum machines--not to mention the virtual collections at obsolete.com and synthmuseum. deep.


bouncin' le gros

sorry i won't be able to join the arty party in NL this week. among other good reasons for having to stay stateside, i've got jury duty tomorrow--in lowell of all places.

still, i was fortunate enough to make it up to MTL this past weekend to catch a special beat-research- / boston-bounce-bolstered incarnation of bounce le gros, the mongrel monthly thrown by upnorth beatsmith ghislain poirier--who, as truck would have it, happens to be one of curator/rupture's guests at the fest in amsty.

zoobizarre was truly bizarre: a dungeonous little club on the second floor of a middle-class french-side-of-town shopping district that managed to attract a relatively diverse, relatively rockin' crowd--and on the coldest night in recent memory--to bounce along to the baaaaassss that ghislain seems to prize above all else, to his credit. flack and c were down with that strategy too, of course.

thanks for the vibes, all. (big up to etienne and erin.)

more pics here.


crunk addenda

when i put together my crunk genealogy mix, i wanted to keep it short and sweet. of course, i could have included many, many more tracks that sample/version the kraftwerk and bambaataa creations that so swiftly spread the electro/bass/crunk meme 'round the planet--not to mention the hundreds of tracks (including plenty of 3:2 clave salsa, son, calypso, and reggaeton) that share the same prevailing rhythmic pattern. ever since i put it up, though, i've been weighing the decisions and wishing i'd also included this or that. and now, especially with earplug sending lots of folks to listen to it (thanks, y'all), i'm wishing that i had.

still, sometimes it's best to let things lie. first thought, best thought--and all that jazz zen. so i'll just hip you to a couple tracks that i have since wished i'd included.

the first comes to us from the dearly departed detroiter, j dilla. talk about reppin' the D, the birthplace of techno--that afrofuturist hybrid bringing together bambaataa, kraftwerk, parliament, and all sorts of other folks for whom space-is-the-place: on welcome to detroit, jay dee riffs on kraftwerk's seminal "trans-europe express" (whose drums and melody helped to animate bam's/baker's "planet rock") and resignifies "BBE" (the label that issued the album) as "big booty express." rather than sampling kraftwerk or replaying elements from "TTE," on "BBE" - just as his detroit bredren cybotron (a/k/a juan atkins), one of techno's early technicians, did on jams like "clear" - jay dee expertly channels the teutonic/robotic spirit of the original, employing vintage synths and a foursquare beat. and, in a nod to electro's migrations down south (e.g., miami's [booty] bass and ATL's crunk) before heading back up north (e.g., detroit's ghetto-tech), he makes direct reference in the refrain to the large, lovely posteriors--i cannot lie / you other brothers can't deny--that inspire so many bass/crunk/tech songs which, yes, have strong roots in stripclub music and culture. (as did jazz jass, let's not forget)

jay dee, "B.B.E. (Big Booty Express)"

the second springs from the caribbean, though i'm not sure where exactly. you see, the music is soca, which today is largely recorded in trinidad and in its most longstanding site of production, new york. but the singer, alison hinds, is from barbados. a bajan singing soca is nothing to be surprised by, of course, which is actually kind of remarkable. when we consider, for example, that reggae performers - at least those that are popular in jamaica and in the international market (for, yes, reggae is produced everywhere today) - are far and away jamaican, it becomes noteworthy that soca - as heard in trinidad and in the international soca market (which does not quite have reggae's reach) - seems to support so many non-trinidadian performers. perhaps it says something both about jamaica's intense pride and projection of national identity (despite the inherent contradictions therein), and perhaps it says something about west indian unity outside of jamaica. at any rate, soca's biggest recent star hails from st.vincent, while runner-up rupee represents yet another bajan leading the scene.

and hinds just may have what it takes to appeal to the "international market" she's had in her sights for a while. although, like most soca songs that eventually reach the US, her song "roll it gal" is arriving many months late, they've been caning it over on "rockers" on WERS--and that's a (mad decent) reggae show. a good part of what allows her song to work on a reggae program is its ravesploitation-synth line and crunk beat, the same sort of thing sherburne was hearing in lil jon last winter. it sounds like contemporary hip-hop and dancehall (and funk carioca and ethnopop, etc.), if with a slightly different accent. and you can't argue with an independent woman anthem. you just can't.

alison hinds, "roll it gal"


as another crunk addendum, i point you to my latest post at riddim method, where i offer up a number of musical examples from my electro class. the last one is a standalone version of jason moran's and bambaataa's "planet rocks" (in part, a response to rio's good good continuation of the conversation).


finally, i certainly could have included a hyphy song on the genealogy mix as well. i mean, if that's not the crunk o' the bay, owknow what is. check out the way dudes from the yay have been representin' recently on a previous post of mine that mentioned hyphy. hella hardcore. what's more--i think the first guy signed up with blogger just to leave that comment. that's representin' for real, mang. luh dat.


free the meejay

a couple (free!) hapnins tonight for all you loco locals:

1) cory doctorow of boingboing fame will be talking (or is it blalking?) at hahvid:
Set Top Cop: Hollywood's Secret War on Your Living Room
*Wednesday, Feb. 15, 6pm*
Emerson Hall 105, Harvard College
2) and later, wayne&wax of wayne&wax fame (that's me!) will be freeing his inner DJ:
Free the DJ! (w/ David Day / sQuar3 productions)
*Wednesday, Feb. 15, 10pm-1am*
Zuzu, Central Square

/// ... /// ... ///

in other random walks across the bog...



i'm deeply saddened to hear that jay dee (a/k/a j dilla, a/k/a james yancey)--a hip-hop producer's hip-hop producer, an unbeatable beatsmith, and a longtime personal favorite of mine--passed away this past friday at the all too early age of 32. dang.

dilla was much too fantastic to go so soon.

the man was a truly innovative and influential producer, but despite wide acclaim on the part of heads and critics, jay dee never quite got his due--"most slept on since pepto," he rhymed on welcome to detroit--and people continue to sleep on the amazing beats he crafted for tribe and common. surely, we'll see plenty of posthumous praise lavished upon dilla and his oeuvre, but fortunately there's always been a fair amount of consensus around the greatness of those early slum village sides and the various one-off classics jay dee cooked up for the likes of de la, the roots, pharcyde, busta, black star, kweli, d'angelo, and ms.badu--among others.

jay dee's filtered loops, trademark "sloppy" snares and handclaps, combo of (processed) live instruments, programmed bass, and dusty breaks, fondness for little, subtle musical jokes, and--above all--his impeccable ear for beautiful beats set him apart from a great many of his peers and set a template for a particularly poignant (at least in his hands) brand of neo-soul/true-school music.

jay dee's the soulquarian in the lower right corner

what many don't recognize is that jay was a more-than-decent rapper as well, usually outshining his slum vill bredren on pretty much any cut he spit on and displaying a virtuosity with rhythm and rhyme--in other words, a flow--that not only remains among the best i've heard from a producer (and this is largely before the advent of the rapper/producer) but gives a good many MCs a run for their money. (someone say pay jay?) seriously though, there aren't many lines on par with the braggadocio-turned-vulnerable boast, "i know it's me (pause) / yeah, i know it's me (pause) / i hope it's me"--and over a beat so bittersweet, you can't help but believe.

and don't get me started on rhyme schemes like: can't can't / can't can't / hands and / band and / can't stand / man's dance / sandman / damn man / hand-stand / wham-bam / hand brand / san fran / japan land--though, yeah, you gotta hear it in context and against the beat, for sure.

i'll just say it one more time: dang.

james yancey will be sorely missed on this earth, but we at w&w thank the man for blessing us with so many gems before he left. donuts is in the mail as i write this. can't wait to nod along.

.. peace jay dee // can't can't stop can't can't quit // & on & on & on & ..


flicka sailboats and other oddities


    [update!! - don't miss that flicka sailboat blog up there: it leads to an apparently infinite recursion of spamtastic fake-blogs that, as far as i can tell, are at least as funny as that blonde joke that's been going around.]


chat dem a chat

below are excerpts from recent conversations on the SEM list, some of which i thought might be of interest to a broader readership:


responding to a thread about the role ethnomusicologists play in mediating "exotic" musics for (american) audiences, michael birenbaum quintero offered the following thoughtful comments:
It often seems like a lot of our practical impact in the public sphere is explaining exotic musics (this term should be seen as dripping with irony) to potential consumers (our most-read publications are probably liner notes and even our academic work often gets read as a how-to-listen guide.) In other words we equip consumers with the knowledge necessary to be connoisseurs, surely one of the most pleasurable aspects of cosmopolitan consumption of cultural goods. (Check out Molly H. Mullins' book 'Culture in the Marketplace'). If training publics to consume is a probably unavoidable byproduct of our work, maybe we should also think about helping musicians understand the demands of cosmopolitan publics so that they can make their own decisions about how they want to deal with issues of authenticity, fusion, etc. This is the ethnomusicological version of Venezuelan anthropologist Daniel Matos' call not to do ethnographies of indigenous groups for studies by the World Bank, but to do ethnography of the World Bank for the benefit of indigenous groups.


the second thread to which i will point you has opened up into some interesting, possibly parallel, questions about the borders of musical appropriation. it began with the following query by alexandre enkerli:
This sounds like trivia but which Blues musician reappropriated a song from an African culture ("pygmy," IIRC) without credit or financial reward, then defended himself with some kind of "it's ok, we're all brothers" reply?
enkerli's query was swiftly answered by a number of respondents, myself included, who immediately connected the anecdote to steven feld's article "pygmy POP!: A Genealogy of Schizophonic Mimesis" (Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 28, 1996, pp. 1-35). at one point in the article, feld calls up herbie hancock--the "blues musician" in question--and asks him about his "appropriation" of a pygmy-style hocket figure on "watermelon man" from the album headhunters. (interestingly, the wikipedia entries for hocket and pygmy music both reproduce, if vaguely, the erroneous contention that bill summers actually used--i.e., sampled--recordings of pygmy music on "watermelon man" rather than drew inspiration from them.)

the number of quick responses to enkerli's question was remarked on as remarkable in itself, suggesting that feld's story has become something of a cherished "legend" for the field.

peter manuel then contributed a crucial clarification/critique:

Regarding Herbie Hancock's alleged "appropriation of a pygmy song": It should be made clear that what Hancock "appropriated" was neither a song, nor part of a recording. Rather, as Heidi notes, on "Headhunters" Bill Summers merely imitated the hindewhu hocket technique, using a beer bottle. Steven Feld, as he relates in his YTM 1995 article regarding this issue, then asked Hancock a very leading question, viz., did Hancock feel "any legal or moral concern surrounding the hindewhu copy on Headhunters?" Hancock then gave what I would regard as a not very enlightened answer, invoking the "brothers" notion. I wish he had instead simply replied to Feld, "No -- do YOU think I should feel such concern?" Because, legally, neither compositional rights nor mechanical rights were involved, and ethically, if one were to regard such musical borrowing--i.e., of an IDEA--as requiring some sort of compensation, then the implications are mind-boggling. (E.g., if Coltrane was in his later years inspired by Indian music, should he have written a check to the government of India? If a professional jazz musician's style is in some respects inspired by Charlie Parker, does [s]he ethically owe compensation to Parker's estate? Do rappers in Malawi owe monetary compensation to someone or some group in this country, where rap originated? Whom should they pay, and how much?)

With all due respect to Feld, and to the many insights in that article, I think his oblique criticism of Hancock is untenable, and is all the more problematic for the indirect, innuendo form it takes. And I suspect he poses the critique in that oblique form because he knows that it is untenable. (Also, Feld misunderstands or misrepresents matters when he writes, "Ten years later, reflecting both legal and social changes, Madonna's label...clearly licensed and paid for the sample [of Hancock's faux-hindewhu]" (p. 7). But this licensing has nothing to do with any such changes, but rather with the fact that Madonna used an actual sample of a recording, which Hancock did not.)
in response, marc perlman offered the following (reconciliation?):
Peter reminds us of an important distinction in Anglo-American copyright law: some musical things--such as techniques and styles--aren't copyrightable.

In law, it makes a big difference whether you are (1) sampling a recording of someone hocketing with a whistle, (2) performing someone else's song (in which there is a composed hocket for whistle), or (3) creating your own song using a whistle-hocket technique. Cases 1 and 2 could be infringing; case 3 couldn't. (Unless you literally quoted enough of someone else's hocket ... Or something like that--IANAL.)

Feld may not have been aware of this legal difference, and maybe Hancock wasn't either. Of course, only half of Feld's question was about the law; the other half was about morality. But I think many musicians have only a vague notion of this legal distinction, and in any case might find it arbitrary. Inventors of successful new styles like Bill Monroe or James Brown might feel they deserved royalties from the bands they influenced.

It's natural to feel resentful when one is being imitated; Bill Monroe resented his epigones at first (so Cliff Murphy tells me). But monetizing stylistic influence would have staggering effects on society (as Peter points out). As far as I know, there haven't been any efforts to revise copyright law to allow this--yet. But copyright law is changing, usually in the direction of expanded rights. Several countries have introduced copyright-like protection for their traditional music and folklore. (Under such laws, Robert Wilson's staging of the Buginese epic _I La Galigo_ would need to be approved by the Indonesian government.)

Ethnomusicologists are susceptible to vicarious outrage--at least, I know I can get annoyed when I hear imitations of gamelan music. Maybe Feld was feeling vicarious outrage on behalf of the BaAka. Peter suggests Feld may have been aware that his implied criticism was untenable; I'm not so sure. He would surely have considered his "outrage" to be virtuous: why shouldn't he stand up for the BaAka and assert their ownership of their "signature" sounds?

One reason not to stand up for them (in this case) is suggested by that technical legal distinction between the copyrightable and the uncopyrightable. It's the heart of the notion of the public domain--a core element of Western liberal, civil society. This isn't a notion ethnomusicologists talk about much, but it's clearly relevant to Feld's conversation with Hancock.

interesting issues, indeed. and good to see them debated on the list. it seems to me that, returning to m.b.q.'s quotation above, considering how ethnomusicologists often serve as arbiters/mediators between various musicians in "the world" and "american"/"western" audiences, we might also be well-poised to enter into the public conversation about global notions of ownership and appropriation. (of course, it seems unlikely that the society will agree on any of the many complex issues swirling around such notions, but it would seem valuable for such scholars as peter and marc to bring their knowledge, and voices, into the discussion.)

at any rate, i'm definitely curious to know what folks outside of ethnomusicology think. these are rather blurry lines and slippery slopes we're talking about, and it would seem that one's perspective is inextricable from one's position (of power--or not) in all of this.

if you find the discussion interesting, feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below.


reggae-riddims done?

i was alarmed to find this morning--while hoping to do a routine search for a song title--that reggae-riddims.com, long the most comprehensive (& free, online, & searchable) database for reggae recordings and their various metadata, is no longer there. the domain name is expired, "pending renewal or deletion."

i (used to?) use the site frequently for tracking down original versions, covers and re-licks, odd connections of all kinds, and--best of all--long, lovely lists of songs that employ the same well-worn riddims. moreover, alongside my more qualitative methods, folks like pace have crunched the data to explore various avenues of quantitative analysis. no, reggae-riddims wasn't perfect. it had its (implicit) biases and lacunae, and it had seemingly been working with a static data set for a long time. but it was still the best thing out there: no libraries are collecting this information, and few folks are making it publicly accessible or so searchable. (of course, for a small price...)

sure, there's always jamrid, which has the benefit of offering audio samples (but far less info), and one can make a query on various message boards 'round the net, but no other site--far as i know--provides as much sheer information as reggae-riddims.

i guess i'm still waiting for the great big audiowiki in the sky, when we can all upload audio, text, metadata, etc., and even annotate the sound itself. i can imagine quite a collective document shaping up, making connections and opening up into countless narratives about music and society and culture. until then, we're stuck with privately maintained archives which run the risk of going under or are sometimes saddled by a paucity of data or perspective.

yes, sites like the-breaks.com--for all their ethical ambiguity (e.g., is this helping or hurting samplers' cause?)--remain valuable resources. but wouldn't it be better if they could be at least semi-publicly maintained, edited, and expanded?

who maintains reggae-riddims.com? what can be done to bring it back? would the previous keepers of the data mind if others put it back up, and allowed others to contribute to it? there is much to be learned here, and much to be lost.

[update: bass.de points us to a reincarnation of reggae-riddims, bigger and more up-to-the-time, too: riddimbase. gotta love those germaicans.]


keepin' it ethereal

pamelia kurstin plucks notes from the ether

the first lecture from my electronic music class is up and available for viewing. because we're still technically in "shopping period" (registration ends on feb 5), the video is viewable by anyone with the bandwidth to handle it.

check it out on the course's video page.

i should note that the structure of my lecture is somewhat different than usual. in the interest of providing something of a thematic overview, i essentially do a close (creative?) reading of the "advice to clever children" article and discuss how, for all the ways they talk past each other, stockhausen and the "technocrats" actually seem to share a number of perspectives (as well as to disagree vehemently on other issues). in general, my lectures will focus more on particular electronic styles, how they're put together, where they're coming from (e.g., their historical and socio-cultural contexts), and the range of meanings they might engender.

if anything, i suggest skipping ahead to the second hour and checking out pamelia kurstin's wonderful lecture/demo. plain and simple: pamelia rocks. not only is she among the foremost theremin players in the world and an animated, articulate speaker, she goes beyond trad performance practice, employing loop pedals and cooking up some serious sonic stew. this is not to be missed--watch it while it's free!

if you like what you see, please join us. we'll be glad to have you along for the ride.


the bugosphere

don't be buggin' me, blog: can't you see i'm trying to work here?

[the following is a quick response to a recent promo we received here at w&w]

killing sound (rephlex) is a new(?) release by razor x productions, co-produced by kevin martin (a/k/a the bug, etc.) and rootsman, and featuring a number of the big, bugged-out, hardcore, electronic dancehall anthems through which martin has carved himself out a serious niche in the global 'ragga' scene. [for background, see the interviews at uncarved and hyperdub.] i say 'ragga' here, often seemingly an interchangeable brit term for what others call dancehall or bashment, b/c that term does seem to express a unique sort of UK take on the jamaican sound, one that is often (if it can be believed) ruffer, darker, and harder than the tuffer-than-tuff stuff coming out of kingston and serving as its inspiration.

a recent article in the observer on wayne lonesome bears witness to the somewhat strange, outsider status that befalls such 'ragga' artists, who may be big names in the british/global ragga(/-jungle) scene, but who are practically unknown inna JA. [link via tomas]

at any rate, killing sound is a strong outing, if a bit harsh for my tastes. i have to admit that i like martin's work as the bug (or his recent ladybug stuff) a lot more than this "versus" outing, which doesn't seem to have the same range. whereas pressure had its placid moments, its slow-builds, and a sense of space, this one's pretty constantly heavy, distorted, in-your-face. (and, yeah, i realize that this is one interpretation of "killing sound"--but some people take those jamaican metaphors much too literally.) don't get me wrong: there are some wicked tunes on this, and i could see myself dropping one or two in a particularly raucous dancehall set. but as an album, i find it a bit fatiguing. nice to include a second disc full of the versions, though--they're not quite as grating without the equally hardcore vocals (which i'm sure sound great on their own, too: where's the acapella disc, yo?).

martin and rootsman enlist some wicked DJs to toast over their caustic concoctions, including cutty ranks, daddy freddy, and warrior queen. (though one wonders whether the vocalists recorded to a different riddim or to a click-track of sorts. surely, many a DJ would scoff at these bristling beats. indeed, i heard that a certain well-known dancehall DJ [who will remain nameless], taken aback by the bugged-out setting for his vox, offered to buy his vocals back from martin in order to find another riddim for them!) the daddy freddy and warrior queen tracks are the standouts, in my opinion.

bottom line: tigerbeat6 kids will dig, no doubt. me? i'll wait for the remixes.