the continuing destruction of lebanon and its people (especially children) surpasses my understanding and leaves me wanting for words to express my outrage, my sadness, my despair (and from a distance, yes). how can anyone possibly countenance such shameful action as israel continues to pursue? how can anyone possibly "spin" these despicable acts as if they constitute self-defense? the mind boggles, the heart dips.
chickens will come home to roost, in droves, and we who are complicit will have little to say in our own defense. where are the anti-zionist jewish voices? where are the american voices against our aiding and abetting of this murderous regime (never mind our own, of course)? what will it take to convince the world to step in and put an end to such atrocities?
while the world soldiers smolders on, we'll be offering some alternately chill beats and riddimic heat this thursday, the 27th, as i bid my monthly night over at river gods farewell. you see, as they say, i've got some bad news and some good news.
the bad news, as some may have heard, is that the boston jerk (aka, yours truly) will be leaving boston soon, at least temporarily, for chi-town. the good news is that i've been offered a one-year post-doc at the U of C, so i'll be teaching and writing (and maybe even DJing a little) in the windy city come september. although i'm sad to go, having once again sunk my roots into this wicked wicked city, i'm really looking forward to checking out chicago -- a diverse, vibrant metropolis, with thriving scenes aplenty (from post-rock to house to hip-hop), nuff friendly folk, and a great lake to boot.
so this thursday will be extra extra festive. i've enlisted some wicked wicked guests to help out. in addition to my usual electric-eclectic trickery, we'll have paul irish (of aurgasm fame) on-hand to drop some summer gems. and my old fren-and-collaborator, andrew scandal (née scannell), and his fellow touring troubadour, the accordion-wielding julz-a, will be passing through via brooklyn to regale us with their idiosyncratic-savant stylings over some laptop-propelled beats. as they say 'round these parts, should be a friggin' blast.
although I plan to maintain a presence here in my fair hometown, this'll be my last gig around these parts for a while, so if you've been waiting for an opportunity to say what's up and take in some leftfield loops, this is your chance. as usual it all goes down at river gods, 125 river street (just outside central square), from 9pm-1am, 21+, no cover.
i can't thank the good people over at "the gods" enough for all the support they've given me over the last two years, so come on out, have a drink or two (and maybe dinner!), tip your servers, and help us bid farewell to what has been, for me at least, a fun little run.
in other musical news:
while maga bo continues his intrepid zanzibarian atividades, a former student -- a bright guy with open ears and a love for funk -- has settled into rio and is blogging away as an engaged observer of global beats (in social and cultural context, natch).
apparently, this post marks a hiatus from the blogosphere for señor gutta. if so, he went out with a bang. although i don't always agree with some of his more strongly worded opinions, i appreciate that he gives me such a sense of his distinctive voice, perspective, and aesthetics -- and in a conversational way at that.
i really dig the personal thread he runs through all these recordings, not to mention the tracks themselves, which run a gleeful gamut from bigbeat to acid to hardcore, not to mention -- ok, to mention -- the links to those oldposts on mantronix. given what he expresses here, i dunno what he means about being a "great music blogger," but i look forward to seeing what he comes up with.
don't mistake the photo above for this week's time. it's from 1982.
i mean, really, can you imagine the MSM publishing such an anti-semitic appropriately indicting title today? i sure can't.
as my last post suggested, i'm getting really sick and tired of all the tacit (and not so tacit) complicity with israel's unchecked, unjustifiable aggression. i've noticed that the increasingly disappointing NYT, for instance, likes to mention (before retracting, apparently), that israeli victims of the current conflict were "drinking coffee" and doing other such human things before dying, unlike those masses of worthless lebanese, who were probably hiding katyushas under their beds. they can delete all the phrases they like, but googlecache don't lie:
it is downright shameful that a mere 8 US senators voted against the resolution supportive of israel's attacks on lebanon. and it is downright shameful that over 80% of israelis support their government's policy of collective punishment.
tomorrow, monday the 17th, Aa (that's 'BIG A little a') are driving up from BK to join me (that's w&w) and flack at beat research. looking forward to playing a beat-centric crowd, Aa percussionist and energytic blogga john chiasm says they'll be bringing their "most IDMmy jam ever!" -- not to mention their own lighting show and special beAat reseAarch CD-Rs ("with a mix of various stuffs from the past few years and a new demo or two"). i'll be offering some dembow salsa stew, and maybe even a rap or two. come through !! (e room, 9-1, no cover)
john cage, thoughtful as ever (my favorite's the same one jordan picked out; it's not just a thought, it's a methodology)
recently 893 put up a classic mixtape by a pre-NWA dre; worth it for the humorous intro alone, the mix proceeds to cut a bunch of golden age, east coast bangers into each other, with a preference for early mc lyte (!)
bonus! the good doctor reminds us that "parents just don't understand" -- especially on the heels of lyte's equally engrossing "cram to understand you" (y'unnastand?) -- is a near perfect song and without a doubt deserves a spot in the great narrative rap canon
and thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed me to yet another cover, this time by a dutch radio DJ whose colleague apparently heard the original in curacao:
Mijn collega Dave kwam terug van Curaçao met een zeer geestig aanstekelijk liedje, chacaron. Na twee keer draaien stonden de lijnen roodgloeiend. Ik dacht voor de grap een Nederlandse versie te maken, maar het loopt helemaal uit de hand. Nu wil iedereen dat nummer hebben.
my googlings have also uncovered yet another cover of the irrepressible mumblejam. this time by a group called bacacha, from god-knows-where (google is little help). fwiw, that version mainly seems to be sold in germany.
but none of these "other" versions seem to match the elan of "the original".
i've also turned up some further leads in my attempts to pin down the original artist. a number of message boards pointed me back to el chombo via a group called comando tiburon (a fitting name for folk who like to "shark" around), who at least appear to be responsible for the "coolie dance" version (which i've still yet to hear). but, then, their site doesn't mention "chacarron," which would seem a strange omission.
on top of all that, i've also seen "chacarroncito" attributed to "el mudito" (not to be confused with this poor kid?!?), which would seem to lend some credence once again to the "el mudo" theory. but who knows? (interestingly, one post attributed the diminutive version to a DR-based radio show called "el tapon de la cinco." indeed, the track - and all its offshoots - would seem readymade for novelty-song radioland.)
and speaking of chaca-riggity-ron (check the chorus), of late i've been pursuing yet another interesting genealogical snarl in the roots-rap-reggae complex.
that riggity figure is no mere mumbletrope. no, it has a much richer history than simply being the invention of some psuedo-borracho rapero. this very manner of spinning off rhythmic syllables has been, to my ears, one of reggae's most enduring contributions to the global hip-hop lexicon (and one of the easier ways of trying to trace such transmissions). think, for instance, of the classic das efx opener: "riggity-rowl, gibbity gadzooks, here i go, so, fliggity-flame on, g-geronimo, yo!"
not insignificantly, when discussing hip-hop in various contexts outside the US, observers often describe what they call "raggamuffin" elements - by which, i take it, they usually mean this sort of vocalizing - as an important marker of local style (whether in australia, italy, etc.). the frequent presence of this reggae-identified practice seems to support the notion that rap and reggae have largely traveled together outside their central sites of production and are often conflated by audiences and practitioners alike (though they are also clearly differentiated from each other within certain purist, fetishistic circles - not to mention among us regulah joes). i suspect that this common, reggae-fied feature of global rap has a lot to do with the fact that the dancehall-infused hip-hop of the late 80s and early 90s - a moment of major crossover between rap and reggae - was some of the first, and most influential, hip-hop to really take root in ("underground") scenes abroad.
so i've been taking note of that double/triple/quadruple-time, "flip-tongue" stylee for a while now, hearing it as one of the more audible examples of reggae's penetration into hip-hop's very vocabulary. and it turns up in the darnedest of places.
back in '92, by reducing raggamuffin fastchat to riggity-riggity filigree, das efx suddenly made an exceedingly virtuosic technique accessible to the most mundane miggity-miggity macks. (prior to that, it was strictly for record-setting tongue-twisters like daddy freddy, the guinness-crowned "world's fastest rapper" at 507 syllables-per-minute!!) before long, even west coasters - fairly far from new york's caribbean critical mass - were telling folks to "chiggity-check" themselves (though, yeah, that was ice cube via das efx), and dr.dre was being called the "diggy diggy doctor" (via the quasi-ragga stylings of the DOC).
incidentally, this is around the same time that raperos in PR were fastening on to dancehall's double-time flows. live performances by, say, baby rasta and gringo (see the noise biografia) featured moments where the latter would grab the mic and go "manamanamanamana- manamanamanamanamanamanamanamana..." until the crowd went wild. so it's no surprise that the ol' riggity trope turns up in a parody of reggaeton such as "chacarron."
it's no coincidence either that "manamanamanamanamanamanamanamanamana..." might remind some of "original nuttah" - the ragga-jungle smash from '94 - since, it would seem, UK MCs deserve a great deal of credit for pioneering the fastchat/fastrap style (if inspired, perhaps fairly loosely, by rapidfire jamaican DJs such as ranking joe). john eden has done a great job telling that story, so allow me to point you there (and be sure check the comments, too). i should also big up that fount of knowledge, pete murder tone (who recently posted a classic fastchat freestyle on one of his retro-vintage riddims), for helping me piece some of this together, especially the crucial link that the music of life folks played. (it was, after all, daddy freddy's and asher d's "raggamuffin hip-hop" which really seemed to set the whole ragga-rap ting in motion, stateside anyway, back in '87.)
pete also pointed me to an excellent example of fastchat, jamaican-stylee, ca. 1989, as demonstrated by the indefatigable papa san and lieutenant stitchie:
finally, in a strange twist of all this, i sent the link to the video above to dr.893, since i figured he'd appreciate it, burneminemineminem fan that he is. well, he went ahead and made this thing, yet another loop for a viral video (or two?!).
since "chacarron" remains stuck in my head and continues to amuse friends, i've been trying to learn more about this mysterious macarena-of-the-internets. for one thing, led astray by wikipedia (you don't say?), i think i jumped the gun in identifying "chacarron" as the creation of a satirical mexican band named el mudo.
indeed, the video identifies the artist as "andy's val gourmet" - a seeming cipher of a name, the googling of which turns up but mirror-upon-mirror of that viral video. and other murmurings (mumblings?) on the webbywebs seem to corroborate the name, if affirming the various variations on it: "andy val gourmet," "andy val's gourmet," and "andy bal gourmet," among others.
who is that dark-glassed man?
this picture of a record pressing provides a little more information and a little more mystery, attributing the tune to three practically ingooglable writers - rodney clark donalds, andres henry de la cruz, and wilfred sanchez. another vendor confirms the ministry of sound connection (and, of course, there's some white label action, er, to boot), which, in turn, links the song to el chombo ("feat. andy's val gourmet"), which makes sense since a guy named rodney s. clark seems to be sr.chombo himself. but then, oddly enough, there's no sign of "chacarron" over at el chombo's site (which does, however, offer up some wicked mp3s, esp for those who haven't heard anything from panama since el general). . . . or is there?
all right, i'm just kidding about that. but still, something's going on here. or maybe someone just needs a little better PR. (and in the google age !)
another amusing tidbit is that the song is apparently being sold, in somecases, along with an english (mis)translation, as "shark around" (was it a borracho transliteration to begin with?), a title endorsing the suggestive make-your-own-meaning mumbling that animates the track. doesn't that make andy's val gourmet, like, the sigur ros of latin america?
so, yeah, then there's this "pablo arena" dude (on EMI-france, no less), who also appears to have recorded a version (available via denmark?) as well as a ringtone of the thing (being sold from norway?). doesn't that make "chacarron," like, the "whoot/mp (there it is)" of 2004/5/6/7?
depending how much "chacarron" continues to catch on and whether a panamanian ends up on the tag team end-of-the-stick, this could presage a return of panamanian reggae to the world club/youtube scene, to coin a phrase. i know that's a little like saying weird al was an emissary for polka, but he sorta was.
i came across something recently that would seem to bolster panama's place in the chacarron imagination, to coin another. do you remember that little kid's version of "chacarron" - the one that initially grabbed my attention? well, turns out - at least according to someone on a univision forum, which is not necessarily any less trustworthy than a wikipedia entry - that the song is titled, appropriately, "chacarroncito" (but with a 'k') and that it was performed, allegedly, by the three-year-old child of "andy's bal" and was - you guessed it - produced in panama:
Andy's Bal Jr. - La Sensación
Después de haber gozado en los carnavales con las poncheras de El Maestro Andy's Val nos llego un niño de solo 3 años de edad apodado Andy's Bals Jr. que ha revolucionado las masas y por supuesto sus fans #1 los niños con su tema chakarroncito muy sonado en las diferentes Emisoras de Panamá.
Andy Jr. nos manifestó a través de su representante que estará con nuevos temas, entre estos nos soltaron una plena que dice (Verduras, verduras 3 por un cuara) una ponchera así.
Todo esto vendrá incluido en la producción de Andy Vals y sus Amigos.
Comenzó temprano su carrera este pequeñin made in Panama.
i'm not sure who the kid is, or whether the recording is actually panamanian, or who this andy bal/val guy is, but i think i might like "chacarroncito" even more than "chacarron." and i'm told on good authority - none of that internet crap - that twelve-year-olds and three-year-olds absolutely adore it. pues, por supuesto. ¿y tu?
pardon -- pero estoy un poco atrasado en esta canción.
i know i heard this song some time ago, but it wasn't until recently that i gleefully rediscovered it. here's how it happened. i got a couple CDs of "reggaeton dominicano" and "bachaton de reggaeton" from deb pacini-hernandez, a colleague with whom - alongside raquel rivera - i've been working on a lil' reggaeton project (and the author of the book on bachata). upon listening, i was struck by a very goofy, familiar tune propelling some lyrics that are, more or less, total gibberish. (no tiene que comprender espanol para saber eso.) i knew i had heard it somewhere before, so i googled "reggaeton mumbling" and - sure enough - i found reference to it on the first page of returns. (interestingly enough, the discussion was over a year old! and based on an experience in aruba !!)
i've been piecing the story together bit by bit. the song, "chacarron" (or "chacarron, macarron"), appears to have been recorded by a mexican act called el mudo (i.e., the mute - thus, the mumbling; get it?). despite not yet cracking stateside radio in "who let the dogs out" fashion, over the course of the last year and a half or so, "chacarron" has become quite the internet phenomenon. not only are there various versions circulating - including, i'm told, a merengue version and a "coolie dance"-propelled remix, not to mention the one on the CD deb sent me, which began with a little kid "reciting" the song's "lyrics" - but it has inspired a host of homegrown engagements: from babies dancing on desktops to more ytmnd action than you could (repeatedly) shake a stick at. there's even a piece of WoW machinima, including one character busting a convincing - and appropriate - macarena.
the "macarena" - a novelty dance hit, par excellence - is probably a good point of comparison for "chacarron," and no doubt the song will find its place in the pantheon of dumb global pop anthems. (and not 'dumb' meaning 'bad,' but 'dumb' meaning 'dumb.') oddly enough, this would seem to represent something of an arrival for reggaeton. even if plenty of people heard daddy yankee's much less gimmicky "gasolina" as a novelty of sorts, "chacarron" is the kind of thing that moms and dads and babies can dance to and sing along to at the ballgame, and that's not necessarily an insignificant gain for reggaeton in the current (stateside) cultural climate. the song's clearly stimulating quite a bit of conversation around the net and the world, seemingly finding more fans than detractors (which is a flip for reggaeton -- perhaps the most widely denigrated genre in recent years, despite its popularity.)
in terms of the song's sonics, i have to admit that i find quite a bit to like. sure, it's a low-fi, (purposely?) amateurish recording, but it's got a certain undeniable joie de vivrealegría de vivir. the bassline is fat and insistent, and they use a little bit of variation to go a long way. the sudden appearance of the beat from kurtis blow's "the breaks" - complete with a switch in cadence from reggaeton-ish to rap-ish - not only fits well into reggaeton's longtime explicit engagement with old-and-new-school hip-hop, it makes a clear (if possibly problematic) stylistic point about the difference in performing an african-american-patterned version of musical blackness vs. reggaeton's (increasingly?) caribbean/creole sonic subjectivity. at any rate, el mudo appears to be parodying both, and to great effect.
allow me to close with an anecdote - and an mpfree! - from the jayne and wason files.
when my brother and i were about 8 and 10, respectively, and well in the throes of an unmitigated love for run DMC's "king of rock" (our first rap tape!), we made some recordings in our bedroom under the name "bust-a-rap, bust-a-rhyme." yup, this was well before we'd heard of busta rhymes, and i'm not sure who was bust-a-rap and who was bust-a-rhyme, but it didn't particularly matter.
our idea of rap composition was downright bizarre and, if i may, brilliantly dumb. i regret to this day that our blank-tape EP has been lost to the ether.
the reason i bring it up is that most of our songs sounded like "chacarron." here's how it would go. i would provide the accompaniment, but rather than beatboxing, i would pick a phrase of some sort - usually the song title - and repeat it, more or less verbatim, for a couple minutes, occasionally throwing in an odd interjection about cheese doodles or some other random adolescent preoccupation. then, over my backing, my brother would enter with an improvised, syncopated, nonsensical rap-cadence (copped from run and DMC, no doubt) and throw down a verse and a chorus or two before we called it a song. we would come up with a title, work out a quick arrangement, and then record the song - one take only. i can't really do justice to the sound in prose, i'm afraid, but we were way ahead of our time, as can be gleaned from this partially remembered tracklist:
1. "bust-a-rap, bust-a-rhyme" 2. "i'm a turtle, i'm a turtle" 3. "canonballs" 4. "do do do do do do do do do"
oh man. that tape would be a goldmine right now.
at any rate, back to the connection to "chacarron": our signature, eponymously-titled song, "bust-a-rap, bust-a-rhyme" - the lead single, no doubt - actually shares, fairly closely, the cadence of the chorus to "chacarron." and jay's improvised verses are even similar to the kurtis blow section of el mudo's hit. i'm not sure what to make of this, except that maybe there's a universal unconscious way of mumbling through a novelty rap and maybe - just maybe - my brother and i (on some smoosh ish) could have had a worldwide hit back in the days. ah, if only we had a ourspace instead of toshiba boombox...
here's my best attempt at a re-creation of the ol' bust-a-rap, bust-a-rhyme sound. partially successful, totally weird.
we were better when we were younger, less self-conscious, and not-just-me-multitracked-and-pitchshifted-in-ableton.