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



el mudo, "chacarron"

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 vivre alegría 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.

(cross posted to the riddim method)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

¬°Alucinante! The song is no less powerful for being completely overt / over-the-top -- it's not a sneak attack like The Roots 'Dont Say Nothin'.

love the way a lack of traditional intelligibility can melt (or at least soften) the tropes and other supports that let meaning mean. u know what i mean?

pop mumbling as noise in the Attalian sense (http://www.vibrofiles.com/essays_attali.php/) and/or a paradox-fueled reggaeton hit where a comforting global babble replaces the usual unintelligibility for non-Spanish-speaking reggaeton listeners.

A post-Babel shift: the universal experience becomes misunderstanding, gloss.

What is reggaeton (or rap, or reggae, or rai, or..) if you can't follow the words? Does the question matter to the dancing girls who are always already de-voiced? How do visual or sonic pop clichés freeze construct or neutralize meanings?

to quote the Roots : "Just give it here, and don't say nuthin [unclear]..... Cut the check"


9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that a while back and though it was a joke. Professor Wayne strikes again.

My favorite internet phenoms of the moment would have to be the Kersal Massive (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6LMpUPRjVQ) Apparantly this tape was made as an entry in contest to win a bmx bike.

The drum and bass rimix is pretty, well... interesting

As for the slayer mix, I'd say at this point we should all just pitch in and buy these kids a bike.

Don't fuck about.

6:34 PM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

i think it still may be a joke, mike, seriously as i take it. ;)

and thanks, jace, for leaving a provocative comment as usual. (outsource your thoughts here anytime.) way to make me feel like i've undertheorized something i already suspected i was overtheorizing! there's room for more, no doubt. a wordless text prompts us to fill in the blanks, no?

9:02 AM  
Blogger Miguel said...

you probably know this, and I apologize if you've mentioned it in your text, but one of the major reasons why the song has caught on fire on the internet is due to its use (and reuse, and remixing) on sites such as YTMND.


8:08 AM  
Blogger wayne&wax said...

um, yup. see that part above about shaking a stick.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, the one with the gnome is pretty much the most amazing/rediculous thing ever....

8:40 AM  

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