Tuesday, 29 June 2010
The DJ Nate profile in this month's WIRE magazine (in which you can also find my vallenato article, and an interesting Dereck Walmsley review of a recently released champeta compilation) is interesting and well worth reading. The article begins by flagging house as a touch stone, but I'm not too convinced. There's very little evidence of a reliance on a kickdrum and the tempo is disorientatingly off kilter. I also wonder how you would go about incorporating one of these footwork tracks into a traditional house or techno set.
It's not that surprising to learn then, that Planet Mu are set to release an album in the not too distant future. With Sherburne raving about the promo tracks, and the future looking exceedingly bright for young Nate, it will be interesting to see if he follows in the footsteps of Wunderkind podcaster and beatsmith par excellence Kyle Hall in joining the dots between mid western dance music and UK bass. To be honest, its lucky Nate seems able to shit out about 3 tracks a minute because based on a brief perusal on Youtube, not all his work is up to the relatively high standards above. However, perhaps the most interesting thing about the article is this revealing comment:
"It's getting to the point where people can make music without even having a real program," he notes, clearly excited by the democracy of it. "[They] use the demo version and still come out with whole songs."
Is that not the germ of the Playstation beat/Grime circa 2002/3 philosophy taken to its logical, corner-cutting extreme? And perhaps more pertinently, what does that say for Juke/Footwork riddims? Flavour of the month, only to be archived by musical taste makers as some sort of DIY, rage doth spew from the streets, nadir never to be reached again?
Monday, 28 June 2010
Monday, 21 June 2010
It may be crustier than parent/teacher day at a Steiner school, but yesterday was one of the best dates in the British party calendar. The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, the pagan celebration of the longest day of the year, is a truly special event (if the weather holds). I went in 2005 with a huge lump of hash, a Platypus filled with two bottles of cheap red wine, and had one of the best nights of my life. There is no amplified music, and instead, it is best understood as an organic rave, with hundreds of drummers from across the country congregating in the centre of the stone circle, and pursuing their own riddim until suddenly, as if by magic, all the drums start communicating with each other, and ever so slowly, they start building up a slow, potent brew of a beat that has as much bite as the hardest techno or drum n bass. If you ever find yourself in Wiltshire in or around the 20th June, and the weather looks good, I would strongly recommend going, you won't regret it.
Friday, 18 June 2010
Can't quite believe this is from Switch working under his Solid Groove moniker. I knew Switch started off working within the realms of house before jetting off into hipster/Diplo/M.I.A/electroreggaehousehop territory but I never expected this. Also amazing to note it was released on Dubisided, a label better known for releasing Nadastrom-esque electro bangers. Still trying to get my head round it all.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
I really feel that Ben Klock is going through one of the most productive periods of his career right now. I've really been enjoying his Berghain 04 mix. Unlike Dettmann's, who I always felt - since 2008 and the release of his much-lauded Berghain mix - Klock has been somewhat in the shadown of, it is not unrelentlessly bleak, with splashes of retro-bleakness thrown in for good measure. I also preferred Klock's album to Dettmann's and I feel his more catholic attitude to what exactly techno can be is more refreshing. He adds lashes of funk which Dettmann wholly ignores or obsucrues with his unrelentless punishment of beats. Check out Elfin Flight from Berghain 04. I think it's quite lovely which is something you would struggle to level against a Dettmann composition. It can be heard here.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
I've also really been enjoying the Arkpocalypse album by Ark, but can't find any of the tracks on Youtube. I enjoyed the 'Obamark' tune, and also the Misunderstood remix called 'Rising'. My friend Tommy at RA says he doesn't like Nina Simone remixes because he likes the originals so much. I'm inclined to agree with him, but I dig 'Rising' as it uses the sample sample used by Lil Wayne in Tha Carter III to equally devastating effect. I should also begrudgingly point out that I am also quite digging this:
As mentioned in a previous post, I went to Valledupar for the Festival de la Leyenda Vallenta, and I subsequently wrote an article on it for The Wire magazine. There is a jpeg of the article above, but I would recommend purchasing the mag as there are some other really cool pieces in there, including an interview with The Bug.
Sandwiched between the verdant peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serrania del Perija mountain ranges in north-eastern Colombia, Valledupar is the capital of the Cesar region and spiritual home of vallenato, an idiosyncratic form of Colombian folk music that is typified by its use of the German accordion. For the last 43 years, the town has annually thrown open its doors to all and sundry in celebration of its best-known export. The Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata is a four-day vallenato bender that brings an influx of well-to-do tourists from across the country who come to sample the delights not only of the music, but also of the entire vallenato culture.
Given the disregard that some Colombians show towards vallenato (although this is changing), it can be surprising to learn how deeply calcified the genre’s mythology has become. According to local legend, the first vallenatero was Francisco Moscote Guerra, or “‘Francisco El Hombre’, as he is most commonly known. Whilst he travelled the region reciting local lore, much like the French troubadours of the Middle Ages, he came across the devil, who challenged him to a duel. After hearing the devil’s rendition, Francisco replied by playing the Lord’s Prayer in reverse, confusing the devil and causing him to explode in a puff of sulphur.
In more historically accurate terms, vallenato is a product of wave after wave of immigration. The three basic instruments – the German accordion; the caja vallenata (a skin drum of African descent); and the guacharaca (a ridged, hollowed-out stick that is scraped with a wire fork) – perfectly represent the fusion of cultural influences that vallenato encapsulates.
The first accordion arrived in the region in 1850. At that time, Riohacha, the capital of Cesar’s neighbouring Guajira region, was a more important port than either Cartagena or Barranquilla, and was used as a base by Austrian, German and Dutch pearl hunters. In need of an easily transportable instrument for their long sea journeys, these adventurous sailors brought the German Schifferklavier accordion (usually made by Hohner) with them, and it soon spilled over into the local communities, a hybrid mix of black slave descendents, Kogi, Aruhaco, and Wayuu indigenous peoples, and mulatto Spaniards.
By all accounts, the accordion hit the Colombian coast like a plague, but as Félix Carrillo Hinojosa, a local folklorist, vallenatero, and the man responsible for getting vallenato recognised at the Latin Grammys, points out, “it was the only invader in our history that hasn’t done us any harm”. Within a couple of years, there were three official Hohner outlets along the coast, but despite the interest, it remained an instrument of the proletariat, the perfect complement to the lackadaisical myth making tendencies of Gabriel García Márquez’s otherworldly land.
Yet for all the lack of specificity surrounding vallenato’s origins, the rules for those competing at the Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata are strictly codified. One of the striking things, particularly for a European, is how analogous vallenato practices are with the culture of the pre-Renaissance and even Hellenic worlds. The Dionysia was the largest of the Greek tragedy festivals, during which playwrights would present three tragedies they had composed especially for the event, often followed by a shorter, comic satyr play. Most of the choral parts were sung, and the winner was chosen by the public. The Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata also partakes in this competitive cultural agenda: the prize, for accordion players at least, is to be crowned Rey Vallenato, literally the king of vallenato. In order to win, they have to excel in one of each of the four aires or rhythms: the paseo, the merengue, the son and the puya. The finals take place in a specially designed amphitheatre.
Another key part of the competition since the time of Francisco El Hombre’s confrontation with the devil has been the piqueria. Much like hiphop MC battles, the themes explored in these lyrical jousts can make or break the reputations of aspiring vallenateros. In Valledupar, the the official business is split between the Plaza Alfonso López , a shady colonial square in the heart of the city, and the specially designed Parque de la Leyenda Vallenata "Consuelo Araújonoguera", but every street corner is littered with parrandas, hired musicians who serenade the whiskey-guzzling drug dealers and their bored-looking women. Throughout the city, the squawking tones of the accordion are an incessant accompaniment, with the tinny speakers of passing taxi cabs distorting the yodel-like choruses into something eerily dulcet and foreign. In these uproarious surroundings, vallenato can be hard to love, but it’s difficult not to enjoy.
The 43rd Festival was a homage to the life of Rafael Escalona, the founder of the festival and lifelong friend of García Marquez, who once told him that his novel One Hundred Years Of Solitude was little more than a 350-page vallenato. Accordingly, all aspirants to Rey Vallenato were obliged to play one of his compositions.
Julián Mojica grew up under Escalona’s influence, and he is testament to the growth of vallenato in recent years, not only in popularity, but also in credibility. Hailing from the mountainous region of Boyacá, this young accordion player came third in the Rey Vallenato competition this year, but his dedication to the genre is unwavering, despite its relative lack of popularity in the interior of the country.
His supporters however, sum up much of what the festival is about. Gorging on Old Parr, a blended Scotch whisky that is sold almost exclusively in Colombia and which is the drink of choice for most festivalgoers (leading some to rebrand the town ‘Valldeoldparr’), they represent a growing sub-section of the Colombian population: financially independent, free to travel safely domestically, and keen to celebrate their cultural heritage. With their artisanal hats and their flash, imported pickup trucks, they are the modern face of vallenato, both agrarian and moneyed, simple yet sophisticated. As Hinojosa acknowledges, this frisson between high and low culture is integral to the genre’s genetic composition, and part of its enduring charm: “Vallenato is a generous music; noble, humble, simple, but above all generous.”
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Just another quick heads up for a party I'm playing at on Saturday. It's called Candyflip. The facebook page can be found here. It kicks off at 3pm at Rancho Deli in Salgar and finishes early the next morning (Sunday). I'm not entirely sure what time I'm playing at yet. I asked for the sunset slot or late late late. I guess it'll have to be a surprise. I must admit though, I'm a little worried. The rain has been pretty much incessant here of late and an open air rave next to the sea riddled with mosquitoes doesn't bode well, but I'm keeping everything crossed, and hope that God, in his omnipotence, is feeling kind. This one ain't free, but at 10,000 pesos or just over 3 quid, it's not too spenny, and they assure me they have a dope soundsystem lined up. Hopefully see you there.
So I didn't get deported. Crazy really because the guys at the DAS didn't notice that I've overstayed my visa, even though it was quite clearly stated on my Passport when I had to leave the country. It's always a thin line between love and hate with bureaucrats don't you think? So I didn't get deported, but perhaps more worrying, I joined Twitter. That's a lie actually. It turns out I had already joined Twitter and I had no idea. Either way, the bollocks that comes to me when I should be working can be read in its tragi-comic entirety here.
I just finished watching the World Cup Concert (is that what it's called? I'm sure it has some official name that I'm too lazy to look up). Although Colombia won't be attending the World Cup finals, they feel somewhat assuaged in that they have two artists representing them in the aforementioned concert, Shakira and Juanes. I find it offensive that a South African artist wasn't chosen for the official World Cup anthem, but you can't second guess FIFA. I actually wrote an article on the legal wranglings between Golden Sounds, the artists that recorded the original Zangalewa, and Shakira's management which can be read here. That track was a huge hit in Cartagena in the 80s, appealing as it did to the large ex-slave community that surrounds the city. Even so, I very much doubt the FIFA orgainsing committee knew that when they commissioned Shakira to reinterpret it, and even if they did, wouldn't it have been more ethically responsible not to mention fair and just, to have allowed at the very least an African if not South African artist to play with it instead of Shakira, a Colombian of Lebanese descent!?
This got me to thinking what my ideal "off-World Cup" ceremony would look like. I'm still working on the list but I'm certain these two tracks would feature prominently.
Not only are both by South African artists, they also exploded internationally and represent landmarks in regional dance music. My Zimbabwean ex-girlfriend assures me that South Africa is known more for tacky Bonkers-style raves than sleek, minimal Euro affairs. Fine. I can dig that. At least it's indigenous. I just think force-feeding Africans re-branded versions of their own music by way of internationally recognised pop stars is little more than window-dressed cultural colonialism raising its ugly head.
Monday, 7 June 2010
I should be back in the UK soon. I've got a meeting with the DAS to extend my visa tomorrow but there is a pretty high chance I might get deported. I was given 60 days on the 7th April. Tomorrow is the 8th June. I hope they don't give me too much hassle. Either way though, I'm really looking forward to going back home for a bit. What with living in BLN for all that time and then living in the Tropics, I've been pretty far away from the action for a while. There's a new government to inspect, friends to catch up with, pints to sink, glasses to clink, and whole host of other treats to look forward to. Colombia's been great, although a bit of a roller coaster ride of late, and I'm looking forward to reminiscing with people I have a shared cultural history with. God bless the Queen and all that jazz.
Two top Troja tunes. The first is probably no secret to anyone who knows even the slightest thing about salsa. Hector Lavoe. After that its Pupy y Su Charanga combining his nascent singing career with his long-standing interest in real estate (bienes raices) to show those haters that you really can kill two birds with one stone.
Nikolay is allegedly the tallest man in the world. He's not though. He's 7cm smaller than the tallest man in the world, but that hasn't stopped him being advertised as such by his 'handler' Santiago Maradona, the owner of the Argentine Circus which just rolled into Barranquilla. They arrived the same day as the Colombian League Final, this year contested by Barranquilla's own Junior, in their home stadium, thereby forcing the circus to have to wait 24 hours to pitch their tent. That really sums up everything you need to know about the Argentine Circus. The article I wrote on Nikolay, a twenty-first century attraction at what, let's call a spade a spade, is a travelling freak show, can be read here.