Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Radio Gaga

Thanks to Robert for commenting on the last post, I spent some time learning about Gaga in addition to Rara. I'm just a beginner here, so thanks!

Anyhow, Michele Wucker writes that "when Haitian migrant cane cutters transplanted the rara to the Dominican Republic, the Spanish attempt to pronounce the French 'r' turned the word into gaga, an unintentional but appropriate play on the word's other meaning, 'crazy.'" There's also Gaga that goes on in NYC.

For an example, check this video of Grupo Kalunga Nèg Mawon by Dennis Flores. These folks aim to both preserve an demonstrate the collective identity/ies in what is now Haiti and the Dominican republic. They also sound wicked.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dancing in the Streets

The other day I was talking on the phone with Symon Warwick, a.k.a. A Man Called Warwick. I was supposed to be interviewing him, which happened, but then we just went off in all directions talking about music. He's got an infectious excitement about music that makes me want to run out and listen to all sorts of new stuff. We got on to the topic of Rara, a type of Haitian processional music that's made with drums, horns called vaksin, cymbals, and tons of energy.

As Elizabeth McAlister, author of Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora, writes, Rara "is at once a season, a festival, a genre of music, a religious ritual, a form of dance, and sometimes a technique of political protest." Raras move people--both literally and figuratively. Dancing through the streets and countryside of Haiti, leading up to Easter, raras have made it to New York city, moving thousands of people through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Rara is able to encapsulate the movement of a diaspora in a fitting cultural celebration. Hearing the kids saying "when we grow up, we're going to take over and continue this" is a demonstation of how Rara not only moves through the park, but it moves through generations. As someone who is interested in what music can actually do, Rara clearly is fascinating to me.

I'm hoping that the documentary The Other Side of the Water will makes its way to Canada soon, because I simply can't wait. The clip on the site isn't enough. Thankfully, McAlister has a treasure trove of rara photos and video on her website companion to her book.

Dancing in the street simply doesn't happen enough here in Montreal. In January, in Ethiopia, I was lucky enough to time my visit so I could be part of the Timkat (epiphany) celebrations. Each Ethiopian Orthodox church has a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. On Timkat, these Arks travel to large fields--in Addis the field is called Jah Meda (no relationship to the Jah of which Rastafari speak)--where they stay until the ceremonial sprikling of Holy water over the gathered crowds. After, the Arks are carried back to their respective churches, accompanied by dancing and drumming youth groups. Check around the 3:45 mark of the film below to see one of the dancing processionals. Frankly, the whole short is pretty great--it's a demo reel for a longer film about Ethiopian traditional music. I've searched around for more info about the film, but can't seem to find any...looks like it'll be pretty interesting.
In related street dancing news, Dave sent me the following video of what happens on Saturday afternoons in his neighbourhood. Clearly, Heringey is the place to be. I wanna know more about this, and I want to master the dance moves featured in the last few seconds of the video.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why I wish I was in Germany tonight

The legendary King Addies performs alongside Shashamane Sound (Kenya represent!), Sentinel and Supersonic. Killer. Seriously. As a result of writing my public declaration of love for the soundclash, I 've been hankering for a good dance...

King Addies is a sound that would be wicked to see. Someone wrote me about them after the aforementioned piece. Addies ran Brooklyn in the 90s and provided a training ground for the now legendary Tony Matterhorn. The famed JA vs USA clash against mighty Killamanjaro saw Jaro come out on top, but Addies gained quite a bit of respect. As Fyah Mikes reports (here's some credit for you, you silly), it's really Addies' Toni Braxton dub that has put them over the top in many a clash.

Though Danny Dread is the original Addies selector, in the later 90s, Tony Matterhorn, who, with Babyface, had become the voice of Addies, left to form his own, now terrifically successful, sound.

Coming back in 2006, Addies fought valiantly against Blunt Posse in a November clash and, though arguably winning the most rounds, flopped in a final, tune-fi-tune round.

I'm interested in the fact that Danny Dread is selecting in Deutcheland. I'd heard that King Bo has been working with Addies--lots of complaints about him not knowing the dub box, just being a good voice, etc. I can't say, but I would like to be in the position to judge. Maybe Addies should make their way to Mtl soon. I think I might be dreaming in technicolour with that statement.

Anyhow, to those who are lucky enough to be in Stuttgart tonight--I am jealous!

Classic Addies: UK World Cup Clash 1994. Do it inna cowboy style!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

That's just what I'm looking for!

I have to begin writing comprehensive exams any moment now. Given my history with writing and stress, wish me luck! Hopefully I won't be turning to what Homer Simpson calls "the cause of, and solution to, all life's problems..." Then again, if I do, perhaps I should stick to Dashen!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ich bin Canaderin, Canadawi gneng

When it's flipping freezing outside, it's easy to want to get the hell out of this god forsaken country. My reaction, instead, seems to be simply glorying in all things Canadian. In the darkest depths of February, pretty much every year, I go through a short (yet intense) period of listening to Tragically Hip, Grapes of Wrath, Lava Hay, Gordon Lightfoot, and other Canuck luminaries. This year, with the advent of Youtube, I can satisfy my desire for Canadiana by watching the snow-covered videos for "Bobcaygeon" and "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (the Barenaked Ladies version, of course).

I also tend to watch A LOT of CBC during this time. So last night, whilst watching Strombo interview British celebrities he clearly knew nothing about (not that this was a bad thing--it was kind of great), Aurora and I got into a oh-so-Canadian oriented discussion about former MuchMusic VJs. Wikipedia being the wonderous tool that it is, we began with the Hour's noble host, and continued through Steve Anthony, Kim Clark Champniss (did you know he was the manager of Images in Vogue?), Simon Evans (who seems to have fallen off the face of the planet), Michael Williams, Ziggy Lorenc, and then, oh yes, Tony Young, a.k.a. Master T.

Get this: buddy has, as Tash has hilariously written, Extendamix-ed his career by being a part of the new VH-1 show I Love New York-a spin-off from Flavor Flav's Flavor of Love. He's ditched Roxie and alter egos such as T-McGee, and is now referring to himself as the 32-year-old hottie "T.Weed." If you don't believe me, check

This would have been a wonderful addition to the autobiography released by the publishing company I used to work for in a prior life. Oh yes, not would you get to read about the pleather pants Master T wore to an interview with Sade or Dr. Dre's bathroom proclivities, but you would also get such gems as are found on his myspace: "One man pretends to be rich yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A man's riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat." What wisdom!

Now, of course, there is a chance that this is all a giant mistake, but until I discover otherwise, I am going to continue chuckling every time I think about this! Teehee!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Putting on the Red Light

Okay, so I just finished watching the Police perform their comeback on the Grammys. Yes, I'm still attracted to Sting, but damn, I wish they'd of played "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I'm behind the times--or really ahead, depends on what you're talking about

Ok, I've decided that I'm going to eat crow and admit that the self-titled record by the annoyingly anonymous "Burial" is actually spectacular--contrary to statements made to one Dave Stelfox and another tvv. I still think it sounds dated, that I like stuff with lyrics better (oh the humanity!), and that the third track, "Spaceape," is utter trash. Thing is, I can't stop listening to the damned thing.

Sure, people who are less fraudulant music journalists than I have been writing stuff like the following for ages (the record was the Wire's best of 2006):
"Far from speaking of final resting places, the overriding vibe is one of homelessness and rootlessness, and the nagging feeling that something important has been mislaid."

"This album actually comes complete with a concept (it's a sound-portrait of a near-future south London submerged under water, New Orleans-style) while the most compelling readings of its theme hear it as a requiem for the lost dreams of rave culture. But the non-specific sadness that shimmers inside this music ultimately transcends attempts to pin it to a place, period, or population."

The record is, yes, haunting and "shimmery", but I don't know from North, South, East, or West London, be it underwater or above ground. Nor, frankly, was I ever involved in rave to have the music thereby elicit a sense of mournful loss. As I mention, the music is very firmly dated, in my mind, but this isn't really a bad thing, unlike when I had to review the anniversary edition of Endtroducing and found it really tough to get myself and my ears back into the time of its release. It feels very pre-millenial (perhaps as a result of a track like "Prayer," which, to me, is a complete reiteration of Massive Attack's "Teardrop," a.k.a. the theme song to House), and, strangely, provided an excellent soundtrack to my field note writing in Ethiopia this January. Perhaps this speaks of it's "transcendental" nature, but I think that it is music that is less sad than bored, perhaps more non-specific than gloomy; music that speaks of ennui. I guess that's what might have created my original resistance, but now seems to make some sense. Then again, the whole keeping-the-artist's-identity secret is a little silly. It seems more of a response to boredom or an inspired attempt at pr. Whatever it is, it's quite emblematic, to me of the UK. More on that, perhaps, in another post, if I decide to get testy.

Recently, though, as much as it wants to be headphone music, I do, shame on me, increasingly want to dance to this stuff. This means that she who tells me I shouldn't be so down on dubstep is prolly right.

In news that I'm not behind the times, yet instead might perhaps be ahead of the game, do read what I think is a hilarious post by Houston hip hop impressario Matt Sonzala. I don't know this guy, but he's ridiculously funny. In the post that follows, he's talking about what I believe might be the most Oshawa of events (Oshawa being my wonderful southern-Ontarian hometown), save for it being in New York, Brooklyn specifically. His post CMJ "Sabbath in the Park" party, Prospect Park specifically, is pretty much classic, early 90s bush party action, without the bush. Turns out the folks involved got arrested and ticketed for their 'shwa action, and then had to return recently for court appearances that would have really been non-events, had Matt not been there. The post-"Sabbath in the Court" is, of course, one of the best parties ever and for making all this possible, Mr. Sonzala, I salute you!

We Fought the Law and Won, cuz like the Geto Boys, We Can't Be Stopped