Monday, June 30, 2008

Tech weh yuself

Wayne @ has, as usual, written a really interesting post on chabbi and how it might/ might not fit into the 'ghettotech' umbrella.

If the guys in those chaabi videos were a street gang, holding guns & wearing kiffeyehs people would eat it up?

back when i was runnin my mouth, complaining about bizzarro distorted concepts of african music wayne quoted me (theantisuck) here.

I said - The roots obsessed decry Hip-Hop for losing touch with indigenous sounds. They blame American rap for destroying indigenous sounds yet they love ali farka toure, amadou &mariam, ethiopiques, ie. things that sound like American jazz and rock music. Then you have hipsters into African rap scenes, daraa j, kuduro, trying to find the music with the most dangerous street cred/booty beats and/or backpacker rap in Africa. Both “scenes” are perhaps dying yet so small and insignificant as to be nearly nonexistent next to the reality of African pop music and the actually huge scenes alive and well of coupe-decale, mbalax, swahili pop, zouk.

This isn’t to say that kuduro isn’t fascinating, especially from an academic perspective. It's just that I find it disquieting to see western audiences picking and choosing and making their own African celebrities and ideas of African music that seems so detached - in fact largely IGNORES much of the most popular African musical trends and artists celebrated across the continent. We seem to be creating our own African music scenes in our heads yet ignoring the scenes alive and kicking. Is this so bad or understandable? What are the consequences?

He responded by saying some legit points like we don’t have to listen to what's popular, shouldn’t worry too much about heisenbergian effects, and are coming from our own American, hip hop informed perspective.

Wayne asks: “Where are the Asian, Middle Eastern, or even European standard bearers for the global proles, if that’s what we’re repping?” global proles? I don’t feel like that’s what ghettotech is repping, even Wayne's stated bloggy interest is ‘American’ music, even in its broadest sense.

Ghettotech is music that is identifiably both ghetto (poor, urban, [hopefully black?]) and tech (what Wayne calls ““hip-hop logic” as well as the audibility of certain technologies and a set of sonic priorities weighted toward the low-end & the polyrhythmic”)

I feel like it would be hard to find Asian, Middle Eastern and Euro musics that fit entirely into that category. low-fi, urban, poor, sure. But they are just not engaged in the same intense dialogue with hip-hop as the Americas and Africa. I think that music comes from a totally different soundscape than that ol time triangular trade route of bodies/culture. Also not black. Race is probably an issue here.


Since runnin my mouth it turns out I was too cynical, at least about coupe decale. The mixtapes were already brewin. I can't even say I know mucho about African music anyway. Most of my knowledge is from living in Senegal in 2006 and the contacts I’ve maintained with friends there and diasporic shops/contacts. I think the distortion is also b/c African music is so mixtape/radio/adhoc spread. In Saint-Louis when I wanted to buy a cd I would tell shop owner Lamine what sounds I was interested in and ask about songs id heard at the club the night before and he would burn me a mix. no cd sales info. Even in JA, there’s trustworthy charts. So far I have been able to find no sort of trustworthy parallel African music charts. I feel like nobody has any idea what the people are actually listening to and so it’s hard to gauge context when discussing African music. If anyone begs to differ send me some links.

My orig point in that quote is that as somebody who just loves African pop music I love a lot of ghettotech music and the scenes occasionally awesome reflective engagement but find its limited scope frustrating. When I try to go to most clubs or music shops its arggg all marketed into that ol world music/nu whirled music ideas of African music. I wish there was a 3rd way audience dance/club scene that embraced global beats w/o always being ghettoed or downtempoed. But I dont think we are at a point where its easy to get direct engagement yet, so these scopes and ranges, i think, still matter. Not b/c of a few blogs influencing a music scene far away, but perhaps in terms of U.S. distribution.


Khiasma / Guillaume said...

My 2 cents about that middle way is that I always avoided as much as possible the term ghetto when describing the music I'm into. What we want to avoid is ethnocentrist superficial exotism, both geographically (they are from far away) and socially (they're ghetto). The goal would be to approach this music with the freshness of a booty that can't help but shakin it and in the same (ass) movement a reflexive position. I don't think it would be too hard to do and I don't think a lot of the Nu-Whirld bloggers feel different from me about it. What I'm trying to say is that you're being to harsh with the bloggers by saying they "market" it and suggest the necessity of a third way. Or maybe not. I'd like to see quotes in fact. And you know what, I'd love to see a list of this Nu-Whirl'ers (Wayne if you read this...)

Creator: Rachel Emmet said...

thnx for responding! Youre probably right that I am being too harsh. In most cases I fit right in with these bloggers myself, so in a way I am criticizing or examining myself just as much as I am criticizing the nu-whirld group. As a fan of wayne's blog, I do see just how reflexive and awesome the community can be! However - its easy to forget while reading wayne's blog that many nu-whirlders dont really examine their portrayal of certain musics as deeply. In terms of examples:,,1569874,00.html
I don't think these articles are that bad - but clearly they spend more time talking about how ghetto and dangerous the scene is vs the actual music, and you see similar presentations of kuduro, etc. Also, I think whether reflective or not, b/c nu-whirlders are so centered on portraying a certain kind of world music it has the potential to become formulaic or limit our abilities to see these musics w/in their own different contexts and often miss out on equally amazing, yet less identifiably "ghetto" music. In terms of lists or quotes, this might be an interesting study to undertake more fully. list-wise, waynes blog link list might be good for starters.

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