Friday, July 31, 2009

#AfricaistheFuture (sortof)

While the RIAAssholes CHOP Joels dollar, I'm curious how it relates to changing production in the global south. It brings up a few things. To look at, say, the nigerian music industry or other markets where its nearly impossible to find non bootleg material its just as easy to think 'wow, sweet' as much as 'what a mess, why would we want that?'

Back when I originally started this post in Dec, Le Qoutidien had recently reported that according David Diadhiou, cheif of operations of BSDA (the copyright office of senegal) the year 2002 sold over a million cassetes, but as of july last year they havent passed 92,000. Apparently its affecting everyone, rappers, acoustic artists, mbalax, except for the sales of religious music(!interesting).As Birame Faye snarkily puts it in the article:

personne ne peut se glorifier d’une distribution enviable de cassettes durant cette année ... Cependant, la musique religieuse se vend bien maintenant, constate M. Diadhiou, surtout à l’approche des grands évènements religieux. Apparemment, Doudou Kéné Mbaye et Cie font la pluie et le beau temps.
IE : Nobody can boast enviable distribution of cassettes this year ... However, religious music is currently selling well, states Mr. Diadhiou, especially with the approach of the religious holidays. Apparently, Doudou Kéné Mbaye and Co create the rain and good weather.

The thing is though, that while many of these industies operate in copywrite free zones, labels and media companies may be hurt in some areas, but do not seem to be totally irrelevent. And as much as the RIAA and co. would like us to think that copyright is whats keeping the world from breaking apart, people everywhere are continuing to make awesomness on huge scales. Yes, huges swaths of artists are bypassing labels. Many get popular & create their own - sushiraw, etc. If corporations want to get some ideas on $$$, they should call up the people who are somehow making it in these generally copy-free regions.

Ask dem @ channel O, MTV africa,HYPERTEK Entertainment [naija],storm records / media [naija],Sushiraw Entertainment,ogapadeejays [ken,nam],lynx entertainment [ghana], Bongo records [Tan], bang entretenimento [Moz], ZORBAM PRODUXIONS [gabon], and Colossal Entertainment [naija], who say this about themselves:
Perhaps the label is the first to have succeeded on the national scene on the scale they have after starting with distributing music via the Bluetooth of phones and other electronic media. “I recall, about two years ago when we started moving round the country to promote Asem, Richie and OJ, when Richie said Papa Richie we are so big on the internet” – Richmond Adu-Poku. Till date they may draw a lot more numbers on the net than any other label in Ghana."

When looking at that list, some thoughts. As the middleclass grow in many african cities, at the same time that production methods become cheaper and more accesable, theres a middle ground being met and the result is a better produced, more attractive and assesible product. Theres still a lot of profit to be made in terms of upping production and branding & all that stuff labels/mediamasters do. B/c as Kelefa Sannah says "To obsess over old-fashioned stand-alone geniuses is to forget that lots of the most memorable music is created despite multimillion-dollar deals and spur-of-the-moment collaborations and murky commercial forces. In fact, a lot of great music is created because of those things."

I dont think songs as shared things means direct artist/fan connect. Doesnt it make that murkier, more radio/ tv/ sponsorship/ merch/ nightclub/ touring, etc politique? The messes that music comes out of will never be purely artist/fan or whatever myth we want our music to embody, including post-scarcity futures. And thats OK!


Museke, despite being down frequently, is one of the best sites out there for this sort of info. Maybe even accidentaly. They use the same format on a lot of interviews & one of Museke's stock questions is "What challenges do you face in the music industry (piracy, payola (paying deejays to play music), etc)?" B/c Museke interviews such a wide cast, you get a good cataloge of responses to the piracy question. On the one hand, MANY artists feel piracy really hurts them, others have more nuanced responses: What challenges do you face in the music industry (piracy, payola (paying deejays to play music), etc)?

Toniks: Piracy is the biggest scourge so far.
BLINKY: The music industry is growing and that has to be applauded, but there’s a need for technical expertise particularly with regards to live sound, and sound engineering in the studio, in order to attract a lot more international concerts to Kenya. Distribution is also an area that could be improved, because not many urban artists have access to rural markets - regardless of whether they can or cannot buy the music - theoretically that’s an untapped market.

JIM: Things like piracy are a challenge for any musician in any country, so I take them as a given.
Mokobe: I was born in France so I am used to the life here. Now I have the possibility to travel more often to Africa for shows but also collaborations. It’s a must to have a distributor for your album to come out in Africa so we are working on that. But “Mon Afrique” came out in Mali but it was a tape format as to suit the market.
Lira: Piracy, the decline of CD sales. But most of all I think we don’t sell as much as we can because our CD’s are pricey and if you make it reasonable for every South African to enjoy then the people also think it’s cheap music so it becomes tricky. My music heals as much as it brings joy and I’d like it to reach many people. I believe that’s why we moved over 120 000 digital singles... Which is also due to it’s affordability. Here we often have to do things innovatively because we can’t rely on sales to ensure our existence... But I quite enjoy the process of thinking outside the box and creating new things to sustain my career. I love what I do!
STL: ...About piracy, I think if an artist has the right music and it’s available at the right price then fans will see no need to pirate.
Cindy: I hate it. It’s theft and all the criminals should be jailed.
K-Lyinn: The biggest challenge is piracy and unfortunately I do not see an easy way to change that since it’s not only a problem in Tanzania and even in developed countries, artists are facing the same problem. Another challenge here is that the music industry is very young and there is a lack of proper music schools, managers, promoters, studios with advanced recording equipment and people haven’t really started to invest in the industry which could help us artists promote our music, make better quality records and in the end earn decent living out of music.

And, of course, Kaysha:

Museke: What kind of music do you do?
Kaysha: Candyzouk, afro electro, metisse musique
Museke: How is your label Sushiraw doing and which artistes are under the label?
Kaysha: The label is doing good, we are already in the digital age with loads of remixes and projects will only be online at and itunes and all the other stores...
In the roster, we have Elizio, Abege, Isah, Soumia, Loony Johnson, Thayna, Shana, Kaysha, Mika Mendes and more thru connections with other labels and cross projects and actively looking for artists around the globe.
Museke: Have you had problems distributing your music to various places in the world?
Kaysha: Yeah, lots of problems... It's very hard to meet serious people around the world. Most of the times, a good discussion never go further...
The good thing is that as more and more people enter the digital age, the physical barrier is fading away so when the whole African continent get access to a method of buying your songs either thru iTunes or a store alike or their mobile phones, this wont be a problem anymore...
I sell a lot of songs in the US using the internet... Technology breaks barriers
Museke: What challenges do you face in the Congolese music industry?
Kaysha: I don't face any challenges because I'm not really part of this industry like Fally or Werra would be. I'm part of another industry which is the international afro carribean scene... So this question is irrelevant to me :)
Museke: What is your take on piracy and payola (paying deejays to play your music on the radio)?
Kaysha: Payola will always be there because humans fail by definition and emotion... Piracy is the same thing. Some people will always think that others people hard work should be theirs for free. And with internet, it's like a magical tube where you can get anyone's work for free and no one will punish you since everybody is crying for their right for privacy and liberty when people try to set rules... There is a vast
hypocrisy... In the other hand, the same global piracy is what made me the african icon that I am today because no one bought my songs but since they all have it, I'm touring all over the world... So I can't complain...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pretty jangly chimey bits

"Something about the twining chimes of soukous guitar calls out “summer.” Maybe it’s the resemblance to the Dominican Bachata omnipresent in the Brooklyn bodegas where I grab dewy Presidentes, maybe it’s an exoticized image of steamy Zaire, but regardless, there is something that makes the sweet sound perfectly apt." via soulsummer

word. My brain references it the same. Everytime i'd be walking in the DR and hear sweet bachata, my head would go 'awww soukous'



Was scoping this out @ XLR8R:
It’s strange to call a room inside a Swedish expat’s London flat a “nexus of pan-African dance music,” but that’s precisely what Johan Carlberg’s home studio becomes in the presence of production partner Etienne Tron. As Radioclit, the duo merges elements of South African kwaito, Angolan kuduro, and coupé-décalé from the Ivory Coast—plus Caribbean dancehall and soca, among other diasporic styles—into their own distinctive electro-tropical sound.

The italics usage was weirding me with its old world / new world & east/west break down.
We use italics (characters set in type that slants to the right) and underlining to distinguish certain words from others within the text. ... If a word or phrase has become so widely used and understood that it has become part of the English language — such as the French "bon voyage" or the abbreviation for the latin et cetera, "etc." — we would not italicize it. Often this becomes a matter of private judgment and context. For instance, whether you italicize the Italian sotto voce depends largely on your audience and your subject matter.

It makes sense, but its interesting. When did soca become soca or dancehall dancehall. audiences..

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


ie : We all got digital cameras baby / AWKWARD symbiotic relations

The UN soldiers in my area of Haiti were Pakistani/Jordinian, and they got a big kick out of photographing me or other young white women as we walked around downtown.

Me and fellow NGO types in my area were from the US or France, and we got a big kick out of photographing middle eastern soldiers with their guns and armored vehicles around town.

Somewhere in Pakistan, these photos have a mate. Lets fetish / tourist eachother.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Haitian Music / Sasha Frere Jones / overusing /////////s

I was exited to see an article on Haitian music, a round table discussion posted by Sasha Frere Jones, a music critic I usually like. It all began with this piece @ the nytimes by author Madison Smartt Bell. He just finished a book on Toussaint, and the conversation revolves around this idea of Haitian music and revolution.

I can see why SFJ posted it. Honestly, some of it is pretty sweet, like tracking the influence of Haitian music in specificish ways to dancehall and reggaeton, etc. At Haitian independence 60% of Haitians were born in west Africa, and it seems plausible they were one of the stronger forces in keeping hybrid bits of aesthetics and rhythms from motherland to diaspora thru New Orleans & helping create Carib musics. But I wish the discussion would stick to facts and not their dreamy notions b/c it all starts to sound a bit iffy. Esp wrt contemporary music.

Bell in particular has a pretty wack idea of Haitian Music, describing compas as "Haiti’s good-time music, preferred by the Duvalier regime and served, limitlessly, to tourists." Excuse me. Maybe if you mean compas, Haiti's national pop music, the most popular form of Haitian music for the past ~40 yrs through every coup and regime change including (gasp) Aristide and less popular among tourists than the racines music he <3 s along with those 'cultural excursions' to voudou ceremonies. Maybe he thinks its tourist music b/c its played at every bar/club/resto 24/7. Guess what? Its not for you.

Rara is super alive, probably bigger than what they are suggesting here. But I think the way Haitians use traditional music in popular music is much more nuanced, filtering into compas break downs or hiphop, etc than the overrated folk-rock of mizik rasin. Mizik rasin seems pretty restricted to a certain population in Port-au-Prince, or more specifically, a single band at a single hotel in Port-au-
Prince. Having spent a little bit more than Easter "in Haiti with my family ... in the middle of rara season, and we spent a week in Jacmel with friends." I guess im also an expert, whos qualified to say: whats going onnn here?

"What does revolution sound like? This begs for a long answer, but consider this shortcut: Bob Marley and, with apologies to Carl Wilson, not Celine Dion ... What, then, does that signal moment in the past—the Haitian revolution—sound like in the funky potpourri of rhythms that is contemporary Haitian music? " (Answer? "They tie their messages of resistance to catchy riffs and vibrant rhythms, producing ambidextrous music that presses the consciousness while shaking the hips and feet. .... Their songs infused with the memory of the revolution .." blah blah blah)


I didn't really get the impression that Haitian music is more 'revolutionary' than music in any other country. The revolution was a pretty long time ago and while Haitians are, by nature of recent history pretty politically aware, most of the young Haitians I know are not interested in revolutionary protest. That sort of thing is tied to the memory of chimères, and my peers are much more into chillin to pop (& trying to find jobs out of college w/ a 60% unemployment rate, to create 'the system' not fight it). Not that it never turns up, but i certainly wouldn't call it a defining feature.

Want to know somebody who's bigger than RAM and Bob Marley in Haiti?

Celine Dion

I dig how strong French chanson pop is in Haiti. Garrou, Dion, Francois, etc are affecting the sounds of compas, and zouk, and filtering out sounds across the world in really interesting ways. I also think Haiti is an interesting music spot b/c except for a few exceptions (above) its such a non-potpourri. Haiti has been so isolated from its neighbors, linguistically, and quite deliberately economically and politically from its Anglo / Hispanic / no-longer-in-the western-hemisphere-b/c-of-you french neighbors who were terrified of catching a similar revolt / created sanctions protesting its various 20th century regimes. Haiti has, for much of its history, been mostly unable to participate in the same musical trades as the rest of the carribean. Other musics seem to enter, but unable to pass out of its borders. Which makes Haitian music a very distinctive take on carib music / useful case study / counterpoint to global world musical flows/travels.

For a discussion so interested in African music's influence on Haitian music, im surprised they didn't mention the new ways Africa shows up everywhere. While an original source of people/culture, Haiti was cut off for over a hundred years from African culture. Now global circulation means bootleg soukous compilations show up everywhere alongside English language ghana/nollywood films. Friends hear magic system on local radio and tell me its a Haitian group, Haitian melodramas draw from nollywood and are marketed and sold together, the girls in the school across the street were putting on a production of African Queen. Haitians prefer African reggae artists like Tiken Jah Fakoly & Lucky Dube to Marley. So the way these 'roots' manifest themselves, affect the 'whirl', again, are much more nuanced than this discussion really gets at, and its disappointing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ghettotech - Ghetto ?? + stuff showing up placessss

I tend to agree with one of Johan's points here about ghettotech. While democratization of digital technologies helped produce ghettotech, it means that its going to be looking less and less 'ghetto'. Not in where it comes from, but what it looks/sounds like.

There's huge differences recently, some stylistic changes which favors a cleaner sounds, as well as tech/production changes. There tons of examples, but i admit my new interest in Namibia's music industry which seems to have blossomed crazy in the past few years, with flashy new video..

Lady May won best dance video for that song, its a really fun video. also this!

Namibia produces a lot of artists/sounds, and its rising to join ghana, nigeria, senegal, kenya, S.A., etc as a strong african music industry. I'm a huge fan of Tate Buti, who calls his genre Kwiku, "a music put together by Tate Buti and his producer Pedrito between 2000 and 2003. The two mixed traditional-oshiwambo dance music, known as shambo, with Western-Africa's sounds of Kwassa kwassa, to create a quick ovambo music." I hear kwaito in the mix too flowing up from South Africa.




These are old videos, so i dont know what happened to this uzbek reggaeton group, but it might explain why its showing up in uigher music.

Its not subtle at all, notice the PR shirts they're flaunting @ :37


i missed this. I guess Olu doesn't shy from the controversy.

Wondering about connects.. the little lamp looks like the RaiNB symbol, which involves actual connect between N & S Africans, all the silly magic lamps and camels associated with that packaging vs this which seems similarly/ yet differently fetishwise & maybe says something.. tons of nolly stars are lebanese mixes, i dunno.. the song makes no attempt to sound arab.