WAYS OF LIFE 2: A Different Perspective

In recent times i have seen many articles such as Europeans did NOT bring shoes to Africa, The forgotten masterpieces of African modernism, and 11 Ancient African Writing Systems That Demolish the Myth that Black People were Illiterate.  On one level i applaud the motion to dispel myths of the under-development of African cultures.  But on another level I think articles like this are missing a crucially important point: older cultures in Africa and other places developed in different ways, formed different world views, with different concepts and different methods, cultivating different ways of life, which are often, objectively speaking, much more sophisticated, efficient, and effective, than Europe techniques.  “Pre-civilized”, pre-modern, and non-Western cultures must be evaluated in their own context, on their own terms, according to their own criteria, and can not be judged according to “civilized” and modern standards, in congruence with Western definition of  “achievement” and “progress”.

I will use the subjects of the three above mentioned articles as examples and springboards to briefly illustrate this point.


“If you offer people of the rain forest shoes, they would be puzzled: ‘Why would i want to wear these things which make my feet sweat, keep me from feeling the ground, and detach me from intimate knowledge of the earth?”


Nomads of the Sahari possess almost supernatural comprehension of the desert, who allegedly are able to find the exact location of a single plant in the middle of endless and constantly shifting sand dunes a year later. Traditional healers of Namibia have cultivated incredibly rich ethno-pharmacological knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses which multinational pharmaceutical corporations can not wait to exploit.  Native Alaskans developed methods for determining where to build trails in anticipation of whaling season by watching the formation of ice for months in advance.  In such enumerable cases, detailed and complex understanding of the environment, including climatic patterns, plant species, and animal behavior, informs the organization of human society, creating holistic living systems in which everything is inextricably connected.

_Shoes 2

“Pre-civilized” cultures often employ methods which todays’ science struggles and fails to understand.  For instance, there are myriad ways that the Aguaruna people of the Amazonas in Peru (who also refuse to wear shoes) and other indigenous groups use combinations of plants, often prepared with elaborate processes, that modern medicine can not explain.  The synthesis of many different species to unlock their profoundly powerful effects, for the specific purposes of healing and spiritual awakening, known as Ayahuasca, is just such a process.  Botanists and biologists have no idea how this knowledge was arrived at: shamans maintain that it is from guidance of the plants themselves.  Indeed, groups such as the Aguaruna have not only deep knowledge of nature, but ways of knowing which are lost to city dwellers. Over millennia, peoples in the rain forests built vast bodies of knowledge about their incredibly ecologically diverse environment, which they have recently compiled into an Encyclopedia of Traditional Medicine.


_Arch1 Aka houses in the Congo

Dwellings made of bio-degradable materials which disappear back into the jungle with a turn of the seasons are not necessarily any more “primitive” than buildings made of stone or steel.  They are actually, in ways we are only beginning to once again understand, with the relatively recent discourse on sustainability, more efficient, effective, and intelligent.  A temporary residence of branches, vines, and leaves might take only some days or even hours to construct, yet keeps the occupants shielded from danger and rain, warm at night, cool during the day, serving their every need; at the same time producing no waste and leaving no ecological foot prints.  Similar to this type of structures in Africa, native peoples everywhere have figured out brilliant architectural solutions which provide optimum conditions while being in balance with the eco-system, sometimes completely baffling modern architects with their ingenuity.

_Arch2From left: Tuareg Leatherwork; Balla Village Archetechture in Senegal; Kitwe Community Clinic in Zambia

The use of fractals and self-organizing patterns in the architecture and design of many cultures in Africa, ideas and methods not “invented” in the West until the 1970s, has been a topic of study of mathematician Ron Eglash.  Strategic applications of these sophisticated algorithms, with geometric patterns often matching social patterns of the societies, is found all over, and is unique to, the continent of Africa.  From culture to culture fractal structures are used in different ways, but is a common design practice and a widely “shared technology”.  For instance, non-linear scaling fences in the Sahel regions, very different from fences outside of Africa, takes into account the relationship between height from the ground and wind speed: the fence gets gradually thicker as they get higher according to a fractal algorithm.

“When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganized and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t yet discovered.” — Ron Eglash

And the only reason things like this are impressive to us now, from the modern perspective, is because in these cases science has caught up with the advancement of the old ways.


The diverse oral traditions which have sustained and enriched indigenous people in Africa and elsewhere for countless millennia are far from being any less accurate, broad, vast, varied, or nuanced than any written literary tradition, in fact, much more so.  The written word, until recent times, had always been an elitist technology guarded by  the literate aristocracy, and favors centralized, hierarchical, top-down, one-way communication.  Printing further institutionalized the problem: versions of history of the rich and powerful who control the printing presses, which almost invariably does not reflect the perspectives of the people, can be broadly disseminated as objective truth.  But in oral traditions, egalitarian social fabric sown together by the intimate passing of verifiable first-hand knowledge protects communities from large scale, sweeping, pandemic lies and propaganda.  The incredible accuracy of verbal accounts have been proven time and again, such as Australian aborigines who convey specific geographic information about ancient floods which took place many tens of thousands of years ago, only verified by geologists in the past few decades.  Similarly, Native Americans, Polynesians, Sami people of Finland, and “pre-civilized” people everywhere (the ones who care to) have preserved amazingly detailed accounts of events stretching far back into history.


In many places like Somalia, India, or regions in China where ethnic minorities still thrive, stories are often told in poetry form, sometimes sung, accompanied by gestures, rhythm, even elements of theater and dance.  Use of language in these traditions is at once extremely compact, expansive, multi-layered, and powerfully expressive.  The affinity of phonetic communication, with all of its complex dynamics of extra-lingual and non-verbal cues, engages the listener in a more actively participatory role.  Face to face organic transmission of knowledge is able to have both psychological impact as well as cognitive depth, conveying meaning with both more immediacy and profundity.  The free jazz musician William Parker once noted that recorded music is “canned music”; similarly, oral traditions transcribe living, multi-faceted images, stories, understanding, and insight, as opposed to reading impersonal information on a page, which more likely remains one-dimensional and superficial in the brain.


With these examples, i hope i have provided glimpses of a different perspective largely missing today, suppressed by dominant ideology; and shown that in many ways modern, globalized, normalized, dominant value systems are completely upside down and backwards.  Besides Euro-centrism, which has had a pervasive influence on our understanding of ourselves and of the world, there is another, perhaps more harmful prejudice in which we may be even more entrenched:  Modern-centrism.

Perhaps what is needed now, if we are interested in solving the many urgent problems we face as a species, is a re-evaluation of the criteria of valuation: what should be on the list of things we value.  “Pre-civilized” non-western cultures invested their energy in projects other than steel making and weapons engineering, and have sets of priorities and goals other than wealth accumulation or expansionism: from them we can learn lessons maybe not only beneficial, but which just might save us from disaster.

Life in the Trap


Baauer and RL Grime trapping fraternity kids

On a train going through the Czech Republic, random young Swedish travelers enthusiastically told me of their love for Trap music.   Kids in Ho Chi Minh City are turning the f*** up to Trap.   Vice magazine made a documentary about Trap music and the ghetto streets from where it came.  

“Trap” used to be slang for crack-houses where dealers “trap” their clients, as well as the business of selling cocaine, as in the “trap game”.  By the mid-2000s, the word came to also refer to underground Southern Hip Hop about drug-dealing, from poverty stricken neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta.  Related and often interchangeable with Crunk and Dirty South, Some of the earliest, biggest, and best proponents of this sound are Three Six Mafia, UGK, Geto Boys,  Lil Jon, and Master P.  Later came artist/dealers such as T.I., Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka Flame, who further defined the genre, and consolidated its now classic signature elements of distinctively slowed down boom-bap, extended bass lines, frenetic 808 hi-hats, ominous synths, sluggish and menacing rap, and of course lyrics about gangsterism and thug-life. 

But the term did not gain over-ground notoriety until a new electronic offshoot came on the scene: largely instrumental, polished, beefed-up, and very bassy: an over produced and bro-ified version of ghetto music with the black voices often omitted or consigned to mere decoration, made for rich kids to blast in the new cars daddy bought them.  New EDM-Trap is entirely based on the musical structure and sound of Southern Gangsta Rap, but grafts onto this template the machine muscle of Bro-Step, stadium Electro-Rave sound effects, and often the epic emotional moments of commercial Vocal-Pop.

As i hear this cartoonishly pumped up sound of sublimated aggression quickly spread and blow up all over the world, I think of the slums in US cities where black lives are cheaper than cocaine, and don’t matter at all.  As i look at the biggest EDM-Trap Artists in the world today (nearly all white) making millions, I think of prison sentences, of broken families, of single mothers raising kids alone on minimum wage jobs.  As i watch videos of Trap parties in stadiums full of students drenched in Tequila “raging” hard, I think of the impoverishment, marginalization, and criminalization from which this music comes.

These are the thoughts on my mind as i witness the music of people neglected, robbed, tortured, and exterminated by mainstream society is stripped of its original context, reduced to meaningless swagger, and even becoming soundtrack for the corniest Disney-Pop: perfectly retrofitted for mainstream society.  Gavin Mueller in Jacobin Magazine makes a good point by calling New School EDM-Trap “adult contemporary for the prosumer age“:

By dispensing with the rapping, EDM-Trap effectively silences the black voices that kept the style connected to the stories of the American lumpenproletariat. It’s the auditory equivalent of kicking out a poor family so you can live in their classic brownstone.

But I also love Trap music, both the original Dirty South variety, and even a very discerning selection of the new school, for some of the same reasons that rich white kids do.  Here I would like to defend this vicarious consumption:

Many critical theorists have extensively described how modern society deprives citizens of both a sense of adventure, as well as of intimate social connections within closely knit communities.  To people locked into a predictable life of school, employment, and retirement, their everyday existence a dull cycle of work, consumption, and sleep, the life of the criminal is the exact opposite, and captivating in ways their own lives can never be.  This is why suburbanites mimic the style, language, attitude and posture of inner city gangsters.  Similarly, listening to Trap music reproduces a feeling of danger, of intensity, of life and death urgency, and allows people who live safe and boring lives to briefly approximate a feeling of adventure.  Hood music is also a narrative of clandestinity, of trust, of honor, of unbreakable familial bonds, of real friendship and real enmity with very, very real consequences — a sense of true community which the comfortable classes entirely lack.  When a real loss of agency and immediacy is assigned to the middle and upper classes, whose existence consists of tedious complacency and suffocating security, it of course isn’t morally wrong for them to try to fill this emptiness.  This is why in ultra-wealthy and squeaky clean Zurich, Switzerland, a city with virtually no crime, there is a popular club-night called “Trapped”, with themes such as “Prison Break”, where Djs play only Dirty South Hip Hop songs about incarceration.

Additionally, there are concrete reasons why this music has such world wide appeal in 2015, and resonates with youths everywhere.  Trap is perhaps the most direct reflection of our times, where young people face grim personal prospects in a diminishing job market, amidst escalating economic, political, and environmental crisis.  Trap music exactly mirrors the coldness, meanness, brutality, abjection, dehumanization, and desperation of late capitalism.  Extending what Young Jeezy said about the rap game being the same as the trap game: the trap game (selling drugs) is a microcosmic facsimile of macrocosmic capitalism.  Reality in the hood, a cycle of addiction, suppliers, gangs, crime, police, and prisons, all part of a system designed to sustain this process, is a perfect miniscule model of reality around the globe, where powerful states destabilize resource-rich regions, administer political and physical violence, and manufacture terrorism, while arms manufacturers make trillions, and corporations exploit the global South, devastating the natural environment.  Trap music comes from a visceral experience of survival on the love-less streets, but is a mirror image of the world at large: a neo-Darwinian nightmare in its rawest form.

Mainstream white appropriation of underground black music is nothing new, but at this historical juncture, “Trap” uniquely takes on a much bigger significance, and becomes a perfect metaphor for capitalism itself. “Trap” encapsulates both capitalisms’ ruthlessly competitive aspect, as well as its alienating effects, where consumers are completely disconnected from the context, origin, and meaning of cultural products.  From the same Jacobin piece cited earlier:

listeners… don’t always understand the history or sociology of their genres. They don’t have to: when music becomes a commodity, it can travel worldwide, as all commodities do, severed from any knowledge of the conditions of its production. Genres cease to be grassroots social worlds, and instead become something more like brands: mere sonic surfaces rather than deep historical processes.

So, we are all locked in this perverse consumer capitalist trap, where the art of society’s victims provide an outlet for the frustrations of those who benefit from, but are at the same time stifled by, the same system of victimization.  It is not necessarily a problem in itself for middle or upper class people to enjoy or take part in the culture of the disenfranchised, because both groups are caught in the same trap, only positioned at opposite ends.  But there is a certain amount of responsibility for those of us who do, to at the very least acknowledge the disenfranchisement, the inequality, and the tragic social circumstances the music came from.  Further, we should try to connect the hidden dots and gain a degree of understanding of the racist, oppressive, and exploitative realities that gave rise to Trap; and perhaps allow such knowledge and understanding to influence the life decisions we make.

Sat: Savane / Sun: Rename

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.06.57 PMJoin us for ECK IM SAVANE at Promenaden Eck on Saturday night for a special night of Cosmik Grooves from the Motherland and beyond. The collectiv Tropical Timewarpwith BestMate? and Bela Patrutzi will heat things up with their impressiv vinyl collection and will give service with an Afro beat – Afro funk mix then Léon Leon from FINOW ZOO and dj zhao will take us deep into the night with their multi-dimensional drum science.

8:00pm – 5:00am
Promenadeneck Schillerpromenade 11, 12049 Berlin, Germany

Mstr.RenameAnd on Sunday, we come together for Umbenennungsfestival (renaming festival),on the block where the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 took place, to enjoy the afternoon and agitate for refugee rights, against Pegida, and the changing of the historic “Mohrenstr.” (N***er Street) to “Nelson Mandela Strasse”. There will be many speakers and artists, and like last time i will contribute with a dj set and a talk on Culture as a Global Process and Dismantling Eurocentricity.

2:00pm – 8:00pm
mohrenstr, berlin 10117 Berlin, Germany

First meme ever / Autumn in Uganda


So that’s the first meme i’ve ever made, hope it goes “viral” :)  What do you think?  GF thinks it’s too “polarizing”, but i think it’s kind of a necessary illustration of the false dichotomy.

Also, for the entirety of the month of October I will be touring in East Africa:  mostly Kampala and Nairobi, playing at festivals and clubs, and working with local musicians. Super excited!!!


Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 16.57.01

Expanding the boundaries of club music, CLUBLAB explores borderless poly-rhythms and infinite bass, and investigates the fragmented soul of the polymorphous planetary underground.

in the Function-One equipped cave of our favorite Kreuz-Koln dive we swim in the most crucial vibes of today and tomorrow: Chicago, London, Joburg, Jersey, Luanda, Berlin.

Bass, Juke, Club, Jungle, Acid, House, Kuduro, Dub.


Words (Futurisms, Berlin)
dj zhao (NgomaSound, BeiJing)
Special Guests (Surprise)

Friday // July 24 // 11:00pm
Normal Bar // Forsterstrasse 46, 10999 Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

FREE before midnight

Working Links / Afro House Xperience / Fusion Photos

Big thanks to all who have generously donated toward getting the Soundcloud back up, but i will need a bit more time…  Soon hopefully!  In the mean time, I’ve updated all the posts with working Mixcloud streaming and download links.  Let me know if i missed any!

This Friday is the AFRO HOUSE XPERIENCE! we will bring the freshest, funkiest electronic music from the Motherland! (I don’t even like calling it “house” because in terms of form most of it doesn’t actually have much to do with Chicago at all — much more polyrhythmic and groovetastische)AfroHaus

And Fusion was as epic freaky fun as ever!  (but this year seemed to feature even more music from the global south).  P1040959 1658263_10153027829528546_3259819137898563999_oP1040962P1040979R P1040994Q P1040972

Acid Machine Temple


I’ve always loved Acid. Not only due to the squelchy palette of the misused TB303 being, for reasons i can not articulate (related to liking the smell of petroleum??), so endlessly delicious, sexy, and addictive, but also because Acid House and Acid Techno, ever since the beginning, have always been more overtly and unabashedly polyrhythmic than their bigger stylistic cousins.

Acid Machine Temple by Djzhao on Mixcloud


The 303 lines often hit the spot in the 4/4 rhythmic pattern left missing in most other House and Techno, but which is a focus point in African House: the 3.5 or thereabouts. Add to that the basslines often emphatically replicating the Clave pattern (signature of Afro-Cuban music) and hyperkinetic snares flying everywhere, we have probably the most percussively rich genre of “Western” contemporary electronic music.

African music lovers, if you doubt what i am saying, just jump to minute 22:00 mark, and if in the next 15 minutes you are not convinced, all money back guaranteed.

Techno heads, let this mix remind you that techno and house are indirect but unquestionably descendants of ancient rhythmic traditions, drawing from the bottomless well of African sciences of the drums.

01 Etcher – Pelican Nebula (Afro Augmentation)
02 Kenneth Kirschner – 070798
03 Nax Acid – Flying Higher
04 Underground Resistance – Electronic Warfare (Oz Speaks)
05 Luigi Acid Machine – Improbable Concept
06 Versatile – Before The Interrogation
07 Photodementia – Synovium
08 Emmanuel Top – Foreigner
09 Redshape – Goom (Bonus Beats)
10 Emmanuel Top – The End
11 Innume – Right Down
12 Snuff Crew – Joy of Jealousy
13 Basic Soul Unit – Rhythm No.1 (Justin Longs Acid Peel Version)
14 Jack Murphy – 4MT
15 Willis Anne – The C Track
16 Matrixxman – Stop It
17 Levon Vincent – Love Technique
18 Sendex – Just Dance
19 Mantra – What Do You Call It
20 Hieroglyphic Being – Inconsistent Measure
21 Jared Wilson – Detroit Tracks 7.5 (Polykicks Edit)
22 Close – Beam Me Up (feat. Charlene Soraia) (Scuba Hercules and Love Affair Remix)
23 Syntheme – XWC
24 Snuff Crew – Control
25 Jerome Hill – Dustbin Acid
26 Swere – Swere
27 Cassegrain – Task (TM404 Remix)
28 Alien Rain – Alienated
29 Function – Psychic Warfare
30 Donato Dozzy & Say Dj – Titto Positivo
31 Function – Variance (Ch-Signal Laboratories Edit)
32 Eomac – Yóu Hún Ye Gui

NGOMA 21: دبكة — Syria For Ever


In Gaziantep, an old Turkish city on the Eastern and Southern Most part of the country, bordering Syria, i had the fortune of meeting 2 Syrian young men who were involved in the initial student and popular uprising, part of the so-called “Arab Spring”.  They were among the most charming, intelligent, funny and friendly guys i’ve ever met, and had become wanted men and refugees, one of them with a price on his head, hiding out in Turkey.  They told inspiring and harrowing stories of the spontaneous peaceful demonstrations against the oppressive Assad regime, how it kept going in the face of brutal repression by police and military.  And of how the government, in 2011, released thousands of jihadists from prison, while the revolutionary political prisoners stayed in captivity and continued to be tortured, in order to dilute the rebellion, to brand the opposition as extremists, and create a false choice for the population, of either government or fundamentalism.  Shortly after that, the US backed jihadist group known as ISIS or ISIL infiltrated, and the country has been steadily torn apart by violence, its infrastructure crippled, its glorious ancient cities destroyed, creating multiple and massive humanitarian nightmares.

In addition to first hand accounts of these events, one of these guys also gave me a collection of amazing contemporary Syrian Debkah, a modern dance music with ancient roots, very popular in many parts of the Middle East.


In these extremely trying times, and when news media coverage of the country is filled with nothing but tragedy, let us never forget the incredible cultural wealth of Syria, and the powerful, beautiful majesty of Syrian music.


The only exposure to Dabkah in the West in recent years has been Omar Suleyman, whose popularity might be due to the rough and simplistic aspects of his music being appealing to “alternative” music fans, or maybe it’s just luck.  In Syria he is considered an unimportant and low level musician, something like an ignorant redneck.  But he not only makes sub-standard Dabke (I’ve realized after listening to the music on this mix), but has also dedicated one of his songs to the Assad regime, and never once spoke or sang about the struggles of the Syrian people, living a wealthy life in Turkey.  Even though one of his tunes appeared in NGOMA 04, I will likely not be playing much of his music in the future.

Paris and Toulouse

Friday, June 12at 11:00pm – 6:00am
Le Malibv — 44 rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris, France

UMOJA (INI Movement / Piri Piri Music ; Amsterdam)

Around The World (Paris)

dj zhao ( NGOMA SOUND Berlin / Berlin)


June 14 – June 15 Jun 14 at 12:00pm to Jun 15 at 12:00am

Jardin Monplaisir 1 Bd Monplaisir, 31400 Toulouse, France
☀ Dimanche 14 juin – Midi-Minuit – Jardin Monplaisir (centre ville) ☀

ZHAO – [ALL / Berlin] – (Ngoma Sound)
RAFAEL ARAGON – [FRA / Paris] – (Caballito / Latino Resiste)
DJ NO BREAKFAST – [FRA / Tlse] – (Guachafita)
YEAHMAN! – [FRA / Tlse] – (Ghetto Sonido – Muundial Mix)

par le Collectif Volubile ( Ambre Caziers / Loren Coquillat / Pauline Lavergne / Cassandre

► PONG 1D & LEVITATION ◄  http://fauxdepart.com/
►FRAGILE !◄  http://kinourendfou.wordpress.com/
► FRESQUE ◄  http://www.donoteat.fr/Munoz / Agathe Thevenot & guests)

Bayreuth (DE) Sat. 30.05.2015

Mashup, an exhibition of artworks by contem- porary artists from Africa generated during the research and exhibition project Mashup the Archive at Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth, Germany.

It’s nice to get booked for the core of what i do. Will be playing alongside many very talented artists such as Miss Eve, Otieno Gomba, Délio Jasse, Raphael Kariuki, Nita., Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Simon Rittmeier, Kevo Stero, Pamela Sunstrum, and Uche Uzorka.

and last weekend Karnival was fun…