WAYS OF LIFE 2: Another 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 efforts that 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 who live in rain forests 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 separate me from intimate knowledge of the earth?”


Nomads in the Sahara possess almost supernatural comprehension of the desert.  It is said , once they have seen a single plant in the middle of endless and constantly shifting sand dunes (indication of underground water), they can find the exact location again a year later.  Traditional healers in Namibia have cultivated incredibly rich ethno-pharmacological knowledge of medicinal plants and their uses which multinational pharmaceutical corporations can not wait to exploit.  In the Americas, 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 in which the Aguaruna people of the Amazonas in Peru (who also refuse to wear shoes) and other indigenous groups use combinations of plants, often prepared by 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 one such process.  Botanists and biologists have no idea how this knowledge was arrived at: shamans maintain that it is from guidance of the plants themselves. 

More importantly, groups such as the Aguaruna have not only deep knowledge of the world, but ways of knowing which are lost to city dwellers. Over millennia, peoples in the Amazonian 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 after 1 or 2 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 shelter made of branches, vines, and leaves might take only some days or even hours to construct, yet keeps the occupants shielded from weather, warm at night, cool during the day, perfectly serving their every need.  At the same time, the process produces no waste and leaves 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 for 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,” said 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 eventually 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 always been an elitist technology guarded by the literate aristocracy, and favoured centralized, hierarchical, and one-way communication. Printing further institutionalized the problem. Versions of history of the rich and powerful- who controlled the printing presses- which almost invariably did not reflect the perspectives of the people, were 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 pandemic lies and propaganda. The incredible accuracy of verbal accounts have been proven time and again. There are Australian aborigines who convey specific geographic information about ancient floods which took place many tens of thousands of years ago, facts 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.


No, i am not suggesting that we should stop wearing shoes, live in hand made dwellings, and burn all books. But with these examples, I i hope I have provided glimpses of another perspective which is largely missing today, suppressed by prevailing ideology. And i hope i have shown that in many ways it is the modern, globalized, and dominant value systems which are backwards and upside down. 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. Our society endlessly describes the ways that technologies give, and completely ignore the ways that they at the same time take away. It is of critical importance, for the future of mankind, to examine with sober, objective eyes, both what we have gained as well as what we have lost, with the advent of things like shoes, permanent housing, and the written word.

Maybe 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 not only beneficial, but which just might save us from disaster.



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 has 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 had come to also refer to underground Southern Hip Hop about drug-dealing, from poverty stricken neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta.  Related to 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 mainstream notoriety until a new electronic offshoot came on the scene.  This was largely an instrumental, polished, beefed-up, and very bassy version of Trap: an over produced and bro-ified overground mutation 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 of African Americans 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 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 articulates this well in his piece for Jacobin Magazine:

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 vicious cycle of addiction, suppliers, gangs, crime, police, and prisons, is a perfect miniscule model of reality around the globe, a larger vicious cycle where powerful states administer political and physical violence, destabilize resource-rich regions, manufacturing terrorism, while arms dealers make trillions, and corporations exploit the global South. 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 larger 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 the same system of victimization.  It is not necessarily a problem in itself for the middle and upper classes 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.  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 Music. Further, we must strive for ever deeper understanding of how this systemic trap called capitalism robs some of us materially, the others spiritually, and allow this understanding to inform 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!!!

Racism: A Basic Diagnosis

(I will tentatively begin to include not directly music related content in this blog.  Because these are topics important to every human, maybe especially lovers of music from the Global South)

Around the globe today, sparked by recent incidents of police murder and brutality in the US, with immigration and refugee issues intensifying along many borders, race and racism is again making headlines, a central topic of discussion across all sections of society, and new spaces have opened up for supplying ourselves with the knowledge and tools to treat this plague of the mind.  But before we can alleviate symptoms, undergo operations, toward healing and restoration, we must first examine its roots, study its nature, and identify precisely what it is not, and what it is.


There have been several recent studies which demonstrate instinctual distrust of faces which look different from our own. The more different the faces, the more distrust:

Antonio Damasio, neurologist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute, pointed out the former usefulness of associating difference with threat. “Probably, the detection of differences is something that has an old biological history,” he said. “There possibly was a time when it was advantageous to recognize difference very rapidly, because difference might indicate a possibly unfriendly group.”  — Wayne Lewis, Journalist

This has sometimes been called “biological racism”, but there is a serious problem with this label: this instinctual distrust is related to, but needs to be conceived separately from racism as we know it.  Similarly, both xenophobia, the fear of difference, and ethnocentrism, the feeling that one’s own culture is superior, have existed since different groups of humans first came in contact with each other.  Yet while both of these concepts are also related to racism, they are not exactly racism either.

What we understand as race is the belief that the myriad of biological and cultural differences between ethnicities and groups can be summed up in sweeping generalizations, in large categories indicated by superficial physical traits.  What we know as racism is a particular way of classifying humanity on a hierarchical scale from “primitive” to “advanced”, “inferior” to “superior”, according to skin color.

Genetic differences between ethnic groups are biological facts; but there are much more genetic differences between different groups of Africans, than between Africans and Europeans.  What this means is that the way we have recently chosen to define the groups, “the methods with which we subdivide the differences we construe as “racial” characteristics, are subjective, historically and culturally contingent, and arbitrary. In biology there are many different ways to break down “race”, none really more empirical or correct than any other” (Phillip Leckman, Anthropologist).  Thus race as we understand it is like organizing the books in a library not according to subject, language, publishing date, or any other characteristics, but according to the color of the covers, and then declaring that books with blue covers use more refined language than books with red covers, green books are easier to read, purple books contain questionable information, and so on.

The above mentioned three pre-existing social dynamics, instinctual distrust of difference, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia, are commonly confused and conflated with racism; and this common confusion/conflation is one of the best ways to validate racism.  Saying “racism has always existed” is perhaps the best way to normalize and accept this modern disease of the mind, to justify its continued existence, to excuse the pandemic violence, cruelty, and injustice caused by it in today’s world.

Inequality and prejudice did of course exist prior to the modern era, but were primarily distributed along lines of class and culture, and not “race” the way we do.  Skin color was rarely much of a factor at all, but even when skin color was mentioned in ancient history as characteristic of foreigners, it was one sign of difference among many other signs, such as dress or language, and never was a determining basis for the judgement of another.

“Historically it is pretty well proved now that the ancient Greeks and Romans knew nothing about race.  They had another standard—civilised and barbarian—and you could have white skin and be a barbarian and be black and civilised.”  — CLR James

There were examples of practices such as banning of marriage to foreigners in some cultures, but these policies were caused by a great number of reasons, including the afore mentioned xenophobia or ethno-centricity, and not because the foreigners were viewed as belonging to an inferior or less-than-human “race” of people.  

“The Ancients did not fall into the error of biological racism; dark skin was never a sign of inferiority; Greeks and Romans did not establish color as an obstacle to integration in society; and ancient society was one that ‘for all its faults and failures never made skin color the basis for judging a man’  — Roderick Douglas Bush, sociologist and author  

The Roman emperor Septimius Severus from modern day Libya was almost certainly black

“(Prior to 16th C.) African and Asian peoples constitued notions of distinction based not on skin color but on cultural exchange. (There was) ignorant ethnocentrism and xenophobia… (but) to feel (culturally) superior to someone is not necessarily to hate that person, and it certainly does not ordain that one can then capture, treat as fundamentally inhuman, and utilize that person principllay for labor.” —  Vijay Prashad, historian and author

Another common held false belief is that “slavery is as old as empires”. But this is not entirely true, because the various kinds of slavery practiced in ancient times were very different from the Trans-Atlantic Chattel slavery of the modern age in many ways, including ethnicity not being at all a factor. Again from Vijay Prashad:

“Despite evidence of enslavement in ancient times, it is clear, however, that the premodern mode of production was not based on slave labor (as was the Atlantic economy of the colonial era), nor was the sort of slavery practiced based upon the dehumanization of particular groups of people […]  The Chinese enslaved mostly other Chinese, Arabs other Arabs, etc.  Premodern slavery was sometimes brutal, (but besides war-captives) but just as common was a form of apprenticeship in which slaves learnt a trade and then later earned their freedom. […] The practice of slavery was often in the form of debt bondage; and slaves became free once again after the debt was paid.  In fact ‘Slavery was often used as a means of creating fictive ties of kinship” (like marriage).”


The aspect of racism in our times which distinguishes it from injustice of the past is the idea that there are distinct physical and behavioral traits arising from genetic difference between 3 or 4 major “races”, and that is grounds for systematic discrimination.  This doctrine enables dehumanization along artificially manufactured racial lines, in which entire ethnicities are viewed as “inferior” and “less than human” based on skin-color, and thus justified to use and treat like farm animals.  (the absurdity of “white”, “black”, “yellow” as distinct categories is highlighted by the following image: even people from the same geographic location are of an infinite number of shades)

race‘humanae’ — Pantone skin color spectrum chart by Angelica Dass

“Slavery was not born of racism—rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” — Eric Williams, historian

This pseudo-scientific system of categorization based on skin color was created less than 500 years ago, during the process of European colonization, with the specific purpose of dehumanizing entire populations which happened to have less effective weapons at the time.  The method with which racism typecasts difference is a phenomenon entirely unique to the modern era, beginning in late 17th Century North America.  The idea that people of European descent were of the “white race”, and that they were genetically superior to the “black race” of African descendants, who were not really human, was invented specifically to create disunity among the underclasses (who previously stood together against the elites), and facilitate their economic exploitation.  The poor white indentured servants whose existence was not very different from that of slaves now felt an affinity with their white masters because of supposed “racial alliance”, and class antagonism was diverted: since the beginning racism has been used not only as a rationale for oppression, but also as a theater of distraction from class inequality.  

The next thing the politicians did sealed the deal: they paid poor whites a bounty for runaway slaves, and often made them overseers for slaves, turning every poor white in America into a prison guard against the people who had once been their neighbors and allies.”  Quinn Norton, Journalist (from How White People Got Made)

“The hostility between the whites and blacks of the [US] South is easily explained. It has its root and sap in the relation of slavery, and was incited on both sides by the poor whites and blacks by putting enmity between them. They divided both to conquer each.” — Frederick Douglass, anti-slavery campaigner 

European colonists of the 1600s explained the difference in technological development on the various continents not as the consequence of varied fundamental material conditions over time, but rather as expression of “racial difference”.  Early 20th Century capitalists explained poverty, unemployment, and crime as not the result of societal dysfunction, but rather as genetic deficiency within the individuals, which led to the annual sterilization of hundreds of thousands of poor women in NYC until the 1930s (the Nazis would later learn much from these practices of Eugenics).  Similarly, contemporary race theories and racist pseudo-science comprise of distortions of the theory of natural selection and the false attribution of cultural and economic differences to biological ones.  To the racial “scientists” of today black people are poor not because of systematic marginalization from a series of discriminatory and oppressive policies since abolition such as Black Codes, Redlining, convict leasing, voter suppression, racially charged predatory bank loans, and the school-to-prison-pipeline, but because “African descendants are inherently lazy and less intelligent” (see the 1994 best seller and hugely influential The Bell Curve, which argues that “human intelligence is […] a better predictor of […] financial income, job performance, birth out of wedlock, and involvement in crime than are an individual’s parental socioeconomic status, or education level.”  They also basically say that the elites should rule over all because they are more intelligent than the average population.)

Yes, there is just as much popular racist pseudo-science today as ever — another good example being this 2014 article by Nicholas Wade, the former science editor of the New York Times, published by Time Magazine. Wade’s basic ideas here are that human evolution continued during the past 30,000 years, after various large groups settled in different climates and conditions, and thus indeed took different evolutionary paths, both culturally and biologically.  In his premise Wade has set up enormous straw-men, such as the proponents of “race-doesn’t-exist” claiming that genetic differences do not exist, or that evolution of humans ever stopped.  In fact no legitimate social scientists today believe either of these clearly absurd notions, if any ever have.  The “take downs” of these straw-men which follow are extremely hollow, but surely sounds great to advocates of race (and racism).  As if this wasn’t enough, Mr. Wade is mired in all kinds of ahistorical falsity and racist distortion, such as the cause of conflict in the Middle East (they have not evolved out of tribalism!), and what made the wonderful wonders of the Industrial Revolution possible (Europeans evolved to a higher level of organization!)   It is chilling, to say the least, to realize that these ideas are apparently taken seriously today, even in some so-called “scientific” circles, and considering who presented them, and endorsed by which publication.  (another, more in depth take-down of Wade’s work here)

Certainly inequality and oppression is as old as civilization itself, but what we have seen in the last few hundred years is the dynamics and processes of injustice mechanized, streamlined, systematized, and more efficiently administered on an exponentially expanded scale, enabled by the invention of race and racism.  In fact a very solid case can be made for racism being the central ideological engine behind the building of the modern world, based on analysis of the central role of chattel slavery in the establishment of industrial capitalism.  The root disease of power, hierarchy, and subjugation has existed for 10,000 years, but racism is thus far the most powerful and deadly strain.

Dj Zhao, December 2014

Guardian on UK Funky

The Guardian fails to pin-point the unique significance of Funky: it was the very first time that explicitly African rhythm patterns had been prominently used in, and defined, an entire style of “Western” dance music.  This failure is part of a larger pattern.   In the following sentence, the journalist clearly denigrates African-ness as the least significant aspect of Funky, in typically Euro-centric fashion: “…’a make-do sound’, patched together by and for an uneasy alliance of shiny-shoes “real house music”-lovers, grime kids craving something less macho, hipsters looking for a new buzz after dubstep, and those raised on the riotous party sounds of dancehall, soca and west African music.” ——— the influence of African music is a less important factor than “real house”, than grime, than hipsters (!); and also less important than Dancehall and Soca. And in this sentence, African-ness is completely omitted: “All were united by a pumping house undercurrent, clattering grime and dancehall rhythms, and car-window-rattling bass” ——– Since Funky started to get coverage, journalists have referred to the style as mostly or entirely Caribbean derived — But if you know music, you know the beats in UK-Funky is much, MUCH more derived from African music than from Dancehall or Soca.

No Drums Allowed: Afro Rhythm Mutations in N. America (re/x/post)

(this article originally appeared on This Is Africa, republishing here since it is not on their new site)

Street bands playing Rock’n’Roll in Berlin, Marvin Gaye in a local bar in Thailand, Nas blaring on the streets of Johannesburg, House Music in the mega-clubs of Shang Hai – where ever one goes in the world today, no effort is needed to find African American music and its derivatives.

The embellishment of African derived rhythm/melody with European harmonics gave birth to Jazz, arguably the worlds most significant musical explosion of the millennium.  In the 100 years since, African American music, which became largely synonymous with American music, has been exerting a tremendous amount of global influence.  The spread of this influence accelerated even more after WW2, as the US became a global economic and military super power, aggressively pursuing a program of cultural imperialism, which increasingly saturated the world with its ideas, stories, images, and sounds.

But there is one peculiar thing which nearly all American music has in common – and the more one considers it, the more peculiar it becomes – an extensive emphasis on a unique rhythm, a rhythm very different from that which is found almost anywhere else in the world.  It goes like this: Boom – Bap – Boom – Bap, with a kick drum on the 1 and 3 or all 4, a snare drum precisely on the 2 and 4, with nearly nothing in between except maybe a high hat, and no major hits ever landing off the grid.  This rhythm is called the “Duple” in music theory, and you can find variations of it driving all modern popular American music styles: Blues, Motown, Soul, Funk, Rock, Disco, Hiphop, House, Pop, and beyond.

Duple Rhythm (beginning of video):

Classic Blues:


The pervasive dominance of this simplified, rigid, and mechanical mono-rhythm, minimizing poly-rhythmic elements in the music to the role of embellishment, sometimes to the point of non-existence, is very different from the focus on complex polyrhythms in various forms of modern South American and Caribbean music. Cuban Son and Rumba, Brazillian Bossa Nova, Haitian Gwo Ka and Compas, Trinidadian Calypso; none of them rely so extensively on the Duple (besides sub-genres which were directly influenced by US exports, such as Ska Reggae, which heavily borrows from the Rhythm’n’Blues of the 50s).

Cuban Son:

Haitian Compas:

And if we zoom out to look at great traditions of music of the world: Asia, Middle East, and of course, Africa, with zero exceptions, the Duple beat is never a central element, and hardly even exist at all in the major bodies of music produced by these ancient cultures. All of them are based on intricately interlocking polyrhythms arranged in hypnotic, complex mathematical patterns. (the much younger European classical tradition, which developed as entertainment for royalty and the rich, has always regarded rhythm as an element of the under classes and “primitives”, and has “long discarded African music as an oddity of the animal kingdom” – Piero Scaruffi. With very few exceptions, these attitudes and a refusal to accept African music and its offspring continued all the way through the 20th century until today, which explains the increasing gap between it and the rest of the world.) (01)

Indonesian Gamelan:

Indian Classical:

Persian Classical:

Siamou Music in Burkina Faso:

So how did North American modern music become so different?  Why did the evolution of American rhythm take this unique path?  The answer is surely very complex, including many elements such as Native American tribal influence and the folk music of the European colonists, most of which used relatively simple rhythms.  But there is another, perhaps even more important factor which might explain this phenomenon, a single historical process which began in the early days of America.  Historians and scholars have written much about it, but the story remains relatively untold in the public sphere.  The following is a condensed, brief, and generalized version.
When first brought to North America during the 1600s and 1700s, slaves from the West coast of Africa used drums to communicate with each other in much the same way as they did at home, sending coded rhythmic messages over long distances, which the Europeans could not understand.  In this way slaves held in different encampments could stay in contact, and rebellion could be planned.  But after some time the masters realized that the drums could talk:
“…it is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain Negroes from using or keeping of drums, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes.”  – Slave Code of South Carolina, Article 36 (1740)
Starting on the plantations of the Carolinas and Georgia, this ban soon spread nearly everywhere.  Without drums, slaves used whatever was around to make beats: spoons, washboards, furniture, and their own bodies with hand-clapping, drumming on various surfaces of the body (Patting Juba), and foot-stomping and shuffling (Ring Shout).  “It always rouses my imagination,” wrote Lydia Parrish of the Georgia Sea Islands in 1942, “to see the way in which the McIntosh County ‘shouters’ tap their heels on the resonant floor to imitate the beat of the drum their forebears were not allowed to have.”(02) These earlier practices are also the origin of modern forms such as Tap Dancing.

Slapping Juba (the teacher in this video actually recounts a version of the actual incident which result in the first banning of the drums: the murder of a slaver by a slave named Juba, his execution, the subsequent large scale revolt organized with talking drums, and its brutal suppression. From that point on, any slave caught with a drum would have his hands cut off, or hung):

Ring Shout:

The most widely used substitute for drums, partly because of its ready availability, was the human voice. Field Hollers, Call and ResponseWork Songs, Prison Songs, and all kinds of Vocality were developed, with the voice often replicating drum patterns and to create counterpoints, using standard singing, chanting, as well as extended techniques such as guttural effects, interpolated vocality, falsetto, melisma, etc.  Sounds of the work itself such as chopping wood or marching, as well as foot stomping or hand clapping during off hours, provided a basic, skeletal time signature, over which the polyrhythmic vocal sounds could improvise (the roots of Scat Singing).  Sometimes imitating the beats of many drums in one line, these vocal elements filled the incremental temporal spaces between each clap of the hand or fall of the hammer, and played an important role in the preservation of African rhythmic heritage.

Slave Song:

Work Song:

Thus Afro rhythm traditions survived through mutation and adaptation, and formed the drum-less foundation of American music.  The descendants of these earlier styles later became wildly popular beginning in the 19th Century: Ragtime, Minstrelsy, Spirituals, Salon Music, Jubilee, Blues, and Gospel (which has been called “percussion music without drums” by historians).  The appropriation of Black slave music by White mainstream society started at this time, with the phenomenon of Blackface Minstrelsy.  One of the first and most enduring artist/thieves was Stephen Foster, who took African derived rhythms played on the African derived instrument the Banjo, and incorporated them into songs such as “Oh Susana” (which became one of the most popular American songs ever).  This, and the mixing of African slave traditions with European folk music were the origins of Country Music: “One of the reasons country music was created by African Americans, as well as European Americans, is because blacks and whites in rural communities in the south often worked and played together” – DeFord Bailey (03)

And because the drums were taken away, the forms of West African music which either were purely vocal or featured the voice prominently, traditionally played without drums, using simple instruments, such as many kinds of narrative song cycles in the Griot traditions of Mali and Senegal, took root in a big way and gained wide popularity in the deep South.  No specific African musical form can be identified as the single direct ancestor of the blues, but many elements of the Blues, such as the call-and-response format and the use of blue notes, can be traced back to the music of Africa. (04)

Historians have also speculated that the Spanish slavers, who first set up colonies in the Americas in South America, at that time had not long expelled the North African Moors after 800 years of Islamic rule back home, preferred not to import Afro-Muslims.  Thus a higher concentration of people from the Sahel/Mali/Senegal regions, many of whom were Muslim, ended up in North America, bringing with them their more vocal and string based traditions.  While more people from the Congo/Ghana/Nigeria regions arrived in South America and the Caribbean, with their more extensive drumming traditions.

A classic sound collage (Alan Lomax) comparing traditional vocal music from Africa and vocal music from the Delta, alternating, line by line, between American and Senegalese singing:

the direct ancestor of the banjo was the Malian/Senegalese instrument Xalam or Ngoni, widely used by Griots:

There was one exception to this drum-lessness: due to the Catholic laws in Luisiana being different from the protestant ones in Georgia and the Carolinas, drums were not banned in New Orleans, the center of the American slave trade, until much later, the second half of the 19th Century. This and other crucial social conditions were the ingredients of a series of cultural/musical explosions that would change the course of the entire world.

Prior to new waves of repression that would come, this port city directly connected to Cuba and the Caribbean, run by the French and Spanish, included a substantial Creole of colour land-owning middle class, so that “black” was not automatically equated with slavery – an anomaly in the South at the time, to say the least. Before the 1890s when this mixed race group suddenly lost their privilege and equality, they participated in every level of society including politics, making a huge difference in terms of racial tolerance, inclusiveness, cultural exchange with Cuba, and the development of both local music as well as music in Cuba.

An economy based on trade meant less regimented attitudes and more respect for difference: “Untouched by the industrial revolution and less socially stressed than other plantation-oriented economies, New Orleans was able to retain the traditions of the various ethnic groups while they were rapidly being annihilated in the rest of the USA.” – Piero Scaruffi (01) Also, Southern Europeans had somewhat different ideas from the Northern Europeans in their treatment of slaves, due to their countries of origin being closer to Africa, and already heavily influenced by African culture. New Orleans brothels allowed sex across the colour line (not just unheard of but completely INSANE in the 1800s) all the way until 1918, when the US government forced the mayor of New Orleans to segregate.

In this atmosphere of relative tolerance and less repressive laws, for much of the 19th century this opulent melting pot city was host to a vibrant nightlife, exotic rituals, tribal dances, pagan festivals, funeral marches and all kinds of parties which never seemed to stop. Further, there was one place, indeed the only place on the entire continent, the “Congo Square”, in the Tremé neighborhood, where slaves had for a long time been allowed to make music: “In Louisiana during the 18th century, slaves were commonly allowed Sundays off from their work. They were allowed to gather in the “Place de Negres”, informally “Place Congo”, where the slaves would set up a market, sing, dance, and play music.” – Peter Kolchin (05)

nola congo square sign

The dominant rhythmic figure popular in New Orleans and performed on Congo Square during this time, with origins in the many different slave musics of the Caribbean, is the three-stroke pattern known in Cuban music as tresillo (06).  Louis Armstrong must have heard it plenty as a boy, growing up mere blocks from Congo Square.  “Tresillo is the most basic and by far, the most prevalent duple-pulse rhythmic cell in sub-Saharan African music traditions, and the music of the African Diaspora.” – David Peñalosa (07)  In the post-Civil War period, African Americans in New Orleans were able to obtain surplus military bass drums, snare drums, fifes, trumpets and saxophones.  As a result, an original African American drum and fife music arose, featuring tresillo and related syncopated rhythmic figures.
And so it was in the brothels and bars of the red-light district of New Orleans where a potent combination of Blues, Ragtime, Quadrilles, Salon Music, Afro-Latin music, Native American music, European folk music and Marching Bands, played by multi-racial musicians who shared a passion for syncopation and improvisation, with discarded military brass and reed instruments, first came together to form what we know as Jazz.   

“It is probably safe to say that by and large the simpler African rhythmic patterns survived in jazz … because they could be adapted more readily to European rhythmic conceptions. Some survived, others were discarded as the Europeanization progressed. It may also account for the fact that patterns such as [tresillo have] … remained one of the most useful and common syncopated patterns in jazz.” – Gunther Schuller (08)

A few decades later a new hybrid style with even more reduced, simplistic, and obvious drum beats was born in the same city, in fact the exact same neighborhood: the first Rock ‘n’ Roll records were made in the Tremé district.  “Without New Orlean’s rich musical contribution there would have been no Elvis Presley or Beatles. Because both acts were heavily influenced by the songs recorded by Fats Domino and Little Richards at Cosimo Matassa’s Studios (close to Congo Square).” – Fabian Jolivet.

So there you have it: Jazz and Rock’n’Roll, probably the 2 most significant American cultural exports ever, both born in the only place in America where for a few decades slaves were allowed to play drums and dance. 

Though New Orleans Jazz did sometimes use rhythm patterns more subtle and complex than the Duple (but still much less intricate and nuanced than its influences: Afro-Latin and African music), the much wider and older history of drum-lessness had a deeply profound effect on American music in general, and the Duple fundamentally shaped all popular music to come in the 20th Century.  

There were of course other sources and reasons, both historical and modern: Native American music and Irish, Italian, German folk music such as the Oompah or Polka all used simple mono-rhythms; as well as modern environmental factors such as the rigid and repetitive sound of machines, factories, automobiles and trains in the industrialized landscape.

Native American Ritual Music:

Irish Folk Music:

German Volkstümliche Musik:

All of these cultures contributed to the complex hybrid which is American music, but from where i’m standing, as a person from East Asia, an outsider to American music, to European music, and to African music alike, the origins of Jazz, Rock, Hiphop, etc. are clearly located much more in the blues and slave music from both at home and Latin America than traditions represented by the above 3 videos. If one accepts the seminal, foundational influence exerted by transplanted African culture, this legacy of drum-less evolution might just be the most important piece of the puzzle, the main answer to the question of how the Duple came to dominate American modern music.

But unlike African Americans who RE-invented their African musical heritage through memory and forgetfulness in a completely new context, Africans in Latin America and the Caribbean large preserved homeland drumming traditions, which survive nearly intact until today. (09)

Trinidadian Steel Drums:

Drums were also banned in the Caribbean, in places like Trinidad, but much later in the 19th Century.  So the slaves had a stronger connection to African rhythm culture, which was apparent when they started using frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums after the ban (as oil was an important national product), forming the Trinidadian tradition of Steel Pan and Steel Drum music (10).  Similarly, drums were taken away from slaves in Cuba at a later time, and the roots of Rumba lies in Afro-Cubans playing African music with “household items: the side of a cabinet functioned in the role of the present-day tumba or salidor (the primary supportive drum), while an overturned drawer served as the quinto (the lead drum) and a pair of spoons played the cáscara part on whatever was available.” – David Peñalosa (11)  The handmade percussion instrument Claves, which came from hitting wooden pegs together in shipyards to accompany slave work songs, is now a ubiquitous in all Cuban music and its derivatives from Son to Mambo to Salsa to Timba, playing the Clavérhythm pattern of African origin.

Afro-Brazilian Percussion:

Other reasons for the stronger ties with African culture in the Caribbean and South America include the much greater number of slaves (North America: 0.5 million, Caribbean: 5 million, South America: 5 million); as well as slavery lasting much longer:  Brazil until the 1880s, and Cuba until the 1890s.  Also important were certain practices in slavery: in places like Cuba, unlike in North America, slaves were literally worked to death to increase the profit of the sugar trade.  Since they were not bred to be sold (like in North America), fresh supplies had to be imported directly from Africa, a practice that continued in Havana until 1873. Thus Africans continued to arrive in South America constantly and much more frequently during the later period of the slave trade, maintaining their folkloric traditions through secret societies (particularly Yoruba and Kikongo) (12), producing amazing cultural hybrids such as Capoeira and music like in the videos above. 

As we have seen, rhythm in America took on a very much unique and drastically different character, as result of a particular historical process, a specific evolutionary path.  This can be acutely felt today: consider Hip Hop: the simple, skeletal “BOOM – BAP” beat is the modern version of foot-stomping and hand-clapping, performing the same function of time-keeping, and just as 500 years ago, complex vocal delivery (rap) fills in all the fractions of time between, imitating and substituting for drum patterns – a mutated continuation of African musical heritage.

Usually the first reaction from Americans when this story is told is defensiveness.  But while it is indisputable that American rhythm is in general relatively more simplified and rigid compared to most of the rest of the world, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The raw physical force of simplicity, that kick-you-in-the-gut-and-make-you-see-stars brute power of American modern music can not be denied.  Due to its development through the legacy of oppression and misery, American music is without a doubt the best for expression of intense class and racial tension in a modern world filled with injustice.  As we have seen, the rhythm is literally born of the actual sounds of slavery, thus no wonder the best expression of the joys and sorrows of life as slaves (are we not all slaves of global capitalism?)
On another level, perhaps rigid, mechanical rhythms just suits our rigid and mechanical urban lifestyles better than organic polyrhythms; and the information saturated and sound polluted environments in which we live might explain the modern taste for stripped down and minimalistic beats.  Besides, the understatement of subtle, implicit, or suggested polyrhythms in a lot of African American music gives it unique formal qualities and new possibilities not found in African music.  (with that said i personally prefer Fela Kuti to James Brown :P)
But in many ways strong and explicit African polyrhythms is returning to African American music, from the self-conscious attempts to reconnect with Motherland culture made by musicians in the 1960s and 70s to the Chicago Juke/Footwork of today.  It seems unlikely that only 1 type of rhythm can sustain all these different kinds of music for long, and i think we are currently in the process of a global polyrhythmic revival.


Chicago Street Percussion:

Now we come to the grand finale, rainbow-in-the-sky, lighters-in-the-air, closing message of this long and dense story which spans half a millennium: African rhythm heritage not only survives, but THRIVES, in any hostile environment, despite every hardship, against every repressive measure, in defiance of all forces that tries to destroy it.

Thanks to Keith Jones, Wayne Marshall, and Darius James.

(01) Scaruffi, Piero. A History of Popular Music before Rock Music.
(02) Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues. 
(03) Kingsbury Paul. The encyclopedia of country music: the ultimate guide to the music.
(04) Barbara Vierwo. Andy Trudeau. The Curious Listener’s Guide to the Blues.
(05) Kolchin, Peter. American Slavery,
(06) Sublette, Ned. The World that made New Orleans: from Spanish silver to Congo Square.
(07) Peñalosa, David. The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins.
(08) Schuller, Gunther. Early Jazz; Its Roots and Musical Development.

(09) Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues.
(10) Saldenha, Robert. Another Look At The History Of The Steel Band
(11) Peñalosa, David. Rumba Quinto.
(12) Sublette, Ned. A History of Cuba and its Music.


Over the years i’ve heard people say things like “at least slavery gave us good music”, or “without slavery music would be boring”.
To this i respond:
1. Cultures mix via trade and other means all the time, such as the cultures all along the “Silk Road” trade routes: for example Turkish ideas inspired Chinese music and vice versa, without war or violence, and the resulting Uyghur music is anything but boring.  Similarly, Africa could have met Europe in a number of different ways, without subjugation or slavery.
2. Given that much of American music was born in the only place where slaves were allowed to make music, what kinds of creativity would have blossomed from the meeting of African and European musical ideas, if the slaves were allowed to make music all over America?  What If there was no slavery at all and musicians could collaborate and inspire each other on equal footing??  And what if Europeans were never blinded by ignorance and racism, and had combined their developed harmony with sophisticated African rhythm starting from a much earlier time???
3.  Slavery created the need to express anger, sadness and resentment through music, and we have come to prize and “enjoy” these qualities in music.  But we should not get confused and believe these qualities to be inherently, naturally good.  Because without that legacy of abuse we would not enjoy angry and sad music at all, and would have come to appreciate other qualities instead.
4. Yes something good can come out of any catastrophic and violent injustice; but this is because of the strength of people and endurance of culture, not because of the injustice.
5. Any argument that any part of slavery, how ever small, was good in any way, is an attempt to justify racist violence.

Cut Hands: Between Silence and Violence

A follow up to Josh Hall’s piece “Fascism and colonialism in the work of Cut Hands and Blackest Ever Black”  – published here because i doubt any music publication is willing to address these very serious issues.

Even if William Bennett, a UK citizen, was not aware of this method of punishment for unruly African subjects having been administered by his own government in Kenya, about which more and more is surfacing today, he was surely aware of King Leopold’s standard practice on Congolese rubber plantations when he chose the name Cut Hands.  (a wide spread colonial practice also popular in the Americas (for instance in the North American South, Cuba, Brazil, and Haiti), for crimes such as playing drums)

There are fundamental differences between Bennett’s exploration of “human transgression” and “artistic immersion in taboo areas of human expression” (his own words) and other artists who make use of violent imagery.  For example, Hermann Nitsch’s obsession with ritualistic sacrifice is not specifically related to current power imbalances in the real world, the wide spread actual violence born of these imbalances, or entangled in the dynamics and history of racism and colonialism. William Bennett is a European working from a position of privilege afforded by the colonial spoils of his country, who makes exclusive use of the culture of the victims of colonialism, and makes a living from problematic cultural appropriation. Cut Hands almost entirely consists of direct transcriptions of rhythm patterns from the music of people formerly dominated, enslaved, tortured and murdered by Europeans, yet the context and dynamic of a European using these often sacred rhythms has never been addressed. The meaning of a white man directly appropriating the creative labor of people previously enslaved, and currently still economically exploited by white men, is not even touched on, at all, in or around the work. Further, with the name of the project he references the widespread colonial practice in places where a lot of the rhythms he uses comes from (Haiti, for example), of punishing slaves by cutting their hands off. Elsewhere William’s work makes use of explicit images of violence suffered by Africans, while actual violence from the legacy of colonialism and enabled/sustained by current western economic imperialism has been, and still is taking place, on a massive scale, in Africa. The safe non-transparency, the alleged neutrality of “leaving the work open to interpretation”, where the artist refuses to answer any questions, reveal political motives or position, or take any kind of moral stance, in a case like this, is not only not enough, but is extremely problematic. Is silence not consent? When does art collude, by virtue of its silence, with the structures which sustain systematic injustice? Does the combination of depicting violence and refusal to take a position in relation to it, not reenforce structural relationships which perpetuate violence? Relationships which, for example, is indirectly but surely responsible for the violent killing of 8 million people in the Congo during past decade alone. If one doesn’t speak out against violence and injustice perpetrated by one’s own culture, by a violent and unjust global economic system from which one benefits, while reveling in images of that violence and injustice, does it not mean pardoning or even giving tacit approval? When does poetic license become, at best unethical shirking of responsibility, and at worst complicit in crimes against humanity? <span style=”font-size: x-small;”>Cover of an earlier compilation of music put out by William Bennett, with fictional African artists (many have suggested that all the music on it are actually by William himself)</span> Whether he is an actual Neo-Nazi or not is besides the point (allegedly parodic printed racist statements from the past and recent statements notwithstanding).  The point is reproducing colonial attitudes as well as cynically exploiting images of wide spread suffering caused by colonialism and exploitation, in a pornographic sense. And it’s not about whether his interest or love of the music is genuine or not, it is the way he is largely presenting African music as his own, and the meanings which accrue around the context of him doing so. If he is, as the statement on his blog says, an “anti-racist” and “anti-colonialist” and “anti-fascist”, maybe he should directly address and confront these issues in his work, and explain his reasons and meaning of using such imagery. Such music may have the potential to raise awareness of how multi-nationals have kept the Congo in conflict, for instance. He is articulate and intelligent, why not get directly involved politically and stand with the people, against injustice? But instead he is only using the awesome power of African rhythms for self aggrandizement, while projecting his fantasies of violence onto “The Dark Continent“, which amounts to nothing more than cliche art-school libertarianism, garden-variety-Satanism, and “will to power” for sad, emasculated white men. To these people, like Boyd Rice, “Do What Thou Wilt” means doing evil, and “Beyond Good and Evil” means freedom for the privileged to exploit the powerless, with zero accountability.

The Space Between Us

Space Between Us
9 October, 10pm / open end
WAU, Wirtshaus am Ufer, Hallesches Ufer 32, 10963 Berlin
DJ Zhao, Stefanie Alisch, Mma Tseleng, Bongani Madondo, Garnette Cadogan, Kimba Mutanda u.a. // Kwaito / SA-House / Kuduro / Juju / Shangaan


7 – 9 October, daily from 4 to 9 pm / Täglich von 16 bis 21 Uhr in English
Picnicrecords: Stendaler Straße 4, 10559 Berlin/Moabit

Music is a companion in the trans-African movement display.
Stefanie Alisch, Rangoato Hlasane, Bongani Madondo, Kagiso Mnisi, Garnette Cadogan, Charles Mudede, Kimba Mutanda, Tanka Fonta, DJ Zhao, Alfred Mehnert and others will talk about, play music and touch on relations and shifts in the trans-African space.
Broadcasts and podcasts of the convention will be available on air on REBOOT FM

talks by the other guest speakers are here.



Monday 07.10 – Echoes, back and forth
12:00 am Visit of the exhibition THE SPACE BETWEEN US at ifa-Gallery Berlin
04:00 pm Opening & welcome at Picnicrecords
04:30 – 05:30 pm Rangoato Hlasane & Kagiso Mnisi, Sekele – Bitsa Maphodisa: Street-bash as a marker of space for black youth in post-apartheid South Africa
06:00 – 06:30 pm Garnette Cadogan

Tuesday 08.10 – Writing: about / against /down /with
04:30 – 05:00 pm Charles Mudede, About Drumming
05:30 – 06:30 pm Dj Zhao (Ngoma Soundsystem, Berlin) The vitality of African musical
heritage and its deep connection to music today and tomorrow.
07:30 – 08:00 pm Bongani Madondo, Malombo & Ma-Mlambo
Healer’s Brew:Blues, African Healing Systems and the Punk in JAH’zz
– in discussion with Kagiso Mnisi and Alfred Mehnert, Percussion

Wednesday 9 October – Telling
04:30 – 05:00 pm Tanka Fonta, Being, Music, Confluences & the Evolution of Expressions
05:30 – 06:30 pm Stefanie Alisch, “The future’s what it’s all about” – Broken Beat London
07:00 – 07:30 pm Kimba Mutanda, The personal journey of a Hip Hop artist from Malawi,
told from the meeting point between traditional and modern times
10:00 pm – open end Party – with Rangoato Hlasane, Kagiso Mnisi, Garnette Cadogan, Dj Zhao, Stefanie Alisch, Kimba Mutanda


Music Convention in collaboration with / in Kooperation mit
 Holger Zimmermann, Picnicrecords, Stendaler Straße 4, 10559 Berlin, www.picnicrecords.com
 | Diana McCarty, REBOOT FMhttp://reboot.fm | After Year Zero, Geographies of Collaboration since 1945, Haus der Kulturen der Weltwww.hkw.de/de/programm/2013/after_year_zero/

THE SPACE BETWEEN US, ifa-Galerie Berlin, 27.9.-22.12.2013 www.ifa.de  | | Funded by Auswärtiges Amt, Aktion Afrika |  Hauptstadtkulturfonds |  Goethe Institut Johannesburg


Music Is Not Music

“… with people who are into music, for some it is about partying, for some it is about relaxation, for some it’s a spiritual thing, for some it’s an intellectual thing, and for others it’s an emotional outlet, etc. For people like me, music has to be about all of these things, as much of them at the same time as possible. Like in many African traditions: Music is Not Music.  It is play, it is mathematics, it is magic, it is politics, it is get-your-freak-on, it is spirituality, astronomy, sports, theater, intoxication, sensuality… Music embodies all of these, and performs all of these functions, often at the same time.”

“… People sometimes tell me that I’m “open minded”. I guess because i’m a Chinese dj who works with African music. But no. Fuck that. I’m not “open minded”. I only recognize quality where ever i find it, and don’t allow myself to be restricted by bullshit boundaries, by incidental, meaningless, senseless borders.”

Rest of it here – i do try to say different stuff at these things so y’all don’t get bored.

The Real Roots of Kwaito

(bigup This Is Africa for publishing this!)

The few times western publications have written about Kwaito and South African House, styles which have thrived for many decades, the story is almost always told in terms of a unidirectional migration of House Music from the United States to Africa.  This is problematic because 1 central factor is not only understated, but entirely missing, including from the South African voices sometimes interviewed.

This central factor is the wealth of Southern African musical traditions which was the real precedent, the main cultural lineage, the Mother (with Chicago perhaps being the Father, which might be an exaggeration) of Kwaito and SA House.

Mbaqanga, Township Jive, SA Jazz, music styles from Tsonga (Shangaan), Xhosa, Tswana, Zulu, Swazi, Venda, Sotho, Ndebele, etc., tribes, numerous other Southern African 20th Century and traditional styles, and influences from other parts of Africa, these are the true ancestors of contemporary urban electronic music.

In many classic, pre-80s South African jams you can hear the 4 to the floor kick, the consecutive high-hats (sometimes done with clapping), the off-beat snares (as opposed to on the 2), additional percussion, distinct baselines, driving chants — all elements which live on in today’s SA dance music.  Many older recordings sound almost exactly like Kwaito played on acoustic instruments:

modern Kwaito:

2 examples of unmistakeable precursors to SA house, 1 of traditional music, the other of classic Jive:

During the earliest days of new urban music in the townships, as a new wave of Afro-American and Afro-European imports landed in the form of disco and house, SA artists took a lot of inspiration from these refreshing electronic sounds, incorporating the influences and sometimes outright imitating.   Western sounds had the effect of an initial stimulant and inspiration, but its impact did not last, and soon after this initial phase, Kwaito, and a little later SA House, began to mature, and became its own thing, less and less influenced by outside sources, more and more taking ideas from indigenous Southern African musical heritage.  Eventually, as African musical roots fully manifested themselves, these genres took their rightful places in the history, the lineage, the continuum, of South African music.  Important was the shifting of rhythmic emphasis: as early as the 90s, Kwaito started to use more and more the homegrown “Dembow” rhythm pattern with offbeat snares, distinctly different from the mechanical Duple 1-2 beat of Western House.

Today, if one looks at canonical artists of SA House, those most emblematic of the genre, such as Dj Cleo, Dj Clock (most recent releases of these 2 artists excepting), Black Motion, or Dj Vetkuk, the music is clearly, much more than anything else, the descendent of deep African roots, with American or European characteristics largely left behind, almost as if it was never there.  Indeed, a very good case can be made, through analysis of musical form, that South African House is now a related but entirely different breed from Chicago House, with its own rhythm signature, its own palette of sounds, attributes, textures, and stylistic conventions; its own family tree, genealogy, and history.

Yet western journalism to this day nearly always focus entirely on the American Father, to the point of completely neglecting the African Mother.  Franky Knuckles was surely seminal (unlikelihood of the gay brother impregnating anything aside), but this influence needs to be seen in the context of a larger cultural womb rich with musical nutrients which nourished and gave birth to modern SA music, and its limits recognized.   Too much importance, as always, is given to Western exports, as if SA is only doing an African version of an American thing, as if Kwaito is only “Slowed Down US House” – a distorted view so common that it is on the Wikipedia page.  Even more extreme, This article absurdly compares the relationship of SA House to Chicago to that of the Rolling Stones to Muddy Waters, demonstrating plain ignorance and ethnocentricity. Grossly over-simplified, reductionist, and simply false claims such as these are made too frequently, perpetuating structurally West-centric points of view.  Even those with the best of intentions, such as Dj Lynnee Denise, often subconsciously take the hegemonic position, inadvertently denying Africans of cultural and historical agency.   And it is not surprising that South Africans themselves often reproduce these skewed perspectives, being a people recently liberated, and still largely in awe of everything from the wealthy people up north, often under valuing their own, in every way much more significant cultural heritage.

When it comes down to it, African Mother is much older and possessive of much larger bodies of deeper and more varied musical knowledge than American Father; the later being himself, of course, only one of her many children.

Sound culture in the Heart of Light

and here is a repost from the old blog, of classic Congolese Rumba, literally the sweetest sounds i have ever heard.

tracklisting: volume 1 / volume 2.

Big big thanks to Bolingo69 for the original upload.  It is criminal that these heavenly sounds are out of print and commercially unavailable anywhere.  Here are both volumes together on mediafire.

And I’ve been meaning to do an official NGOMA volume of modern dance floor Soukous for some time…  it will happen soon.  But until then, there are lots of awesome tunes in this episode of Radio Ngoma:

South Africa Tour 2012

Additional shows:

Fri. 28/09 —- Disofeng Dobsonville
Sat. 29/09—– Club Ozone (N. West)

Sat. 29/09 — Panyaza (with Zinhle)
Sun. 05/10 -– Panyaza
Sat. 06/10 — Vintage life style (pimville)
Sun. 7/10 -— Mofolo Park Stadium (w/ Nick Holder)
Sun. 7/10 -— Pandora Chesa Nyama (Ekhuruleni)
Sun. 7/10 -— Liquid Chef (Rosebank)



(for a version of this article without so many photos, go to This Is Africa.)downtown Johannesburg

At once after touch-down i noticed the modern, international air of Johannesburg, which looked wealthy and stable; and of the friendly, smartly dressed and hip Africans around me, who seemed as informed as anyone in the East Village or London.  But soon a more complex picture emerges.

Soweto (South Western Township – photo curtesy of Sacha Evans)

One’s experience of any city can be of course very different depending on where and with whom you spend time.  For the grumpy travel writer Paul Theroux, arriving by bus from Botswana, Joburg was scary; for a media person i met in Berlin prior to the trip it was boring, having experienced only the affluent suburbs; for me, it was charming, exhilarating, sad, endearing, informative, familiar, strange, challenging, inspiring, frustrating, and awesome.(part of the) Paint of Coloured Streets team – bigup bigup bigup bigup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!dude on the right is kwaito star Professor’s brother.shot of city center (close to business district) from inside a taxi, parked outside of a shop which was blasting Dj Cleo. outside of Chaf Pozi (below), a club/restaurant located underneath and between the 2 painted towers, from which you can also bungee jump.This was a water-testing show…  went pretty well, and as an educational experience it was very valuable as afterwards i had a much better feeling for SA crowds.A Chinese person in Soweto must be an extremely rare occurance; and i have been assured that i was the very first to ever enter a local club, not to mention on stage, behind dj decks.  Yet the most extreme reaction from strangers to this very odd anomaly were curious glances, welcoming smiles and delightful disbelief before my sets started, and high fives, cries of joy and hugs when my different but surely recognizable sounds begin.  Nearly everyone i met were friendly, inclusive, warm, and open minded; the only garden variety asshole who did not shake my hand when offered, rude and almost hostile, was this dj who spun, perhaps not so incidentally, top-40 American Rap.   my main dude Mpho.  Bongani with a wicked MC Hammer haircut!A soul singer which i regrettably did not end up jamming with…  next time!  Soweto TV interview, which aired weekend of 29 September.  Also did a short interview with CCTV (funny enough they just happened to be at Chaf Pozi because it was National Heritage Day), as well as Channel-O “Basement” show: 1 hour live video mixing, first time manual beat matching in 6 years, classic Kwaito and Mzansi House 1 take at 10am after 3 hours sleep the night before… will be on rotation all over Africa in the coming weeks.  this was a rather cheesy club located within a casino, the only mixed crowd i played to during the entire tour.mixed crowd, unified response!Among the live acts was Family Business – sweet and groovy original dance pop, SA’s answer to D’banj and P-Square?  5 hours at the Museum of Apartheid rendered razor sharp the reality of life under the system named by this Afrikaans/Dutch word, a word which was only an abstraction for me before.  The systematic oppression and violence against South Africans in every sphere of life continued in broad day light until 1994: slave labor, abject work conditions and low wages; suppression of education and erasure of African culture; lack of health care; forced segregation; forced relocation of entire communities; normalized hunger, disease, depression; routine degradation, humiliation and violence – a system in which “people were arrested, abused, beaten and banished for trifles”.   People who fought for equality and justice (including a few coloureds and whites), who were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered by the police, were nothing but Terrorists in the eyes of most world governments, until as recent as 2008 (when Nelson Mandela was finally taken off of the US Terrorism Watch List).  Many nations continued to not only tolerate, but collaborate with the “followers of Goebbels” (Nadine Gordimer) which was the Apartheid regime, until the very end.

All such official edifices to crimes of the state against humanity, be it a museum like this or streets named after civil rights leaders, tell 2 big lies at the same time as acknowledge and commemorate. The establishment makes the struggle seem 1. a part of the past, instead of very much ongoing, and 2. a part of itself, instead of its actual enemy in real life, as it has always been, and currently is.  As i absorbed the collection of photographs, films, recordings, text, and objects in this museum (yes, owned by a white guy) which document but a tip of the Apartheid iceberg, i kept in mind of the fact that many injustices continue and that the struggle is far from over.

in 2012, 10% of the population in South Africa is white, yet own 90% of the land (info from a director at the Museum), and hold most of the high paying jobs.  With the influx of refugees and impoverished immigrants from other African countries, and add to it corrupt politicians, there is a high level of income inequity.  And where ever there is uneven wealth distribution, there is of course crime. in Soweto, which is obviously still very poor, it is actually very safe because of tightly knit communities and their brand of tough street justice.  In the rich areas it is also relatively safe because of high security.  But in the black suburbs between Soweto and city center and many other areas, where i stayed, it is not good to go out alone at night, as muggings, robberies, and car-jackings are fairly common.

During my 3 week stay close to Soweto, besides the malls in city center (Sandton), a cheesy mixed club within a casino, and tourists in the museum, i saw 6 or 7 white people (who comprise 10% of the population), and 0 East Asians (despite there being hundreds of thousands living in the city).  In Sandton groups of friends were nearly always of the same ethnic background, and i saw no mixed race couples at all (but many flamboyant pretty boys holding hands, which was refreshing).  The separateness of social spheres in Johannesburg along lines of class and race seems, in my estimation, significantly more pronounced than NYC or Paris.The legendary Panyaza is a world famous spot where people eat fresh braai (BBQ) and rock to pumping South African House and Kwaito delivered by a constant rotation of DJs.  An outdoor area enclosed by shops under a huge tent holding 1000 people or more, every Sunday the party starts at noon, gets packed by 2pm, and good vibes flow steadily late into the night.  The best sets i heard were deep, techy and tribal house: funky, driving, and percussive, sometimes with vocals in Zulu and other languages, and that unmistakeable South African oomph: “woza woza wozawozawozawoza”.   The patrons are very picky, and are known to shut DJs down after the first 5 minutes.  The music policy basically boils down to the phrase “no mainstream”, but the word must have slightly different meaning than in Europe and America, as a few played tunes infused with Kenny G type smooth jazz, or cliche R’n’B crooning.  My set around dusk of mostly classic Ngoma mashups and edits in the 125bpm range, which included Yoruba Ritual Singing, Ghanaian Jazz, traditional South African drumming and Ethiopian funk all underpinned by Afro-House beats and bass, won over not only the crowd but the club owners and resident djs – the booker welcomed me back any time, and told me on Facebook 1 week later that people were still asking about it.  Some mistook the Cameroonian, Pigmy derived flutes of Francis Bebey on one of the edits for Chinese music, which was funny but also makes sense: thise flutes do have an unmistakeable East Asian feel.  The sun set as the rhythms got heavier – an unforgettable night.  

In a place where the parents of people my age nearly all love Kwaito and new House Music (quick to enter into a discussion of Dj Clock’s recent releases, for example), the “underground” and what constitutes it is also different from the West.  Without much generational gap or cultural fragmentation, In South Africa the word seems to mostly mean “music which has not yet made it big”, including the freshest sounds in the streets (Sgubu, for instance, is a new breed of house music stemming from the Mujava camp in Pretoria) I was very disappointed to find out, after searches in vain, that distribution channels for such new sounds simply do not exist in Joburg, often the only access is directly from the artists themselves, at their gigs.  In a country so rich with rhythmic and musical ideas it is sad to see so little infrastructure, compared to the rows of neatly stacked white label just-out-this-week dance 12 inches in the specialty shops of rhythmically impoverished Europe. In fact Independent record shops are themselves a rarity in Joburg; there are only, often not well stocked, chain outlets.  proper party at Club Ozone in North-West Township, a few hours from Joburg – madness!  At this i was able to drop the hard and up-tempo crazy bass set (with plenty of NGOMA percussion edits of course), and the place went bananas!  This big outdoor event had a “retro” theme, to which some local fashion labels came out to represent.  Mixing up traditional African tribal decorative motifs, patterns, and jewelry with classic western designs and contemporary global trends, the funky outfits from chic and elegant to eye-brows raising unusual were just as deliciously creative and wonderfully varied, often as refined and polished, as style on the hippest streets of Tokyo.  One girl pulled off a stunning Goth B-girl Lolita Glam outfit the way only an African beauty can, and next to her a handsome dude in a well fitting thin tweed jacket, Keffiyeh and knee high boots, successfully combining professor, outdoorsman, and international hipster protest.  But the sad thing is they told me their brand was “Ancient Reality” (which particularly resonates with me), and that all i have to do is google to find contacts — but later when i tried many searches there was not a single mention of them on any web pages at all.  (apologize for lack of more and better photos of some of these great outfits, but if you look closely at the photos above, you can see 1 or 2 indications of what i’m on about)

Althought there is a LOT of great music in Joburg, people’s general taste reflects the business and industrial nature of the city: more commercial compared to places like Pretoria or Durban. But much more troubling is that, judging from my new friends who are really into music, other djs and everyone i spoke to, people in Joburg all know and accept mainstream American ( c )rap and generic Euro Ibiza fodder, but have very little to no idea about new movements in other parts of Africa such as Angolan House, Kuduro, Hiplife or Naija; and no exposure to underground sounds from the West such as UK Funky, Juke, or Moombahton (there are now parties which play Dubstep and Drum’n’Bass, usually of the predictable variety).  And when it comes to the incredibly varied and bottomless wealth of African traditional music, South Africans generally seem just as ignorant as Europeans or Americans, having never even heard of Soukous (!). And like many Post Colonial theorists have pointed out, the South to South communication lines desperately needs to be opened: South Africans seem entirely disconnected from India or South America: when i mention Cumbia, Tribal Guarachero, Baile Funk or Bhangra, the response is blank stares.

Glossy US exports with high production value is generally valued more than local culture, which is to me, without a doubt, artistically, intellectually, much more sophisticated, beautiful, and rewarding.  When i asked for Shangaan music people in the shops all thought it was HILARIOUS, and start to do little sarcastic rump shaking dances.  Even though it is clear that they all enjoy it, they have to make fun of the music because it is not “cool” at all, being perceived as rural and backwards – no one knows that in 2011 the Shangaan tour rocked Berlin’s Berghain, one of the top 10 most famous and prestigious dance clubs in all of Europe.

Life in South Africa is saturated with Kanye and Beyonce, Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince, McDonalds and KFC.   Agents like these make up the current tide of insidious cultural imperialism, which asserts dominance with pure economic might, while marginalizing, replacing, and destroying local narratives, melodies, and forms.  Between 2 reputable book sellers in Joburg, they had exactly 2 books by black South African writers, while Eurocentric versions of history is taught in schools.  With the now adult generation largely deprived of higher education under Apartheid, and the quality of the current under funded education system being among the lowest in the world, US hegemonic brainwashing is particularly effective.

Between 2 reputable book sellers in Joburg, they had exactly 2 books by black South African writers. i picked up one of them by Zakes Mda, (the other one being rare and expensive), along with Jay Naidoo, Rian Malan, and several by Nadine Gordimer. Luckily was given a biography of Julius Malema, and found some titles from other parts of the continent: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Osita Okoroafor, Ferdinand Oyono, and Nozip Maraire.   What i was told is that books by black authors, especially the conscious, which is to say often outlawed or exiled ones, were never printed in large quantities if not banned altogether, often circulating only in the underground, and many or most remain out of print.

if the world is living in “the long intellectual shadow of the Age of European Empire” (Satya Mohanty), South Africa is reeling in the immediate aftermath of Apartheid.  Yet despite ongoing segregation and injustices as well as foreign cultural infestation, vibrant and strong forms of local cultures survive, mutate, and thrive.

This is all of course, only a tiny slice of life in 1 city in South Africa…  i can not wait to get to know the other parts.   Big love and thanks to Mpho, Bongani, Jackie, Hermina, Gugu, and the Paint of Coloured Streets team!!!

Interview – This Is Africa

“In Europe, rhythm was seen as something “primitive”, “animalistic”, and characteristic of the music of “savages” and the lower classes. These attitudes still persist today: serious music is for silent contemplation, and dance music is largely seen as “entertainment for drunk idiots’. But the opposite is true: European classical music was developed precisely as pure entertainment for the rich, and dance music is descendent of the true musical and cultural heritage of our species.”

from interview by This Is Africa.

Steve Albini on “Piracy”

(from reddit, thanks to The 13th Tribe for heads up)

Fan:  What is your opinion about music Piracy? Does it hurt you economically?

Steve Albini:  I reject the term “piracy.” It’s people listening to music and sharing it with other people, and it’s good for musicians because it widens the audience for music. The record industry doesn’t like trading music because they see it as lost sales, but that’s nonsense. Sales have declined because physical discs are no longer the distribution medium for mass-appeal pop music, and expecting people to treat files as physical objects to be inventoried and bought individually is absurd.
The downtrend in sales has hurt the recording business, obviously, but not us specifically because we never relied on the mainstream record industry for our clientele. Bands are always going to want to record themselves, and there will always be a market among serious music fans for well-made record albums. I’ll point to the success of the Chicago label Numero Group as an example.
There won’t ever be a mass-market record industry again, and that’s fine with me because that industry didn’t operate for the benefit of the musicians or the audience, the only classes of people I care about.
Free distribution of music has created a huge growth in the audience for live music performance, where most bands spend most of their time and energy anyway. Ticket prices have risen to the point that even club-level touring bands can earn a middle-class income if they keep their shit together, and every band now has access to a world-wide audience at no cost of acquisition. That’s fantastic.
Additionally, places poorly-served by the old-school record business (small or isolate towns, third-world and non-english-speaking countries) now have access to everything instead of a small sampling of music controlled by a hidebound local industry. When my band toured Eastern Europe a couple of years ago we had full houses despite having sold literally no records in most of those countries. Thank you internets.

Dance Music’s So Called Progressiveness

Morgan Geist commented on a pretty scary NYT article on the commercial success of Electronic Dance Music.  For now i will leave the numerous serious problems with the article itself aside, and focus on the quote of a quote:

“Let’s remember a quote from a Detroit techno pioneer (possibly Jeff Mills) that I think of often: “At rock concerts, people scream when they hear something they know and have heard before. With techno, people scream when they hear something they’ve never heard before.”

While on the surface it rings true, the much applauded and alleged “progressiveness” and “open mindedness” of electronic dance music culture, now nearly 30 years on, is debatable to say the least. A more accurate description would be:

“techno crowds scream when they hear something they’ve never heard before, but which bangs exactly in the same manner as something which they have heard many, many times before.”

By now, to me at least, a lot of the innovative, genre-defying, unconventional and potentially insurrectionary energy of many forms of Electronic Dance Music such as house and techno has solidified and genrified into a stagnant, closed minded and xenophobic conservatism which still worships exactly the same few sacred recordings: for example, you will find ZERO Acid Techno since the release of Phuture’s Acid Trax* which pushes the genre further, in any significant ways, by even 1 centimeter.  Not that there is anything wrong with screaming at the recognition of a sound**, we are all creatures of habit after all, but if you play some EDM which is objectively, formally speaking at least equally as “banging”, “deep” and danceable as Jeff Mills, but which is truly rhythmically and sonically fresh, truly boundaries pushing in the context of western clubs in 2012, say, some Kuduro or South African Electro, at a techno party a lot of people will head for the door.  (i know from many personal experiences).

The illusion that Electronic Music is somehow “inherently, by its very nature, more progressive” than anything that came before will not benefit anyone, least of all electronic music makers or lovers — in the history of modern western Louis Armstrong was much more revolutionary than Derrick May.  But musicology aside, in the most-boring-argument-ever between “real music” and electronic music, if the EDM heads want their bleeps to be taken seriously, just like “real instruments”, they need to also, at the same time, realize and admit that just because it is done with synths and drum machines don’t make it necessarily any more wild and crazy and new and “futuristic”** than anything else.

* Actaully, now that i think about it, i do miss playing acid techno a hell of a lot.  Maybe will get back into it, nostalgically, a little bit :)

** This quote of a quote also embodies the kind of out-dated modernism typical in the serotonin depleted rhetoric of Electronic Dance Music — the self proclaimed but in fact disingenuous obsession with newness actually sets up a reactionary and conservative dichotomy between “new” and “old”, in which the essential truth of the nature of creative progress, that the ideas which drive the discovery and development of the new always arise from the old, is sidelined and dismissed.  Techno routinely wheels out the ideas of visual artists from 1910 – 1930 as if they were at all original or even relevant in the 21st Century; the geometric minimalist forms and surfaces betray a wholly retrograde consciousness.


It is important to critique interpretations of Authenticity and the restrictive ways it is used, point out its limits and flaws, expand upon its reductionism, and demonstrate how its uses can be harmful for individuals as well as culture at large.  But the concept is still useful, and can be readily defined:

In the sphere of cultural production, Authenticity is a relative, mutable, non-fixed, non-singular, and non-universal concept which connotes:

A. a product having resulted from the actual subjective life experiences of its maker, created with his/her aesthetic and otherwise decisions, as opposed to decisions made from more impersonal and alienated methods such as statistical information, focus groups, etc.

B. a product originating from within a collective historical body, the shared language and customs of a social group, the cohesion of distilled individual subjective experience over time, which we can here call Culture; as opposed to imitations of such products, by superficially appropriating its language, aesthetics, or characteristics, from agents which exist outside of the particular tradition, the particular culture.

a paper on music and racism

musicology article from Black Music Research Journal published by Columbia University, detailing the inherent contradictions and dynamics within 2 post-war British youth cultures centered around Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American music — the Skinhead movement and the Northern Soul experience.

Voices of Hate, Sounds of Hybridity: Black Music and the Complexities of Racism (PDF: 1MB)

probably nothing mind shattering and even if none of it is news to you, still some interesting first person accounts of what went on in London and other places in the 60s and 70s, perhaps giving us insight into the political dimension of music and its consumption in our own time.