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”.

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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

AfricaPicasso_meme

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

Race-760-x-381

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.

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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)

nodrums

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.

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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)

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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

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.

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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:

Report from South Africa

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)

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(also published on 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.

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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.”

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Authenticity

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.