FETISHISM IS SO VAGUE

Plan B just published the full text from interview I did for a short feature about the role of the internet in the work of artists/labels releasing “outernational” music. I’m glad they upped the entire interview.

Here’s an excerpt. [full text]

Plan B: People also talk of the “fetishization” of non-Western music by Western listeners…

“I don’t care what ‘Westerners’ fetishize. They’ve been fetishizing black people for centuries now, who cares? You simply exist in all your complexity and let them deal with it. Fetishism is so vague. I care a lot when Westerners rip off non-Western musicians, even by rendering them anonymous like Sublime Frequencies often does, but random concepts of fetishization don’t really mean much. It’s almost too abstract to matter.

“Musicians like getting paid to play, they like getting credited for their work, and if they’re singing or rapping, they want you listen to their words. It’s simple. I think Western fetishization is an awesome thing if it means, say, more African bands can travel and make a living outside of their home countries. Who’s to say what’s the difference between fetishization and interest? How many kids fetishize Bjork or Radiohead? Is use of the term “fetish” racist in and of itself, would you just be talking about ‘fans’ if it were Western bands?”

+ + +

OK. Time for a song about an elephant.

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Ray Barretto – O Elefante (SHH remix)

dibujo-de-elefante

11 thoughts on “FETISHISM IS SO VAGUE”

  1. Nice. I agree with what you say about the vagueness of fetishness. Too much of the critique of world music/whirled music/outernational music gets hamstrung by its identification of bad ‘fetishes’. Let’s hear it for fantasy and desire in the role of engaging or encountering something ‘different’. How else are you going to begin to know the ‘other’ whether it is Bjork or Bollywood? Love the Uproot mix, possibly your best so far.

  2. The globe is your playground, pick and choose from its flora and fauna as you see fit. Thats what I like about your work, yes you treat it with more respect, its not just orientalization where a douod has been sampled for just to be an exotic hook (not that its wrong).

    I would just like to state that you are my find of the year. Ive been pilllaging and roaming to get hold of your other works and mixtapes. Its a shame its not as easy to buy of the web as the uproot stuff.Found low income tommorrowland, Gold Teeth Thief, and Minesweeper Suite (xlnt)…through the “darkside” of the web. I know, i know, on the bright side i have bought and paid for Special Gunpowder, Nettle, Patches and Uproot:ingredients through proper channels.

    Thank you for your work, some part of it reminds me of Muslimgauze, yet there is more. Hope you dont forget your darker Drum &Bass side (indulge it). Oh and congratulations with the success of Uproot, (its in so many people/mags top 10 records of 08) Looking forwards to your next musical venture.
    Whole heartedly thank you for making 08 such a great musical journey,
    from a new and enthusiastic fan.
    Wajid

  3. Bien expliqué tout en évitant les “pièges” tendus dans les questions. Toujours un plaisir de lire une opinion juste et réfléchie.

  4. “you make a border real by policing it. Borders are about violence and fixedness and centralised authority (be it the state or the inner-circle of DJs in a musical scene who police its genre-name and monopolise bookings). Music is about pleasure and fluidity and endless waves of influence.”

    nice.

    exactly.

    like wajid said above, thanks for all you do. i feel my music has been enriched by your critical and aesthetic input. hearing gold teeth thief in 2001 (because of the wire) was the beginning of fulfillment of a long-held desire of mine to see music alchemically fused with international styles and vocals… not just by sampling, but being composed in the same breath, with actual musicians or mixed by musicians with a deep understanding of their original forms. I bombard your blogs a lot, but it comes from a desire to contribute some theory and some tunes back into this great work i feel you (and many of us) are doing.

    there is a value in the abstract, the instrumental, it’s seeded by the experiences of the lover. though at times it may seem underground, the whiffs of global love can be caught in the mainstream, creeping up like sprouts of initiatory consciousness… this longing across borders, exotic and may yet save us from our own monotony and allow us to blossom into new stages of hybridization, new beauty, new music.

  5. “They’ve been fetishizing black people for centuries now, who cares? You simply exist in all your complexity and let them deal with it.”

    Great quote! We’ll call it the “Fetishism is so vague” quote. Very insightful thoughts and useful ideas as always.

    I really like that Ray Barretto remix.

  6. n-ron agrees with your statement, as the slippage between fetish and commodity fetishism (the “state of social relations, said to arise in capitalist market based societies, in which social relationships are transformed into apparently objective relationships between commodities or money” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_fetishism) is a dangerous one.

    However. your argument, essentially one for the free market, as that is the system within which we are currently operating, was surprising to me. I know that, in fact, you do care WHERE the money comes from. Is it enough to accept funding from questionable sources, and perform at or in questionable locales?

    I know that perhaps the interview format lacks the space for such specificity, and it is understandable that you would be reluctant to advocate particular positionalities when stating a largely accurate generality, but I must say, I have a hard time when music and musicians are given a political or social carte blanche to perform wherever for whomever. Would dj/rupture play Donald Rumsfeld’s birthday bash for the right price?

    I support the move to disable the abuse of the term fetish, but encourage then the examination of the commidity fetish, particularly when the commodity is music, and therefore performers…

    yours,
    n-ron

  7. TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN. i’d rather rumsfeld’s money in my pocket than his.

  8. i like the interview too but one question. not that i disagree with the idea that you should listen to cumbia in a bar in mexico or something, but isn’t that kind of replacing one essentializing with another? so don’t view cumbia (f.e.) as this “pure other” but you still have to experience it in a specific setting in order to “get it” = to understand its essence. and why a mexican venue? wouldn’t you really need to experience it in colombia? and wouldn’t it need to be live and traditional if we are going for that essence? i totally think it is important for people to experience music not just in hipster moments or whatevs, and to experience it in its own context, but i feel like that is going back to the same thing you are critiquing. in addition, the original context can be quite bad for certain types of people, and isn’t part of the beauty of music as you point out, its fluidity and that it evolves with every new place it goes. i found it amusing when cumbia started to become the new hip world music since latina dj friends of mine had been playing it for years and getting criticized b/c it’s “too country” or whatevs, and now it’s like the hot shit. which is good b/c it is good music, or some of it at least. anyway, i guess i’m wondering do we want to replace one kind of essentialism with another, and how do we do things in responsible human ways that are not about creating new rules and violence?

  9. hey Bent – i dont say or suggest that you should listen to cumbia in a bar in mexico — i mention various modes (class-based) of listening to and appreciating cumbia, and the problem w/ easy eclecticism, then talk about making events that scramble that divisionary logic: ““I see doing events in NYC as an amazing way to push social possibilities, to cut across traditional social borders for a night and suggest new ways of thinking about and making community, and it’s always in the context of a fun party.”

    and re:cumbia being ‘hot shit’ — the country stuff is still country, as a genre its a lot less ‘cooler’ than new cumbia cheerleaders would have one believe… mostly contemporary cumbia is syrupy love songs, strings +cheese in the production! i harbor a weak spot for this but know even a classic like Angeles Azules ‘Liston de tu pelo’ would clear more ‘new cumbia’ dancefloors….

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