GRIMEY GUEMBRI

Trim has a new mixtape – buyable

“look I am a thief I am a thief”

Trimski – Thief in the Night (prod. by Radioclit)

looped gnawa guembri bass presented as grime – nice! although the chorus samples shift to the wrong type of Maghreb music, and gnawas probably wouldn’t like the lyrics. the other Radioclit beat on Trim’s mixtape is hot too, crazy minimal, also with arabesque samples.

elsewhere, south south south of London, young boys who dance together dangle a rapper in, just for moment – a nod to the prevailing mashup logic but just a nod, he gets dipped in and out of the regadda music, cut to a toddler by the sea, cut to a car parked in cloud-covered foothills.

13 thoughts on “GRIMEY GUEMBRI”

  1. wrong meaning that the internal DJ-sample-logic of the song is strange [see Tim´s comment for sample-ID and awesomely smart clarification of all this]

  2. hi jace! fantastic tune.

    given that i have a limited sense of music theory, my points here may be a little off-base, but that doesn’t make my inquietudes re: using the word ‘wrong’ here go away immediately.

    while i agree that it’s probably jarring in terms of the musical traditions smushing together here, i can’t help but focus on how nicely the two samples fit together in a melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and dynamic sense. i wonder at what point it becomes wrong to use these characteristics like those little circular pegs that hold different-colored lego pieces together. a lot of flamenco purists, for example, objected to camaron using a sitar for the closing track on his influential Leyenda del Tiempo album, or an afrocuban rumba on ‘volando voy’ off of the same album. while in these cases, it’s a little less controversial since they function as nods to traditions with which flamenco is likely to have a deep relationship, you also have the case of mala rodriguez using her flamenco-esque intonations and singing over ruff riders-style rap beats as an example of pushing two independently-developed traditions together. do you feel that a shared class dimension the point where that line is best drawn?

    i’m reminded in a lot of ways of one of word the cat’s quotes made in light of his thoughts on the hardcore continuum, about how music is music, everything is everything, and how liberating this concept (so conducive to the innovative element that, in my opinion, puts dj-ing and production at the vanguard of popular music today) is in its absolute reductivism. so i’m kind of slow to accept anything i feel is a boundary to that sort of liberation, though that isn’t to say that i never accept any of’em after a lot of kicking and screaming. . .

  3. ‘the liberating concept of absolute reductivism’ as a driving force behind exciting DJing and production?

    (one man’s liberation is almost always another man’s theft.)

    DJ culture grew up hand-in-hand with rap/hiphop culture, which has long been about THE LOCAL, the ultra-specific, especially in places like today’s grime scene — Trim is constantly reminding us what neighborhood he lives in (E14, not E3) and talking about all these minutiae of his personal universe, and that is a large part of what’s so great about him, this conversational intimate up-close style.

    but yeah, just as Trim and most rappers are all about giving props to their block (actual & musical), i feel compelled to do the same with Moroccan music. Everything does not equal everything, particularly in a deep & vast musical culture like Morocco where there’s so much context & history & so much is so fascinating. I want more specificities, not less.

    Actually meeting or clearing samples w/ the people you sample, to me, is liberating — for all parties.

    On the internet nobody knows I’m a dog (everything=everything), i guess that’s liberating too, but its not what i think of as freedom..

    I put up the YouTube to illustrate the opposite direction of influence & theft: Moroccan kids dropping english-language rap in a weird out-of-context way (although there’s its just spice, not a fundamental element of the tune).

    sampling is a huge grey zone, but i feel that the bigger the chops you take, the more some notions of respect for context should come into play before the everything=everything decontexualization comes about, i’m not saying that it shouldnt come about, anybody who’s heard me mix knows that i travel… but if yr gonna twist things up its good to know how & why, you know? how else you gonna rock the party in Marrakesh? (this jam, as much as i like it, wouldnt work)

  4. Interesting debate, folks! I think the whole idea of context awareness deserves far more attention. If not, arrogance/theft will prevail indeed (which makes so much hiphop/dj culture boring, or even ruthless). If you want popular culture to provide (some) answers to (local/global) questions, please try to take context seriously. I’m not saying Trim shouldn’t have combined “sacred” and “classical” samples, I’m interested in (discussing) the tension here, since there is no “Moroccan” music…

  5. re: ‘the liberating concept of absolute reductivism’ as a driving force behind exciting DJing and production?

    i kind of stand by this statement because when i listen to a lot my favorite beats, i think the most significant factor in the decision to run or not with an idea, the one that trumps any other issues, is ‘does this beat sound tight?’ so when one of screwed up click’s crop of producers decides to toss some chopped up italian opera vox to accompany a slowed-down flow and a crunchy and fake electric guitar, or when a chingo bling beat takes synths and manipulated guitars from a song by the who, i think it’s that terrifically vague, looming, subjective criterium that’s normally going to take precedence and very frequently lead to some really cool sounds sinking into my ears. again, big props to radioclit.

    that said, i’m glad you bring out all these other details, especially the local dialectic, because you’re certainly right (how else you gonna rock the party in X basically hits the nail on the head for me) and your specificity does more to shine light into the depths of a tune like this than anything else. that way, folks like me can see right in front of us when we’re being, for example, western ethnocentrists/reductivists just cuz we’re flipping over how terrific a song sounds, and proceed to dig deeper.

  6. yes, nice convo.

    i think it’s pretty clear that the logic behind the sampling on this track is pretty simple, classic orientalist conflation. it’s interesting, tho, to think about who might hear that as a kind of cultural dissonance and who might not, depending very much on where any particular listener is situated (i.e., their context, vis-a-vis their knowledge & ethics & aesthetics, etc.).

    given london’s sizeable turkish, kurdish, & south asian populations (not sure about maghrebis), i wonder how this kind of track resonates differently in london alone — not just for someone like trim, but for some of trim’s near-eastern neighbors.

    praise to allah that producers/DJs don’t follow any universal set of guidelines for what they sample/spin, but we needn’t hear such sounds as simply flattening out into some sort of “liberating” sameness. rather, as /rupture’s own work/play has consistently pushed, there are creative tensions and frictions and questions we can produce thru such practices.

  7. Hello all –

    Interesting lines of discussion here. Your concerns here, while valid, are actually misplaced. The juxtaposition of Gnawa and “oriental” sounds on this track was not created by the DJ in question, but rather by the band whose track he sampled. The track, “Gazel au fond de la nuit”, is by the French band Gnawa Diffusion from their 1999 album “Bab el-Oued Kingston”. The primary musical touchstones of the now-defunct band were reggae, Moroccan Gnawa music and Algerian chaabi music (which is what you are hearing as “oriental” here).

    Some of the same issues you raised could be raised about Gnawa Diffusion’s combination of these influences, but the actors are different. The band’s leader, Amazigh Kateb, is French of Algerian descent. To the best of my knowledge, he did not begin playing Gnawa music in the ritual tradition, but adopted it as a potent signifier of Maghrebi identity, uprootedness (the historical Gnawa are the descendants of slaves), and perhaps alternative (to orthodox Islam) spirituality. While his use of Gnawa music is certainly an appropriation, does it make a difference that he is of North African Muslim origin?

    The use of the guinbri (the phat Gnawa bass) outside of the ritual context has been common in Morocco since the early 1970’s explosion onto the scene of Nass el Ghiwane (another band that juxtaposed heretofore uncombined sources of traditional music in the service of social commentary and awesome grooves). A musical clash (or at least a creative fusion) was certainly part of the program for Nass el Ghiwane (whose guinbri player grew up in the ritual tradition) as well as for Gnawa Diffusion (whose guinbri player did not).

    While it might be transgressive from a purist Gnawa standpoint to combine music from the ritual repertoire of spirit possession songs with secular lyrics, the use of the guinbri by Gnawa and non-Gnawa outside of the ritual context and in combination with other types of Maghrebi and non-Maghrebi music has been pretty commonplace for a long time.

    The track in question uses a pretty generic guinbri vamp that sort of resembles the the opening vamp of the Ouled Bambara suite – this song is from the “secular” and not the “sacred” part of the Gnawa ceremony, so even if it is a direct Gnawa quote, you at least wouldn’t have to worry about angering the spirits with this one.

    Gnawa opinions on the appropriation and diffusion of Gnawa music are as numerous as Gnawa musicians. (I’m not a Gnawi myself – I’m a Muslim American writing a dissertation on Gnawa music and playing some guinbri in a California North African fusion band). Regarding Trim’s track, it doesn’t seem to have been produced with a Moroccan or North African audience in mind. I’m guessing that some Gnawa would disapprove of some of the lyrical content if they could understand it. On purely musical-cultural terms, I don’t think the use of the sample would be a big issue for them.

    At any rate the sonic issues raised in these posts – whether or not Gnawa and Chaabi sound good together or make a coherent conceptual statement together – are issues for Gnawa Diffusion and not for the DJ who sampled them. The DJ can be credited for thematically combining the MC’s lyrics about “thief in the night” with Amazigh Kateb’s vocal phrase that remains from the original track (“je suis rentre dans la maison comme un voleur”).

    Riffing upon riffing – yes, the original riffs can lose their specificity, especially when aimed at audiences that won’t recognize what’s being riffed upon. A great riff is always sonically pleasant, but it’s so nice when multi-level riffing is also meaningful to those being riffed upon.

    Salaams and good wishes to you all.

  8. major knowledge! thanks for all this. can you send me the tune? would be a nice follow-up post.

  9. awesome post, tim, and creepily timely! i was out buying musics yesterday and actually came upon bab el-oued kingston, and this very track! i was just about to comment, but there’s no way i could’ve dropped the knowledge like you do here. major props!

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