Monthly Archives: September 2011

MUSIC FROM SAHARAN CELLPHONES: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS KIRKLEY


Fantastic, ear- and mind-opening radio show this Monday, thanks to special guest Chris Kirkley of SahelSounds and the Music for Saharan Cellphones comp (among other projects).

Got some great feedback from this show, like this email: “your interview with Chris Kirkley was inspiring …great job ..its amazing because each time he played something i wanted to ask him a question and you asked the same question right afetrwards…i like his method of finding weddings by taxi ..what an optimist !! I love the idea that music ends up being spread by whatever technology is widely available in this case via the shitty speaker of a cell phone …soundwise not so different from transistor radios 40 years ago …some great music he found …hes a brave man”

you can listen up here :

As always, you can subscribe to the Mudd Up! podcast for downloadable versions, issued about a week after FM broadcast: , Mudd Up! RSS. Also useful: WFMU’s free iPhone app. We also have a version for Android (search for “WFMU” in the marketplace).

NEW NETTLE ALBUM: OUT OCTOBER 25th ON SUB ROSA

As Pitchfork announced on Friday – We’ll be releasing the new Nettle album on October 25, on avant-garde/experimental powerhouse label Sub Rosa! (Sub Rosa has been publishing quality weird for over 20 years, from archival material by James Joyce and Marcel Duchamp to albums by Pauline Oliveros, Luc Ferrari, and Tod Dockstader).

For this album, we imagined a remake of Stephen King/Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining set in a luxury hotel in Dubai, U.A.E. El Resplandor: The Shining In Dubai is our soundtrack for that nonexistent film.

Nettle-El Resplandor SR324

I produced and arranged El Resplandor, working with musicians Abdelhak Rahal, Jennifer Jones, Khalid Bennaji, Andy Moor, Brent Arnold, and Lindsay Cuff. Artwork is by Emirati photographer Lamya Gargash, taken from her incredible Presence series documenting “unwanted houses and structures in the United Arab Emirates that have been abandoned or left for demolition.” Architecture writer and Studio X co-director Geoff ‘BLDGBLOG’ Manaugh gave us some mindbending liner notes.

What else can I say? I put a lot of time into making this album & I hope you enjoy it. October 25 is the U.S. date; it should reach shops in Europe about 2 weeks before that.

This Wednesday I’ll be at the Decibel Festival in Seattle, giving a free, all-ages presentation of my setup for concerts with Nettle (laptop/gear/instrument- and vocal-processing): real talk about strategies to make live electronic music more dynamic and flexible.

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El Resplandor tracklist:

01 El Resplandor
02 Radio Flower
03 There Is a Hole in the Middle of the World Filled With Languages That Don’t Have Names
04 Espina
05 Empty Quarters
06 Nakhil
07 Simoom (Wasp Wind)
08 Red Masque Ticker
09 El Resplandor: In the Marsh
10 Shining One
11 Khalid’s Song

I HEART LUZMILA CARPIO

luzmila-carpio

Seems like each time I tab open a news item, bad news screams out. History boomerangs – keep a steel helmet handy. Profits down, unemployment up, strange fruit ripening, and I’m in the middle of a NYC apartment hunt (HELP!), which is never fun.

Then there’s Luzmila Carpio. Voice like light, voice like a bird. Es musica muy sentida… Where the strength and sadness and positivity twine together. She’s a Bolivian, “Voice of the Andes”, and most of her songs are sung in Quechua. And then she’ll push her voice higher. The occasional Spanish-language song keys you into her main concerns: respect for indigenous knowledge and ways-of-being, ecological harmony, women’s rights.

This spring I played a great outdoor party in Milan sponsored by Domus magazine – a crew of Chileans said hello, and N-ron and I ended up late night careening around the city with them. At some point I was passed Luzmila Carpio’s music. I’ve been in love ever since.

“We will be recognized”

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Luzmila Carpio – Riqsiqakasunchik (seremos reconcidos)

The fan video for this song is very beyond digital:

MUSIC FROM SAHARAN CELLPHONES LIVE ON-AIR

Christopher Kirkley

[Chris Kirkley sketch by Isabel in Mauritania]

One of my favorite musical investigators will be joining me live on Mudd Up! a week from today: Chris Kirkley. You may know him from the Music from Saharan Cellphones compilation, or the Ishilan n-Tenere LP on Mississippi Records, or his TOP LEVEL blog, Sahel Sounds. As I was working on Beyond Digital this summer, Chris was (relatively) nearby in Mauritania doing all sort of amazing & related work, and I can’t wait for him to take us through it.

Chris will be coming to the WFMU studios on Monday September 26th, stopping by Mudd Up! from 8-9pm. In a recent email, Chris details what we can expect:

I’ve been looking over the music I have and putting together a rough collection of stuff to bring. The music is representative of some of the local popular styles and genres, often the synth / drum machine / DIY PC aesthetic.

I’d also like to talk about the work of sound archivist/producer and the different ways of collecting, be it old school field recording style or searching for mp3s. One of the fascinating things to me with the whole cellphone project has been how music exists in the sahel — its creation, propagation and experience, via cellphones or cyber cafes — and how this creates these p2p networks that exist similar to but independent of the internet.

In terms of specifics, I’ve got Mauritanian synth wedding recordings, Hausa music, “Balani Show” Bamako parties, and hip hop — pretty diverse stuff, but cohesive in character.

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The day after his radio appearance, the rogue scholar will present a selection of music videos from Mauritania at Brooklyn’s rogue cinema, Spectacle. And if you want to help Music from Saharan Cellphones make yet another medium-jump, there’s a Kickstarter project to turn the free MP3 compilation in 12″ vinyl.

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REMEMBERING DJ MEHDI: TONTON DU BLED

Fafi en Mexico by GraffMX

[Fafi en Mexico by Fafi]

Young deaths, accidental deaths are always the worst. The graffiti above is by artist Fafi, wife of DJ Mehdi, who passed away on Tuesday when, during a party for a friend, the roof of his Paris home collapsed.

Most people in the States know Mehdi from his electro/disco/house, his association with Ed Banger records, the Daft Punk / Justice upswing. But he began in France’s hiphop scene, and that’s where I first discovered him.

DJ Mehdi

In DJ culture, certain songs exceed themselves, turn epic, turn anthem, crystallize a moment so well that whoever created the song becomes one to watch for – they enter in the conversation (often bypassing people who have been doing similar things — without the greater cultural resonance — for years). Because you can hear it, clearly, when music takes on zeitgeist weight, heavy with meaning.

“Tonton du Bled”, produced by Mehdi for Paris rap crew 113 is one such song.

If, like me, when you first heard it you had no idea what they were saying beyond a few snatches of words — it was DJ Mehdi’s beat that brought everything together, that made the whole articulation danceable and audible to us outside of the Afro- Arab- Francophone rap world. It’s a big tune.

“Tonton du Bled” was released in 1999, one year after Rachid Taha’s cover of Dahmane El Harrachi’s “Ya Rayah” became such a hit. “Ya Rayah” is the classic Algerian song of exile, a poetic and bittersweet cautionary tale about leaving your homeland (you’ll always want to come back), the restlessness of the traveler, the migrant worker (and the touring DJ). 113′s lyrics narrate a French-Algerian taking the car-and-ferry back to the ‘bled’ for a few weeks — with none of the Taha/El Harrachi longing. On the contrary, they are smart and hilarious in their reproach — using French slang peppered with Arabic words to playfully discuss the trip to Algeria, referencing Playstations, darboukas, librarian-sexy raï superstar Zahouania, all while gently riffing on urban/country differences without falling into easy dichotomies, not a drop of nostalgia in sight. If “Ya Rayah” invokes the split identity of someone who can’t shake longing for a distant home, 113 and Mehdi use hiphop swagger to express utter identitarian confidence – at ease in multiple languages, countries, Euro cities or African villages – empowered by the ability to travel (hiphop as portable homeland).

tonton-du-bled

So the rap song offers a detailed reply to the raï one, and this black and brown intergenerational conversation is happening in France. It’s a rare and vibrant moment of a call-and-response conversational topic stretching across musical scenes.

And it put Mehdi on my radar. We never met but I’d always wanted to ask him about the transition from making beats for major players in the French rap scene to getting international traction as an electro DJ. It’s a fascinating move, probably a great way to think about changes in the French music scene over the past decade or so, too.

“Tonton du Bled” stayed in my crate for years. I actually became known for playing this track to Francophone audiences. An afterhours party on a Paris boat ended with the Moroccan manager giving me his copy of the 113 record it came on. The LP that was later destroyed when a drunk driver slammed into the tour van of Kid606 and myself outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, smashing the rear windows and sending my record bag onto the highway. But in that crash we were blessed: apart from a little whiplash and my best 80 records completely destroyed, nobody was hurt. We walked out of a totaled tour van alive. It was a hit-and-run. Who knows what that driver has done since.

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Here’s how I used “Tonton du Bled” in my 2004 mixtape, Bidoun Sessions, sliding in a spacious dancehall riddim underneath:

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DJ Rupture – Bidoun Session excerpt

Less than a week ago Mehdi released a free mix called Tunisian Summer, saying “Last but not least, this mix is, quite humbly, dedicated to the people of my ancestors country, TUNISIA, for obvious reasons.”

To close, here’s a lovely Tunisian song (with a hiphop beat).

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Aliah Blaid Raked – Alahamra

NETTLE IN TANGIERS

cartel-concierto-01

[The poster uses 3 alphabet character sets: Arabic, Tifinagh, Latin]

This Friday we’re presenting Beyond Digital Morocco at the Cinematheque de Tanger, then moving outdoors for a free concert featuring Nettle (here in Morocco Nettle is a trio: myself, Lindsay Cuff, and Brent Arnold) and Hassan Wargui (Imanaren). All happening in Tangiers’ incredible medina.

Nettle is from NYC, and Hassan’s from Souss Berber country in Morocco’s south — we’re using these days to develop and record new songs together. It’s not that music ‘transcends’ language, it’s that music is language, and our motley crew is enjoying its communicative glow. Lindsay’s learning the words (in the Berber language of Tashelhit) to an Archach song we’ll cover; Hassan’s Amazigh banjo lines help us extend ‘Mole in the Ground’ even further; Abdellah’s joining in on rebab and bendir… and things are just getting started.

Here’s a quick video of our first practice together:

 

RSVP on the Facebook event page if you’d like to let the C.I.A. know you support us. Offline, we’re making event posters at a truly special letterpress studio that’s been open for over half a century.

bonus: late-night afterparty at Morocco Palace (located on a street called ‘the Devil’s Alley’, one block over from Tangiers’ synagogue, which had a congregation of around 200,000 during its heyday) with Adil El Miloudi!!