EDIT THE BLACKS UNLIMITED

shumba

The better a song is, the harder it is to craft a remix that does it justice. And sometimes the best remixes are the lightest — the laziest — at the level of execution.

On the other side: my inbox is increasingly clogged with promo “EPs” built from two original songs with at least four remixes, most of which are mediocre in the exact same way. It’s like the producers and the remixers only feel comfortable expressing one idea, the same idea, an idea they learned from reading blogs, the same blogs. I love music, but I also love silence, and the delete button too.

But back to the good songs.

As I wrote before, “You can think about a song – a good song – as a miraculous moment when all the dissonances that frame a person’s life drop out of sight long enough to see how it looks without them. So when a band you like hits that groove, sometimes all you can do is listen, because that moment will be leaving.”

Here are two such songs with their recent remix/edits. First off, “Jarabi” from the gorgeous Afrocubism album:

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Afrocubism – Jarabi

…which gets a kickkicksnare treatment from Subsuelo, who rebrand their creation “Cinco Pasos.” Five steps. Two bodies. One song which is endless, and nobody we trust wouldn’t dance to it. How can real joy be optional?

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Subsuelo – Cinco Pasos

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For round two, Caribou (as Daphni) takes on Thomas Mapfumo.

Thing about Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited is that they are even better than their name, even better than their album covers. The style is Chimurgenga, which emerged from Mapfumo reconfiguring traditional Shona music for modern niceties such as the electric guitar, back when he was a Rhodesian chicken farmer.

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Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited – Shumba

How can you remix this — and not be an elephant in the flower garden? You can’t. So Canadian producer Caribou treads lightly. He pitches “Shumba” up a bit. Then he stretches it out to more than twice the original length. The resulting tune is released on a 12″ called ‘Edits‘ (not remixes). Fair enough.

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Daphni (Caribou) – Mapfumo

This game — original and edit, version and stretch — could go on all day. It could go on forever. It does. Frictions of power and access and stewardship notwithstanding, it’s one of the the only games we musicians know how to play with each other.

2 thoughts on “EDIT THE BLACKS UNLIMITED”

  1. nice spread of good sounds.

    funny how the sound of Mapfumo suddenly finds it’s way into the indie scene. but not suprising as well, given it’s intricate quality. western artists are on the look out for much needed inspiration, even in times of crisis. -remember El Guincho’s *Kalise* song? -re: Awesome Tapes.

    I feel we’re very close to stepping into the era where eastern & southern african guitar tunes will get refixed/re-edited/remixed by the bulk. Whether the Chimurgenga of Zimbabwe, the Benga drive of Kenya or the Kalindula sound of Zambia or Semba from Angola; all are prone to be packaged with a western-approved audio signature where the grain of lo-fi gets thumped by the digital process. Exotic extraction to the fullest and tangible hypes built on aged material, that’s the namesake.

    At least the Caribou repitch is respectful enough, plus it even should make unknowing hipsters dance. to good music.

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