[old photo of Izenzaren's lead singer, Igout Abdelhadi]
This week’s radio show was a slowdown stretchout, July 4th, fading flags. It begins with Izenzaren’s Akal, a lovely brand-new banjo jam which I saw them perform just a few days earlier down in Agadir Morocco. We later ran into the lead singer Igout Abdelhadi very randomly, while waiting to meet the king of Berber Auto-Tune… This whole trip was like that, one weird world after the other, bridged by serendipitous glue.
But radio. Most of this episode of Mudd Up is devoted to Gavin Bryar’s moving piece The Sinking of the Titanic; here I play the 1975 version produced & released by Brian Eno in its 30-minute entirety.
Next week I’ll be back in the studio for realtime radio, and week after that I’m very excited to announce that Total Freedom aka Ashland Mines will be the special guest. Details soon.
Here’s an image the Bayati Maqam synthesizer I’m working on… Sufi Plug Ins are free music software I’ve been developing with some talented friends. Four of the SPIs are synths hard-wired to north african tuning systems, with everything clearly labeled in the Berber script of neo-Tifinagh. Amazigh apps! We decided to make a nice artist print version too –
Lots more information on the SUFI PLUG INS coming very soon.
We are living in a material world. Here are two fruits of Beyond Digital, a gorgeous CD and a cassette, available for purchase here.
The debut CD of Imanaren is a lovely thing. We re-released this digitally on Dutty Artz, but here, exclusive and for the first time, is a very limited edition of the original physical CD, produced in Morocco by Hassan Wargui. (These CDs don’t play well with all drives, so purchase comes with a download link to the Dutty Artz digital version; you can burn up a lossless CD if yours doesn’t play well.)
For an introduction to Imanaren, read (the amazing) Nina Power’s review in The Wire or check out this video — a brief interview with Wargui followed by the album’s first track.
I’ve also got a few copies of the Palm Wine – Dreamachine / Beyond Digital mix cassette. This is great project initiated by artist Simone Bertuzzi. One side features his field recordings from northern Morocco including excerpts from the Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival. (For in-depth observations on the Jajouka/Joujouka phenomenon, try my essay for The National, “Past Masters.”) The tape’s flip side contains a b2b selection Maga Bo & I assembled while traveling on trains across Morocco. Our contribution is unmixed (it’s like an old school cassette you may have made for friends way back when…). Simone has a detailed writeup about the entire project here. My side starts off with the magical Luzmilla Carpio, and this is a 2-minute excerpt from Side A, Simone’s Dreamachine field recordings: Palm Wine “Dreamachine mix” [2 min. excerpt] by Palm Wine
Please note: if you’d live outside of the U.S. and would like to order the Palm Wine cassette, please do it directly from the Palm Wine blog. This order form allows for U.S. purchases of the Imanaren + Palm Wine, and rest-of-world purchases of the Imanaren.
Make sure you use the dropdown form to select which item(s) you want and whether your location is US or rest-of-world. Shukran.
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!!
I’m very excited to present this video. It’s a short Behind The Scenes look at our Beyond Digital: Morocco art project. You can also check out my series of Fader posts, and the BD website itself, but this video is by far the best summary and explanation of what we were up to in June, and in so doing it provides glimpses of what’s to come: an incredible photo series by John Francis Peters; poignant video essays by Maggie Schmitt and Juan Alcon Duran; my free Max4Live audio tools suite, Sufi Plug-Ins; Maghrebi percussion sample pack & music by Maga Bo; and more… We are also doing an event in Tangier on September 9th, info next week.
Auto-tune lovers take note: the video previews a snippet from the best auto-tune interview ever, when we spoke with Moroccan pop star Adil El Miloudi in his home.
Adil El Miloudi: “Autotune gives you a ‘me’ that is better.”
I’m going into the wormhole. At least 120 of you are coming with me.
On Monday night at around 3AM, I received an email from our Barcelona point-man Carlos: I finally found out exactly who the guy is that sings that awesome Amazigh song that you played on Mudd Up! last night and is also on the Beyond Digital trailer thingy. It’s Cheb Adil El Miloudi (he says his name/big ups himself at the beginning of the song). I like his Dad-sweater!
Excited, I went over to the video, as nearly 1.5 million people had done before me:
Beyond Digital yielded its first fruits — my friend IDed an unknown singer on a semi-legit CD I purchased in Paris (containing no tracklist), and our favorite jam turned out to be that of a massively popular Amazigh vocalist – عادل الميلودي – with millions of Youtube pageviews and zero English-language biographical info online. CONTEXT! NAMING NAMES!
Even better: as I listened to his song, I learned that our Kickstarter project had just reached its funding goal! Which is a wonderful affirmation of not only Beyond Digital but the collaborative aspect of it that “crowdsourcing” (but we’re not a crowd, it’s more of an open community; the distinction is key) brings to the forefront. More generally, I feel like we’re all exploring this stuff together…via discussions on blogs and face-to-face recording sessions, via giving musicians props and excavating useful info, by being careful listeners and enthusiastic newcomers (like me) and in countless others ways — supporting this particular project among them.
As of this evening, more than a hundred people have contributed, ranging from $1 donations to some wise kids near Philly who pitched in $1500, a sum that secures them a DJ Rupture party there next month…
And it’s not too late to help out.
We’ve got 6 days left on the Kickstarter, so act fast if you would like to get mailed 3 extra-awesome CDs from Marrakesh ($25) or want Maga Bo and I to make a mixtape whose theme/topic/angle you pick ($750), or desire any of the other rewards — from an original photographic print by John Francis Peters to the have-Rupture-play-yr-party #swag #afrosheen option.
As we mention, the Kickstarter goal covers just a portion of our budget. We’re being super-efficient & frugal with our expenses, gearing up to do the maximum on a shoestring budget. Grant applications and other fundraising options are in process, as is the move to become a proper non-profit organization so we can continue Beyond Digital well beyond our June time in Marrakesh.
What I’m saying is: we can still use your support, we’ll put it to good use, and we would like to offer a huge thanks to everyone who has donated or helped spread the word thus far.
To close, here’s another Abil El Miloudi video. This one is more like the song from our Kickstarter video: Abil El Miloudi’s auto-tune vocals shimmer above bird songs (Amazigh pop loves rural signifiers and so do I) and the lovely, root-like (in appearance) acoustic guitar-type instrument called an ‘utar’ (my extremely limited Arabic/Tamazigh vocabulary gets transliterated into Spanish phonetic spelling, that’s how I learned from Abdel and Khalid in Barcelona, sorry!).
Then one of the Inadin produced a flute. A second found an intricate xylophone of wood and gourds, bound with leather. He tapped it experimentally, tightening a cord, while a third reached inside his robe. He tugged a leather thong — at the end was a pocket synthesizer.
The man with the flute opened his veil; his black face was stained blue with sweat-soaked indigo dye. He blew a quick trill on the flute, and they were off.
The rhythm built up, high resonant tones from the buzzing xylophone, the off-scale dipping warble of the flute, the eerie, strangely primeval bass of the synthesizer . . . “He sings about his synthesizer,” Gresham murmured.
“What does he say?”
I humbly adore the acts of the Most High,
Who has given to the synthesizer what is better than a soul,
So that, when it plays, the men are silent,
And their hands cover their veils to hide their emotions.
The troubles of life were pushing me into the tomb,
I picked up a mesmerizingly good Mohamed Rouicha CD (for 1 euro) in Madrid (Lavapies, c/ Tribulete 9) last month and listened to it nonstop for days. Then it disappeared. A few days later my laptop died (not a light death – very dead). Soonafter that, my MP3 player was stolen.
I’m obliquely reminded of a phrase I read in Richard Skelton’s excellent Landings book yesterday: “All that mattered was without weight or consequence. Nothing lingered or resonated beyond the instance of its own making. Everything listened.”
There is a word for words who have lost their meaning and remain as sound, most commonly preserved in traditional songs. I can’t remember the name of this word.
Here are two Rouicha tracks. I don’t know any of these words – Berber words, Tamazight – but I wish I did, especially in the first one which is essentially a long poem kissed by outar flourishes. The outar is Rouicha’s instrument of choice, a gentle, rustic thing that looks as if it were dug up from the earth.
The Berbers, cracked audio plug-in software, Donna Haraway circa 1991, Jody Rosen contemplating drained negro emotionalism, a high-end recording engineer, Tallahassee Pain, a Muslim producer named Wary: AUTO-TUNE UNITES US ALL.
Auto-Tune is something I’ve been thinking about – and chasing after – for awhile now. It was a great pleasure to be able to condense my thoughts on it, which began a half-dozen years or more, picking up auto-tuned Berber music in Barcelona & Madrid.
Vocal purists hate Auto-Tune. They hear in its robotic modulations some combination of sugar-rush novelty, bulldozed nuance, jejune synthetics, loss of ‘soul’, disdain for innate vocal talent, teen-optimized histrionics, emotional anemia, and/or widespread musical decline. It’s ugly.