Category Archives: caribbean

BOOK CLUBB: NALO HOPKINSON’S MIDNIGHT ROBBER

I’m a fan of judging books by their covers. Check this one out:

Awesome, right?

Our August Mudd Up Book Clubb selection is Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber. The novel kicks off during Carnival on a Caribbean colonized planet, where the AIs speak patois, and expands from there.

Folklore from Hopkinson’s native Caribbean meshes with a mind-expanding take on African diasporic technologies, issues of gender and sexual abuse, themes of exile and utopia and lawlessness, all written in a Creole-laced language whose musicality is a delight. Yuh see mi a say? Like Octavia Bulter, another Clubb favorite, Hopkinson renders a complex black woman protagonist at the heart of a tale that manages to be badass, weird-with-possibility, and filled with empathy even at its most harrowing.

Plus, let’s face it, we listen to a lot of music from the Caribbean but rarely do we read novels that spring from, engage, and extend that tradition. So–

Midnight Robber. We’ll meet in Manhattan on Sunday August 12th to chat about the book then go eat some doubles. (you join the Mudd Up Book Clubb by recommending a book).

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[Nalo Hopkinson, December 2011]

“She had was to learn, she had was to come to consciousness. Them days there, the programmers and them had write she protocols in Eleggua, seen — the code them invite to write programmes to create artificial intelligence?”

“Yes, me know.” Old-time story. Antonio sipped at the rum he’d brought to share with the Obi-Be’s son… – Midnight Robber

My Sufi Plug Ins project was underway when I read this book last year, but there was serious inspiration to be found, both in her approach to technology and in the role that language(as-interface) plays in the book’s writing itself as well as in the technologies depicted within it. Here are two interview excerpts where Nalo Hopkinson discusses these issues in Midnight Robber:

“So many of our stories about technology and our paradigms for it refer to Greek and Roman myth and language: we name rocket ships ‘Apollo’ and communication devices ‘telephone,’ a human-machine interface a ‘cyborg.’ It shapes not only the names for the technology we create, but the type of technology we create. I wondered what technologies a largely African diasporic culture might build, what stories its people might tell itself about technology. So a communication device that sees and hears becomes a ‘four-eye;’ literally, a seer. The artificial intelligence that safeguards all the people in a planetary system becomes Granny Nanny, named after the revolutionary and magic worker who won independent rule in Jamaica for the Maroons who had run away from slavery. Rather than being a ‘Big Brother’ paradigm it is an affectionate reference to her sense of love, care, and duty. The operating system that runs a dwelling is an ‘eshu,’ named after the West African deity who can be in all places at once, who is the ghost in the machine.”

“I grew up in a Caribbean literary community. It is perfectly acceptable there to write narrative and dialogue in the vernacular. It’s not that difficult to understand. I was interested in the way that Creoles can be accorded the full status of languages. The Creoles in this novel are the formal, written form of the language of the people in it. And the language shapes thought. If I had written Midnight Robber completely in English Standard, it would have had a very different feel and rhythm. I could say ‘Carnival revelry,’ but it wouldn’t convey movement, sound, joy the same way that ‘ring-bang ruction’ does.”

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Here’s the Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list – it’s been going for over a year now — in reverse chronological order:

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Michael Taussig, My Cocaine Museum

Tatyana Tolystaya, The Slynx

Augusto Moterroso, Mister Taylor

Vladimir Sorokin, Ice Trilogy

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City

Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Juan Goytisolo, Exiled from Everywhere

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun

Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis

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& dont’ forget the Nalo Kindle-formatted screensaver!

HEATWAVE FM

theheatwave-masterg

Tonight’s radio show – special guest Gervase from London’s Heatwave crew! He’s coming straight from the airport to share “some uk and caribbean sounds – bashment, funky, grime, soca. new tunes. tropical via east london! and we can talk about funky, grime, bassline and so on. that crookers/cudi tune has been no 2 in the charts here for the past few weeks…”

Gabriel Heatwave came on the show back in August 07 (streamable as realaudio) and we’re excited to bring another crew member through. For an appetizing earful, head to their blog.

upcoming guests: Telepathe, Feb. 25.

RADIO U & CARIBBEAN MACHINERY

I’m on the lookout for someone to help out with my WFMU radio show, realtime, about 2 wednesday evenings a month.

Duties involve: helping me move the table from one side of the room to the other, listening to amazing music, taking the PATH train to New Jersey with amazing guests, actively contributing to keeping free local terrestrial radio as vivid as possible, shaking things up, and making sure the needles don’t go into the red too much.

I don’t get paid for it and neither will you, but radio is real magic, invisible waves threading unknown listeners into community & all.

interested parties pls email: rupture45 at wfmu.org

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Tune in to Rob Da Bank’s BBC radio 1 show this weekend to catch a blazing hour of cumbia & new york tropical mixed by yrs truly. details. (I don’t mix on my radio show, I do mix on other people’s.)

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Colombia. I love the cumbia, but i also love it when the guitars go liquid in that African way and we touch the Caribbean. Like in this POWERFUL SONG, liquid and tough, a street vendor declaring his street vendor-ness as the beat says why are you still sitting down? you should be moving! until everyone listens:

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Makina del Karibe – El Vendeor

from the Rough Guide to Colombian Street Party. It’s a nice one!colombian

STELFOX AND AN OUD FROM SANAA

A taqsim clears the space. It sweeps to the edges of what’s possible in what’s to come. He coughs – clears his throat. Then begins.

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Hassan Aoni al-Ajami – Vocals and Sanaa ‘ud

the Mudd Up! Ramadan special radio show will be moved to next week, this song is an appetizer. Lyrics below.

…because today we have a very special guest on the show: British music journalist Dave Stelfox! Widely regarded as one of the leading writers on reggae, Stelfox covers reggae and regional US hiphop for a number of publications, including The Guardian and Wire. Here’s his farewell ‘This Month in Reggae’ column for P-fork, and a Guardian piece on the end of vinyl production in Jamaica (!)

Today Stelfox will share a special selection of British ‘deejay’ music, “lots of fastchat and maybe a little grime”. Expect: wow-thing tunes, deep crates, and the writerly insight to match.

lyrics translation :

13

13

AFRICOLOMBIA

 

Cartulas

another big shoutout to our peripatetic South American point-man, Sonido Martines — his latest heads-up comes in the form of a deadly recommendation:

http://africolombia.blogspot.com/

…is EXACTLY the blog I wanted to exist right now, but didnt know existed, until now. The subtitle — Africa – Colombia – Cultura – Música — just about covers it, a treasure trove of mp3s & album cover scans and INFORMATION. Syllart rubbing elbows with Cartegena cumbias & other forms of tropical? si señor. ¡Adelante!

seguimos

PLATA PASTA Y BACHATA

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. . . .

OK, back 2 our regular deprogramming.

Bachata Roja: Acoustic Bachatas from the Cabaret Era is a solid comp of the Dominican guitar music that you now hear in its slicked-up contemporary form all over NYC’s Latino barrios. There aren’t any female vocalists on it, and this assortment of love (& lust) songs would unequivocally benefit from a female perspective (ok, maybe it’s not so solid) but if you’re feeling this tune, then the album is worth looking for:

Felix Quintana – Ladrona

I for one am digging (for) Latin Caribbean guitar music. Bachata Roja showcases the old school’s dude romantics and spry unplugged elegance.

Contemporary bachata swirls around the streets & pulses up through the floorboards of where I live, and one of the best moments is when the sound coming from a neighboring window or passing car switches from bachata (which i don’t know at all) to reggae classics (which I know and consider ‘my own’). These wonderful Antillean geographies displaced and collapsed — condensed — into Brooklyn, where like and unlike across at least two languages join hands to bump.