Category Archives: maplessness

NADIA BEN YOUSSEF | STRANDED IN THE STRAIT

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I was going to post some music from my upcoming CIAfrica mixtape, but it’s late, I’ve got headphones in, and life gravity pulls me towards this contemplative acoustic stuff right now, so that’s what we get. Hawzi/chaabi from one of Algeria’s finest non-rai vocalists, Nadia Ben Youssef (French bio). :

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Nadia Ben Youssef – Ya Baba L’Hnine

Hawzi functions like a bridge between classical Andalusian music and contemporary Algerian chaabi. A bridge. Between Africa and Europe there’s only a few miles of water — in instances like these a boat or residency permit is a bridge and a continent offers a life of movement, possibility. Or its opposite:

Here’s the trailer for friends’ documentary film on Punjabi immigrants suffering years of legal limbo in Ceuta (Spanish town inside Morocco), where they wait in the forest. Stranded in the Strait. Some of these men left their homes over four years ago. The independent filmmakers are looking for funding to complete the doc’s post-production this fall – you can help out here.

Stranded in the Strait- 6m Trailer.

RADIO GOO GOO

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If you’ve visited the Studio Museum in Harlem in the past month or two, chances are you heard my installation wafting down from the front two rooms. It was a soft launch of the piece, Radio GooGoo, which officially opens on July 15th. By the end of its Studio Museum run, Radio GooGoo will have created hundreds of hours of “original” “music”, plus the museum will offer free CDs with an hour of Radio GooGoo. I’ll have more info as well as audio excerpts soon… In the meantime, here’s an official blurb:

StudioSound: DJ /rupture’s Radio GooGoo
DJ/Rupture’s Radio GooGoo is a radical audio installation that challenges widely accepted notions of authorship as well as the deep associations attached to musical genres. Radio GooGoo features computer based algorithms that assemble media sounds from a range of radio stations in real-time. Combining and synthesizing these sounds, Radio GooGoo continually broadcasts in the Museum lobby.

I like that they call it ‘radical’ — I would add, importantly, that Radio GooGoo lies at the fertile intersection between ‘radical’ and ‘lazy’; as an Artist, I consider myself an active participant in a venerable lineage of Negro Laziness. I’d write more, but it takes so much work…

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And my actual radio show was broadcast last night. You can listen back here.

EYEBEAM OPEN STUDIOS

Eyebeam Open Studios, this Friday 3-6pm in the Chelsea space. I will present a cumbia research project I’m working on as one of Eyebeam’s resident artists this season. La Congona New Cumbia will culminate in a mixtape CD + bilingual poster, and be documented on our blog of the same name.

So feel free to drop by and see/say what’s up. A very diverse group of people will be showing their work-in-progress. For example: while I’m doing weird cumbia distribution/circulation mapping & hotwiring bootleg networks, Ted Southern, pictured below, is building honest-to-God astronaut gloves. (the last pair he designed outperformed NASA gloves on NASA’s own tests). Astronaut gloves!

Open Studios continue on Saturday, although I won’t be able to attend.

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RADIO EROS AND RUINS

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Gregory Whitehead – The Pleasure of Ruins (19MB)

This is the title track from Gregory Whitehead’s The Pleasure of Ruins, without a doubt the album that has held the most personal meaning for the longest time, for me. It’s not for everyone – maybe not even for you, but it melted my mind and opened doors of possibility when I first heard it ages ago, and still does.

*A brief aside in the form of required reading for anyone who has ever aestheticized ruins: Bryan Finoki’s brilliant essay The Ruin Machine. This is a deep one, give it your time.*

I’ve written about Whitehead on the old version of Mudd Up! (the one that is slowly turning into Cyrillic-spammer semantic compost-ruins), rather than link there I’ll just reprint what I wrote five years ago:

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QUALITY CREEPY + DEAD-ON SMARTS

In 2004 I got to meet with 2 true giants in my audio/cultural landscape: the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane & the American radio artist/wound technician Gregory Whitehead. Who?

UbuWeb just posted an MP3 anthology of 20 years of Whitehead’s radio plays, performances and outcasts, along with a few of his writings. The MP3s range from his early tapes (where I first heard Ziggurat) to an 11minute excerpt from The Loneliest Road, a 2003 radioplay for the BBC with music composed by The Books (as soon as I heard Thought for Food I sent it to Gregory, he loved it, contacted them, and the rest is…)

I’ve always been impressed with the way Gregory’s work circulates- looking for it directly is never the best option because his material moves simultaneously via several seemingly unrelated channels: cassettes traded in the old experimental mailswap circuit, pseudonym 7″s, screamscape studies for local radio & audience telephones, commissions from the BBC, articles here & there, editor behind some definitive books on sound & radio. He sidesteps the usual categories of musician/critic, academic/street, high art/no-fi art, documentarian/confidence man, thanatos/eros, etc. Even at its most theoretical, his writing remains rooted, relevant.

I heard the tapes first. Whitehead’s soundwork is viscerally compelling- a lot of it is simply words, gasps, and utterances. Additional sounds set a psychological mood or unnerve. Yet it’s playful–overtly funny, flirting with desire. It tells or suggests stories, though the narrative may be linear, cyclical, disarticulate, or straight-up impossible. Quality creepy + dead-on smarts.

from Gregory Whitehead -”Drone Tones and other Radiobodies”

Radio is mostly a set of relationships, an intricate triangulation of listener, ‘player’ and system. It’s also a huge corporate beast, and the awareness that you?re working within a highly capitalized network. Finally, there is the way in which radio is listened to, frequently in an extremely low-fi environment, with people listening on a car radio, or they’re in the kitchen and they’re cooking and they’re listening with only half an ear. To me, radio art comes to grips with all of that, it comes to grips with both the context of production and the context of listening.

& further quotes from Whitehead:

…I try to use [the disembodied radio voice] in a way that’s constantly hinting to the listener that they’re NOT listening to the voice of authority, though I will constantly play with the expectation for authority, because Americans are trained from a very early age that anything we hear on the airwaves has got to be the truth, that’s the voice of authority. Orson Welles seized on this with his famous Martian invasion, which in turn provoked a wave of regulation of the airwaves, as the government need to restore the fiction of authority and authenticity. Then there was the master radio delusionist , Hitler, who had an immediate grasp of the tremendous power of the microphone, and the amplified voice, and who mesmerized an entire generation to obey the projections of his own apocalyptic myth. I’m astonished at what people will believe, just because it comes down the tubes.

I mean if you think of the kind of news that you get on commercial radio: You give us 22 minutes and we’ll give you the world…

So for me, to listen to those formats and those hideous delusional aspirations and those grubby commercial models in a way, and think of ways to get inside them and take them somewhere else, is very intriguing. To begin with the arrogance of absolute certainty — the world in your ears —- and then gradually bleed, minute by minute, into a nebulous zone where all boundaries, bodies, voices, themes and ideas blur into a each other, or into a fog of thought and feeling that is closer to some kind of lived truth. The voice of authority is part of what I call ‘radio Thanatos’, the side of radio that vibrates with death, as weapons or as control over communities. Then there is ‘radio Eros’, a radio of play, and attraction, a radio of productive illusion, a radio that brings ears together into some kind of fresh network. The best radio art hangs in the turbulence between the two. I want my next work to be a kind of navigational system for the turbulence, between the scream and the laugh, perhaps, or between the horrific shudders of a sort of cultural Grand Mal seizure – for what else can we call the Age of Bush? — and the stubborn insistence of some other vibe: eros, affirmation, call it what you will. Life?

TIGHTENING A CORD

from Islands in the Net, Bruce Sterling (1988):

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,

But thanks to the synthesizer,

God has given me back my life.

 

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE 61ST FOOT

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“The land beneath Egypt and Gaza resembles a Swiss cheese,” reports the BBC, “full of holes and tunnels through which the Palestinians smuggle the everyday items they are denied by the blockade.”

Tunnels (and intertubes) perforate ‘national’ borders. Makeshift submarinesnarcosubs – circumvent them. Last I heard it cost Japanese kids $2000 to bribe a particular NYC visa worker for a ‘real’ student visa. Fake passports are much, much heavier. Wormholes fill our undocumented world. Money is always the best grease for movement, although people will never be a slippery as capital. But back to Gaza.

According to The Guardian, Hamas licenses, taxes, and provides electricity for these tunnels, while prohibiting drugs and booze and smokes from entering. Sober city. “Palestinian smugglers in Gaza have built dozens, perhaps hundreds, of underground tunnels through the sand to bring a wide range of goods into the small territory, from food to fuel to cattle, to skirt Israel’s economic blockade.”

Hence the U.S.-backed construction of a steel wall, which will stretch for several miles and go roughly 60 ft. underground, an anti-tunnel barrier which reportedly “cannot be cut or melted – in short it is impenetrable.”

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“There are thought to be hundreds of tunnels along the border”

The dark osmosis of border smuggling is mostly – but not always – profit-oriented. But enough about walls, and tunnels and submarines which can transport drugs or people or anything, really; let’s talk about fishing. And food.

My friend Maggie Schmitt is working on a series of mini-documentaries about daily life in Gaza. Here is a recent piece of hers which was picked up by The Nation:

and here’s an excerpt from her Atlantic piece on eating under seige:

Once upon a time, Gaza was known for its citrus trees and its extraordinary seafood, the smell of jasmine in the evening. No longer: now it is hard to find any image of Gaza that does not reek of death, destruction and deprivation. And yet despite the siege, the bombings, and the political turmoil that surrounds them, the people of Gaza continue to live and to create their small share of beauty and grace wherever they can. One of these places is in the kitchen.

What I want to tell you about is the kitchen, with women’s bright eyes flashing as they roll out the dough, and the herb garden religiously tended, and the delicate meal eaten in the shade of a fig tree. But alas, we are in Gaza, and I can’t talk about the kitchen without talking about everything else.

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“Beachside cafés survive in the shadow of destruction. These residential buildings were leveled by F16s.”- photo by Amir Sadafi

CONFESSIONS OF A DJ

…is the name of a piece of mine recently published in n+1. I mentioned this before – now there’s an excerpt online.

This issue also contains a nice Bolaño poem, yet another anxious-to-crown Bolaño review which leaves you with the impression that the reviweing author hasn’t read anybody else from Latin America except García Márquez and maybe Vargas Llosa (we don’t need more reviews of The One Or Two Big Foreign Authors, we need more translations - of everybody else), and David Harvey discussing the financial crash.

Here’s the beginning. An excerpt of the excerpt. if you’re into it, it’s worth getting the journal, as the piece is long, offline and in full honesty/demystification mode:

I’ve DJed in more than two dozen countries. What I do isn’t remotely popular in any of them.

It’s hard to reach North Cyprus—the Turkish portion of the island that seceded after a war with Greece in 1974—not least because only one country, Turkey, officially recognizes it. Yet there we were, whizzing through arid country past pastel bunker-mansions, the architectural embodiment of militarized paranoia and extreme wealth, en route to an empty four-star hotel. We were going to rest for a day and then play music in the ruins of a crusader castle. It was the year 2000. I was the turntablist for an acid jazz group from New York City. The band didn’t really need a DJ, but it did need someone to signify “hip-hop,” and that was me. There were six of us—our saxophonist leader, Ilhan Irsahim; a singer, Norah Jones, before she was known for anything besides being Ravi Shankar’s daughter; a bassist, a drummer, and a Haitian sampler-player. There were four attendants in the hotel casino, bored behind the gaming tables, and only two other paying guests—British pensioners, holdovers from remembered pre-1974 days when Cyprus was undivided.

I sat beside the pool talking to our host, trying to figure out why we were there. Down the coast, thirty miles away in the haze, a tall cluster of glass-and-steel buildings hugged the shore. “What’s that city?” I asked. It looked like Miami. “Varosha,” she said. Completely evacuated in the 1974 conflict. A ghost town on the dividing line between North and South Cyprus. The only people there were UN patrol units and kids from either side who entered the prohibited zone to live out a J. G. Ballard fantasy of decadent parties in abandoned seaside resorts.

If North Cyprus represented the forgotten side of a fault line of global conflict, how were we getting paid? Who owned those scattered mansions that we saw on the way from the airport? Was our trip bankrolled with narco-dollars, to please the criminals hiding out in an empty landscape, or with Turkish state funding, to win tourists back? I never found out. I bought a laptop with my earnings, quit the band, and moved from New York to Barcelona.

FETISHISM IS SO VAGUE

Plan B just published the full text from interview I did for a short feature about the role of the internet in the work of artists/labels releasing “outernational” music. I’m glad they upped the entire interview.

Here’s an excerpt. [full text]

Plan B: People also talk of the “fetishization” of non-Western music by Western listeners…

“I don’t care what ‘Westerners’ fetishize. They’ve been fetishizing black people for centuries now, who cares? You simply exist in all your complexity and let them deal with it. Fetishism is so vague. I care a lot when Westerners rip off non-Western musicians, even by rendering them anonymous like Sublime Frequencies often does, but random concepts of fetishization don’t really mean much. It’s almost too abstract to matter.

“Musicians like getting paid to play, they like getting credited for their work, and if they’re singing or rapping, they want you listen to their words. It’s simple. I think Western fetishization is an awesome thing if it means, say, more African bands can travel and make a living outside of their home countries. Who’s to say what’s the difference between fetishization and interest? How many kids fetishize Bjork or Radiohead? Is use of the term “fetish” racist in and of itself, would you just be talking about ‘fans’ if it were Western bands?”

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OK. Time for a song about an elephant.

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Ray Barretto – O Elefante (SHH remix)

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S.LEM

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a big shout out to the Mudd Up! commentors who recommended Stanislaw Lem — I finally found time to read him, and the title I’ve begun, A Perfect Vacuum (Amazon|Google Books), is incredible. It’s a collection of reviews of nonexistent books, erudite and extremely funny. (The best bookstore in Barcelona takes its name from one of the books here discussed: Gigamesh.)

As explained in the A Perfect Vacuum’s opening review of A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem (tip of the iceberg, this):

Reviewing nonexistent books is not Lem’s invention; we find such experiments not only in a contemporary writer, Jorge Luis Borges (for example, his “Investigations of the Writings of Herbert Quaine”), but the idea goes further back – even Rabelais was not the first to make use of it. A Perfect Vacuum is unusual in that it purports to be an anthology made up entirely of such critiques. Pedantry or joke, this methodicalness? We suspect the author intends a joke; nor is this impression weakened by the Introduction – long-winded and theoretical – in which we read: “The writing of a novel is a form of the loss of creative liberty. . . . In turn, the reviewing of books is a servitude still less noble. Of the writer one can at least say that he has enslaved himself – by the theme selected. The critic is in a worse position: as the convict is chained to his wheelbarrow, so the reviewer is chained to the work reviewed. The writer loses his freedom in his own book, the critic in another’s.

BUT LISTEN ANYWAY

Princess Music at 6919 5th Ave in Bay Ridge (Bay Ridge: R stop) is the best Arab music shop in Brooklyn. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not good. It simply happens to be the best, because the competition is even worse. Princess has some headless black Sambo/Aunt Jemima style ceramic figurines too, although they’re not for sale – they’re decoration.

Good thing Beur.Fm has internet streaming!

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(Beur = verlan for ‘arabe’ ; verlan = we’ll eat this language from our side out)

Beur Fm is a powerful nationwide FM station in France with a satellite broadcast so family back the in the bled can listen in. They have 5 internet streams: the main station, 100% Maroc, 100% Rai, 100% Kabyle, 100% Orientale, and a new one called Ramadan.

Song and artist (metadata) info on all channels except 100% Maroc… That said, I can tell you that the song right now is by Jil Jilala… with Moulay Abdelaziz Tahiri on guembri. I recognized his stride immediately… so clear. This moment arrives bookmarked by music I can neither recognize nor remember // beauty dovetails drift, also the way smoke works, hope rolled up and burning. to know little. to listen.