Speaking of Brussels — Belgium has had no government for over a year! Everything seems fine in Brussels, arguably Europe’s most spatially dissonant city. It’s a surreal place.
Tomorrow, Wednesday August 31th, I’ll DJ at ‘une petite fête entre amis’ put on by La8. Info. The next day I’ll make an appearance on Radio Panik 105.4 FM, not sure when, watch the Twitter for that. (Radio Panik is one of a handful of open-eared European radio stations that rebroadcast my WFMU radio show.)
John Roberts (not John Storm Roberts) remixing George Fitzgerald kicked off last night’s radio show. I hope that those are stage names and not their real names (the way my friend named Vincent is really named Alex), but either way the music is magic. The hour was lively (how had I not heard the Fuckbuttons Fever Ray remix before? Imagine if every Aaliyah track had a beat-a-pella version? How much more Brooklyn R&B will we get this year?) as was the comments section. You can stream it now:
I’m about 600 pages into Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 –a book that is both horrible and hypnotic, one of the few Bolaño works I’ve been able to finish (Amuleto was the other one). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read a lot of most of his books, some in English and some in Spanish; I simply think he’s overrated and overtranslated when compared to the amazing wealth of other contemporary Latin American writers. 2666’s spot-on epigraph begins things with a quote from Baudelaire: “An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom”. The 1000+ page book is divided into five parts. I’m drowning in part four, “The Part About The Crimes”. It describes, in blunt unaffected language, dozens upon dozens of brutal rapes and murders that occurred in Santa Teresa. The Mexican border city is Bolaño’s fictional stand-in for the very real Ciudad Juárez, where hundreds of women have been killed in unsolved murders stretching back to 1993. As in 2666 , many of these women worked in the American-owned maquiladoras in the nearby desert, making products for export north.
If it were the stand-alone work of an unknown writer, The Part About The Crimes would be an insane, unpublishable anti-novel . But Bolaño’s writing has long embraced themes of systemic violence and the relationship (if any) of literature to any actual world.
Today, taking a break from the dark gravity of Part Four, I came across several related articles.
The New York Times reports that: “Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm that makes iPhones, Dell computers and other electronics, is one of several Asian companies taking root. It opened a plant in Juárez last summer. . .Despite several murders a day, trade between Juárez and Texas rose 47 percent last year to $71.1 billion.”
And The Guardian says: “Not by coincidence, Juarez is also a model for the capitalist economy. Recruits for the drug war come from the vast, sprawling maquiladora – bonded assembly plants where, for rock-bottom wages, workers make the goods that fill America’s supermarket shelves or become America’s automobiles, imported duty-free… ‘It’s a city based on markets and on trash,’ says Julián Cardona, a photographer who has chronicled the implosion.”
That quote brings to mind a scene from 2666‘s Part Three “The Part About Fate”, which chronicles a black New York City journalist who ends up in Santa Teresa covering a boxing game but learns about the killing of women (and ultimately engages in a favored Bolaño trope: having an outsider enter in a potentially lethal situation and extract a person at risk with the power of words or at least without physical force). This excerpt is rich in its typical Bolañoid blankness (“the sandwich was full of all kinds of things”), laced with a humor so dark you almost forget the room has no windows and we’re running out of air:
He could see hills on the horizon. The hills were dark yellow and black. Past the hills, he guessed, was the desert. He felt the urge to leave and drive into the hills, but when he got back to his table the woman had brought him a beer and a very thick kind of sandwich. He took a bite and it was good. The taste was strange, spicy. Out of curiosity, he lifted the piece of bread on top: the sandwich was full of all kinds of things. He took a long drink of beer and stretched in his chair. Through the vine leaves he saw a bee, perched motionless. Two slender rays of sun fell vertically on the dirt floor. When the man came back he asked how to get to the hills. The man laughed. He spoke a few words Fate didn’t understand and then he said not pretty, several times.
“Not pretty,” said the man, and he laughed again.
Then he took Fate by the arm and dragged him into a room that served as a kitchen and that looked very tidy to Fate, each thing in its place, not a spot of grease on the white-tiled wall, and he pointed to the garbage can.
“Hills not pretty?” asked Fate.
The man laughed again.
“Hills are garbage?”
The man couldn’t stop laughing. He had a bird tattoed on his left forearm. Not a bird in flight, like most tattoos of birds, but a bird perched on a branch, a little bird, possibly a swallow.
“Hills a garbage dump?”
The man laughed even more and nodded his head.
And that’s that. The complex — and extremely macho — intensity of Bolaño’s Grand Novel can certainly benefit from queering interventions & inversions more about seeds than graves. First there’s Rihanna’s new single, in which the pop star from Barbados goes reggae as she recounts gunning down Chris Brown “a man”, in broad daylight, with immaculate hair and styling. Personally, I believe guns should be illegal. But I’m willing to make exceptions for Rihanna.
Edging further towards 2666 is Rita Indiana’s punk-mambo apocalyptic embrace of a song, whose title translates to “The Devil’s Takin’ Us Away”, which we produced and released on Dutty Artz awhile back — Rita was in NYC recently and whipped crowds into a frenzy with each performance of “No Ta Llevando El Diablo”. Here’s footage from her Summerstage rendition of it, “a tune so bold and out-of-this-world, that it really seems like a trip to hell.”
last minute but hey – tonight we’re giving a free party at the Instituto Cervantes in Casablanca, Morocco. Info here (francais, arabic, espanol).
The party kicks off this week’s Beyond Digital series at the Instituto Cervantes. All events are free and open to the public, and will be conducted primarily in French.
[photo by John Francis Peters]
Tomorrow, Wednesday June 22, we’ll be having a work-in-progress presentation on our Beyond Digital project.
And on Thursday June 23, Fader photo editor John Francis Peters will give a photo workshop session, walking us through his editing process and approach to documentary photography. His growing body of work here is stunning, check our weekly Fader updates for a taste.
Beyond Digital présente un projet qui vise la relation qu’il y a entre le digital et le traditionnel dans le monde contemporain de la musique chaabi et bereber. Avec la collaboration d’une équipe internationale d’artistes, le projet explore le monde de cette musique à travers l’usage de la vidéo, de la photographie et de la collaboration musicale.
Mardi 21 juin à 21h DJ Sessions avec DJ/Rupture et Maga Bo. Deux DJs de renom international qui proposent une soirée sans frontières. Maga Bo: basse transnational. DJ/Rupture : rythmes inattendus, intelligent + dansant.
Mercredi 22 juin à 19h Introduction: work-in-progress (travaux en cours). L’équipe de Beyond Digital partage un échantillon du travail accompli jusqu’à présent à Casablanca : fragments de vidéo, musique, photographie, encore inachevés. Une invitation à venir débattre et à participer.
Jeudi 23 juin à 19h Atelier: édition de photographie. John Francis Peters, éditeur de photographie de la revue new-yorkaise Fader et photographe de Beyond Digital, nous montre ses photos faites à Casablanca et avec ce matériel – en plus d’autres ouvrages de photographie documentaire – nous propose un atelier participatif sur le travail d’édition.
Radio from last Monday, Memorial Day in the States. Block by block, we make a wall. Take the wall to a hole, push it over, use the wall as a bridge to get to the other side. The other side of what? If you turn it up loud enough, we don’t have to listen.
you can subscribe to the Mudd Up! podcast for downloadable versions, issued 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).
To everyone who supported WFMU by pledging for my DJ Premium a few months back: good news, it will arrive shortly if it hasn’t already! 3.5 hours of choice Maghrebi sounds, After Tropical Comes Arid; your generosity was the only way to get it.
One of my favorite Mexican bands calls themselves Super Grupo Colombia. They’re one of those groups who have moments so good they cease being songs or even hits and pass into the DNA of things, transformed into a reference and departure point for cumbia lovers everywhere.
Today was Cinco de Mayo. I ate my breakfast, I had my NY day, and down in Mexico hundreds celebrated this holiday with the start of a 4-day peace march (#marchanacional) beginning in the city of Cuernavaca and moving towards Mexico City, where it will conclude this Sunday. Envio un abrazo solidario. As Geraldine Juarez writes, the march is “to demand the end to the ‘War on Drugs’ and the removal of all government officials responsible for more than 35,000 deaths and the increase of insecurity and corruption.”
Here’s an important video from poet Javier Sicilia, “who became the leading voice of the discontent towards the government’s method of tackling the drug trafficking problem after his son Juan Francisco was killed.” It’s important to me because I fell in love with Mexico, it captured me like no other country has. Cinco de Mayo fiestas & tequila shots can ease the weight of now, but it’s a weight I want to feel. Before we can begin to care about the impact of American drug consumption and U.S. drug policy on the tens of thousands of Mexicans dead, we have to feel… that Mexican problems are American problems. Not just intimate, but interchangeable. You make a border real by policing it, and there’s a disturbing corollary: living in the United States and ignoring the political situation in Mexico helps feed the violence of that border. Wanting to be ‘global’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ is missing the point — so slippery and abstract as to be useless. We should try to be good neighbors and take it from there.
I might not be thinking these thoughts if it weren’t for cumbia. That’s why I’m putting up this Super Grupo Colombia song. The lyrics aren’t topical – though their flow on the chorus never ceases to amaze – it’s simply a nice song from Mexico, and golden minutes help fuel long hours.
My Beyond Digital crew is currently looking to hire a web designer to help us construct the Beyond Digital: Morocco site. Experience with multi-lingual sites and WP-installs that can switch between languages is a plus. We need someone available immediately.
Interested parties, please send your portfolio/resume and an email of introduction to: activate at beyond-digital.org.
You can stream last night’s radio show for deep, consistently fascinating discussion from Liturgy! Topics include: tremelo strumming, 19th ct. Romanticism, encore vs apocalypse, the value of effort, and my esoteric theories regarding Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s esoteric theories. Liturgy’s musical selection began with 14th ct Frenchman Guillaume de Machaut and ended with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In between you’ll hear weighty black metal, including previews from their upcoming album on Thrill Jockey.
How to follow up such a rich show? With another equally rich show.