ODD OUT THERE

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me: world music marketing is so crazy right now. on the back of a cd i just got sent:
“a group of parapalegic street musicians who live in and around the grounds of the zoo in Kinshasa, Congo
matt: wowwwwwwwwww
me: they make music of astonishing power and beauty.”
matt: man
that’s really crazy
what does that mean?

Leopoldo2dabelgica

[King Leopold II caricature, from Vanity Fair 1869]

me: hardcore sick novelty post-Konono
its apparently true
it means in order to sell african music 2 younger market they need sensationalist backstory
matt: yeah that’s a really weird flavor of exploitation
they live in a zoo!
pity sales
me: w/ Konono (also from kinshasa) it was “they make their own amps and it distorts, f#cked up folk-urban”
backstory sales
spectacle sales
matt: yeah
me: the zoo bit is jawdropping
oh yeah, bikes rigged up to be taxis/mobile transport units. on cover of CD
matt: parapalegic zoo resident music
me: made in yet another failed african state undergoing massive crisis, but not so famous as Zimbabwe..
now on sale by Belgian label,.
Sent at 11:21 PM on Tuesday
me: ‘King Leopold Productions” – just kidding. i should post this convo on the blog.
Sent at 11:22 PM on Tuesday
matt: haha yes
it’s very odd out there
Sent at 11:25 PM on Tuesday

+ + +

“Today at the dawn of 2009, people in the Congo are still dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month and already 2,700,000 people have died since 2004.

– wikipedia sourced from this New York Times article.

FILE UNDER: WHITE NOISE

Peroxide locks stick out from her headwrap. The cute mujahid repeats the phrase with machinic fidelity until her batteries run out. “Islam is the light, Islam is the light,” says Mattel’s latest baby blonde squeeze-toy. Or at the least that what concerned parents across Yanquistan heard the the Little Mommy Cuddle ‘n Coo doll saying before Mattel “eliminated that segment of the sound file from future production.” Story here | aqui. (gracias Sonido!)

We live in a noisy world. Basic listening is difficult. Extracting sense from sound is even harder. The manufacturer Mattel blames the alleged proselytization on a misunderstanding caused by distortion and cheap foreign-manufactured electronics. “Because the original soundtrack is compressed into a file that can be played through an inexpensive toy speaker,” says Mattel, “actual sounds may be imprecise or distorted.” What they are saying is that proper audio fidelity would have prevented a collective misinterpretation of religious fidelity. Mass-manufactured gibberish ( “baby babble with no real sentence structure”) was misinterpreted as having meaning. Amidst intentional nonsense and unavoidable noise, a seemingly non-existent signal was heard, and acted upon. Zeal is the word we’re looking for. Or is it exegesis?

Little Mommie Coo

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“And now I wanna be your dog” sang Iggy Pop, whose rock-styled heresy was repudiated by the New Age gospel group the Stone Roses several years later. The Roses turned Mr.Pop’s statement on end, signing “I wanna be a door” – a compressed poetic declaration of non-sentient desire more in tune with 15th century Gnostics than the hedonistic environment of late 80s Manchester in which the Stone Roses found themselves. “I don’t have to sell my soul, Hizbollah is in me”.

FADE TO AFRICA

 

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Hello kitty kitty kitty … Are you an orphan? Are you Sudanese? Chadian? Are you a sub-Saharan African suffering from mild mental retardation? Are you an African woman suffering from the African male? Would you like an Oxfam biscuit? Organic antiretrovirals? Have you been raped? You might not know it, but you are an orphan, a refugee. Can we fly 103 of you to France to be loved? We can breastfeed you. We can make you a Darfur orphan. Even if you are not. If you are black and under 10 years old, please come talk to us.
Come kitty kitty.

— Binyavanga Wainaina, from “Oxfamming the whole black world

plus

i’ll be dropping a guest DJ set @ The Let Out w/ The Fader crew on East Village Radio tonite (friday), sometime in the 2nd half of the show, which runs 6-8pm. This is a warmup. I’ll be playing all African jams. Warming up for what? the Fader Africa issue release party!! – details & date said quietly, but: Johannesburg’s Blk Jks (an African ‘rock’ band who sound waaay better than all the ‘African-sounding’ rock bands), Eddie Stats , me, and more…

[Blk Jks “Lakeside” video]

BELATED ZINN DAY

in Paris, and the apartment here has Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which is good, since i wanted to blog its memorable opening yesterday (the holiday of Columbus Day in America):

…When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They willingly traded everything they owned. . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. . . . They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. . . . They would make fine servants. . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

 

And so it began. “We could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

THE FORK PITCHES BOTH WAYS

Yesterday Pitchfork mentioned my remix of Architecture in Helsinki (see previous post). The blurb writer, Paul Thompson, goes out of his way to deprofessionalize us. It’s weird. And worth looking at.

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Check it: “The first of many manifestations of ‘Heart It Races’, messed about by DJ /Rupture and yelled over by Mr. Lee*G (who, for his sake, I hope is the same Mr. Lee G who directed Yo’ Mama’s a Freak), is streaming on the band’s MySpace right this instant.”

Let’s unpack this awkward sentence!

I “mess about” on the track, Lee “yells over” it. Thompson’s verb choices position us as a bit barbarian, with no serious relationship to the original tune. The Pitchfork music writer perceives screams instead of what is obviously melodic singing. If that’s what he hears, so be it… We’re interested in what comes next.

Instead of offering any information on Trinidadian vocalist Mr Lee G, Thompson uses his time and hyperlinks to express his hope that Lee is a porn director of the same name. Why associate Lee with someone he clearly is not? Why send traffic to the porn guy’s page? (Note how Thompson excuses his pornographic “hope” with a condescending pat-on-the-head: ‘for Lee’s sake’. His phrasing is semantically unclear and syntactically inelegant. If you give ’em enough rope… )

The telling thing here is that while Thompson employs a shakily racist subtext to denigrate Lee, he chooses the only film from the director’s output of the past 5 years that DOESN’T explicitly mention race in the title. Nor does he link to the first, obvious Google hit for “Lee G”, the IMDB page that lists all these films. That would have made his racialized joke a few shades too overt. So we witness Thompson performing that familiar liberal judo move — underscore largely imaginary racial differences by conspicuously neglecting to mention race directly. (It’s a shame, because the other ‘racy’ titles are awesome, configuring white desirability in terms of blackness: Juicy White Booty, White Girls Got Azz Too, Phat Azz White Girls, etc. These titles subvert racial tropes.)

Folks complain about how Pitchfork journalists often appear uncomfortable covering music beyond their magazine’s white indie norm, and Thompson’s barely disguised hostility is a particularly squirmy example of this.

If you don’t quite follow my argument it might be easier to embody Thompson’s methodology, redirecting his style:

“Paul Thompson, a data-entry typist (who, for his sake, I hope is not the same Paul Thompson of NYC convicted for murder last Saturday), messes about when trumping-up press releases into Pitchfork news items.”

BLACK WEST

so he’s ambling down Seventh Avenue and i’m chastizing myself for envy — envy of this man’s jacket, its coolness stronger than irony… then i notice the cowhide boots, glance up to find a 10-gallon hat — The Federation of Black Cowboys is real.

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how deep is America? how long will Reconstruction take?
I feel differently about guns now that i’ve shot some.

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“Since the 1500s, starting with the Portuguese, African Americans, were highly sought after for their diplomatic and versatile language skills. . . At the end of the Civil War, about 5 million cattle and wild horses were roaming free after being left to their own devices during the war. A huge demand for skilled cowhands developed and the lawlessness of the West did not necessarily dictate a man’s worth solely on the color of his skin. No less than twenty-five percent of all cowhands were Black. In fact, the label “cowboy” is thought to have originally been a derogatory term used to describe Black “cowhands”. As the word “cowboy” has grown immeasurably in popularity, the Black cowboys the term described have been stricken from the record with extreme prejudice.”
Reclaiming The Legacy of the Black West