People talk about how Eskimos have a few dozen words for snow, how rappers have a few dozen words for cocaine, how Republicans have a few dozen words for fukallyall. It’s an amazing phenomenon. So too is the opposite – single words possessing multiple meanings.

A troubling example of this – if you, like me, think of pigeons as flying rats – is the Spanish noun La Paloma. It means dove or pigeon. That’s what I call a perverse ambiguity.

The white dove, beloved of poets & lovers since time immemorial.

The nasty pigeon, pecking away at nuggets of vomit & discarded fast food in alleys, staining city roofs with its corrosive droppings. Each one a paloma.

vagabond shoes

[Image: vagabond shoes, from brainware3000’s cc flickr pool]

“I’ve got my four palomas” goes the chorus of this tune…

Totó la Momposina – Las Cuatro Palomas (from Carmelina)

there must exist a language with a word to describe how those flutes relate to the rumbling drums, one specific adjective for the beauty & movement conjured by that relationship and another for what happens when her voice enters into it.

gal foto2

“The music I play has its roots in mixed race,” Totó explains. “The flutes are pre-Columbian, the drums of course are from Africa, and the guitar from the conquisadors.”

Totó La Momposina is a towering figure in (indigenous-) (Afro-) (Latin-) Colombian folk, with good reason. “I don’t think of it as ‘folklore’. To me, folklore means something that is dead, in a museum. Traditional music, music from the old days is alive.”


Totó la Momposina – La Sombra Negra (from La Candela Viva)

La somba negra – the black shadow. Listen to the way this song starts as an orderly Latin love song, spare acoustic guitar and voice strolling along… then Afro-Cuban drums creep in, slowly accelerating the rhythm. The guitar shifts from lead instrument to accompaniment. The solo vocalist gets swept up into call & response, not one or two people but many; black Africa eats up the solitude. This becomes a communal tune and its drums are racing.

La Candela Viva


The Bug on dstep, d&b, and the asphyxiation of influence:

Because for me the beauty of dubstep were the producers that I met in the beginning, the fact that they were influenced by a lot of different music; Kode 9, Mala, influenced by jungle, influenced by dub, influenced by classical music, soundtrack music. That’s brilliant, I could hear that on the tracks but now i think that there are new producers that are coming into dubstep and they only listen to dubstep and for me that’s when jungle became drum n bass, that was the problem then. Drum n bass producers were just listening to drum n bass producers so there weren’t as many interesting influences on the music and I think of course with dubstep now, its amazing the progress in the last year but I don’t see why I should say everything’s positive when its obviously not really.

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from a thoughtful twopart interview with Kevin.

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Mosca’s comment on my Durrrty Goodz post:

dubstep is still so studiously documented and recorded in the annals of bass history that it needs decent artwork to accompany it like monarchs’ portraits in history books, but grime exists mainly on mp3/ phone/ whites and is accordingly easy to delete from memory. most grime producers are more concerned with bringing out new beats than accumulating a ‘respectable’ archive to be remembered by.

this is a good point. i drafted a post on something similar when Andy sent me 2 or 3 clips to dubstep documentaries on YouTube. but we shouldn’t overlook Risky Roadz and all the grime DVDs! These are thrilling, self-produced documents both from and of a scene, completely visible but hardly a ‘respectable’ archive.

the subject of a grime DVD is a whole lot of things – lyrical beef, strutting, DIY cameraboy aesthetics, skyhigh testosterone levels, etc., whereas the subject of a dubstep documentary – any documentary – is ‘dubstep’ itself (the integral objecthood of the docu’s subject); not the content of the scene but only its most obvious, exterior shell, the part of it which has hardened into visibility and no longer moves (maybe the dead part). Once people outside your scene recognize your scene as such, (talking in money terms here) they recognize you as a potential market, something they can invest in or advertise to: you exist.

London dubstep documentary

I’m not criticizing (dubstep) documentaries at all, i simply feel that these are interesting ways to think about the way scenes get remembered or forgotten or overlooked, the durability of its artefacts – cultural visibility – and how well (or poorly) these aspects of a scene can flourish as mainstream media narratives.

and then there’s another thing, about the way ‘quality’ (usually a long-term consideration) and ‘newness’ are very different production goals.

Roll Deep in session

Nearly everybody in the docus (big respect to all involved!) talks about dubstep’s diverse and hard-to-pin down nature, but the nature of a documentary is that by the time that we see it, the subject’s been killed a bit. Things move on. And self-conscious diversity rarely stays diverse for long. In the interview above, Kevin says:

I cant really help but take a look back as well to try and assess what’s sort of going on in the scene because when DMZ had its first anniversary, when it moved upstairs, that night was a turning point for me and not just a positive one. Its great for Mala and its great for Digital Mystikz for all the hard work they’ve put in these past three years but for me, at that night, suddenly the audience seemed more like a drum n bass audience, it seemed more white, it seemed more male, the formula seemed to be almost there then so that was the first night I really noticed there was emerging a really strong formula like in drum n bass, like all the tracks were starting to sound a bit like Coki or Skream. And Skream also that night was rewinding every track which i thought, well the crowd weren’t even generating so much interest for him to do that, so it seemed like a lot of hype and an audience that I thought were maybe a little too closed.

Bristol dubstep documentary trailer

…but it’s true: scenes need anthems, they just shouldn’t become formulas. (I’ve enjoyed watching Team Shadetek’s Brooklyn Anthem become itself, a Brooklyn anthem! – even the crowd up in Denmark knew it when i dropped Ghis’s rmx last Friday).

You can think about Risky Roadz as grime’s Pyrrhic victory in translating itself across media. It is much better at being itself on YouTube then dubstep is (massive physical bass weight doesn’t translate across YouTube clips; instead dstep vids give us people explaining what we’re missing). But grime videos’ success at, well, being grimy means a lot of shouting, a lot of confusion & swears, angry artistic city kids, no voice-over or talking-head explanation since there’s no assumption of curious outsiders looking in who should be catered to or created…

Risky Roadz freestyle clips

but who cares about dialectic when we’ve got this?


cumbias & more on today’s radio, more in a bit… until then, a roundup of my scattered digitals:

Sellbesting’s thoughts on ‘crunkstep’ with a download of the Skream-Crime Mob moment from my latest mix, Secret Google Cheat Codes. (i get asked about that Skream track/Crime Mob blend nearly every time i do it.) the tracklist for SGCC should go live next week. it was effort-intensive, at least compared to a regular type tracklist.


…been floating on the bloggs but i always forgot to mention it. here’s another chance– my Architecture in Helsinki remix (forked-up here), downloadable as KEXP’s song of the day.

there will be a Secret Google Cheat Codes pt 2, and it will be a lobster: butta plus exoskeleton. crack it – open – kill… it? – to get the sweets.

American lobster, Homarus americanus


CD FES 036


its been a few months, or more, since someone commented on one of my maghrebi music posts. that’s ok. I. WONT. STOP.

Nass el Ghiwane – Taghounja

from a 4 CD Fassiphone comp you can cop for 20€ in the right town. Allal Yaala (the man on the left above and below) is responsible for the banjo playing, which cuts straight to the heart. they are like this live – surefooted and unhurried – always opening spaces for Omar’s spoken words. when NeG hit their rhythm and all parts conjoin, the momentum, contagious.


La Gazette du Maroc just published a fascinating interview with one of the major north African expat producers in Paris, Brahim Ounasser, centering around his work with Nass el Ghiwane.

Qu’est-ce qui explique cette ruée vers la musique en ces années-là ?
Les immigrés vivaient majoritairement dans la solitude.

What explains this rush towards the music in these years?
The immigrants lived mainly in loneliness.


today’s radio show: special guest Sasha Frere-Jones, pop music critic for The New Yorker. info & google-oracular screenshot here.

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in other news, Dr Auratheft follows up his excellent Doabi Gypsies mix with a new one: The Gypsy Trail Revisited, a nice soundtrack to the whirled music discussion at Wayne’s World.

Auratheft writes: ” I just want to show – in sound – that identity is a problematic and ideological discourse. And it’s dangerous to think there’s something like a Judeo-Christian Foundation of Europe. There are many roots and routes, tracks and trails, narratives and stories, texts and contexts. Let’s make our own atlas, folks. This is what we share. Or expressed in sound and music: listen & learn.”

all this talk of identity makes me think on the following Charles Simic poem, from The World Doesn’t End:



– – –

There’s a gorgeous, gentle album which fits into these discussions — apparently I wasn’t the only one who brought it to Auratheft’s attention after hearing Doabi Gypsies. ‘Imagined’ by ney player Kudsi Erguner, the full title is: Flamenco & Musique Soufi Ottoman: L’Orient de l’Occident: Hommage à Ibn Arabi, Sufi de Andalucia.

أبن عربي

L’Orient de l’Occident – El Alba de la Unión


(my scanner put in those waves, it must be as heat-fatigued as i am)