Christopher Kirkley

[Chris Kirkley sketch by Isabel in Mauritania]

One of my favorite musical investigators will be joining me live on Mudd Up! a week from today: Chris Kirkley. You may know him from the Music from Saharan Cellphones compilation, or the Ishilan n-Tenere LP on Mississippi Records, or his TOP LEVEL blog, Sahel Sounds. As I was working on Beyond Digital this summer, Chris was (relatively) nearby in Mauritania doing all sort of amazing & related work, and I can’t wait for him to take us through it.

Chris will be coming to the WFMU studios on Monday September 26th, stopping by Mudd Up! from 8-9pm. In a recent email, Chris details what we can expect:

I’ve been looking over the music I have and putting together a rough collection of stuff to bring. The music is representative of some of the local popular styles and genres, often the synth / drum machine / DIY PC aesthetic.

I’d also like to talk about the work of sound archivist/producer and the different ways of collecting, be it old school field recording style or searching for mp3s. One of the fascinating things to me with the whole cellphone project has been how music exists in the sahel — its creation, propagation and experience, via cellphones or cyber cafes — and how this creates these p2p networks that exist similar to but independent of the internet.

In terms of specifics, I’ve got Mauritanian synth wedding recordings, Hausa music, “Balani Show” Bamako parties, and hip hop — pretty diverse stuff, but cohesive in character.


The day after his radio appearance, the rogue scholar will present a selection of music videos from Mauritania at Brooklyn’s rogue cinema, Spectacle. And if you want to help Music from Saharan Cellphones make yet another medium-jump, there’s a Kickstarter project to turn the free MP3 compilation in 12″ vinyl.



I first mentioned the free compilation Music for Saharan Cellphones here. A month ago Chris Sahelsounds offered a second volume. Music collected on discarded cellphone memory cards & transfered via bluetooth is a very Beyond Digital thing…


Chris writes: “Again, all mp3s collected in the town of Kidal, the quintessential desert crossroad. Some of the track titles are lost to the id3 dustbin of history.”

Two excerpts below, gentle auto-tune and dream-soaked guitar. Grab the entire thing here.

[audio:04 Fenomenal- Mix.mp3]

Fenomenal – mix

[audio:05 Polisario.mp3]




So I’ve been thinking a lot about cellphones lately. Portland’s Gulls just did an edit version of one of the tracks from ‘Music From Saharan Cellphones’ which I’ll be playing on the radio show tonight. Along with a Rita Indiana exclusive, new Stuff From Europe, tribal guarachero, superdeep cumbia rebajada, and, as always, more.

More is my favorite type of music, actually. Then comes 128kbps, one of my favorite musical genres. We are releasing a compilation called New York Tropical in a few weeks. Lots of new material by myself + Matt Shadetek, Lido Pimienta, DJ Orion, Kingdom remixing Rita Indiana, and more! You can download the entire album as ringtones (iPhone, etc) right now.

moral of the story: tune in to Mudd Up! 91.1fm nyc, 7-8pm TONITE.


Emsitka – autotune (Gulls edit)

In ‘Music From Saharan Cellphones’ the original tune is labeled ‘Niger – Autotune’. Chris from Sahelsounds has found out a bit more: the band is called Emsitka. They are indeed from Niger but live in Nigeria.


[re-posted from BLDGBLOG. and no, low (phone) fidelity does not deter us… although if you have mic-made field recordings, we accept those too]

BLDGBLOG’s radio collaboration with DJ /rupture continues…

We’re still (always!) looking for extra room fantasies – but now we’re looking for field recordings, as well… field recordings by phone.
So if you’re anywhere that seems sonically interesting over the next few weeks – a waterfall, a migratory bird preserve, a shuddering freight elevator, the Cornish coast, a screeching Red Line train, the International Space Station, a secret meeting between Bush and Ahmadinejad – feel free to give us a ring: +1 (206) 337-1474.
You’ll be connected to a voicemail account where you can simply hold your phone up high – and proud – and record whatever it is that you’re listening to.

Meanwhile, feel free either to leave a brief explanation of what it is we’re hearing, or even call back and explain what sounds you’ve left for us to sort through.

And then the best of the best will be played live on the radio in New York City – and podcast round the world – via DJ /rupture‘s weekly radio show on the incomparable WFMU, 91.1 FM.

The basic idea, if you’re curious, is to open up the artistic possibilities of field recordings to anyone with a telephone – whether that’s a mobile phone, a public phone, or even a phone attached to the wall in your kitchen.

The results should prove that you can acoustically experience a landscape through the telephone. Tele-scapes. As it is, mobile phones in particular present us with an untapped microphonic resource; these roving recorders encounter different environmental soundscapes everyday – the insides of lobbies and elevators, cars stuck in traffic, windy beaches – yet we’re so busy using them for conversation that we overlook (overhear?) their true sonic possibilities.

The telephonic future of environmental sound art is thus all but limitless – and putting some of that on the radio is just fun.

In any case, we’ll be posting many more calls for sounds soon..


Tune in today, no excuses, play it loud, make new neighbors: Dissident Bar-B-Que Special .


– – –

a year or two ago i wrote:

RZA wipes angel dust off the sampler and stares into his computer monitor. Star simulation screensaver. He thinks about sticky rope. What was that that Mingus was playing with? Maybe it was a bundle of cotton that looked like rope. Whatever it was he could rip it so easily. He was strong… but it was sticky, wasn’t it?

White wife and a shotgun in the studio. Life isn’t funny, it’s true, and great people get evicted. Can you clean computer screens with Windex? Can you drink Windex? Where’s my damn cellphone? How old would Mingus be if people didn’t die? Maybe it was rope-looking type wax & age wouldn’t matter so much. He’s gone and we can’t ever ask him anything.

We can only listen around the corners.

– – –

Mingus, the film that inspired this entry, plays at Brooklyn’s BAM this weekend


say hello if you come to the Free Culture National Conference at Harvard tomorrow. Don’t tell Elizabeth that I still haven’t decided what I’ll talk about…

A few days ago Geoff pointed me to an excellent Mike Davis article: Fear and Money in Dubai.

I wrote on Dubai while there but havent had time to edit it. until next week, here’s some cellphone-photojournalism.

– – –

so imagine, you’ve been in a plane, 5 miles up, for 14 hours. you land in Abu Dhabi and suddenly you’re inside a giant psychedelic mushroom slash inverted hot-air balloon slash airport terminal. it’s disorienting, if not totally weird. there’s a piano bar downstairs. you stagger through customs saying hello and thank-you in bad Arabic. The baggage carousel smells of frankincense.


the entire city of Dubai is seized by an incredible frenzy of becoming. Everything is building, being built. A skyline of scaffolding and cranes outshines the completed structures and obliterates the horizon — that old desert constant. the blue dots below are workers from the Indian subcontinent paid slave wages to do dangerous work under unthinkable conditions. These men are radically unprotected, both legally and physically. Here, they help impart a sense of scale, which is one thing Dubai tends to resist.


City splinters: the only people awake now are either partying or building buildings. The afterparty got busted & the more hip Lebanese joint on the other side of the street/highway was closing so we ended up here. Neon, glass, and shishas with the Emirati ruling class at 5:30am. Tiny birds swooped down, the sun rose up. The crew I was with left at 6 to hop on a plane to Bahrain. Some DJ was playing there…


but the flip side of all the capital, inequalities, and improbabilities that congregate & magnify in Dubai is Ozymandias, a pile of bricks, a construction site in ruins, time as sand pulling what seemed whole into pieces. the antimagnificent. the overturned.



Vast tracts of the world’s second-largest rainforest have been obtained by a small group of European and American industrial logging companies in return for minimal taxes and gifts of salt, sugar and tools, a two-year investigation will disclose today.


bags of salt, machetes


& in some cases rudimentary schools

promises to build rudimentary schools

salt, bags of sugar, tools, wooden boxes with machetes inside, bicycles, promises.


I’m pretty comfortable with my body, so I don’t mind working in the T-Mobile cage. I try to treat nudity naturally. I never exploit it like the brunette Nokia saleswoman in the water cage next to mine. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve seen happen by her cage! Me? I don’t stare. I’m just here to help people communicate. I think that’s why I like blogging about my daily life too: it helps me communicate. And besides, the manager lets me wear polo shirts. Today I’m rocking a cobalt blue Le Tigre with the collar popped. It covers one thing I’m insecure about — my nipples. Someone said they were small once.

Of course, there are some creeps who just come to peer into our cages. They’ll bite their lips and stare at our mud-spattered thighs, oglers. These people probably already own cellphones. Sometimes the customers are naked too though — it makes sense — you come to the swamp electronics store and you’re guaranteed to ruin a pair of shoes.

I used to recommend the T-Mobile SDA phone. I mean, c’mon! It’s got wi-fi, bluetooth, and runs Windows Mobile. Once you get a 2gig memory card, you can use it as an iPod. The phone is normal size, not all big like a Blackberry or Treo. If you sign up for T-Mobile service, the phone is FREE, provided you correctly fill out the $50 cash-back rebate paperwork. Great, right?

Now I’m not so sure. The buttons are tiny. Whenever you’re in a hurry Windows Mobile freezes up. You gotta dig through 5 different sub-menus to access the alarm clock, and then the alarm clock is DAILY, so if you turn it off when you wake up, you’ll still need to access those 5 different sub-menus and deactivate the damn thing or it’ll wake you up the next day too.

Now I stand there, naked, half-covered in mud… Seeing myself the way the customers see me. I don’t know which phone is best. I want to curl up and burrow, let the swamp cover my nakedness with its ooze.

Steve in the Verizon cage does it different. He’s muscular, well-hung, veiny. When his Nina Simone impersonation sounds out through the new Verizon Karaoke Pak with water-resistant portable speakers, even the straight guys stir, little butterflies beating against their heart cages. That Verizon dude sounds just like Anthony and the Johnsons! they say.

And there are perks. Friends visit. Anne had eight dollars. I was prepared to cut her a deal on a cellphone charger but she uses Cingular. Proprietary chargers are so stupid. “You’ll have to visit Michell’s water cage instead,” I said. “Thanks for the chapbook! And good luck with your cell phone charger.” It’s hard to give specific directions in the swamp, but I sent her in the right direction. Anne thanked me and said “Good luck with your tour.” At first I thought she was naked too, then I realized that she was wearing an open-ish nude colored crocheted dress, the kind that disappears when cops come by, cruising for trouble.