Looking for tasty hip-hop instrumental remixes of retro Vietnamese pop? How about if such aforementioned remixes were part of an attempt by the producer to connect with his cultural heritage? And proceeds from album sales were going to a good cause?
Well, that’s what you get with Chinoiseries, an album by French DJ Onra which came out of a visit to the land of his grandparents, Vietnam. While he was there, a local taxi driver helped him acquire 30 platters of 50’s & 60’s Viet-pop, and an orphanage worker named M. Hoa inspired him to produce something that might raise money for local street kids.
The 32 tracks on this album are all short, loop based affairs that revel in the melodies and crackly textures of their battered vinyl source materials. Here are two sample tracks:
Back in 2000, the West African nation of Senegal witnessed something that it had not seen in the four decades of its independence – a change of government. Up until then, power had been held by the Socialist Party, which had grown increasingly moribund and corrupt as the decades passed. In the 2000 elections, it was finally defeated by the liberal Senegalese Democratic Party under Abdoulaye Wade, who specifically courted the youth vote. Along the way, he was helped immeasurably by the support of artists in the burgeoning Senegalese hip hop scene.
Back in February this year, after seven years of failed promises and concerted crackdowns on opposition (including rappers), Wade faced the voters in another election, so the hip hop label Nomadic Wax sent a camera crew to Dakar to engage in a unique form of election coverage – a series of short documentaries focusing on local hip hop and its potential role in the political scene this time around.
The results of the team’s efforts have been posted on the Calabash Music site in four parts (Here are the links for 1, 2, 3 and 4) and provided they can get the funding, it will eventually be turned into a full length documentary. As it stands, it’s an interesting profile of the pressures facing politically-vocal artists in a democratic but still authoritarian regime, and it includes some great performances, both on the street and in the studio, by local rappers.
In the annals of literary landmark commemoration, there have probably been few moments as bizarre as this bicentennial reworking of Wordsworth's I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud. In an attempt to make the poem relevant to the "You Tube generation", the official tourist body of the Lakes District (whose flora inspired the poem) commissioned a "hip-hop" version of it and then enlisted the mascot of a local steamboat company, a giant red squirrel called Sam, to perform it. Oh, and the squirrel was given a new name especially for the occasion - MC Nuts... I kid you not.
Myanmar is a country that has spent the past forty years under the dictatorial rule of successive military regimes. In that time, these regimes have effectively destroyed civil rights, attempted to ethnically cleanse the country of undesirable minorities, amassed a slave labour force comparable to that which existed in the US prior to emancipation, and tried to brutally silence any form of dissent – including political hip hop. In that arena, one of the current regime's prime targets is Myanmar Future Generation, a posse of up to sixteen Burmese in exile who write hip hop anthems that are highly critical of the Burmese junta. They have been going for a year now and recently released their first full length album on the net. Their choice of this, over of methods of distribution, was based on the hope that it would make their music more accessible to young people back in Myanmar. (They also released karaoke version of their songs, with songsheets in Burmese, to encourage the kids to download and sing along.) Their album can be downloaded from this site.
I must admit that, with the exception of Stan and Lose Yourself, I’ve never been a huge fan of Eminem’s work. But this slow-burn anti-Bush track, released just in time for the US elections, is one of the most potent pieces of agit-prop hip hop that I’ve heard/seen in a while. (I say seen because you really have to see the video that was made for it.) Daily Kos has posted a link to a stream of the video (but it seems to be faltering under the weight of demand)… So, here’s a fansite with streamed videos in a variety of formats and an mp3 of the song.
(STOP PRESS: Apparently, there's a Bit Torrent of the video at this site.)
Here’s an mp3 of the live beatbox harmonica performance that Yuri Lane did for us on Friday. Considering it was done through a mobile phone while he was standing on a sidewalk in Chicago, it turned out pretty damn well (and just confirms what a talented guy he is). Apparently, while he was laying down these rhythms, a couple of African-American kids wandered past with looks of disbelief; wondering what this crazy white guy was up to. I only wish someone had been there with a video camera to capture it.
From the International Herald Tribune, comes this interesting articizzle about Snoop Dogg's now-famous rhyme-enabling suffix, "izzle". (Substitute it for the ending of any word and - hey presto! - instant hip-hop doggerel.) The writer traces its origin back to the use of infixed and suffixed nonsense syllables in early San Fran hip hop... Go back a little further, though, and you will find the godfather of all this lyrical tomfoolery, jazz musician Slim Gaillard. Back in the 1930's, Gaillard created his on jive dialect called "vout", which was peppered with silly suffixes and made-up nonsense words like "oroonie", "oreenie" and "floy floy". A mild version of Gaillard's "vouting" can be heard in this mp3 of Bassology, which has been posted on UbuWeb. For a more comprehensive selection, go to Vooty Radio, which streams non-stop Gaillard.
Tim Barsky and Yuri Lane are two insanely-talented beatboxers who spit out killer rhythm lines and play wind instruments - at the same time! Barsky's instrument of choice is the flute; Lane's is the harmonica. You can check them out by going to their web-sites where they both have an mp3 and quicktime video of them droppin' their instru-vocal science. (Here's the direct link to Barsky's track, Sophisticated Maybe; and here's the direct link to Lane's, Harmonica!) Da bomb, as they say...
(FOOTNOTE: In addition to being masters on the mike, Tim and Yuri both write beatbox musicals for the stage. Barsky's most recent work, The Bright River, is a tour of the after-life which incorporates elements from the other artform he is versed in - traditional Ashkenazi Jewish storytelling. Lane's latest offering, From Tel Aviv To Ramallah, deals with the Israel-Palestine conflict.)
I finally got my copy of Found, the coffee-table-book companion to the magazine of the same name, in the mail today and let me just say at the outset - its one of the funniest frickin' things I've read in a long time!!...
For those who don't already know, Found magazine is a publication devoted to notes, cards, letters, etc which people have stumbled across and submitted. Those which have found their way into the book are invariably hilarious, and include such gems as a warning about washing machine defecation, a series of acerbic teacher evaluations, an algebra test filled with spontaneous poetry, and the most pornographic to-do list ever compiled. In the midst of all the written ephemera, there is also a home-recorded demo cassette of booty-rap by a "some thugged-out white kids with a drum machine" from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Unfortunately, the cassette didn't come shrink-wrapped with the book, but there are some Real Audio/WMA streams on the Found magazine site... Head on over there now and get nasty with Yo Ass Is So Fine, Yo Shit Be Up In My Face and Wiggle On The Flo (NB: links are to the Real Audio samples because the encoding sounded slightly better)... And while you're there, download or buy the official Found magazine 7" single with four tracks inspired by found items.
Yes, its as godawful as the title suggests... Looped guitar pickin' and drum machine rhythms overlaid with lumpen doggerel about the truckin' life. Sample lyrics: Got my guitar on my shoulder / Gonna talk till we're both older / They say all I do is gab / Yeah I gab about the slab / I'm Buck Truck and you're in luck / Cause I'm here and I'm talkin' truck...
And there's a whole album of it which was (appropriately enough) found in a discount CD bin at a truck stop in Tennessee. It was posted on the This Is The Shit website but, at the moment, their downloads don't seem to be working (a Bit Torrent is promised in the near future). In the meantime, I've put two of the tracks up on Rummage:
Buck Truck and Elvis Once Drove A Truck.
From the archives of Sharpeworld comes this wonderful set of streamed recordings from the early days of hip hop radio… They were made by Japanese po-mo essayist Tetsuo Kogawa, while living in New York in 1983. The recordings are of WBIH, Newark, New Jersey – one of the first stations to devote large portions of their programming to hip hop. The are four in all, which feature programmes by the World Famous Supreme Team, which had been assembled by Malcolm McLaren to do the MCing on his hit “Buffalo Girls”, and Afrika Islam, the son of the godfather of hip hop, Afrika Bambataa..