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Preview: Birdseed's Tunedown

Birdseed's Tunedown

Light music taken seriously

Updated: 2018-03-05T16:38:04.683+01:00


Closing time


The fact that this blog has stopped functioning as such will come as no surprise to anyone, seeing as to things like, well, the fact that there have been no posts in over a year. I had immense fun writing here for three-and-a-bit years (over 300 posts!) and some of the things I've posted here are still among the finest I've written, I think, from hits like the tikitech post and the succinct A Milli analysis to relatively unknown stuff like the longest post I ever wrote and the internal sex tourism post, or why not that sidchip post that got a great artist comment? And probably tons of stuff I've forgotten, as well as piles of really bad stuff.

Anyway. Reason I'm posting this right now (and not, say, a year ago which would have made sense) is that I've sort of begun working on a new blog. Nothing like as ambitious as this blog, clearly, but a simple tumblog:

(Link removed, see below)

See, the main thing I've really come to miss from blogging here is not long, complex reasoning, it's the little posts. Digging through a hundred Youtube videos to find that bhutanese countryside hipster electro track or whatever. I'm sure there are people doing it better than me out there, but I think there's a definite value in this sort of relocated context wrenching, stretching out relinkings that open up, while always wary of the post-colonial (male) tourist gaze this sort of thing inevitably invited. How that's going to happen exactly in a format of tiny captions is unclear as yet, but perhaps the ways forward inherent in Youtube as a platform (the contactability of artists, not least) will be enough. Do please call me out if I fail, though.

I will assiduously avoid reposting stuff from sources linked to Eurocentric club culture, because there are too many people doing that already.

Come by and say hello if you want!

Edit (2015-12-07):  Yet another three years later, the Thumblog is itself long gone. Instead, my writing appears elsewhere, and my only personal blogging platform is one about Christmas records: Records.Christmas.



Another dance I have missed! It's the Brazilian extension of the Melbourne shuffle. Originally it seems to have been danced to hardstyle, but in a lot of more recent videos it's electro house instead:

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So far, so electro flogger, but the whole thing does take an interesting turn after it was "commodified" (hi marxists!) through a cash-in hit that blew up big time at this year's Salvador carnival:

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Ahh, Bahia, always able to make something different through its own imitative copying. There seem to be dozens of cover versions already on Youtube, of course.

Balkan not Beats


I'm not sure how many of you've got Spotify, but if you do it might interest you to hear this playlist I put together of distinctly non-Balkan Beatsy Balkan music, from every interesting country except Albania/Kosovo whose Spotify presence is disturbingly non-existent. Lots of great material is not on Spotify of course, but I think I still managed to bring together a fair deal.

Balkan not Beats
(Spotify playlist)

Blogging return planned soon, on a semi-regular basis.

40 feminist tracks


The reason this is my first blog post in nearly a month is that I'm busy campaigning and running for office (I'm #6 on both the Stockholm city council and Stockholm regional council lists) for the Feminist Initiative here in Sweden.Well, to get all my Swedish readers out voting (come on, vote!) this Sunday, and to keep the steam up ahead of the election campaign, here's 40 well known and less well known tracks I like that have the spirit of feminism in them. Strong, self-confident women all the way, no meek hetero love, no diss tracks towards other females. Order: completely random.[...]

Where Korean pop could have gone


This is pretty fantastic.

I was sent this by Mag, my (hopefully frequent!) new correspondent from France, who's got a wicked taste in music. It's a Korean hip-hop song from 1992, and it's radically different from anything else in the country released since - a kind of weird melding of minimalist deep house à la Blaze to straight-up breakdancing electro and a touch of eurodance, nothing like all other hip-hop at the time. And that background vocalist! Amazing stuff. Mag writes:
I haven't really delved, but I think South Korea is one of the least interesting places on earth at the moment for popular music : it tries sooo hard to imitate western pop music, and the end result is often quite embarrassing. South Korea has failed so far to develop styles of its own : I really don't like what is refferred to as K-pop! Bland, monocultural, devoid of a sense of humour, devoid of happiness.

So far I only found ONE Korean song that I like, it's a hip hop song from 1992, so I'll share it with you. A Korean friend who was trying desperately to introduce me to Korean pop showed it to me among hundreds of shite videos and I instantly fell in love with Seo Taeji and the Boys. But the rest of their musical production doesn't live up to that weird and promising debut single.
Here's the video:

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Massive Tekno Halay Mixtape


Found this fantastic 25-minute tekno halay mixtape on this hard-to-navigate Kurdish forum. It's a bit badly mixed and mastered, but it's got that perfect halay/techno balance that I love. Full on with decks, an MC/announcer, a drum machine and those fantastic Korg keyboard faux bagpipe sounds. I would so party to this!

(image) Engin Müzik - Unkown Mixtape 2010 (listed as "bagpipe") (Mediafire)

Techno Halay FTW!


Man, this is some fantastic stuff. I barely know anything about it - it's certainly mistagged a lot - but I'm assuming it's Kurdish. I've certainly heard some music that interestingly touches on electronic dance music in the region before, but this is full on - full on proper techno with touches of trance and tech house, as well as full on proper halay. And it's fantastic!

I'll be researching this more in the next few days, be assured, but before I go to bed here's a video - look at all these cool people dancing to the stuff at the wedding:

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And here's a very short MP3:

Sudem Müzik - Yabanci Müzik (Mediafire)

Juke, Jerk and the Rebel Archetype Inside Capitalism


I've been taught that it is a breach of netiquette to reproduce comments from Google Reader. So I'm not going to relate a conversation I read a couple of months ago between two scholars I respect a great deal, though the gist was that Los Angeles jerk music was just too commercial.Oh, they didn't use that exact term, but I got the drift. They talked about "genre-brands" and "entering into the symbolic circuits of consumer capitalism", and if they didn't use the preposterous, worker-demeaning term "affective labour" it was probably by accident. Jerk (which I don't think either of them dislike, by the way) supposedly was close in the way it presented itself to the commercial end of capitalism, and contained a bunch of aspects that supposedly pegged it as particularly interested in selling itself. This in contrast with Chicago's juke/footwork music, held up as a relative anti-capitalist ideal by comparison.Well, I beg to differ. Juke is also consistently wonderful music, but it certainly plays much closer to the capitalist rules, and is in many ways much more in line with a capitalist ideal. And I think calling it "consumer capitalist" is making jerk's quiet rebellion a great disservice.What was the most successful capitalist music product online last year? Obviously, such a product's quality is to be measured in the only language that capitalism understands: sales. Thus the most capitalist product in downloadable media was, by a good distance, neither Lady Gaga nor the Black Eyed Peas but the extremely successful album Only by the Night by Kings of Leon. It's aesthetic is entirely in a supposedly non-capitalistic, "alternative" mode, with a hand-painted album cover, sullen-looking, black-clad album photos, and a sort of supposedly earnest rock music that's miles from Flo Rida.The same relationship exists with juke and jerk. Jerk is spreading to poor communities as far away as panama, but juke is definitely the most promising capitalist product - it's got major backing from the hot and hip, and is apparently all over London right now. And yet, it is seen as less commercial! So, bizarrely, is dubstep, perhaps the single most successful new electronic music form of the last decade.A classic Marxist/rockist explanation of the success of juke and Kings of Leon and dubstep would be the idea of selling out, or in Marxist parlance the "parasitic" nature of capitalism, latching onto non-capitalistic creative scenes. From my point of view, though, a much better biological analogy is that of symbiosis, what a feminist like me would call intersectionality: the fact that capitalism closely associates and connects itself to other systems of power, other dichotomies that divide the world. Clear, unambiguous, oversimplified divisions like "mainstream" vs "alt" allows capitalism to thrive, and it in turn creates and nourishes the power dimension that these divisions rely on.Take the rebel archetype, the idea of someone who's supposedly standing up to power. As it looks like right now, the rebel is a complete bourgeois, patriarchal, pro-violence invention of the romantic era - inevitably male, inevitably black-clad, inevitably seething with agression. Into this archetype all kinds of people get sucked in - how often have not delinquent street gangs, bikers, warrior groups been recast as "rebels" of some sort? And whether it likes it or not, juke fits right into the ideal: all-male, industrial-set, clad in mainly dour colours, hyper-competitive in a warrior mode, with footwork crews named stuff like "Wolf Pac" and "Terra Squad" (talk about self-branding, by the way). Of course the alt/"rebel" set is going to love it!Only of course it appeals immensely to capitalism itself as well. Companies have profited majorly of that particular rebel stereotype, which is built immensely on consumption of a particular image. It's not only easy to package and sell, but[...]

Goldee: Master of the soft vocal polyrhythm


I think I may have found a new favourite contemporary vocalist, just last week. I as listening to the album L'Anné du Zouk 2010 in the background at work when one track just totally leapt out at me and floored me. Let me present you Haw by Goldee:

Goldee - Haw (Mediafire)

So what's the deal, you ask? The production is stale and sounds several years old, and even lacks that bassiness that makes zouklove wonderful. But the vocalist!

She's not got great range or great dynamic expressiveness, I'll grant you. But she does one thing immensely, immensely well - she takes fast-moving, rhythmically precise singing to another level entirely by making it sound perfectly effortless and simple. Soft as a simple voice, yet extremely complex in the perfect precision with which she places her notes. And she does it fucking polyrhythmically!

Take the chorus, for instance. Set against the classic, diatonic rhythm of 3+3+2, with its emphasis on the first, fourth and seventh beats in a eight-divided bar, she sings a melody with subtle but clear emphasis on the second and sixth beats of the bar! Now, not only is this a twice-removed syncopation against the meter, but it also syncopates/interlocks/change-rhythms/whatever against the main, already syncopated rhythm! The result is bloody fantastic, she completely runs counter to the main rhythm and makes it sound effortless as fuck. Magic.

Bonus: Another dude that can sound like Autotune with just his natural voice.

Bakary - Femme de la Nuit

More Bhutanese music videos


It's been a couple of years since I last really seriously looked into the music scene of Bhutan, whose Sebastien Tellier-meets-Miami Bass drum machine-driven pop still makes it one of my favourite Asian countries. I've done a few half-hearted searches for scraps, but then today through some absurd, self-glitching youtube-mp3-leeching site I found a bunch of new search words that have turned up more excellent material.

So here you go, a bunch more Bhutanese tracks, hopefully whetting your appetites for even bigger amounts.

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Jejemon, jejcaps, jejebet


While browsing for something completely different this afternoon, I came across yet another awesome borderline permutation of the worldwide skinnyjeans style/social position matrix, which I inevitably spotted inevitably through an anti-video. The jejemons of the Phillipines are perhaps not as musically interesting as some of the other groups in the matrix, but their linguistic inventiveness (they've even got their own alphabet, sorry jejebet, and a weird mixed Tagalog-English sociolect) and their fun fashion totally makes up for it. Although the Indonesian Department of Education doesn't seem to think so.And of course the name, involving a Spanish-Tagalog-English-Japanese linguistic clash, is pretty awesome in itself. These videos show some of the more mainstream, high-end jejemons, all wearing "jejecaps" and a variety of fun, colourful street clothing.Note the distinct lack of actual Skinny Jeans in the second video. One web store defines jejemon wear as:Jejecap - the jejecaps are rainbow colored caps. Bright/colorful t-shirt or tops (fit) Belt with much bigger buckle than the usual Metal chain, necklace and bracelet Colorful wristband Skinny Jeans (preferrably shiny/glossy and dark) Rubber shoes (at least 2-colored)Which I guess is alright, but one fashion style I've really been much more intrigued by (which I can barely find any picture evidence of) is the kind worn by the boy second from the left in the bottom row of this picture:And all of the guys in this picture, ignore the vile sentiment expressed in the caption:It's Tupac-meets-football-socks, and the closest I've seen any skinny-jeansers come to actual leggings, which is surely the next step.Now please bring on the "self-branding means they're all capitalist stooges" critiques.[...]

Yet another Vuvuzela track - and an awesome Facebook group


Everyone and their grandmother has posted tracks featuring Vuvuzelas as part of the sound palette during this world cup, so this is very much a late challenge and barely escapes a yellow through it actually being a South African track, which I believe none of the others are. It's also got a really nice chorus of "Vuvu-zeeeeela, vuvu-zela" which is a bonus, and was apparently an official Bafana Bafana supporter's anthem.

Dj Cleo - Shapa Bafana Shapa (Mediafire)
(image) What's perhaps more interesting, though, is that I got the track through a fantastic facebook group for South African house! This is precisely the sort of thing the all-pervasive nature of Facebook should facilitate, at least in theory, and if anyone has more good MP3-exchanging groups from less-well-known countries give me a shout out.

Tikitech while I was away


The animals never stop coming in faux-African music, do they? Here's a bunch from the last month or so. Bonus (for DJ UMB): none of them are taken directly off Gen Bass.

I could probably fill a whole page with just material that associates the current World Cup with safari animals (instead of, you know, creatures that actually play football) but that veers outside the mission of this series a little bit. Here, though, is a World Cup cash-in compilation released by a Berlin label that fits riiiiight in there:

[Compilation on Faluma Africa. Via Soca Revolution Sound System]

Note that the compo contains one (1) African artist. Who's white. Note also the prominent hummingbird; hummingbirds are endemic to the Americas.

This next one is a bit borderline, 'cause the African-fakeness is not worn on the sleeve. Still, that is one mighty big African animal, and Baobinga is of course certainly in the global ghettotech blogging game.

[Event poster, Luz Control. Via Bass music]

And finally, here's an Austrian tribal-house street album cover featuring monkeys. And a ship, you say? Yeah, that's not a colonialist symbol at all.

[Album cover, Tipanic. Via Ghetto Bazaar]

These things really seem to come to the forefront in Summer. I'm sure July will offer its share of tikitech visual delight.

Return to the Caspian - More Persian Dance-Pop


I normally never walk past the Caspian Food Store here in Kista, since it's in an area that the city planners in their infinite wisdom have decided is to be unreachable by foot (!), but on Midsummer's day it was the only store open in the area. So I walked past only to see that they'd stocked up on piles of Persian pop CDs, each only 40 kr (€4)! I promptly bought a couple.The titles of the albums are very generic (in the "Persian Collection Vol. 2 Dance" mould), but here are four MP3's harvested off them that can work in a club environment.I like the chugging starkness of this one, it reminds me of bass-frequency-oriented 80s disco by artists like OFF and Franek Kimono, only funkier.Barobax feat. Gamno - Soosan Khanoom (Mediafire)This one I can't decide whether to love or hate - it's inconsistent, and jumps all over the place, and seems to be a novelty humour piece, but the lilting groove is amazing when it works. And it has Vocoder.Hamed Hakan - Ye Bous (Mediafire)Now for two poppier numbers. Saman's Bahaar has a classic melody, and this remix adds a lovely synth solo and a wicked drive. Leans over into techno-schlager hell a bit, but it just works I think, especially past the first verse.Saman - Bahaar (Remix by ?) (Mediafire)And, finally: a straight pop number, though without the mediterranean/eurovision trimmings these things often have. Disco and the guy's vocal uniqueness saves it. Plus it has breath sounds and rapper that sounds like a prepubescent boy.Ashkin & Alishmas ft Moshen - Shabash Shabash (Mediafire)Oh yeah, also I've been away. To Hungary. I planned to Blog during my absence but the weather and company was too nice. :)[...]

Esoteric Research Methods #10: Fanpages that don't exist


Facebook, much hated among a lot of you, has reworked its "pages" feature in a very interesting way. Used to be, people registered a "fan page" of someone or something, and you could then attach yourself to that phenomenon, via system similar to the groups. If no fan page existed, you were out of luck - you had to create and run one of your own if you wanted information about something.

Now, they've done some technical jiggery-pokery, and suddenly the system has been completely overhauled: whatever you've indicated as "likes" in your profile (music, movies, books etc.) automatically gets converted to fan pages, that no-one needs to run any more! Although apparently this will only last a short while until they've found moderators for everything, it means there are suddenly potentially infinite "walls" that people can be fans of stuff on.

While the curated/moderated fan pages were always kinda fun, I get a real kick out of the new, random ones. Lots of interesting postings on any topic you, well, like, seemingly harvested at random from other peoples' postings. (Fuck those privacy controls.) Logobi, for instance, has a discussion-rich fan page which is just starting out. Looking for new phenomena linked out of it, I get a posting asking "......ALANTA VS LOGOBI........which iz da bomb????.......", to which a rich-to-read response reads:
Logobi defo alanta its mstly gurlz dat doez it bt logobi on da oda hand its boys and gurl lol how many boys do u see uploadin dem selfz doin alanta lol but type in logobi and u see tonz of guys and gurlz datz wat makez it interestin lol lol woah lol haha
Inevitably, of course, written by someone female. So what's alanta then? A Nigerian novelty dance from last year, set to a couple of hastily-recorded cash-in records. It's no logobi, of course, but one of the tracks is pretty great:

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Hope to see the logobi page grow big over time. Or not, as the trend goes!

The tallava page, by contrast, is a lot more instantly active, with half-a-dozen new videos posted every day. This morning, for instance, someone posted this banger:

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Fun! It's a good way to find new music, straight from the fans with no middlemen, harvested by a big corporation for its own evil purposes. Rad.

Best track to mention Blogspot, like, ever


I wish I knew enough Portuguese to be able to decipher the following brilliant, low-end-heavy piece of Mozambican snap, but it's easily the coolest track about Blogging I've ever heard anyway. (Courtesy of Casa de Musica)

UGP feat Ana Paula - Meu Blog (Mediafire)

Bonus: Super-intelligently updated Marrabenta blended with House and Zouk, also from Mozambique.

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And a track about the actual phenomenon of remixing stuff. Also a great idea! (Courtesy of mozmusic)

DJ Ardiles - Remix (Mediafire)

Eurovision/When "ringtone pop" becomes literal


I've blogged absolute tons about the Eurovision Song Contest in past years but other commitments have kept from even keeping proper track myself this year. However, I just have to share the original, since remixed version of the Greek entry, which takes the whole concept of "ringtone pop" to another level:

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Anyway, To make up for my Eurovision slackness in general, I'm going to be live-tweeting the contest instead, starting in around three hours. Follow me at @Birdseeding on twitter.

What's an influence and how does it work anyway?


Scene: I'm in the studio of manele superstar producer Dan Bursuc. The big man hasn't woken up yet, but his arranger/songwriter/engineer (I would say "producer" but that's clearly Dan) is playing around with creating tracks for Lele, the tiny new star, who's also in the studio.Suddenly, growing tired of a half-finished track, the arranger brings up a decade-old hit by Florin Salam to play around with while Lele takes a much-needed break. The track has a touch of reggae about its arrangement, and it seems the vocals have caught a tinge of that as well, feeling vaguely sing-jayish in phrasing while remaining manele-melismatic in melody. He samples and loops a section - starting at 1:42 - and dumps the arrangement right out, to try to create a new one for it.He quickly puts down some General MIDI lines - in the real songs almost always VSTs or electronic instruments, of course - but then he gets stuck on what to do with the more high-pitched of the basslines. Using a cheesy Slap Bass patch, he thinks of doing some sort of funk arrangement, but what he comes out with instead is straightforwardly a clave, dom-dom-dom, dom dom. He doesn't like it much. He plays around with it, and to my astonishment (I'm sitting on the couch behind him) he suddenly plonks down a bassline that sounds extremely much like the Bam Bam riddim, except with the first and second bars in opposite order... After a bit of decoration, he decides the excercise is futile and dumps the whole file.Time to record the next Lele track.I relate this mundane bit of studio drudgery because I've been thinking about Boima's discussion on "the channeling of personal influences" here. I can definitely see what he's getting at - there does seem to be a difference between absorbing material slowly through listening to your surroundings (on the one hand) and actively seeking an exotic other to incorporate (on the, well, other). But the way Boima phrases his discussion (which is well worth a read) gives the impression that there's a palette of influences available, a conscious choice of material that the artist can pick and choose from. I think that might be true for the music Boima makes himself, because he spends so much time thinking about how music connects and the specificity of rhythmical components, but where does it leave our studio arranger?I asked him about what he was thinking while building that bassline. He said (or rather hummed and mimed) that he wanted to do funky slap bass, and that was all. I doubt he'd be able to name a "clave" or "Bam Bam" if pressed. So what do I make of the connections? Am I over-reading his influences based on my own prejudices and "personal influences"? Is it rhythmic coincidence? Does the slightly reggae-ish tilt in the previous track result in a "pull" towards a certain expression in other lines as well? Or are these influences hardwired into his cultural background somehow, and just feel right to do?In any case, there's inevitably a fair bit of negotiation going on in every direction. A utopistic vision of everyone having their own personal genre is one thing, but the influence-interpretation going on is stuck in a space between me as listener, the arranger, Florin Salam, the track's previous producer... On a more concrete level, the negotiation between the arranger and Dan Bursuc (when he eventually gets up) is very tangibly present, a conflict and co-operation between generations and cultural backgrounds. Dan Bursuc, around fifty, grown up in communist seclusion on Raj Kapoor movies and once a forbidden traditional lautari. The arranger, mid-twenties, classically trained, [...]

Superstar Manele Producer Needs RAPPERS/DEEJAYS/MCs, Now


Okay, let's see if having some access to a network and being privilidged helps any, eh?

Dan Bursuc (top left) is manele's most prolific and successful producer by a long shot. He dominates the market completely, with upwards of 60-70% of the revenue stream according to some sources, and has been the kingmaker behind almost all of manele's huge stars today, from Florin Salam to Nicolae Guta.

I've interviewed him several times during the past week. He's an open, larger-than-life man with a sharp sense of business and marketing, and is extremely proud of his Roma (and ultimately Indian) heritage. As I left, I asked if there's anything I could do for him, and he asked me to see if I could locate a certain type of musician on very short notice.

Dan Bursuc is looking for an English-language rapper (or deejay, or grime mc - the styles flow into each other in Romania). Skillful is good, famous is absolutely not necessary. In his words: "preferably black"*. The rapper has to be willing to learn to perform a verse in Romani. And he's trying to find one by next week, to guest on the supremely talented future-of-manele whizkid Lele's upcoming album.

Bursuc will pay for transport and accomodation. I've got friends in Romania who will happily help translate and interpret.

Anyone got any ideas who would fit into this role, and would like to stay a few days in beautiful sunny Bucharest? I'm a touch ambivalent at manele being sucked into the whole hip global circus, but on the other hand they're really reaching out and the new stuff I heard in the studio is brilliant, connecting beautifully to both tradition and modernity.


* As I read it, this is not an expression of racist tokenism as it often would be. The Roma in Romania feel an enormous kinship to African-Americans specifically, with whom they share a similar history of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination.

We interrupt this Manele to bring you Tikitech


Since I seem to have got a few new readers recently, here's a recap of the whole tikitech phenomenon before I bring up a large, oven-fresh batch of examples.Last year, I noticed an increasing frequency of a particular type of visual aesthetic associated with releases of western-made, supposedly "tropical"/"ghetto" dance music, aka. global ghettotech. Instead of attaching themselves, as they'd previously done frequently, to the visual language associated with dance music genres from the developing world, they instead adopt an approach that borrows heavily from colonialist depictions of colonised places. Africa is represented as a safari, South America as a jungle, both particularly wild an untamed and dominated by animals rather than people. This parallels the tiki revival's obsession with faux-polynesian artifacts and depopulated beaches, hence the name, coined in a Google Reader comment by Wayne.The music, as the visual imagery, is bereft of actual people from the developing world. It's the ultimate - possibly unconscious - colonialist fantasy of virgin land, free to be filled with whatever exotic content we desire.Here are today's examples:Diamond BassThis Portugese dude recently added me on Facebook and has been sending me a (banana) boatload of classically formulated tikitech since. All of these are taken off his soundcloud page:In classic tiki music fashion, there are also frequent use of "actual" ie. Hollywood jungle sounds in the tracks themselves. Also note the tiger in "Africa".PachazónicaBerlin-based tikitech artist. Via gen bass.ØkapiOne more borderline example. final one for today. It doesn't present itself as particularly tropical put it doesappear on gen bass, and there are both sampled and synthesised "jungle" sounds throughout the tracks.[...]

Manele Tidbit #2: Loudness Wars


This is a series of uncorroborated rumours and ideas thrown at me from various people I've talked to about manele. Until I finish my research none of it is to be regarded as empirically sound, well-collected evidence, and I'm not providing any source for any of it. Yet! Please correct me if I'm wrong about anything.

No, not those loudness wars.

During the communist era the Roma were an almost completely silenced group in Romania. Not fitting into the idea of national unity, they were silenced, their culture considered crudely derivative of the Ottoman one and unsuitable in the new Romania. They were forbidden from playing their music, excluded from official records, barred from holding many jobs, and generally treated as second-hand citizens. After 1989 there should have been a change to all that but as we all know "free" capitalism and a racist social order doesn't work that way, and they were still consistently pushed to the lowest rungs of the social ladder, discriminated against at all levels, including officially.

But free speech did bring one big change: the Roma could now be heard.

Manele was the catalyst. Out of cars blared the music loudly. Off balconies. Huge speaker systems were set up. Suddenly the previously forbidden tones were everywhere, an immanent political statement reading: here we are.

For an elite that was continually used to nationalism it was extremely offensive. Not to mention the extreme racist right, and to music snobs and emos. Together participants from these groups formed an unholy alliance of "anti-manelisti" on the web, quite well organised, which ran events and planned activities to silence the Roma again. Their most famous action - which should earn them both grudging admiration and scorn from an IT-concious crowd - was a malware virus specifically designed to delete manele MP3s, but in this context, another of their more creative ideas is perhaps more interesting: they planned a counter-attack in loudness. Not long ago, the call went out to put up speakers that blared Mozart (!). Can you imagine a more fantastic image of a culture war, crude gypsy music and eurocentric elite music battling over the soundscape of the city?

Of course, the whole silly dichotomy is queered up by the roma, who are always the most cunning ones after centuries of marginalisation. Because the thing is, Mozart is also manele. Anything can be manele. And here is the video to prove it, if you ignore the gaming noises in the first 30 seconds: a great manele cover of Mozart's 40th Symphony.

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Manele Tidbit #1: The Manele Economy


This is a series of uncorroborated rumours and ideas thrown at me from various people I've talked to about manele. Until I finish my research none of it is to be regarded as empirically sound, well-collected evidence, and I'm not providing any source for any of it. Yet! Please correct me if I'm wrong about anything.

Everyone and their dog wants music industry reform these days. Looser copyright, alternative business models, customer interaction, donation systems. well manele has all these things, and has for a long time. The future may be on the internet, but it's also among the discriminated roma in Romania...

The sales of CDs are an incredibly small source of revenue here. Official 150-track MP3 CDs, selling for around 15 lei (€3), barely recoup manufacture and distribution costs, and have thus totally undercut the market for any piracy. There appears to be no copyright enforcement at all - people happily copy each others songs, in cover versions or even note-by-note, and of course manele is built to an incredibly large extent on "plagiarised"/transcultured musical elements from surrounding countries and across the world. Copying and being copied happens all the time.

And yet the performers and production companies are doing extremely well. How? By live appearances catered to functional needs, by customised music à la dubplates, by direct donation from listeners. All appearing in this video, sorry about the sound:

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Here we see Florin Salam ("Florin Sausage", I love these artist names!), performing at a wedding. Wedding receptions (and christenings) flaunt their wealth by booking the biggest stars, of which Florin definitely is one, and of course buzz gets generated from wedding to wedding and the value of the performer is incredibly high, upwards of €10 000 a night for a man of Salam's calibre.

This revenue stream is the complimented by the curious practice - as seen in the video - of throwing lei bills at the performer and his band. In exchange, the singer incorporates the name of the donor into his performance, freestyle. Thus the singer gets money and the donor gets to support and interact with the star, plus get prestige in the eyes of the fellow party guests.

Does any of this sound crass to you? Well, think about it - how is it any different from various proposals of how to generate a living for musicians in the digital age?

I'm in Bucha-fucking-rest! Awesome!


I know, I know, these things are supposed to be announced on the blog before hand, but now I'm here and loving it.

As you may know, I'm doing my master's thesis on Romanian manele music, one of my favourite genres of contemporary Balkan music, and I'm super-excited to finally be down doing field research in the awesome metropolis of Bucharest, the megalomaniac new Rome imagined and executed by this guy. So far it's been going great - in fact one of my contacts just texted me saying I might be getting an interview with the biggest producer in the business, which would be awesome. Other than that I've talked a bit to fans and to fellow ethno-/musicologists, including the awesome Marin Marian-Balasa, whose own research and outlook perfectly complements a lot of the stuff I was hoping to get out of the trip.

I've got masses of great stuff already spinning around my head, and I'll start dropping the cooler angles and anecdotes on this blog as I go along. Meanwhile, to demonstrate that manele really does take inspiration from EVERYWHERE - it' standout feature to me and the focus of my research - here's a manele track that copies... Fitness craze Zumba!?

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Okay, a comment then: Ethnic re-thonging


There was plenty of things wrong in spirit with yesterday's commentless blurb text, but the one that really has stuck with me today is one that for the most part is a factual error.The text calls the use of percussion from a number of genres "tribalist", including, absurdly, kwaito. Kwaito, whose percussion is derived straight from Chicago house with some hip-hop additions. (Here's a kwaito man practising his "tribalist" drumming.) I would just laugh at it, normally, as a clueless ignoramus using bigoted language to sell mediocre music, but there's a process at play here that scares me.Because, it seems, even in 2010 we can't imagine South African music as something not "tribalist". And it seems we do our darnedest to make sure it stays that way.Last year Jace, aka DJ Rupture, wrote a great article channelling a lot of peoples' discomfort about the ethnification of third-world musicians. Along with many others, Jace has used his music and writing to do precisely what he suggests in the article - put a thong on the westerner, showing how all music is equally mixed, equally "ethnic", part of the same global rhizomic conversation. On the other end, it's been demonstrated again and again that supposedly "western" traits like electronics and modernity are extremely adaptable and easy to integrate by those so-called "tribal" people, who seem to have no problem at all ignoring "their" tradition once technology is available to them.And yet, the same dichotomy seems to persist.The Eurocentric elite world: neutral, modern, cosmopolitan, freeEveryone else: ethnified, ancient, bound by traditionYou'd think with stuff like kuduro and kwaito finally penetrating to our latitudes we'd have lost this divide by now. But its power is strong, and it seems like we're not done putting the thongs on the natives, not by a long shot. My very first textbook about reggae kept harping on about oil drums and bamboo poles, however irrelevant they were to the contemporary music; the writer from 14 tracks above has to make sure that it's the non-"western" genres that are declared tribalist. Factual truth - like the fact that South African DJs have been doing house fusions much longer than any of the musicians on his compilation - doesn't really matter, as the important thing is to make sure the dichotomy stays intact.Then yesterday I came across this. A dude in Berlin taking club music and making it "ethnic", that traditional worldbeat exercise circa 1990. One portion mainstream, "western" club music, one portion of someone else's tradition, and bang, you've got the neutral-ethnic dichotomy enforced in a single track.What's fascinating, though, is that every one of the supposedly neutral genres evolved, the ones that are eventually "ethnified", originally come from marginal communities in some way. Dubstep and grime are from the Black Atlantic diaspora and the urban poor in England. Jamaican dancehall - which only recently seems to have turned cosmopolitan and neutral, witness the amount of western-produced tracks called something-riddim recently - is of course from Kingston's poorer neighbourhoods to a large extent. This is another tactic in the maintenance of the dichotomy: appropriation, not in the accepting-and-receiving-influence sense, but taking a cultural expression from somewhere and wholly taking over the interpretative space around it. In this case, carefully whitewashing any trace of supposed "ethnicity" from dubstep, grim[...]

Left without comment


"14 tracks: Global Ghetto House

From Dalston to Durban a prominent Afro-Latin accent is dominating dancefloors. In the kinky riddims of new producers like Julio Bashmore, Greena and Douster, tribalist percussion is gleaned from Kwaito, Soca and Cumbia and raved up with explicit House references to Masters At Work and a plethora of underground dance styles absorbed via youtube. Depending on their own generic roots, a load of international producers, new and old, are mixing these memes with their own riddmic DNA to create fresh and fascinating forms. We love tracking these developments and this weeks 14 tracks is devoted to those heads who're creating a new mongrel sound, using tracky NY & Chi-town templates with elements of European party tracks to nice up your area..."
(h/t Dubbel Dutch)