Saturday, December 25, 2010

walling off another garden: is Soundcloud turning on its supporters?

Looks like the walls are going up again...

You may remember the thing memorialized on Twitter and beyond as #musicblogocide which was actually the second wave (and there may be a third?) of what is basically an inevitable clash between the practices and desires of local music scenes, especially dance music scenes, and the way music-making is structured under law and capitalism.  I wrote about an earlier wave in 2008 and then this February it started up again, with many folk starting to get into the deeper issues, including this magisterial take by Wayne.

Anyway it looks like it's about to start again with Soundcloud, one of my favorite sites of the past year.  Starting a couple days ago, I'm starting to hear from producers that some of their remixes are being taken down from copyright complaints, and from djs that their mixes (or so-called mixtapes) are being pulled as well.

This is a real shame. Every aspect of music that I care about and that I participate in, for the past 15 years Djing across 19 countries on 3 continents, has been based in practices and traditions in which remixing and mixtapes are a fundamental element. In fact, similar practices are fundamental to every living musical tradition (from hiphop & reggae to jazz improvisation to tecnobrega and beyond (and are vital to nonmusical creative traditions too). Whether they involve re-using copied digital recordings or live re-performances or re-incorporating riffs, quotations, basslines, and beats... those specifics are different in different times and places, but their legality is not relevant to the creative practice. Recycling/repetition/reference is a basic element of creativity. Creativity is a living, social practice that arises from  people (and peoples) interacting and communicating.

So I am sorry to hear of Soundcloud cracking down on this practice and making it harder. I don't really care what they say their official policy was (it's there if you look), in practice they knew what was happening because they benefited from it. And the law on this is hazy, there's fair use arguments to be made even within the law as it stands, but nobody can afford the lawyers to make it.
Especially not most of us early adopters from dj culture: I heard about Soundcloud through DJs and dance music producers who rely on djs, and I told lots of dj and producer friends about soundcloud and recommended it to them. So many djs, producers, and fans signed up (100,000 in 2009), and many, like me, gave them our money for further functionality, because of its fantastic services for people involved in dj and dance music culture.  But it may stop being worth it very soon. I don't think you can kill the music, but I wonder if you can kill the site's usefulness to a lot of the music scenes that gave it its start.

Those of you who care about borders, walls, fences should recognize how this is going to sort out, unless someone wakes up. The propertizers of culture have arrived again, and are drawing lines and raising fences.

If they have their way, the site wouldn't necessarily go away, it would just become the playground of commercialized music vetted and approved by the more powerful players (look like Universal might be the big guns right now). Which would be a shame.

But the greater shame is the way that development hits the early adopters who have contributed so much so far. Soundcloud more obviously than any other platform, came to its strength through the participation and funding by dj culture, and specifically serves and focuses on djs and producers' music, not only the text around music (as in music blogs).

It may be a victim of its own success: so many people are participating now that corporate owners --i.e. copyright protectionists and maximalists-- are starting to notice what's happening. But just caving to their claims on a case-by-case basis is not a good beginning, especially as it's only going to get worse. And it rankles because their success is based on exactly the practices and people it now is shutting down. Although they said their target market is "creators,"  in dance music that includes djs, producers, remixers and mashers, all of whom flocked to the site, and helped test its functionality, added in their data and metadata and made it a desirable site through providing fascinating content (likely all targetable by the RIAA). Which of us will get locked out?

Rather than sending out letters and taking down tracks one by one,  I wish Soundcloud would go public about the pressure they are under. If they are not comfortable doing that, then it's even worse, because they KNOW how much it's a spit in the face of the people who put so much time, energy and money into the site.

 So will it be time for us to leave, taking our creative seeds and sparks and connections with us?

It looks like Soundcloud has been more sympathetic to these practices than many: sponsoring CC licensing on the site, which mildly broadens copyright's flexibility through a voluntary choice to  recognize participatory cultural practices, and even doing some educational work through featured artists who use CC-licenses on its blog.

Unfortunately such incrementalism will never be enough for the corporations. I'm pretty doubtful that  big corporate entities will ever wake up and recognize the prevalence and desirability of self-defined  interactive musical culture. I would like to see one of these new, small, supposedly different-from-the-big-bad-guys companies put up a fight along the lines some group like the EFF might lay out, and make an affirmative argument for creative culture that includes remixing.  But to do that requires that they be upfront about their allegiances and recognize that you can't please everyone. Sooner or later you will have to decide whether you are going to please the rich & powerful or stand with people on the other side.

 Will any company stake its claim on the same side as these scenes and subcultures who provide so much of the basis for their success? Or perhaps we need to find a platform that is not privately funded, because at base a corporation will always put profit before community? Perhaps private institutions simply fail at stewarding popular culture

Regardless we need ISPs and the server hosts to have a politics - as I said on Jace's show, questions of intellectual property and power still come down to the material control of resources, and any law-based control is at the mercy of the people who have in-house lawyers. Physical control of land and material (including servers and satellites) may be our best option. To start with we have to recognize that this is a question of politics, and not just tweaking the rules. We need to organize ourselves to be in control of our own digital resources (resources for the social aspect of production: distribution, sharing, and interacting), and  find allies who believe in our vision of cultural practices and recognize how it directly challenges the copyright extremists.

At the very least, liberal allies like the EFF might be able to shape a more expansive vision of our rights in a creative community. And indeed some people have made arguments for commercial music industries not dependent on current definitions of copyright. But at this point, I'm thinking if the Pirate Parties (Sweden, but Canada offered too, the more the jollier right?) can host Wikileaks, why can't they host dj culture as well?  Or how about renting the the basement of a casino? Or is there a tech-savvy crew off the coast of Somalia we can link up with?

further reports coming in here ...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Upcoming thrills: Surya Dub, Jamaica, and DC follies

Surya Dub returns!!!!!
Friday December 17, with the Slayers Club, we are proud to be hosting the mighty Sub Swara for the album release party, alongside Fresh2Death.

I'll be on the decks, for the last time in 2010 (barring a NY NYE surprise), with lots of sonic goodies stored up to share.

tickets available here:;Slayers_Club_Surya_Dub_present_SUB_SWARA_LIVE

also, heading to New York for New Year's, then back to Kingston, Jamaica for 10 days, then back to the states in time to celebrate World Fair Use Day with the fine folks at Public Knowledge, on a panel with many luminaries of stage and screen. DC heads, represent!

Lots on my mind about music, but more about education/protests/police brutality on campus and off, and globally networked technology these days, bt on those I will hand you over to Angus, and Aaron.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

radio show in the Mission

Sunday, October 24 from 3-5pm Pacific time, I'm djing on the Sanguine Soul radio show, on pirate cat radio. You can tune it at, or come by the station, because Pirate Cat also have a cafe, and they will open up the DJ booth, so you can see and hear me play. I encourage dancing as well.
I'm going to play a range of styles including a short set of rocksteady at the beginning of the show.

Location: 2781 21st street, at Florida.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Colonialism and collecting

Well, this great post by the great Chief Boima ups the intellectual ante around the popularization of African musics in the US, and set off a lot of controversy and some great points (alongside some unfortunate personal attacks). I wrote a long response, which came late in the game. But I thought I'd expand it here, because it fits so well with the work I'm doing right now.

I'm working on a paper for a conference this weekend in East Lansing, MI called "Bits Without Borders: Law, Communications & Transnational Culture Flow in the Digital Age" where I will present my paper (horrible working title: Decolonizing networked technology: learning from the dancehall)

(Also I'm preparing to moderate a panel about copyright sampling ethics creativity and law on Thursday, in SF! )

So I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how colonial history and present play out in Jamaica, and in the music scene. Since I was doing ethnographic research, which involves me physically going to Jamaica and spending a lot of time interacting with people, I really had to pay attention to the situation around my interactions with people - that's part of the research. Thinking about how I got to wherever I was, the social, technological, historical, material networks that I moved in and created. I don't mean I was self-conscious (although sometimes of course I was), but that I had to start learning what the implications were of my being somewhere, of my interactions with people. Those implications went far beyond anything that I could control fully or be independent of.

So when I was in recording studios, I couldn't hide the fact that I was a foreigner, and it would have been insulting to try. But since Jamaica is a small place where people know each other (especially in the music scene) and since foreigners are the main sources of money and chances for international publicity for Jamaican musickers, people were extremely conscious of me. My presence at a music studio, or sitting next to a producer, signaled to everyone around that the studio, or the producer was connected to a foreigner, which in itself meant something. Not that I was particularly important, and at a place like Tuff Gong, it would simply have confirmed Tuff Gong's international fame again, but in other places it was probably more significant. This didn't mean that anyone was dishonest, or fake, or that anyone was necessarily trying to hustle me (although the art of the hustle is definitely alive and well in Jamaica), or that they didn't like me or anything. They just knew what was up. My presence there meant something different than if it was another Jamaican, and that meaning was shaped by the recent and distant history of Jamaica, and Jamaica's current relations with global powers like the USA. And to bring it back to the music industry, it was shaped as well by Jamaica's current and recent history of local creativity and massive foreign profit, as well as massive inequality in profit even in Jamaica, and as well the potential for personal gain through connection to international audiences, and lots of other vectors too.

And Jamaicans in those studios were totally right to be aware of that when they looked at me, especially because even though my reason for being there was to do research and not write a magazine article or promote them, the simple fact that I am from outside and connected to outside meant that simple things I did for my own personal reasons had bigger implications. If I found a tune I liked and played it for a friend back home - that's international distribution! The more so if I posted it online or mentioned their name online. So they knew that, and I knew that too. I'm free to do what I like with that knowledge, but I wouldn't be doing myself or anyone around me any favors by pretending it wasn't true. And it's not like my task was then to dismantle colonial power, my task is just to ask myself what the most ethical behavior is, given what I know (and what I learned from people there) about how this whole thing works? And this is basically what Boima raised in his post about collectors of African music.

So he asks is "who is benefiting" when a collector buys African vinyl and spins it back home in the UK or California or wherever.  It's not harsh on Boima's part to simply point out the colonial history and express a concern for fairness,  given the vast power imbalances and unpleasant histories between Europeans/Americans/Brits and Africans. Several commenters respond quite aggressively, or I would say defensively (defending against the implication that they might be aligned with colonial power).

Some of the commenters seem really upset at this idea, that they might be implicated in colonial power.  But this seems odd to me. How could you not be? How could we all not be? Its real, it's embedded in the world we live in, it shapes our ability to travel, use technology, to buy stuff, to communicate. It would be a bit silly to say "because I do this thing personally I have nothing to do with colonialism"  or "because I have these feelings I have nothing to with colonialism." The languages people speak, the currency they use, the fact that planes fly to one place or not another, or buses go this way and not that, whether there are phone lines or satellites connecting people, the people who are happy to talk to you and the people who aren't, the presence or absence of recordings in specific parts of Africa or elsewhere.. all of those are shaped by the global economic system which is a product of history and actions that create  recreate colonial relations.  It doesn't mean people are cogs in some great machine, but it does shape the way we interact. And what Boima's post does  is encourage us to think more consciously about it. Interestingly, when people in the comments describe the lengths they go to get money and reputation back to the people whose music they collect, it sounds like they are actually in agreement with Boima's concern about fairness. So the hostility seems a little disproportionate.

The post begins provocatively, sure, but its not like there has been too much of this kind of question -some of the responses in the comments sound like there has been some global obsession with preventing African artists from being exploited.  But there hasn't been much of that at all.  I'm happy to see the discussion begin, and I hope as things spread out from that initial post we take it even further.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Movie Screening & Panel Discussion (Steinski, Jeff Chang, Amplive, Tim Jones, Tony Berman and ME)

I'm moderating the panel discussion at this event:

September 23, 2010 :: 9:30PM
Slayers Club and The Hub of the JCCSF Present: Copyright Criminals
Is sampling recorded music to create new works a form of artistic expression or, quite simply, a crime?
Slayers Club and The Hub of the JCCSF present three events in one – a film screening, expert discussion panel and live musical performance – all happening on Thursday, September 23rd at Mighty (119 Utah St).
As seen on PBS’s Independent Lens and at the Toronto International Film Festival, Copyright Criminals (a film by Ben Franzen and Kembrew McLeod) takes a close look at the creative and legal implications of sampling music in the digital age through the eyes of well-known artists, activists and industry insiders. Featuring interviews with Clyde Stubblefield (“The Funky Drummer”), Chuck D of Public Enemy, DJ Shadow and many more.
Steve Stein, aka Steinski, rode the pulse of the New York City underground in the early 80’s and emerged as a cult hip-hop hero. Stein co-produced the series of records known as The Lessons for the Tommy Boy label. These analog tape cut-and-paste collages, still widely bootlegged (and wildly illegal), are generally acknowledged as three of the most influential works in the world of hip-hop and dance music production. Steinski has been cited as a definitive influence by music luminaries including DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and Fatboy Slim.
The night will also feature live music performances by Amp Live, the Zion I producer who was recently entangled in a legal battle over his bootlegged Radiohead remix work, The Polish Ambassador, who has been called “the West Coast, more sophisticated version of Girl Talk”, will present his new project, Ample Mammal, local favorite Kid Kameleon (XLR8R, Surya Dub), prolific MC/DJ/Producer Joe Mousepad, Rich DDT (LoveTechSF) and the eclectic Slayers Club DJ’s (Daly City Records).
Following the film screening will be an expert speakers panel including Steinski, Amp Live, hip-hop historian, Jeff Chang, Tim Jones of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and entertainment lawyer Tony Berman. The panel will be moderated by legal ethnomusicologist Larisa Mann (aka DJ Ripley).
Fresh from appearances at Nightlife at the Academy of Science and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is a fresh interactive music technology workshop by LoveTech SF (, including a multi-player, MIDI-controlled sampler system. Think Rock Band on steroids!
On the visual spectrum, attendees will experience live mashups all night by VJ Allofitnow! (Slayers Club) and live graffitti by local artist Nick Fregosi.
Doors at 7pm
Film Screening at 8:30pm
Panel Discussion at 9:30pm
Steinski plays at 10:30pm to be followed by Amp Live, Polish Ambassador and Slayers Club DJ’s
$8 in advance / $10 at the door
Advance Tickets available on September 1st at Brown Paper Tickets

you can RSVP on Facebook (but it'snot the same as buying tix, just lets us know you are coming)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New mix (for those who missed the broadcast) & last day to vote!

Last day to vote for my panel at SXSW on music & metadata!  SXSW music  or SXSW interactive

and I've uploaded the "Bass, Wobs & Zaps" mix plus the tracklist, as described below. Listen or download and enjoy!

Bass, Wobs & Zaps by ripley

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

radio show rebroadcast (& last chance to vote for my panel!)

(friday the 27th is the last day to vote for my panel for SXSW! please vote!)

Ah, I'm finally on the bill with Filastine.. but only on a recorded broadcast! One day we'll be on an event together..

Anyway, this, following Filastine's set, will be a rebroadcast of the set I did originally for Tasty Cyanide Radio - it will be hitting the airwaves on the fantastic & long-running show Back To The Basics, out of Hamburg, run by one of the masterminds of the Wobwob crew (with whom I played a few short weeks ago)..

The show goes live Thursday, August 26th, 22:00 German time, which is 1pm (13:00) out here in California... Around that time I'll put it up on my Soundcloud page, so all you kids can listen along (or download) ever after...

I will be doing a set specifically for BTTB sometime this winter, but until then, this will represent me and my peoples - lots of good music representing some of the great people I have had the luck to work with (check the tracklist at BTTB or Soundcloud after Thursday!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Landed again - seeking your help: vote for ripley's panel

After 1 month in Croatia, a quick stop in Hamburg for a terrific gig courtesy of the WobWob crew, now I'm back in San Francisco.

Lots of things on the horizon, but most urgent now is that I need your help dear readers (few & proud!!). I'm hoping to presenting at South By Southwest in spring 2011 on a panel alongside some other fabulous peoples.. but only if our panel gets enough votes (I think comments are good too!)

I'm lucky enough to be proposing a panel with some awesome folks, one from UC Berkeley I-school and one from the UC Berkeley Law Technology & Public Policy clinic). The panel is called:

"Music and Metadata - Do Songs Remain the Same?"

And the description:
Metadata may be an afterthought when it comes to most people's digital music collections, but when it comes to finding, buying, selling, rating, sharing, or describing music, little matters more. Metadata defines how we interact and talk about music—from discreet bits like titles, styles, artists, genres to its broader context and history. Metadata builds communities and industries, from the local fan base to the online social network. Its value is immense. But who owns it? Some sources are open, peer-produced and free. Others are proprietary and come with a hefty fee. And who determines its accuracy?
From CDDB to MusicBrainz and Music Genome Project to AllMusic, our panel will explore the importance of metadata and information about music from three angles. First, production, where we'll talk about the quality and accuracy of peer-produced sources for metatdata and music information, like MusicBrainz and Wikipedia, versus proprietary sources, like CDDB. Second, we'll look at the social importance of music data, like how we use it to discuss music and how we tag it to enhance music description and discovery. Finally, we'll look at some legal issues, specifically how patent, copyright, and click-through agreements affect portability and ownership of data and how metadata plays into or out of the battles over "walled garden" systems like Facebook and Apple's iEmpire. We'll also play a meta-game with metadata during the panel to demonstrate how it works and why it is important.

So for the panel to be accepted, it needs to be voted on by, well, YOU. So,  please vote for the panel!

We have proposed it for both SXSW weeks,
SXSW music
or SXSW interactive

you can I think vote for it in both, too!

I am also looking for gigs at SXSW so I can play while I'm there in Austin TX. feel free to link me with anyone you know who might be of help.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

recaps and a Berlin gig

FIRST (posting from berlin hello!!): Ripley in Berlin for a few hot days this summer.. a gig is
percolating in the background, but I have enough details I'll give warning, and will finalize infos tomorrow morning (WEDNESDAY) which is the day it should be happening..

 So it looks like it's the Knochenbox, upstairs from the theater/chapel, Boxhagener str 99, Friedrichshain Wednesday night, if it all goes down I'll be on at 11:15 or so, but I'll likely be there
from 10 at least to hang out! woo! Show will also be broadcast live on

big big thanks to DJ Delay, Coost Lardy Cake and more.

And to recap: it's been a crazy few months!

I spent some of April & June in Toronto, which was simply amazing, partly due to the generous efforts of DJ Capro, and his whole crew. I  was lucky to link with him and play a few shows at the Thymeless club which was a great hub of Jamaican and bass music in the city. I was there for research, but Capro & co made it a really musically inspiring experience. Also big thanks to the mighty Marcus Visionary for the great music and for sparing so much time for me. Check his funky funky uk funky album Carib for a sample of some of his new directions, I was lucky enough to play a set with him and just basked in the glow of the great music and the great audience.

I really loved Toronto, both for the music scene (with plenty of Jamaican-influenced UK dance music flavor), and the city overall.

And then since then I have been all over the place as usual, while I was back in San Fran we the Surya Dub crew finally started up another big show, with special guest Poirier and all our usual suspects coming through.. I played at Dirty Dishes, courtesy of the Tasty crew... had an amazing series of events in Jackson, Mississippi

I started a facebook page, you can add me there and keep abreast of this and also that.. but it will be quiet for the next month, I'm in Berlin until the 18th July and then I'm in Croatia and off internet until August 13 when I surface for a gig in Hamburg: Wob Wob represent!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Surya Dub 3 Year Anniversary featuring POIRIER!! May 29!!

Folks in the know.. or those rumbling about in the dread bass blogosphere may have seen hint, hide or hair of a returning dancefloor beast. Well, I've been holding my breath, but now it's time to confirm the rumors


I couldn't be more pleased, on finally returning to the Bay Area, to be a part of the crew who does the most eclectic, bass-heavy, dancefloor-packing party in town.. with the best dancers, the happiest crew, and the guest artists taking it to another nother level. Seriously, it's been a privilege to work with the Surya Dub djs/producers/vjs, such talented people, and our past guests have been delightful beyond belief pretty much across the board. And we won't let San Francisco down this time, either, because we've got


it's perfect - the Mad Monster of Montreal has a new album out (killin it, killin it on a worldwide scale), we've all been friends since way back when he had two names, and now the times is right to bring it all together for the Surya Dub 3-year Anniversary party!

Date: Saturday, May 29
Location: Club Six, 60 6th street, San Francisco CA

Lineup, alongside the mighty POIRIER
Kush Arora - man dem just dropped a SICK mix,  and a new album coming out soon soon
Maneesh the Twister
DJ Amar
Kid Kameleon
Jimmy Love

buy tickets online here, and get a discount (it's $10 advanced, $15 on the door)

We've gone all webby with excitement, too
you can.. uh.. like us (but not necessarily LIKE US like us, unless you wanna) on facebook
We're on twitter 
Follow us on soundcloud
or just come to the freakin' party and give us hugs!! that works too..

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Toronto, gigs & radio, searching out peoples

I've been in Toronto two weeks now. What a great city! Big BIG thanks to the dubslingers for all their hospitality, musical and otherwise. I played on their weekly semi-officially last Wednesday, and then even less officially I tagteamed last night, having the honor of following the mighty Marcus Visionary who laid down a beautifully diverse and expertly mixed set ranging from Tropical Bass to his own Ragga Jungle tracks. A tough act to follow!

But luckily for us all, I had managed to stock my laptop with a few choice ragga cuts to carry on the vibe (I was wishing so hard I had all my beautiful ragga jungle vinyl that I just unpacked a month ago.. but it's all in SF). Beginning the set with "Intelligent woman" got everyone happy (that tune has the best drop EVER), and I was over the moon because I saw more than one person who knew the words. It's been YEARs since I've played to a crowd who really knows their ragga jungle. Really, the caribbean flavor in Toronto is hard to miss, plus the UK dance music influence, it makes this town feel really good to me, musically and otherwise.

I'm here doing my research, the last bit of fieldwork on the same project that took me to Kingston, Jamaica last year. So far it's been amazing, I have meet meeting some fantastic Djs and musicians and scholars who have been telling me about Jamaicans making music in Toronto and beyond. Still looking for more, though! feel free to get in touch here if you want to chat about such things in Toronto!

And I've been able to take my story public. Following on the great interview DJ /rupture did with me on WFMU back in March (archived here), I went on the great local radio show The Abstract Index, on CIUT and the host and I talked some about my work, and I played a few tracks. That will be archived soon, I will post that up here as soon as I get a link.

I feel slightly iffier about how I did on this one - there were some technical difficulties (I think they are new to that station, it just moved locations), which meant that initially I wasn't answering the questions very well and was rather rambly, and also we didn't figure out how to hook up my laptop till late in the show. But I got to drop some great dub tracks from the past to the present - it makes me want to play a proper dub set, something I haven't had the chance to do in years. hmmmm...

in other news, I'm hopefully djing a set on the radio on Saturday night, gotta get confirmation on that, but if it goes well you can check airwaves at 10pm toronto time for another slice of DJ Ripley!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Balkans backtrack

So. A while back, I played in Belgrade. I can't believe I didn't blog about it! But, well, I had a lot on my mind. Anyway, through the magic of the internets, I was able to play a show in Belgrade on Serbian new year. It was at a cool little club called The Wash (some kind of laundromat reference). Hosted by Mythical Didjez and Zeka Yebiggah (whose name means something rather naughty in serbo-croatian).. in the nasty winter weather... and they made a video, or Serbian local television did.

It's a nice section of the set, they chose. It's too bad you can't see the crowd, but I guarantee you there was dancing aplenty, including some fairly inspired freestyle bellydance stuff. Thanks again, and I hope to come back to the Balkans this summer --anyone wanting to book me please get in touch!

Monday, March 29, 2010

NYC(NJ/WFMU), Pittsburgh (YAY), back to NYC for a night. (but what a night!)

The radio show with /rupture was smashing.The conversation was super fun, when you have someone as smart and challenging and deep as /rupture to talk to it's like the air gets smarter around us. Seriously I wish we could hang out more often because I think I'd finish my PhD sooner.. Anyway big BIG ups to /rupture (and lamin behind the scenes) for making it happen. the whole thing is archived and of course you can subscribe to eth podcast here (mine isn't up there yet but will be soon)

And then I headed to Pittsburgh, despite Jetblue's best efforts to screw up my travel plans.
For the brave folks who came out to the Brillo Box in the rain last Thursday, I brought it as hard as I could.. whomping dubstep with global 8bit flavor, plus bhangra glitch, panama jerk, and a touch of breakcore. The crowd seemed up for it all, and danced like mad. My sincere thanks to everyone who helped make it a great party.

First of course is James Gyre, the genre-confounding musical compatriot, who also took the time to show me more fun things in Pittsburgh in 24 hours than I got out of more famous cities in a week. I met his awesome wife, and his two crazy-adorable kids, and generally left witha  good feeling.

My favorite comments for the night were from two women who had been tearing up the dancefloor:
"we danced our f*in pants off!" said one after thanking me on her way out. 
"yeah," said the other one "I don't even know who I am anymore!" 
Testimony of a good party, eh?

So next time we rock it even harder!

And now it's on to my last easterly gig for a while, courtsey of, Pharoah and other good people, we are doing a FREE gig at Sin Sin in the East Village!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

radio, gigs, fun

As usual, when I travel a lot in quick succession, I forget how many web presences I have to maintain. Unfortunately this time blog has suffered. So I didn't post something that I am really really proud of and was honored to be invited to participate in. On Monday I was on DJ /rupture's Mudd Up Radio, simply one of the best and most interesting radio shows, on a truly great community terrestrial and internet radio station, wfmu.

the show is archived here and there is a podcast, which you can subscribe to (my show will be up there soon)

And before I neglect all the other amazing and creative people and events that I've been invited to be a part of (and that actually hasn't happened yet so people out there can still come)...

Tomorrow, Thursday, I'm playing a great party called Earthly Delights,  in Pittsburgh, PA, courtesy of (and alongside) longtime musical kin James Gyre, whose great blog That Veiled Gazelle is full of ideas, amazing mixes, art, and politics. Folks in the neighborhood please come through, I've never played in Pittsburgh before.

The show is Thursday, March 25th 10pm-2am
at Brillobox 4104 Penn
$6 to get in (but there are drink specials)
video projections by Flux Rostrum


and then next week, I'm in New York City for one hot minute, but I'll make it hotter at Sin Sin in the East Village, at a FREE PARTY. I will post again with the flyer over the weekend.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Lyrics music dancing

A recurring conversation I have had with my friends who like to talk about music (fans, journalists, scholars, djs, producers, instrumentalists, and everyone else)... is about lyrics and dance music. I keep meaning to write about it more, and this recent post by the always-interesting Jay Smooth's on lyrics and music (and capitalism, which he doesn't really get to, but i might later), made me think about it some more.

 My first thought on this exchange is that I wonder if the non-lyrical rapping they are both talking about may be more dance music oriented "put your hands in the air!" type rapping. Stuff that hypes up a crowd but leaves them room to sing along and to dance along. Not to say that dance music can't have good/complex/virtuosic lyrics, but that lack of lyrics may signal that it's dance music. I wonder if his definition of hip-hop is ignoring the dance music element and the relation between lyrics and dance music.

I'm struck by the idea that that the rapper Jay is talking about said lyrics don't make money. It seems like he (the rapper not Jay) may be wrong, in the big picture, but I wonder about what his horizons are. Maybe dance music scenes  FEEL more successful if you are still a local. Successful in the "room full of high energy folks having a blast" kind of way, rather than people standing and listening and relating to what you're saying, or buying your records from afar. Dancing scenes can build a kind of community, a local scene, that everyone wants to be a part of, and you can be popular in that scene, if it's small enough, in a way that pays off to you every day in small ways. I'm going partly on my experience of Jamaica here, so I'd love to hear others' opinion on it. But I wonder if the "local fame" aspect of that non-lyrical rapping feels more successful than waiting for royalties and the delayed payoff of fame in the larger world. Especially if you aren't getting those later payoffs!

But this is maybe where capitalism comes in. Because capitalising on dance music isn't really about royalties. As far as I know, the live social experience is what the most people make an effort for - whether you charge entrance, or charge for drinks at the event, or sell people objects like t-shirts or other fashion that they can wear to the event or afterwards.. those things have historically (in the US and elsewhere) generated more money than royalties.  Because royalties focus on musical recordings, objects, and not on the social experience.

But I want to back up and talk more about lyrics because there's a bigger issue Jay raises when talking about lyrics as being so important to hip-hop. It has to do with how he's assuming what matters about hip-hop - what the key experiences that make up hip-hop are. And a larger issue is that there are other kinds of music which have provided those key experiences, to a similar population as hip-hop fans, but that don't get the same kind of public attention and journalistic/scholarly attention as hip-hop, and I think the lyrics issue has something to do with it.

I think it was Chrissy Murderbot who laid it out the clearest to me in conversation. He said it as someone connected to the Chicago house scene (a dj and a scholar himself), and he spoke up for an analysis rooted in the Midwest USA's experience of music. He said that the public discourse about hip-hop, including academic work on hip-hop, focuses on the coasts but generalizes from "hip-hop" to "black music" in a way that leaves out the midwestern experience. House & Techno functioned, in the midwest of the US, the way that rap did on the coasts. It was black (urban?) music, that reinforced and celebrated black identity.
So house & techno may have been popular among black folk in the midwest the way rap was on the coasts, but the music had a different balance of sonic elements. However those music worked to represent and celebrate communities, I think they didn't do it primarily through lyrics. Lyrics are not the central part of house and techno. Not to say there are never any words, but the focus isn't on lyricism per se. So what does that mean for understanding of music, of race, and of social creativity?

It seems like the focus on hip-hop on the coasts (and I know I'm leaving out the South, which is due mostly to my ignorance of Southern popular culture and I'd love to know more) naturalizes an assumption about the importance of lyrics to music, and maybe to black culture, or popular culture.  I have noticed a tendency for people who talk about music with lyrics, to spend the majority of their energy on the meaning and importance of lyrical content, and spend a lot less on the musical meaning and importance, including not really analyzing the way the music interacts with people's bodies (there are some exceptions these days, but it's still a small group, I think).

This suggests a couple of things.

First, many people have a hard time talking about music as dance music being anything but hedonism.  Dance music and the action of bodies moving together in space, to music, has been undertheorized and under discussed. Maybe especially in hip-hop, where discussions sometimes include talk about b-boying (and b-girling), but don't usually spend a lot of time on the way hip-hop is music that people dance to.

That matters for how we understand hip-hop in society,  because far more people dance to hip-hop than are usually accounted for in the analysis. There's just sort of "audiences" and "parties" and "clubs." And what happens on the stage, or at the center of the dancefloor might get some attention, but everyone else is left out as if they are passive receptacles for music and culture. Those of you who have heard my talk about my experiences and research in Jamaica should guess by now I see  so-called "audiences" as active participants in music-making, both in terms of creative input that affects what kinds of recordings and live experiences exist, and also in terms of making music meaningful to society.

So because most people don't talk about dancing audiences as having any musical (as well as political or social implications), one of the broadest human interactions with hip-hop is not really accounted for. If it was included, and if dancing was taken seriously (and not just virtuosic performance, but social dancing), it might alter our understanding of hip-hop's political and cultural significance in several ways.

Second, it seems to me that house and techno are historically black music with a serious role to play in black (American) identity. House & techno are not exclusively black, of course (even from the start).. and over time (in ways that I think have still to be properly studied), the music spread to more  communities. But it does a disservice to any understanding of black american culture, or of music and race (however defined) to leave out house and techno.
Some implications of inclusion would be:
since I'm thinking more about technology these days, I also wonder what that does to popular understanding of the relationship between blackness and technology and futurism. Techno, especially, sonically and practically is associated with sounds of technology and machinery, and with technological skill. Also it sometimes evoke visions of the future, of being forward-looking and futuristic. Some folks have talked and written and performed this, but it could use a lot more attention.

Focusing more on house & techno might also suggest more about religious and ritual functions of dance and popular music - some house music ("uplifting house") has a gospel flavor, and incorporates musical and lyrical themes that are explicitly or implicitly religious.
Also, given that there is also more explicit gay presence in house and techno, incorporating house & techno into understanding of blackness and black music might alter how many people talk about the interplay between race and sexuality.
Also since the gender politics of house and techno look, on the surface, to be somewhat similar, in terms of who explicitly is represented and how, we could think more about the implications for understanding who gets to be seen as representatives of culture and subculture, who is recognized for have attributes or skills.
But of course there are endless more implications. One I'm just starting to think about is how dance scenes really require space, physical space - and take up space through amplified audio - which really brings in questions of physical property, peoples rights to use and control and claim physical spaces. NOt that music performance never needs space, but focusing on, say, recordings, lets you stay in studios, radios and the internet, while focusing on dancing crowds keeps attention on how someone got access to warehouse, a club, what zoning laws were or weren't enforced that allowed a street party, etc etc.

The other side of this is thinking about what happens if we incorporate house and techno and other dance musics into our understanding of society and politics. I'm not saying that raves or warehouse parties are necessarily explicitly political, but anything that lots of people are involved in has a political implication - if we just ask why are they putting their energy there and not elsewhere? Hedonism is not enough of an answer.

And maybe sometimes hedonism is more of an answer than we might think. What it means to have fun together, to get sweaty together, to lose ourself in music and the moment and the crowd, or with a partner... not to get all semi-apocyphal-emma-goldman on you, but there is a point. If political activities --or more seriously, political movements-- don't incorporate fun and think seriously and politically about pleasure, I think they are likely to miss out on mass participation.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Music of 2009

I’m just going to put some lists (NOT IN ORDER) out there, music I've been feelin over the past year.

These are things that are released or that I got my hands on in 2009. I play a lot of tracks that are older, and at some point I should shout ot those stalwarts in the collection, but I'm trying to stick to a theme here.

Folks whose music I love and rocked the dancefloor unstoppably, who I learned about or gained a new love for in 2009:
  1. Schlachthofbronx – Oh man, perfect party music
  2. Taal Mala – out of Canada, making some of my favorite dancefloor movers for the dubstep style
  3. Grievous Angel - some of my favorite takes on UK Funky come from him
  4. Ku Bo - continuing with that witchy minimal tropical shuffle sound
  5. Kush Arora - Surya Dub crew, forging his own sound in several directions at once
  6. Sully (hoorah for the return of the 2step!)
  7. Akira Kiteshi
  8. Bunji Garlin - one of the most fun vocalists out of the caribbean.
  9. Kill Frenzy - I think it's Belgium does Juke?
  10. Soundcloud discoveries: Flore, Gizmode, Ghost Hack, Sa’bat sound, Dmoefunk, blnd!

Tunes at the top of the playlist
  1. Sarantis feat. Honey Brown “Fall in Love”
  2. Murderbot feat Hawatha Hurd, “Roll another one”
  3. Babylon System “Get on up”
  4. Process Rebel vs. Sinead O’Connor “Vampire Booty Stepper”
  5. Robot Koch remixing Doshy
  6. Busy Signal “Up in her Belly” (Magalenha riddim)
  7. L-Vis 1990 remix of Untold’s “Anaconda”
  8. Boy 8-bit remix of South Rakkas Crew’s “Mad Again”
  9. Ale Fillman Skanker remix of Outrun “8 Bit Spliff”
  10. Reso’s Aguardiente remix of Buraka Som Sistema “Kalemba”
  11. Octa Push "Ai Nadia"
  12. Gizmode "Crackstep"

Stuff (Albums & mixes) I played at home and out and about
  1. Roots Uprising album – really solid fun UK Digital roots from the Reggae Roast ceew. Great vocals. Diverse styles. Super nice people throwing great parties in London, what’s not to love?
  2. King Midas Sound - the latest from The Bug/Kevin Martin with incredible mystery and dreamlike vocals
  3. Disrupt - jahtari continues to lay down 8bit roots
  4. Clive Hunt and the Dub Dancers - discovered in JA, published in France. Deep!
  5. Ras G - My favorite of this sort of psychedelic thing
  6. Filastine - nomad bass abounds in his mixes and albums
  7. Unsoundbwoy - australian stormer -check his lizardstyle mix!
  8. Foundation Stepper - Australian roots providers
  9. Dr. Auratheft's "Jamaican Soul Jazz Originals" mix. as on the label, lovely..
  10. Lowdjo - balkanotropical mixes galore!

festivals, scholars, djs, fun!

The CHAT Festival, Festival on the Hill and colloquium on the Art & Culture of the DJ were all a resounding success, as far as I’m concerned.

Big big ups go to Prof. Mark Katz for organizing the Hill/Symposium part (alongside Prof. Stephen Anderson, who I don't think I met). It was an impressive series of performances and talks!
I didn’t take the time to mention, before I left, what an amazing honor it was for me to be on a lineup alongside the people I think of as truly great scholars of modern music, Oliver Wang, Mark Butler (who wrote this fascinating book) and Rayvon Fouche – all of them seriously impressive scholars, sharp dressers, and great public speakers. I thought I did all right fashion-wise, but O-dub sure is a tough act to follow! I’m getting the hang of it now (after a pretty stiff start a few years ago), but it was a pleasure to watch them all present both because of their different but equally effective styles of research and presentation and because it was all so darn interesting.

I was impressed with the continuity and interplay between all of our talks. Even though they were informed by very different bodies of scholarship – Oliver was sociology and social history, I was law & society, Mark was musicology, and Rayvon was science & technology studies, we all managed to depict fascinating, dynamic moments of musical engagement through our chosen projects. Oliver’s talk, drawn from his forthcoming book, was about the Filipino-American mobile disco scene in the Bay Area (from which the impressive dominance of Filipino-American scratch djs arose). I talked about the participatory, dynamic, interactive practice of music as embodied in Jamaican soundsystems and street dances. Mark talked (from HIS forthcoming book about improvisation, technology and music) about how djs take supposedly fixed objects like musical recordings and render them fluid with improvisatory interactive techniques (illustrated by musical analysis and a close examination of a section from a truly mindblowing DVD of  Jeff Mills djing live…who’d a thunk one man and 3 turntables would be so mesmerizing to watch—and I don’t even follow techno!). Rayvon talked about how the words/concepts “digital” and “analog” when applied to recordings and technology are used as stand-ins for a set of positions around authenticity, paying your dues, nostalgia, and race.

And to top it all off –who showed up at dinner but the ill-ustrious Jeff Chang! Rounding out the lineup of great scholars of modern popular/dance music. (Well, for my dream dinner, Wayne shoulda been there, and a few others too..)

Anyway it was an amazing experience, very inspiring. The panel discussion on Wednesday was also great, especially because I got to meet Jennifer Jenkins, a former copyright litigator now of the Center of the Study of the Public Domain at Duke, and even more excitingly the co-author of a fun and useful comic book (yes, comic book) on copyright law and documentary film. Well worth reading even if you are not a film-maker (and they walk the walk - it's available for free online as well as being a delightful physical object for sale). I learned some great news from her after – that they are working on a comic book on music as well. So cool! The rest of the panel was quite interesting as well, and I was gratified to find that even the folks who might be expected to represent more established interests (folks representing publishers and artists with large back catalogs, for example), had their eyes firmly on the future, which didn’t seem to involve a focus on exclusive rights over recordings or a system that requires suing music fans for thousands of dollars. I hope the industry as a whole is as wise!

And then I was lucky enough to be able to DJ alongside two great djs and all-round great folk, One Duran and Yugen.. these stalwarts are responsible for for more good music and dancing in Chapel Hill than anyone, I think. And we had a little throwdown at a bar/restaurant that ended up going well past 2am with people refusing to leave the dancefloor until the last ounce of sound was squeezed out of the system and the owner put his foot down. It was a great crowd of dancing peeps, and big thanks to my hosts for making it happen!
But I still haven’t even gotten to the post I have been planning to make, which is about the music I have been feeling these days. Maybe even my favorite music of 2009. I know it’s almost the end of February, but it’s never too late, right? That's up next..

Monday, February 15, 2010

#musicblogocide 1

After writing this piece in 2008 about a previous wave of takedowns of music blogs by Blogger(google), things seemed to die down. Many bloggers moved their sites to other hosts, others did not. Music blogs continued being an amazing resource and site of musical engagement for thousands of people, but perhaps some were slightly chastened by the possibility of their work (collecting, juxtaposing, commenting, analyzing, reporting and transmitting), or maybe we should call it their sites for public engagement with music, vanishing, often without warning.

And then it seemed to all start up again last week. I noticed it because one of my favorite sites, Masalacism, vanished as I was reading it.

Masalacism is a perfect example of music-making, in that the blog is part of the conditions for my favorite music, it creates the possibility of audience for/creation of music variously rooted in geographically and socially distant scenes.

I'm talking about music as a social practice, not music as a recording or a particular moment frozen in time or on paper. Masalacism makes music involving actors from all over the world, it draws them together and opens lines of communication between people, places, scenes, who might not get to know of each other in any other way.  This is some of the best music-making there is, in my opinion. I love the specific &local, juxtaposed with other specific & local, to make a kind of conversation between localities and experiences, when music does this well, it also does this for the bodies &minds of people involved, bringing them into conversation or dance with each other, physically or mentally or both. Which is part of saving the world, kind of, or at least getting us there.

So anyway, Masalacism went down, alongside many other blogs, many of whom explicitly said they were attempting to follow the mostly-idiotic legal rules. And this in the face of record labels at least contradicting themselves and at most lying outright about whether they were giving with one hand and suing with the other. And now it is back up! With an apology from google, no less.

but even so, this isn't a sign that the system works. The problem here isn't google so much as it is the law, specifically the DMCA, which puts google at risk of huge lawsuits if it doesn't mess with music bloggers, basically, and puts the burden on bloggers to file counternotices when the law might not back them up.

Two things come to mind today:

1) not the ridiculousness of intellectual property, but in fact the importance of physical property. Yes, the law should be changed to allow broader public, artistic and literary engagement with intellectual property (and limiting IP's scope explicitly), but it also would help to have our own servers and ISPs, no? spread out the lines of defense some.

2) what most music bloggers I read favor over threats & counternotices, is real human interaction with artists. Many folk put up "if you have a problem with this song being up here, let me know and I'll take it down." What I like about this is that it puts the burden on copyright owners to engage with the very people they are supposedly trying to reach - the people who engage with the copyrighted stuff. That engagement is necessary for all kinds of reasons, but especially because it reinforces the social nature of music. We're not talking about an object in any meaningful sense, we are talking about recordings which are elements of a total musical experience which involves playing, listening, singing along and dancing, thinking about, remembering, talking about, repeating, etc etc etc. So conversations about what happens with recordings contribute to the meaningfulness of the musical experience.

Of course the problem is that most copyright holders aren't human, they are corporations. The Future of Music Coalition attempts to address this in its discussion of principles for compensation, in which they assume that there is something beyond copyright law that should give artists some rights with respect to some works they contribute to. I'm not sure what that something is, but there is also something out there that should give the public (including artists) some right to engage in an active way with the music they encounter (to say nothing of the music that is shoved down our throats by advertising, commercial radio, etc). Many music bloggers recognize both sides of this. The law should as well. But in the meantime, the law of physical property, or just flat out physical control, of servers might be a good option to look into...

>>edited to add, some other good discussion of this at
(with great quotes from Masalacism blogger himself!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

peeking! Chapel Hill represent!

I've been up in the air for so many months, touching down for gigs & links with lovely peoples here and there, but sadly remiss on blogging. A full, "welcome-to-2010" post, with a lot of music in it will come by next weekend, I plan to write it on the road next week. Yes, still on the road.

Next week, Wednesday-Saturday I will be speaking at two events at the Collaborations: Humanities Arts and Technology festival at the University of North Carolina.

Wednesday, I'm on a panel entitled "Music and New Media" where I am alongside an interesting roster of people including the awesome Professor J. Jenkins, co-author of a fantastic comic book explaining (c) law for documentary filmmakers (and it's worth reading for anyone curious about the limits and idiocies of 21st century copyright law enforcement).

Friday, I'm part of a "Festival on the Hill" event on the Art And Culture of the DJ, alongside illustrious folks like O-dub and and the event features a lot of great musical workshops and performances. And to top it all off, I'm djing, courtesy of the fantastic One Duran and Yugen -  that night!

BUSTED! Presents a night of tropical bass, dubstep, glitch, UK funky house, and other low-end music.

Friday, Feb 19th
10pm til 2am
@ Fuse, Chapel Hill
No cover!

Meanwhile, big big BIIIIIIG thanks to the Slayers Club for throwing down another amazing party at Club 6... King Cannibal did the slaying, with Nastynasty and the Slayers Club Djs sharpshooting alongside and GhostBeard did the cleanup. I did my bit as best I could for the dancing peoples on the early side. Such a nice vibe in there, Club 6 has many happy memories as the home of Surya Dub for two years (the bouncers remembered me, and bigged up my djing, which coming from the captive audience who hear a LOTTA djs, made me feel pretty good). So good, people, good place, good sounds all around.. Slayers club brings quality, every time!

and on the latenight side, Monsters of Love blew up as always. Extra hollas to the folks providing coconut water at the bar. This should be a staple of all bars. But especially at after-hours latenight warehouse parties. And the music was stormin, just caught some killah sets by one of my favorites: Amandroid, the demonic Venkman, and a live PA by someone called... foxfire? fox something. She was great. I also was lucky enough to play a screaming breakcore-mashup-ragga-dubcore-sissybounce-jungle-dancehall-robocumbia-dubstep-glitch-bailefunk-booty set later in the morning.. thanks to everyone in it for the long haul..