[iDC] Remix Culture: Africa

Cynthia Beth Rubin cbrubin at risd.edu
Mon Apr 17 12:56:32 EDT 2006

Good discussion.  How does social/economic context play out here?

Africans who brought us the remix culture in Jamaica and throughout  
the Americas did not do this by choice.  Africa was brought to the  
Americas, and forced to mix with a little Europe and a little native  
culture.  That something as wonderful as jazz grew from this forced  
mix speaks to the power of the human mind to forge connections out of  
bits of disparate culture.  As in biology, the hybrid is often  
stronger than the original, or at least offers new features.

The arts culture of West Africa today is in turn influenced by the  
remix culture of North America that is wandering back home to Africa  
by way of Europe.  Again, the mixture is not totally by choice, as  
the as contemporary cultural dissemination is filtered through the  
dominance of French and Swiss television, magazines, and CD  
distributors.  I am not sure how many Europeans and Americans would  
be enchanted by the African culture that is less remixed, a culture  
based of pulling a living out of sandy land where everyday existence  
can be challenge, and taking pleasure in the small things is a  
necessity.  You may not have time or money for concerts or CDs, but  
you can sit with your friends and creatively braid hair extensions  
into wonderful patterns, adding a touch of color on your more  
outrageous days.  Poor people everywhere know this, but poverty in  
West Africa is poverty ever present.

As for remix and cultural blending, of course it has been with us in  
trading for a long time.  Trying to figure out how it is functioning  
today is interesting, but worth cmoparing to how this happened in the  
past. What does the digital bring that we did not have before?  How  
is influence changed when it can be grabbed unfiltered, as cultural  
clip art?

For comparison, look at this box in the shape of a duck  from   
Deccan, India -- (late 17th–early 18th century) on the Met Museum site.


Nature and Culture collide, chines influences, wives from one culture  
taken into another, four artisans working on the piece, using a  
technical process imported (possibly) form Iran.

Full Description from Met Museum site:
Possibly inspired by Chinese ceramics, this charming, chubby duck  
resting his head on his back is a "pan-dan," or box, used to hold pan- 
rolled betel leaf stuffed with betel nut, lime paste, and spices. The  
native Hindu custom of eating betel leaves (to aid digestion and  
freshen the breath) was introduced at the Mughal court in the  
seventeenth century by palace ladies, probably Hindu wives of the  
Mughal rulers. It is rare to find objects executed in the bidri  
technique in a shape other than that of metalwork. Bidri ware is  
named for the city of Bidar in the Deccan (about seventy-five miles  
northwest of Hyderabad in Delhi), the chief center of its production  
from the seventeenth to nineteenth century. Four artisans  
collaborated to make this box: a molder who created the shape using  
the lost-wax technique; an etcher who drew the designs on the  
surface; an engraver who chiseled out the areas around the designs;  
and an inlayer who applied the silver and brass. The surface was then  
blackened to enhance the beauty of the inlay, used here to define the  
duck's various feathers. The origins of this elaborate process remain  
unclear; however, long-standing oral traditions suggest that it was  
imported from Iran.

Cynthia B Rubin

On Apr 17, 2006, at 12:00 PM, idc-request at bbs.thing.net wrote:

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Today's Topics:

    1. Re: Remix Reader (Eduardo Navas)
    2. Re: Lev Manovich on Remix Culture (Curt Cloninger)
    3. Re: Remix Reader (conrad at buffalo.edu)


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 17:36:00 -0700
From: Eduardo Navas <eduardo at navasse.net>
Subject: Re: [iDC] Remix Reader
To: idc <idc at bbs.thing.net>
Message-ID: <C0683100.9B12%eduardo at navasse.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"


Just a critical note on something that stayed on  my mind after I  
wrote my
last reply.  I quote below,

On 4/16/06 12:20 PM, "Paul D. Miller" <anansi1 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> The curators in the artworld have no idea about how to deal with  
> this, and the
> digital media scene in terms of the real practice of multi- 
> culturalism, needs
> some serious work as well.

One thing I would say about this is that the statement has a certain
assumption about curators in the artworld.  Given that I was proposed  
as an
example by Paul, I would like to clarify two things.

1. people who hold positions in cultural institutions today may have an
intimate background in their professional focus. They don¹t just pop  
out of
the ether to fulfill their positions as though they were replicants from
Blade Runner ready to serve their masters.
2. There appears to be a subtle statement for a necessity of ³cultural
insiderism,² (as Paul  Gilroy would say), if one is to make  
statements on
specific histories.

I should clarify here that I do believe that many  people currently  
in academic institutions (including myself‹not a curator but artist/ 
have been part of the histories they focus on as these developed.   
This is
not to justify my position, but to explain that the real problem is   
there might be some resistance according to the traditional avant-garde
model  (or should we say neo-avant-garde) in the statement above to  
that the institutions ³cannot get it.²  This position ³goes back, way  
back into time²‹hit me! aahhh!--fresh, at least 150 years.


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Message: 2
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 22:14:26 -0400
From: Curt Cloninger <curt at lab404.com>
Subject: [iDC] Re: Lev Manovich on Remix Culture
To: idc at bbs.thing.net
Message-ID: <p06110405c068a71ec130@[]>
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- wayne coyne

> still following 'provocative views'...
> "The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in  
> them. This
> is why I can't use them for very long. Do you know what a nerd is? A
> nerd is a human being without enough Africa in him or her. I know
> this sounds sort of inversely racist to
> say, but I think the African connection is so important.
> You know why music was the center of our lives for such a long time?
> Because it was a way of allowing Africa in. In 50 years, it might not
> be Africa; it might be Brazil. But I want so desperately for that
> sensibility to flood into these other areas, like computers."
> Brian Eno (Interview with Brian Eno - Wired Magazine, May 1995)


Message: 3
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 22:13:47 -0400
From: conrad at buffalo.edu
Subject: Re: [iDC] Remix Reader
To: IDC list <idc at bbs.thing.net>
Message-ID: <1145240027.4442f9db44b3c at mail1.buffalo.edu>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

It's nice to read more detail on the Kingston scene than I've found
anywhere else, at least since Richard Henderson came back from there
describing the dub scene in the late 1970s!

But this hybridity has been happening longer, and on a more general (and
less local or artist/hero-centered) basis than any of these accounts yet
suggests. Longer: in western Europe the "French suite", a foundation for
  sonata and symphony, was a collection of folk-derived dances. Dance
manias of the baroque era included the sarabande, passacaglia, and
chaconne, all outrageously risque, and the canary; three of these came
from South America or Africa. More General: See John Storm Roberts'
important book Black Music of Two Worlds, on the ricochet of musical
influences back and forth across the Atlantic between the Caribbean and
West Africa.


Quoting "Paul D. Miller" <anansi1 at earthlink.net>:

> --============_-1066907276==_ma============
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" ; format="flowed"
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
> Hey people - it's a pleasure to see some of the threads on the list.
> The main issue is:
> 1) You have to think about different kinds of
> literacy. I think Lev Manovich would be totally
> illiterate of youth culture's global fascination
> with hybridity and convergent media - I'm saying
> that as a friend. I did music for his "Soft
> Cinema" project, and we've had discussions about
> this. Alot of the digital theory scene simply
> cannot process divergent forms of sound art, and
> digital media. They can deal with Japan, China,
> and India, but Jamaica, Africa and, ahem,
> African-Americans, are a no-go zone for theories
> of digital media and sound art. I've never been
> quite sure why that is, but, yeah, it's there.
> The curators in the artworld have no idea about
> how to deal with this, and the digital media
> scene in terms of the real practice of
> multi-culturalism, needs some serious work as
> well.
> In Eduardo's piece, for example, starts with RZA,
> but doesn't engage the real practical
> relationships of the Caribbean (especially
> producers in Jamaica) whose practice of
> "versioning" directly anticipates hip-hop, or for
> that matter the idea of call and response blues
> from the turn of the last century. There are so
> many other places to start - Bollywood's ability
> to absorb the complex vocabulary of Hollywood
> film, Egyptian cinema, West African film makers
> like Sembene Ousmane... It's all about collage
> based composition. I'd say Brian Eno and David
> Byrne's "My Life in The Bush of ghosts" is
> probably alot more creative than alot of the
> hip-hop you hear today, and in fact, it's been
> sampled alot, but then again, so has Fela. RZA
> took that kind of hybridity, and made a brand out
> of it... But then again, so did King Tubby.
> Anyway:
> If you are open, there's plenty of interesting material out there.
> A very very very brief primer for those interested in "remix"
> culture:
> Valentine de St. Point "Manifesto of Lust" - 1915
> Luigi Russolo - The Art of Noise - 1915
> Theodore Adorno - The form of the Phonograph
> Norman Mailer's "The White Negro" - 1957
> Amiri Baraka - Blues People: Negro Music in White America, 1963
> Alfred Appel - Jazz Modernism  - 2003
> Eduoard Glissant - Poetics of Relation, 1997
> Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop, 2005
> and of course, my book "Rhythm Science" that came=20
> out on MIT Press a little while ago.
> www.rhythmscience.com
> Stevem Shaviro has an excellent on-line teaching=20
> resource about sampling as well:
> http://www.dhalgren.com/Classes/Sound.html
> These are the liner notes to a Box Set CD I've done with Trojan
> Records.
> Trojan Records is a legendary record label
> started by Arthur "Duke" Reid in Kingston,
> Jamaica in the late 1960's. It's archive
> encompasses some of the most renowned Jamaican
> artists in history, and the box set I've compiled
> for Trojan Records is a slice of material from
> their catalog. It's a double CD with outtakes and
> extremely rare versions of Jamaican material from
> the last 40 years.
> Paul aka Dj Spooky
> Heel up, Wheel up, come back, rewind: Trojan Records
> by Paul D. Miller
> When Trojan Records asked me to do a "selections"
> from their archive, one of the first things that
> went through my mind was how do you mix music
> that changed the world? It's been about fifty
> years since Jamaica has become an independent
> country, and it seems like the music that comes
> from this tiny island in the Caribbean is having
> more of an impact than ever.
> Trojan Records' founder, Arthur "Duke" Reid, used
> to drive the Trojan brand of trucks around
> Kingston with huge speakers blasting his
> innovative collection of Jamaican music, leading
> to the urban legend of how the name of the
> soundsystem cum record label developed. "Duke"
> was a former policeman, and it comes as no
> surprise that the "ruff and rude" sounds of the
> Kingston underground were the staple of his sound.
> The metaphor of the Trojan truck, mapped onto the
> Greek legend of the Trojan house, is as fitting
> as any fiction. Trojan Ltd. was a car company
> that made sturdy trucks that were to become the
> staple of the colonial market export of cars. The
> people of Troy, a great city in ancient Greece,
> were a royal line founded by Zeus and Electra,
> and if the myths of the past are to be kept in
> mind when we think of Jamaica, you can see the
> update: Like the Trojan horse, these stealth
> units, soundsystems, were able to be in plain
> sight while changing the cultural operating
> system of the entire world. Soundsystems were
> portable discos, mobile platforms for different
> styles. They were the preferred method of
> spreading a style because they were nomadic in a
> way that the monumental clubs of the U.S. and
> U.K. couldn't dream of. From the vantage point of
> the 21st century, they can only be viewed as the
> predecessor of the iPod.
> Portability, quickness, stealth copies of hit
> songs, "versions"=8A All of this leads us to the
> idea of remix culture and "mash-ups" that are the
> digital world's inheritance from the analog media
> of the soundsystem. With the material that I
> selected for this compilation, I wanted to avoid
> the obvious songs of Jamaican history, and focus
> on the more esoteric materials that collectors
> and producers could relate to. For example, when
> the Prodigy sampled Max Romeo and The Upsetters'
> 1976 "I Chase The Devil (Lucifer)," I thought it
> would be a good start to think about how the same
> sample popped up on Kayne West's production of
> Jay Z's hit "Lucifer." I think you'll relate to
> the out-take version I included in the
> compilation of Lee "Scratch" Perry's version,
> "Disco Devil." Sounds like piracy? Well can you
> imagine the world without Bob Marley? He used to
> screen records as a clerk for the Coxsone
> soundsystem. He'd literally sift through the
> sounds of the current day to tell Coxsone which
> records to copy! This was invaluable for his
> development as a recording artist and performer.
> The "re-mix" was happening in Jamaica to keep the
> best songs fresh with the newest sounds for
> decades before the idea hit the U.S. With Perry
> and his staple of singers like Susan Cadogan (a
> former librarian!), you can hear the heat of a
> Kingston night in songs like her hit, "Fever,"
> and her 1974 smash single "Hurt So Good," a cover
> version of Millie Jackson's song by the same
> name. Since copyright law in Jamaica was never
> tight everything was a copy of something else.
> You can think of the whole culture as a shareware
> update, a software source for the rest of the
> world to upload. And if you stretch your ears,
> you can see the future of digital music in the
> drum machine riddim of "Sleng Teng" - a rhythm
> made at King Jammy's on a Casio MT-40 home
> keyboard.
> Jamaica created its own economy in sound with the
> relentless bass pressure of an island where
> music, and access to the right styles and sounds
> could make or break your career. The pressure to
> find the right rhythms created a hothouse of
> innovation. Just think: reggae is the expression
> of a nation under immense pressure - from IMF
> loans, from colonialism's aftereffects, the
> falling price of bauxite and its relationship to
> a Third World economy based solely on natural
> products like sugar cane and bananas.
> Before hip-hop was global, the Jamaican scene had
> somehow, on the down-low, followed the idea of
> diaspora. Today with artists like Matisyahu in
> Brooklyn doing Hasidic Jewish versions of reggae,
> to stuff like Japan's "Ranking Taxi" to the
> myriad sounds coming out of Brazil, India,
> Tunisia, Germany and France, the tradition of
> pastiche and bricolage continues. You get the
> idea. The logic of diaspora - of taking music
> from a region and spreading it across the world -
> is reggae's core essence, and when I put this mix
> together, I wanted to go from my downtown NYC to
> London and Kingston, to parts of the world I'd
> forgotten and the most distant places of my
> record collection.
> I used to go to Jamaica every summer when I was a
> kid, and some of my earliest memories - visiting
> relatives and friends, cousins and uncles and
> aunts - was of my mother and sister reminding me
> of the links between the island and America. My
> Mom used to even used to write for Jamaica's
> equivalent of the New York Times, Kingston's
> "Daily Gleaner!" I want you to feel history when
> you listen to this mix and think about how
> sampling, making new music from old, came from
> the idea of versioning. Think about the
> soundsystem battles of Duke Reid, Sir Coxsone and
> Prince Buster as a forerunner to MC and DJ
> battles in hip-hop. Tthink about Kool Herc's
> soundsystem as a stepping stone for "Planet
> Rock." Just think about how strange the world
> would be if we didn't have this music of the
> islands. It just makes you remember that this
> whole planet is just an island too.
> This mix is a combination of the old, the new,
> and the in between. That's kind of the point: DJ
> culture in the 21st century is as much about the
> soundsystem as the playlist. The iPod revolution
> has brought us back to the era of the "single" in
> the form of a downloadable media file. It's a
> return to the era when we were kids in the
> ancient late 1980's, when vinyl still ruled the
> dancehalls, and the soundsystems of NYC,
> Kingston, and London were all about underground
> flava. At a certain point in time, and at a
> certain place - a phrase: architecture is nothing
> but frozen music. What happens when we reverse
> engineer the process? Form becomes flux, solids
> melt into ideas, concepts, blueprints, codes and
> contexts. I wanted to make a mix that reflected
> that: old and new. If there's one thing that
> reggae has told us, it's all about that pressure
> drop!
> Enjoy!!!
> Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid NYC 2006
> CD 1
> 1. Disco Devil by Lee "Scratch" Perry
> 2. Lama Lava by Augustus Pablo
> 3. 007 Shanty Town  by Desmond Dekker
> 4. Funky, Funky Reggae by Dave & Ansel Collins
> 5. Shades Of Hudson by Dennis Alcapone & Kieth Hudson
> 6. Come Together by The Israelites
> 7. Old Fashion Way by Ken Booth and Kieth Hudson
> 8. Rain by Bruce Ruffin
> 9. Your Ace From Outer Space by U-Roy
> 10. Sweet Like Candy by Winston Williams
> 11. The Rooster by Tommy McCook & His Band
> 12. The Trial Of Pama Dice by Lloyd/Dice/Mum
> 13. Fever	by Susan Cadogan
> 14. Skinhead Moonstomp by Symarip
> 15. Morning Sun by Al Barry & The Cimarons
> 16. Save Me by Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths
> 17. Rudy A Message To You by Dandy Livingstone
> 18. James Bond by The Selecter
> 19. Rough Rider (Live) by The Special Beat
> 20. Ghost Town (Live) by The Specials
> 21. Mirror In The Bathroom (Live) by The Special Beat
> 22. The Russians Are Coming (Take Five) by Val Bennett
> CD 2:
> 1. Entertainer by Charlie Chaplin taken from Dancehall Explosion-20
> Killa D
> 2.The Great Musical Battle by Derrick Morgan
> 3. Reform Institute by Gregory Isaac's All Stars
> 4. Popcorn by The Upsetters
> 5. Brother Noah by The Shadows
> 6. King Tubby's Explosion Dub by King Tubby
> 7. Dynamic Fashion Way by U-Roy
> 8. A Yah We Deh by Barrington Levy
> 9. Peter Tosh "Here Comes the Judge" - taken from "Trojan Legend Box
> Set"
> 10. Dave Barker "Lock Jaw"
> 11. Dillinger - "Flat Foot Hustling" - taken from "Trojan Legend Box
> Set
> 12.  Lee "Scratch" Perry - the Upsetters - "Chapter 2: French
> Connection"
> 13. Hot Sauce (Aka The Agro Man Is Back) by Dave & Ansel Collins
> 14. A Version I can Feel With Love by Tommy McCook
> 15. Brain Mark by Jackie Mitoo
> 16. Pop A Version by Dennis Alcapone
> 17. Ethiopian Kingdom by Prince Rowland Downer and Count Ossie Band


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