Beat Diaspora: Beats, Buses, Bricks

an omnivorous take on music of the beat-based variety and the urban spaces that nurture it

Friday, July 07, 2006

Introduction: Defining Terms

Beat n. Music.
A steady succession of units of rhythm.
The air is flush with beats, steady rhythms emanating from the headphones and stereos and soundsystems and synthesizers and mouths a whole world over. I like most of them that I come across, especially of the electronic variety. From head-nodding ambient sounds to four-to-the-floor bangers, I'm a beat omnivore, consuming beats wherever I find them. And, more importantly, wanting to know where they came from once they get in my greedy ears.

Diaspora n.
[when a group is] dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture.
A loaded word, to be sure. Both chosen for that reason and not. The original meaning is a little too biblical for my needs. The term as it is used in the context of "diaspora studies" (Google to get just about every displaced ethnicity under the sun) is certainly valid, but does demand a certain politicized history -- who initiated the diaspora, who suffered because of it? I'm not disputing the importance of such questions, and I know this use of the word will apply to some of the music and places about which I write.

However, I'm not sticking only to music produced by marginalized communities. As such, the open definition quoted above strikes me as the best for right now. An umbrella, big-tent definition: beats for all! A meritocracy of beats. As long as they sound good to me, whether it lead to just toe-tapping or all out ass-shaking, I get curious.

Where does the music come from and why? What kind of communities foster it? That's a grandiose question for ethnomusicologists to answer, but I will say as much: I'm convinced that urban spaces foster a particular kind of music (often electronic, often beat-based) that reflects and responds to the conditions of that space.

Intentionally vague, I know, but the blog is here to fill in the gaps.

With what? With funk, to start. I'm kicking this off seven floors up in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. The national obsession may be on the sidelines in advance of Sunday's World Cup final and it may technically be winter (although the weather begs to differ, at least to my Northeast-hardened skin), but I'm gonna heat it up as best I can in my attempts to uncover the latest and freshest of Rio's homegrown hip-hop. Along the way, I hope to determine what influence, if any, its popularity up North as of the last couple years has had (you know, the kind of popularity that brought a gringo like me down here in the first place). How has the music changed? Its reception in Rio changed? And at the bailes where it all goes down in the first place?

We'll see where two months in a cidade maravilhosa can lead, with as much audio, video, pictures, and comment I can bring to the table.

[big ups of inspiration & encouragement to this class taught by this guy, as well as this associated crew and their ex-pat ex-cohort.]

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At 7/17/2006 2:48 PM, Blogger wayne&wax said...

right back atcha, greg. just stumbling on your blog. good to see you thinking and writing through your travels. looking forward to more musicological missives.



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