Beat Diaspora: Beats, Buses, Bricks

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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Favela Keeps Getting Chicer

Paris and London have long had their own corner favela serving up $10 caipirinhas made from $1 bottles of 51 cachaça. Tomorrow, the NYC crowd will be able to get its own first-world favela fix.

Among Brazilian immigrants in the U.S., at least in the plentiful Brazilian Boston (or more accurately Cambridge/Somerville) community, the universal referents for Brazilianness are fairly typical: futebol, Rio, samba. But it seems the CDD phenomenon definitely had an impact: Among the chic, favelas are the real stand-in for Brazil.

I don't doubt they deserve visibility, but consumer consumption at expensive nightspots is hardly a helpful way of getting it. When it comes to favela chic, this is more my style.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Nu Whirl Orgy

The orgying continues! This is the last one I'm doing this spring after RVNG and Juan Maclean, and perhaps my last ever for WHRB, following such notables from years past as the roots of Chicago house and Detroit techno and Blogariddims.

I'll be sending it off with a theme very apropos to what's been blogged about here for some time. In this case, a spin on the "new world" music that wayne&wax aptly calls the nu whirl. Variations of it have been blogged in translation here, as well as by Wayne, who will be kicking it off with a show&tell of tunes&talk. Also interviews and mixes by /rupture and Bo. Plus a mix by Ghis de Ghis and Refusenik may be dropping by in the wee hours.

Tune in and dive into the brave nu whirl.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Juan Maclean Orgy

The flyer says it all. If you're fan of avant-robot post-punk or the deft left-wing techno and house stylings of one of DFA's finest, tune in tonight!

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I'm So Bad, I Party in Detroit

For many, a city like Paris or London or Rome seems unreal -- how could the real thing possibly compare to the endless images and leitmotifs in books and movies? For me, that city is Detroit. Does it really exist? Does anyone live there at all? Hasn't the whole thing been abandoned by now?

There doesn't appear to be an online version of Jerry Herron's "I'm So Bad, I Party in Detroit," although there is one of "Everyday Survival." The two together gave me my impression of Detroit: devil's night arsonists burning the city to the ground, itinerant metal scrappers slowly stripping it apart building by building, and RoboCop fantasizing where it will all end up. I quoted both in an article I penned on shrinking cities. Detroit is the American shrinking city par excellence, the only one to exceed the magic 1 million mark and then dip back below it.

As the sun came up on Sunday morning, I gazed out at glistening, isolated casinos (MGM Grand, The Motor City) from the back patio of the TV Bar, an out of the way watering hole off from downtown hosting an after-after-party for the first night of Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival (hereafter DEMF). I chatted up a couple Detroiters who gave me the apocalyptic facts: a city built for 3 million now housing less than 1. 70,000 vacant houses. "Fucking tumbleweeds man," a guy said, shaking his head.

The emptiness is everywhere, permeating downtown and any neighborhood you might pass through. Coming from the crowded northeast, this kind of vacancy is simply unsettling. Neighborhoods didn't seem "dangerous" in the conventional sense so much as eerily empty. Two blocks off from Hart Plaza, the central downtown festival location, you can easily find high-rises of boarded up windows. "For Sale" and "For Lease" seem to be the most popular phrases in the Detroit signage lexicon.

But amidst all that abandonment, there is some extra elbow room, the kind of space that allows an after-party to run until 6 am and an after-after-party to kick up right after at 7 am, outside, on a Monday morning. Who's going to complain? What neighbors? It's the hollowed out core of the inner city that, unexpectedly enough, has incubated culture. Thus techno, thus Inner City / Good Life, thus the collapse of the auto industry and thus Model 500's Night Drive.

The Renaissance Center hovers over the Renaissance City, as Detroit began calling itself in the 1970s. GM's headquarters shine over the horizon looking like cylinders ready to churn in a V8 engine. The ground floor levels house a shopping mall arrayed around GM's latest models.

But the auto industry is still failing, attendance for the Detroit auto show is still falling, and DEMF keeps soaring.

Another take on the Renaissance City motif by Coleman Young, the city's first black mayor: The renaissance of Detroit is the city being reclaimed by its black residents. The proof is in the fist, ostensibly Joe Louis', but more directly the fist of resistance, of black power, of pushing whites over to the other side of 8 Mile.

I'm still seeing the city's wounds freshly. More thoughts to collect & a promised article to Spannered. My own photos once I can get a new USB cable, a casualty of the weekend's debauchery. But DEMF did not disappoint, and the nexus of local/international/Detroit orbital music was top-notch. If anything will be Detroit's renaissance, techno makes for a leading contender.

At least they've got some playoff hopes to keep spirits alive. I call Red Wings taking the Cup in 6 / Pistons going under to the Celts. Detroit's white/black divide continues. It's a cold, cold world.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

From the Autobahn to I-94 (via the rails)

Chicago shimmering across the water; heavy industry of Gary receding across the sand. This isn't the Caribbean, just the dunes.

While the beats usually traveled by asphalt, I can't shake my love of the high iron.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

White City Black Music

Somewhere below the vaunted architecture of the Second City, a little sound called house was born.

Frankie Knuckles - Only the Strong Survive (Instrumental) [via the love unlimited sound system]

On a pilgrimage of sorts, more the roots than the branches (watch me juke?). Occasioned by the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, from which I'll have some live reports soon enough.

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A Dirge 'Round the Corner

Another dispatch from the Crescent --

Sylvester Francis, an infamous repository of NOLA lore and proprietor of the Backstreet Cultural Museum, tipped me off on a recent return visit to a jazz funeral for Billy Ding. Not an everyday occurrence, and so not to be missed. And like so many cultural events in this city, it has an only in New Orleans quality to it. A crowd began milling about Jackson Square in the French Quarter, seemingly equal parts those in the know and those who wandered by and stopped, knowing something was about to happen. The bells at St. Louis Cathedral began tolling and out came the coffin. It was led into a hearse, which began the parade. The band struck up its first number.

On a hot May day, the Treme Brass Band was in full regalia to honor one of their own, while the crowd was a strange mixture of eccentric locals, family, friends, and yes, tourists (self included, sadly). It was both a musical event that warranted serious photography and audio recording -- which I saw -- but plenty of snapshots by the simply curious as well. The jazz funeral has assumed a kind of mythic quality that makes it a tourist attraction. And needless to say, a funeral comes off as an awkward event to spectate, perhaps no better than devastation tourism. East Coast funeral rites certainly don't include drinking beer and dancing.

I would imagine those involved knew what they were in for -- this isn't the first jazz funeral (formerly "jazz with music," FYI) to have attracted passers-by who never knew or even knew of the deceased. But in New Orleans, musicians are civic figures, so perhaps it is fitting that their funerals be a public event, as with intellectuals in France (tens of thousands clogging JP Sartre's funeral in Paris). In the end, the crowd hardly diminished the most solemn moments, as when the parade encountered a bend on Chartres St., which indicated the passage from the Quarter to the Faubourg Marigny. Crossing a neighborhood border is not to be taken lightly by bands who self-identify by neighborhood, and so the band leader declared, "We'll do a dirge 'round the corner."

As the road straightened back out, the up tempo numbers returned and the marchers continued on, whetting their whistles and celebrating Billy Ding all the while.

I just finished up Ned Sublette's history of the antebellum and colonial eras of the city. No surprise to learn that the jazz funeral has African roots. It's all part of the rich but chaotic world that made New Orleans.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Blaze Habs Blaze

A cold spring weekend up north drives away all thoughts of baseball. Instead, my mind turns to Lord Stanley's Cup. Hockey is the sport I grew up with, and I relish it all the more for its current underdog status on the American sporting scene. As a francophile (and more of francophonie than of France), hockey makes me all the more fond of Québec, and Montréal in particular. The Habs (short for Habitants, we were here first) -- né Canadiens -- are easily the most storied professional team in North America. And when their fans belt out the bilingual "O Canada" at home on a nationally televised game, there's an audible flash of French broadcast across North America, a rare enough occurrence.

But it's do or die for les Glorieux tonight against the reincarnation of the Broad Street Bullies. The Habs barely made it past the Boston Bruins in game 7 -- the two teams having duked it out more than any other pair in North American sports.

They've got some encouragement on the beat front of course. I've slept a little on mon pôte Ghislain Poirier's No Ground Under, especially the video for it's lead single, "Blazin." Chunky bass meets ice hockey and transnational migration, what more could I ask for?! Does kreyol have a word for puck yet?

Maybe the B's got the last laugh, though:
Ghislain Poirier - Blazin (DJ C Remix).

And don't miss the Québécois rework of Flo-Rida's "Low" en français!

Here's hoping that they'll still be chanting "Go Habs Go" after tonight and the Montréalais will crank out a few more re-edits for the great white dirty north.

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Friday, May 02, 2008


Orgy season kicked off yesterday at WHRB, featuring hours upon hours of steamy college . . . radio.

I have three lined up for May: RVNG, Juan Maclean, and Nu Whirl Music. RVNG -- that's Revenge without the E's -- is coming up tonight. If you're local to Beantown, tune your dial to 95.3 FM, or listen in via the e-radiowaves.

Celebrating this NYC label whose mixes and 12"s explore the blurry lines where old school and avant-garde techno, Italo/twisted/not so twisted disco, krautrock, 80s new wave/industrial, ambient, and mash-ups slide together in the capable hands of expert DJs

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