On the delay
It took me like forever to come out with a new megamix. The last official one was Chorisapiens, released in February and right after that I made those two hip-hop mixes (Verborragia and Chansing Ana) in March.
I started working on this one in April, with the main idea of going deep into the African roots of South American carnaval music. I did the first three minutes but then I gave up. Soon, the soccer world cup fever took over with a new focus on African music and the waka-waka bullshit and I didn't want my mix to be part of that and be regarded as an opportunistic move, specially since I don't care about soccer at all.
Also, for the last couple of months I've been keeping busy in the studio with my buddy Dub Snakr working on my own cumbia tracks that I'm planning on releasing soon. So that kept me distracted for a while, but I knew I had to come back and release a new music collage so two weeks ago I decided to go back to this project and finish it. I finished the cover art less than an hour ago, and here it is, fresh from the oven, Barbarie!
On the music
The main difference between this one and my previous conceptual megamixes is, of course, the over-abundance of drums. I cut lots of drum breaks from murga, candombe and batucada and mixed them with some old school Colombian cumbia breaks and a lot of other stuff. But the focus was in connecting cumbia and murga.
These are two rhythms that have a lot in common, being of African origin, developed in South America and being both regarded as carnaval music. Carnaval is a special time of the year for lovers of Afro-Latin music. During the colonial times, African slaves were allowed by their masters to go out in the streets, dress in costumes and play their music during that week of debauchery before lent. Since then, in many places of Latin America, carnaval is deeply connected to percussive beats of African origin played in the streets. The most obvious example is, of course, the world famous Brazilian carnaval, but in a smaller scale, similar phenomenons can be encountered throughout the continent.
In Argentina this phenomenon in quite unique. Most of the descendants of those African slaves have "mysteriously" disappeared. History books blame the wars of post-independence and pandemic illness. The skeptic, however, point out to a systematic extermination plan, similar to the one applied on the native population to make the country "whiter."
Still, murga, candombe and the carnaval traditions have survived, against the wishes of past governors and dictators, and in recent years they've been adopted with renewed pride by vast segments of the urban youth.
The connection between murga and cumbia is nothing new and I'm not claiming to having discovered it. Many have done it before. You can hear murga breaks in a lot of cumbia villera (Yerba Brava, Altos Cumbieros) and some neo-cumbia like pioneer DJ Taz and Zizek's Chancha Via Circuito.
Since murga is mainly a live music thing that happens once a year, there are not that many good studio recordings of this released. There're a lot of fusions of murga with other styles like tango (Cáceres, Ariel Prat) and rock (Los Piojos, Los Auténticos Decadentes, Bersuit, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs) and I used plenty of that on the mix. And then there is La Chilinga, a percussion band from Buenos Aires that have been playing this style since the nineties (they crossed over to the international market thanks to their collaboration with Calle 13 on this song). I used plenty of breaks from La Chilinga and I also used some from Uruguayan candombe and murga, including Rubén Rada, the godfather of this music, pictured also on the cover art.
Another noticeable change, compared to my previous mixes, is that there's almost no rap/hip-hop and it's the first mix I ever released where there's no Anita Tijoux, at all. This wasn't determined voluntarily, I just realized it while writing this... I guess that's because now everybody knows her and she doesn't really need more push from me.
For the complete detailed playlist, as usual, you can check out my Play.fm channel.
On the title
There's this book, "Facundo, Civilización y Barbarie," that I've never read, by one of the founding fathers of Argentina. It's quite an icon of South American literature and it was very influential in the history and sociology of Argentina. Its author, former president Domingo F. Sarmiento, distinguishes between two sides of post-colonial Latin America demographics. One side is the civilization, characterized by white-Europeans of the big city and their "high" culture. The other side, the Barbarians, are the Indians, Blacks, Mestizos, Mulattoes, poor people, peasants, gauchos, etc. with their lack of class, good taste and culture.
Argentina was pretty much built on the concept of a superior race of white sophisticated people of European descent, ruling over the masses of mixed race, and this book was fundamental in sustaining that theory.
Both cumbia and murga, like all the other cultural expressions of Afro-Latin origin are regarded as low-brow by the average white Argentine in the capital, until present day... while everything that comes from Europe or the United States is widely considered inherently superior and more sophisticated. With this title, I wanted the embrace the Barbarian culture and music, through a positive light of vindication. Will I ever go ahead and make a counterpart to this mix with my more refined ("civilized") musical influences?
On the art
With a title like Barbarie, it was more than appropriate to bring back one of my favorite comic-book characters of all time, Barbara. A post-apocalyptic heroine from an 80's Argentine comic series that I already used for the graphic design of my Mestiza flyer last year.
The collage has also guest appearances by pioneer rapper (mentor, and friend of mine) Jazzy Mel and the above mentioned Rubén Rada, both of them Uruguayans, featured side by side on the same stretch of the mix. It also has a recognizable Oakland background, (the downtown buildings, the Lake, the ATAT-looking port cranes) because this is the first mix I record since I moved from San Francisco to Oakland, and I did it all looking out through the windows of my house with a beautiful view of the city skyline.