Tuesday, September 21, 2010

DISSECTING BARBARIE


You all ask for the detailed play-list, but you know what? I used like 70 different songs or more for this mix. In many cases I only used a couple of seconds. I do not know the exact complete order and sometimes it gets too confusing because there are four or more layers playing at once. You can always check out my Play.FM channel for an approximate (as in not completely accurate) play-list. Here's a selection of some highlights. 
 
GRUPO PARAISO, "Rey de la cumbia": For me at least, finding the perfect intro for the mix is the most important part and until I don't have one I can't really get started. So, part of the reason it took me so long to come out with Barbarie was that I couldn't find an appropriate introductory track. Then I found this hilarious Mexican cumbia with the guy saying "I'm a DJ of the good ones, I'm the king of cumbia" and I thought, ok, that represents me, I guess. I stole the street noises from an album intro by La Chilinga and I played this on a loop as if it was coming out from the window of one of those cars, or even better, a bus, and I mashed it up with a cumbia break by Los Hermanos Tuirán and voilá, I had an intro!

SACASSAIA, "El Culebrón": Brazilian music is mandatory in all my sets. I think that's one of the key elements that sets me apart from a lot of these Latin music DJ's who I usually get to share nights with at the clubs, because, they usually have a Mexican/Central American approach to Latin Music. As a genera rule mainstream Mexicans have no clue about Brazilian music, while Argentinians, we grow up bombarded by it every summer. I was raised in a house where my parents almost didn't listen to music at all, they only owned two cassettes that we had to listen to in every road trip for years, both of them where Brazilian music tapes (one of them was Gal Costa, I can't remember the other one). So way before cumbia, my first contact at Afro-Latin music was through Brazilian samba and batucada. Of course with an Afro-Latin theme in Barbarie I was forced to pay many visits to my lovely northern neighbors and it all starts with this amazing cumbia by Sacassaia, which I already reviewed on this blog.

Sonidos en vivo - Various artists (?): I downloaded a bunch of "albums" like this one, and sampled the vocal impromptu interruptions of the wannabe MCs, to mix within my collage, as I've done previously on Chorisapiens and Linyerismo Vol II, adding to the illusion of a live recording. These motherfuckers have absolutely no respect for they music they're playing, they talk all over all the tracks with no sense of timing at all and people down in Mexico love it. Somehow they are regarded as the kings of cumbia, but they can't beat-match two tracks even if their life depended on it. "It's a different culture, you don't understand it," you'll tell me. Well yeah, there might be a Bizarro parallel universe, where this can sound OK to the ears of the cumbia dancers and believe me, I have nightmares of falling though one of those multidimensional portals and be sucked by the scary sonidero world.

DE LA GUARDA, "Marea": Many of you might be already be familiar with Gaby Kerpel, the real name behind Zizek's artist King Coya. He is the one, unlike all the rest, who had world wide recognition way before the idea of Zizek was even conceived. Back in the late 90's he composed the amazing music for the alternative theatre troupe De La Guarda. It's not cumbia, it's not murga either, but it has a lot of Afro tribal percussion and it's totally trippy. I used this one track and then another one right before the end of the mix, both from the play Periodo Villa Villa. Makes me regret not having ever seen them live.

FRIKSTAILERS,  "Cumbianchamuyo": Dude, I'm so hyped up that I'm gonna be opening for these guys next week! I love them and I've been using their music in all my megamixes since Linyerismo. I love how their tracks are so easy to handle and mash with almost anything, they always leave a lot of room for playing around and I appreciate that. I remember  when I started mixing Barbarie I made a whole point of not using any Zizek music (because I abused them too much in the past) and instead go more to the sources and sample from old school cumbia and shit, but then this one came out and that song exactly matched the tempo and mood of what I was mixing at the moment so I couldn't resist it.

GREENWOOD RHYTHM COALITION, "Tabaco y Ron": This is my cousin's favorite cumbia. She's been singing it since we were in our early teens and every time I mention the word "cumbia" to her, she starts singing this, and it makes me happy. There are probably hundreds of "Tabaco y Ron" versions, it could be listed as one of the biggest cumbia standards, like "La Pollera Colorá," "La Banda Está Borracha" or "La Danza de los Mirlos." Songs that go beyond any specific nationality or time period, they're immortal and unite the whole global cumbia nation under their irresistible rhythm. I decided to pay homage to it by mixing together three different versions of the song, something I've never done in my previous megamixes, one by Rodolfo Y Su Típica, one by Guillermo Lasso and the main one by the house band of my new favorite record label: Names You Can Trust.

JUAN CARLOS CACERES, "Miremos Al Mañana": This was the song that started it all. It was when I listened to Cáceres impeccable album Murga Argentina that I had the seed of the idea to do a murga mixtape that over a year later germinated into Barbarie. Cáceres is one of the Argentine artists I respect the most for his incredible work of musical archeology tracking down the African roots of our vernacular sounds. Since his early Afro-Latin experiments with Malón back in the '60s and '70s to his current Tango negro phase, he has been releasing lots of amazing music, still, nobody knows him and it's a shame. I used many murga breaks from him all over Barbarie, but this one is my favorite.

JAZZY MEL, "Afro Latino": Back when I was 13 years old this guy was my idol. This Uruguayan-born rapper was the first of the kind in Argentina and it's nowadays regarded as the scene's maximum pioneer. But if you listen to his early shit now, it's hella cheesy, of course. "Afro Latino" was always my favorite song on that album and it matched perfectly with the Afro-Latin theme of the mix. In all my previous music collages, from Linyerismo to Chorisapiens, I always included some music done by Illya Kuryaki & The Valderramas, contemporaries to Jazzy Mel who somehow managed to survive the era and achieve more credibility. This time instead I gave much deserved props to one of my mentors.

AFRICAN BUSINESS, "In Zaire": Back to 1989 and the heights of the hip-house era. This one was a major one hit-wonder back then but I couldn't find anything about the artist anywhere online, so I don't know where they're from or whatever happened to them. I only remember watching their video and dancing in front of the TV set. In many of my mixes I include some sort of quote that takes me back to that particular era (Linyerismo Episode II had "We're gonna catch you" by Bizz Nizz, Mersaholic had Black Machine's "How Gee") because that's my foundation as a music fan and a DJ. I know most of my American listeners won't get it because, outside from a few exceptions, the whole hip-house thing was a European phenomenon, so they probably have no idea about these references and do not feel any kind of nostalgia for the era as I do. Anyway, this and a tiny sound bite by J Dilla, are the only non-Latin tracks I used in the mix.

WILLY CROOK, "Big Voodoo Mamma": This guy was  playing funk in Argentina during the 90's, before the funk revival made the genre hip again. I never played any attention to him back then, but I recently downloaded all his discography and there are some pretty cool jams there. I mashed up the breakdown from this song with the intro of Chico Mann's "Sound is everything" and I wasn't planning on using it for Barbarie because it didn't quite fit with the cumbia-meets-murga theme, but it worked out great to calm the waters for a while before going back to the drumming madness.

ARIEL PRAT, "La Murga Camina": Only one other Argentine artist that I know has been following the steps of Juan Carlos Cáceres in connecting tango with murga and candombe in search of the lost roots of Afro-Argentine music; Ariel Prat. It's not a coincidence that both these artists are Argentines living abroad (Spain and France). I guess it makes sense, somehow, you need to see things from an outsider's perspective to understand them sometimes. At least that's how it worked out for me. Anyway, I used two breaks from Prat's album Negro y Murguero in Barbarie, and I'll probably keep sampling him a lot more in the future.

MEXICANS WITH GUNS, "Dame Lo": Going into dubstep was never in the flight plans. It was a totally unexpected change of direction and it happened because of this guy. I was doing some research on artists and DJ's who hide their faces behind Mexican wrestling fans (like myself) for a Remezcla.com piece and I found this Texan dude who does this amazing Latin dubstep shit and I was like, I gotta put that on my mix right now! So even though the BPM's didn't really match, I felt compelled to drop it in and I think the results were pretty cool. I had my many doubts at first, but when I realized it was actually much easier than expected to go back from dubstep to murga, I decided to keep it.

LOS FABULOSOS CADILLACS, "Gitana": There was no other moment in this megamix that I enjoyed more than when I realized I was able to fit this Cadillac's break. I have used their biggest hit, "Matador" in Chorisapiens but that's a total cliché. "Gitana" has always been my favorite Cadillac's song to mix at the parties, right when there's only one hour left before the end and you wanna pump them up once more and make them go crazy. The long instrumental intro of that song and the breakdown have so many sampleable percussion breaks that I could go nuts chopping and mixing that, but instead I decided to keep it minimal and not so obvious and use only too loops from the intro and I juxtaposed them with a Novalima Afro-Peruvian break.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

NORTEC COLLECTIVE'S BOSTICH+FUSSIBLE-Bulevar 2000 (Nacional Records, 2010)

People tend to assume that I like Nortec. I guess their reasoning is: "oh, you play Latin music but you're so hip and into new trends, you must really love these guys." In reality, however, I never liked techno and nothing in this world annoys me more than Mexican "regional" music. So why am I expected to like the combination of both?
Back when they started, it sounded like a clever idea; a bunch of techno nerds from TJ making fun of chuntie music, ha-ha. But a decade plus later, it's not even ironic anymore. Now it seems that they really are into that crap, and you can dress it up in synths and samplers all you want, but it still sounds like taquería background noise to me. Even if you sing in English and you put English titles to eight out of your eleven songs.
Anyway, I'm not saying that Bulevar 2000 is a bad album (BTW, is Bulevar the chuntie spelling for Boulevard, like in St. Germain's debut album? Now that was some great music!) or Nortec are bad musicians; I know a lot of people who are into this and are going to love this shit. Some of them are not even Mexican.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BARBARIE-DJ Juan Data (Free Mix)




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.
Enjoy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

LOCOS POR JUANA-Evolución (La Juana Music, 2010)

I gotta give these guys some credit for being the only ones, ever, in the history of this blog, who took offense at one of my posts and actually wrote back. Man, back when I used to write in printed magazines (remember those?) people used to get really pissed off sometimes and send me death-threats (Akwid) or even record whole songs dissing me (Sindicato).
The printed word has a much stronger impact, obviously. Nobody really cares what people post on-line, maybe because we all know any twelve years old girl can do it. The thing is, I've been hating on a whole lot of motherfuckers on this blog, and nobody ever seems to be bothered... except for this Miami band who actually wrote me twice complaining about my review of their album. So I guess I gotta thank them for taking my word so seriously, when apparently nobody else does.
Back then I said they sounded like a salsa-bar-band and that I didn't like the way they rap. I just found this new EP they recently released independently (no more Machete Records?) and let me tell you, I do see some of that evolution they evoke in the title. They do not sound like a bar band any more, and they are fully immerse in the afro-colombian roots (cumbia and champeta) which makes them a lot more interesting than before. Even their rap has gotten a tiny better. And to make things even more interesting, they added some dope remixes (I really liked the one by DJ Pauer) and cool art by the ubiquitous Afro-Mestiza. Good job!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WILLIE COLON & HECTOR LAVOE-"Aguanile," Toy Selectah Remixes (Fania, 2010)

I hate salsa dancers. You've probably heard me say this many times before, but there, I said it again. As a DJ who plays Latin (but cool) music, nobody annoys me more than salsa dancers. They are a royal pain in the ass and they dress in horrible fashion. Yes, I do admit that my absolute lack of body coordination with its resulting dancing impairment make me envy their gracious moves, but that's not the source of my aversion toward these creatures. I hate salsa dancers because they are show-offs who only want to dance salsa because that's all they know (the moment you start playing something else they come to the DJ booth requesting more salsa) and because they do not understand, appreciate or even care about DJ mixing skills. They think you're just standing there with the finger in the "play" button waiting for their requests. They want you to play the song they want right away and even worse, they expect you play the whole song from the beginning to the last note, and if you can leave a couple of seconds of silence before the next one so they can trade couples and give a round of applause, like the bunch of idiots they are, as if there was a live band performing on stage. If you wanna be a DJ but you don't wanna waste time learning how to mix and beat match properly, and you prefer relying on other people's taste to make your selections, then just play for that crowd, they'll sure appreciate your "skills."
Now, my antagonism with salsa dancers, might have been misunderstood with a disliking of salsa music itself and the truth is that in recent years I've gotten a lot more interested in salsa music, especially the old school Fania catalog from the 70's, when salsa was still very Afro and very "street" (before it became "whitened" and bastardized to make it more radio friendly and commercial in the format of "salsa romántica," ew). And of all old school salsa masters, Willie Colón is definitely my favorite.
Well, guess what, Fania Records is releasing a series of remixes of their classics and this first one was done by no other than the remix master himself, Toy Selectah. I like the Willlie Colón's "Aguanile" original because of its heavy afro percussion, but I think I'm liking these two dubby remixes a lot more because Toy pretty much removed all the dance potential off the song, transforming it into something completely different, a sort of shamanic cosmic trip. I don't know of his original intentions, and I don't know about Toy's feelings toward salsa dancers, but for me at least, having taken a great dancefloor-packer like that and turned it into this is a huge FUCK YOU! in the faces of all those annoying dancers with their silk shirts and those shiny shoes. Thank you Toy, you made my day!

Buy it HERE.