06 December 2011

At Home I'm a Tourist

I'll admit, I'm very tempted to jump in on the exoticism/xenomania topic, or at least the "Orientalism" reading of same that's all-too-predictably (if not rotely) be grafted onto it. But I probably shouldn't, because I could off. And by'that I mean on some looongggg-asssss who-cares 200,000-word screed. One that would range from going on about everyone from Claude Debussy (et et et al) to a certain now semi-hip DJ that I corresponded with over a decade who up and asked me at one point if I knew anything a certain type of music his breakcore fellow-traveller DJ told him about that reputedly provided the soundtrack for (he claimed) "Brazilian fight clubs," and about the other DJs who netted a lot of hipster cultural clout a few years later by going poaching in the very same domain dude had been initially asking me about, which in turn brought about the whole "shantytown chic" hipster thing that MIA milked like nobody's biz. And then how the whole West African thing oddly came around a few years later, with everyone from OOIOO to Modest Mouse hopping aboard the Remain In Light Redux train before Vampire Weekend came along with their Graceland 2.0 schtick. Which could lead to a discussion of the burgeoning of the "world music" market back in the 1980s, only a part of which was the "afro-pop" category. And how the whole Awesome Tapes From Africa and Shortwave Music and Sublime Frequencies things were so wonderful at first, because they took such a very welcome "impure" approach to all of this, resulting in the sort of thing that was an old-school ethnomusicologist's worst nightmare.* And how this is nothing new. How the best remark on the topic I recall ever reading was some critic reviewing My Life in the Bush of Ghosts for Rolling Stone magazine back when the album first came out, and saying the thing begged the question of "Does the Global Village Support Two-Way Traffic?" By which he meant: what if non-Western could do a similar plundering in reverse. (Which of course they do, because the culture of the West penetrates the rest of the globe to the deepest degree.) And the fact that Byrne & Eno weren't so much enamored with West African music at the time, but (from the sound of it) had been listening to exactly one West African musician -- King Sunny Adé. And about oh my god, dude I only recently found out that soooo many of those old, early, very rare Adé tunes are now available in boocoo loads on (godloveit) Youtube. And about how there's really really really really nothing new about of any of this, because many books have been written on it already, but with a lot fewer having been written about the reversed flow. And about how -- it's sometimes seemed to me -- there's frequently an element of this afoot with various "folk"-isms; a sort of domestic exoticizing that extends not only across cultural lines, but also those of time and economic class. But hell no, I'm not going to go down down that path; because there's no need, because all that matters is that this topic finally allows me the excuse to post the video above (the first one), which I've been waiting for a flimsy excuse to post for like the past three years. So: Guilty as charged? Yeah, I suppose.**

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* Which could lead to a digression about the parallel resurgence of collections of DIY Harry Smith-style 78rpm excavated Americana, particularly of the "ethnic" variety; with which, when I briefly lived in Baltimore, I had a fair number of wonderful evenings having my mind blown by such stuff thanks to an around-the-way connection with someone who's since gone on to start his own label for releasing collections of same.
** And NO, the above post is not a intended as a swipe at Simon. And not to be construed as such. In fact, I thought he covered the topic quite excellently in the MTV IGGY piece; not only with lining up the glut of corresponding trends of recent years, but also in acknowledging the problematic aspects of each.

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