Friday, August 23, 2013

St. James Infirmary Suite



This origins of this song go back a long way. A folk tune in that ephemeral collective music culture that subsists through time. Being altered, adapted, and re-imagined in context. Tracking this tune's trajectory through time and space is very telling of the way music moves and flows with, and through folk culture. The act of remix, the same creative process that's been responsible for music transmission and development since music was music, now created with different tools.

From Wikipedia:
"St. James Infirmary Blues" is based on an 18th-century traditional English folk song called "The Unfortunate Rake" (also known as "The Unfortunate Lad" or "The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime"), about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes, and then dies of a venereal disease. Variations typically feature a narrator telling the story of a young man "cut down in his prime" (occasionally, a young woman "cut down in her prime") as a result of morally questionable behavior. For example, when the song moved to America, gambling and alcohol became common causes of the youth's death. There are numerous versions of the song throughout the English-speaking world. It evolved into other American standards such as "The Streets of Laredo."[1]
The title is said to be derived from St. James Hospital in London, a religious foundation for the treatment of leprosy. There is some difficulty in this since it was closed in 1532 when Henry VIII acquired the land to build St. James Palace.[2] Another possibility is the Infirmary section of the St James Workhouse (http://www.workhouses.org.uk/StJames/ ) which was opened in 1725 by the St James Parish in Poland Street, Piccadilly and continued well into the nineteenth century. This St James Infirmary was contemporaneous with the advent of the song.
The tune of the earlier versions of the song, including the Bard of Armagh and the Unfortunate Rake, is in a major key and is similar to that of the Streets of Laredo. The jazz version, as played by Louis Armstrong, is in a minor key and appears to have been influenced by the chord structures prevalent in Latin American music, particularly the Tango.
Like most such folksongs, there is much variation in the lyrics from one version to another.

I began this suite over two years ago, never finishing the first two tracks. Now having just arrived in London, I felt that the idea of this tune somehow completed a "return" of sorts, coming back to it's possible place of origin, and I completed the other two.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Carmen Rivero-Cartagenera(Yared Sound Mix)


Carmen Rivero, one of the madrinas or 'godmothers' of Mexican Cumbia first began to bring the tropical rhythms of cumbia to mexico when she returned from living in Columbia in the 1960's. She was instrumental in developing the Mexican tropical sound with heavy reliance on Afro-latino rhythms, driven by the use of the timbales. More about the early development of Cumbia Mexicana can be found here.  Below is my mix of her track "Cartagenera.



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Los Beats Traficantes

It's always interesting to me how some forms of of information, knowledge, and culture are criminalized in our society. If certain books for example, are a mobilizing people to critically examine history, or inspiring people to further develop and solidify their own agency and identity, they are banned. The sharing and experiencing of music, if it happens in a manner or context that is outside the bounds of the $ transaction it is deemed illegal.
 However, in response to measures meant to control and monetize people's access to and interaction with culture, there always exist counter strategies. Caravans filled with banned literature driving halfway across the country to replace books crucial to our people's history; books that were confiscated from public schools in Arizona. Or the informal sharing of music, person to person, through hard drives and usb sticks. People always use the tools and strategies available to us to restore the free access to culture that has been taken, and that we feel so strongly, belongs to us.
At an event in Louisville Ky, that was held in solidarity with those effected by the ban of Chicano/Ethnic studies in Arizona, prohibited books were read, and music that expresses meaningful aspects of the struggle against imposed ignorance, rigid border divisions, and cultural homogeneity was danced to. The tracks in this mix were shared/passed/trafficked to me at this event. Just as they were shared with me in an act of affinity and solidarity with this struggle, I share them back to anyone who will listen. For more info on the struggle in Arizona visit librotraficante.com Palante mi gente!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jai!/Jah!




British Colonialism brought many Sub-continental Indians to work the sugar/banana plantations of Jamaica. There existed in the working and poor classes, many small pockets of Hindus among Afro-Christian communities. It was in these communities that Rastafarian theology grew, out of class concerns for social/economic justice and a liberation theology that complemented their radical approach to living a faith. Therefore, embedded in Rastafari culture and theology are many traces of Hindi traditions. From the many tangible trappings of religious culture: the shared ascetic traditions of of the body such as carrying dreadlocks, employing dietary restrictions and natural pharmacology, as well as the similarities in ritual. The Nyabinghi ritual in particular, perhaps one of the most important in the Rasta tradition, shares striking similarities with many Hindu ecstatic ritual. Drum, dance, chant.
A connection has also been drawn that the ecstatic shouts of "Jah! Rastafari!" that Rastas vocalize during the Nyabinghi, were influenced by the common practice in Hindi ritual of shouting "Jai!" followed by a certain deity name to mean "praise" of that deity.
Forward on into the commonalities existing today between Hindi and Rastafari culture, we can see likeness in the way that religious song has been so easily translated into popular song. And when looking at the developments of both the dub/dancehall and the bollywood/bhangra genres, one can see the translation of a local musical spirituality into what have become globalized urban movements in themselves.
This track explores a bit of that shared sonic space.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator

The speech given by Charlie Chaplin at the end of his film "The Great Dictator", was sharply relevant when released in 1940, and its relevance has only grown with time. The mechanisms and currents of oppression that Chaplin satirized have only continued to expand, become more regularized, and saturate our world. The mechanisms of hegemony; the rallies, the propaganda notices, the systems of prohibited/permitted forms of life and action. What used to be clearly marked with flags, banners, symbols, and uniforms; have today, softened their faces, shed their uniforms(mostly) and obscured a direct view of their actions with more and more products and services for us to buy, lifestyles to subscribe to, and endless loops of political/media doublespeak to keep the level of general confusion high.

I made this track during the expansion of the the Occupy movements in various U.S. cities. The Chaplin speech had been used, re-edited and disseminated widely throughout the Occupy community and those of previous movements such as the 15May(!Toma la calle!) here in Spain.