by carl wilson

I'm On Fire & It's The Rainy Season...

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Proving that digital music is the new tea, people are putting their iPods in "cozies" (aka socks). Speaking of which you can also get souvenir Christo and Jean-Claude "The Gates in Central Park" socks, according to Women's Wear Daily, which reported on both. (Via Catherine's Pita)

As the election looms, there is one thing all Iraqis can agree on: They love them some Celine Dion. For a moment I pondered the stark implications of a culture that had heard Yanni but not Mozart, Celine Dion but not Ella Fitgerald, Country but not Blues. "This is a much bigger clash of cultures than I had ever imagined"... (Via Terry Teachout)

Is there a musical equivalent of Personism? (We are currently Frank O'Hara-fixated. "I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love." All right, Frank, you've got it.)

Everybody's talkin' 'bout M.I.A., who plays her first North American date Wed., sold out, at the Drake. Meanwhile Luca argues that M.I.A. is a whole other kind of sell-out, and that we who am committing the hype are exoticizers or worse: "she's kind of like a cypher, in which she can occupy any kind of 'world music' role, be it grime/desi/dancehall/hip-hop, without really embodying those musics." A rule of thumb: Any time you find yourself italicizing "really," you're in trouble. Luca may be right about the enthusiasts: No doubt I've sometimes sexed up the otherness-of-the-other, and he even gets a sharp snap in at Sasha (though the quote is arguably set up out of context). But projecting intentionality and authenticity or lack of same onto the artist is a dubious enterprise. And to label the artist a dodgy "cypher" just because she doesn't belong to any "underground" with which you're on nicknaming terms is very dubious indeed. How much, just for arg's sake, does Luca know about Sri Lanka, about Tamil culture, about Tamil exile culture in England, and about the music of any of those places and peoples, traditional or popular, past or present? If the answer is "not much," then how can you complain M.I.A. doesn't represent, that the chant in Galang is necessarily from nowhere? (It actually sounds to me like it's from the schoolyard, whatever the longitude and latitude.)

But more importantly, because I doubt that specifically Tamil elements are all that prominent in Ms. Arulpragasama's music, what she embodies is the underexamined aesthetic of the refugee. Her music is that of exile and migrancy and the hybrid identities, noises and dances that arise from them. Being "down with the London art scene" is one part of her, being a Tamil Tiger's daughter is another, so is being a pop musician and a brown girl in the ring. To make that story boring you have to run it through a high-powered ideological laser printer. Part of what's amazing is how vividly her music evokes today's enormous levels of migration, internal and international, and the cosmopolitanism and conflict that co-exist at the margins as well as in the centres. Sniffing for phoniness in such circumstances is less viable than ever. Calling it "fusion food" proves nothing - is it a tasty fusion or a stinky fusion? Only the tastebuds can tell.

I object most strongly to the assertion that "pop is the mere crystallization of more vital and subterranean cultural streams" - sometimes, yes, but just as often, pop scoops up the liquid from those streams, stirs in flavour crystals from the back of the cupboard, mixes it with tequila and puts the whole thing in the microwave. To quote Uncle Tupelo, "this trickledown theory leaves all pockets empty." Think more about trickle up - sublimation, as culture becomes cloud and returns to you in a torrential rain. M.I.A. to my eyes and ears is a fantastic illustration of why any formula for what pop is or how pop happens is bound to be undone. (T.W. Adorno pick up the white courtesy telephone please!).

But thank you for the challenge. Sometimes it feels as if to be usefully offended is the best you can ask.

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You're sick of 'em, I'm sick of 'em but ILM's collective Top 50 albums of 2004 list is worth a glance. (Supplementary: I forgot to vote. Strange 'dat.)

I hear good things about the Lee Ann Womack album, and you can hear those good things now at this CMT Listening Party.

Late addition: M.I.A.'s Playlist in the Times today (Sunday) sheds additional light, featuring dancehall (Bad Girl Riddim, (Ce'Cile), reggaeton (Ivy Queen), baile funk (Diplo's Favela on Blast), hip-hop (Jim Jones & the Diplomats) and grime (Lethal Bizzle). She says of Lethal Bizzle's Pow! 'Forward Riddim Remix', "I live in a place with Somali refugees, Polish people, a lot of Arabic people, and this song is blaring out of every single car. It's what's empowering them now." And of the Diplomats: "They seem to be experimenting the most and they have a real fight mentality. It's the guerilla side of hip-hop." Call that "dining out" if you like. I don't like. (And this mixing-genres complaint is just off - like saying of Charles Mingus, "Man, I can't tell if that's gospel, jazz, folk music, Cuban, or Stravinsky - obviously the guy's a fake.")

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 28 at 05:07 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

COMMENTS

rob, you're right. i was overextending myself with that thought. i'm glad i could irk carl to the point of writing such a lengthy defense.

Posted by luca on January 31, 2005 02:56 PM

 

 

yeah, you took the words (and the post rersponse) right outta my mouth, Carl...i also reject the notion of "realness/authenticity" when it comes to music and culture...it's usually just another marketing sell like any other

as for the "otherness" issue, i somehow doubt that people like Derrida has MIA in mind when he prattled on about how we must pave the way for the Other, etc......im sure he wldnt have wanted the manifestation of the Other to be another pop commodity...so i share Luca's cynicism there

it was the most provocative blog post of the new year, though, no doubt about that :)

Posted by Rob on January 31, 2005 01:49 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson