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«Globalists» Seek Peripheral Sounds

DJs such as Diplo [1], DJ Dolores [2], Maga BO [3], DJ Rupture [4], Ghislain Poirier [5] and Wayne&Wax [6] build amazingly diversified sets, which can include American hip hop, German techno or French electro, but also Trinidadian soca, Morrocan rap, Rio funk, Angolan kuduro, Jamaican dancehall, London grime or Colombian cumbia.

The exposure of these «peripheral» rhythms has already influenced artists in other spheres, such as the band Bloc Party and the DJs/producers Simian Mobile Disco and Samim (whose big hit this year, «Heater», mixes cumbia and techno). There is also Anglo-Sinhalese singer MIA, the first popstar to emerge from this trend who this year released the widely acclaimed album Kala.

Could this all simply be a new guise for the well-worn «world music» label? Talking to Folha by phone, Canadian DJ/producer Ghislain Poirier, who just released the album No Ground Under on Coldcut’s Ninja Tune label, disagrees: «World music is more exotic, the sounds we play are more urban. They all come from common backgrounds: people without much money, doing music in home studios or in a laptop. It’s something more urgent.»

Thanks to broader access to the internet and other technologies, there has been an unprecedented proliferation of sounds from the world’s margins, often with a strong electronic basis, produced on old, obsolete laptops or PCs, often with pirated software, and released on blogs, other websites and in globalist DJs’ mixes.

American DJ and MC Wayne&Wax, who’s also an ethnomusicologist, has baptized this movement «global ghettotech». «It’s a phrase I came up with to describe what seems like an emerging aesthetic among certain DJs and bloggers, in which ‹global› genres such as hip-hop, techno, reggae, etc., are often mixed with ‘local’ˇ styles», explained Wayne to Folha. «But I’m against a superficial and trendy approach to it. I like to know the social and cultural contexts that shaped these sounds.»

One of the first «globalists» was DJ Rupture, from Boston, USA, who called attention to the aesthetic with his «Gold Teeth Thief» mixtape. The mix was so successful that it was selected in 2002 as one of the top ten releases by prestigious English music magazine, The Wire.

At his blog and his radio programme «Mudd Up!» Rupture broadcasts an insane mix of rhythms from all over. One of his favorite genres is Maghrebi music, from North Africa. «I’m [also] discovering the world of cumbia – there are plenty of fascinating scenes, from the past and from nowadays», says the DJ.

In a couple of months Rupture’s label, Soot, will release the debut album of another important «globalist»: Maga Bo, an American from Seattle living in Rio since 1999. Maga Bo has already worked with Brazilians such as BNegão, MC Catra, Marcelo Yuka, Marcelinho da Lua and Digitaldubs.

Next year, he’ll begin teaching digital production at AfroReggae’s community center in Parada de Lucas in Rio. Right now, he’s in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, recording with local musicians and researching Ethiopian music.

«Electronic beats can be understood by the whole world. The computer, which has been called the first ‹universal folk instrument›, is becoming more and more accessible. The amount of music that can fit under the ‹global ghettotech› label is increasing all over the world. The death of traditional record labels and the growth of music distribution on the internet is helping with this popularization», he says.

DJ Dolores, the best known Brazilian «globalist» DJ, says that «computers are the drums of today, a primal instrument that anyone can use in their own way». In 2004, Dolores won the award for best «Club Global» DJ from BBC’s Radio One. Dolores has just come back from touring the USA and Mexico and will release his album Um Real next year [2008].

Diplo is one of the best known of such DJs and producers. The 29 year-old American was one of the main figures responsible for promoting funk carioca abroad. MIA’s ex-boyfriend (and the co-producer of her first album), Diplo recently played the TIM Festival [one of the most important festivals in Brazil].

He believes that it’s important to give something in return to the local communities. With the Heaps Decent project, he has been making music with young aboriginals at an underage detention house in Australia. Tracks should be available soon, in a partnership with Australian label Modular.

«Since these subcultures, in a certain way, help me to earn a living, I did something to help their development», he explains. «In the next few months, I hope to do the same in the favela of Cantagalo, in Rio, with AfroReggae and anthropologist Hermano Vianna.»

The original article appeared on the Brazilian page FolhaOnline [7]

Article translated by André Albert, and Wayne Marshall