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Sound happens--hear historically!


Musical artefacts and commentary:


Music is a fossil, a sedimentation of past sounds. They lie buried beneath contemporary tunes. Provide below an example of a musical artefact that traces back to the Black Atlantic (jazz, funk, dub, hip-hop all have Caribbean ancestors). 300 words will do--but feel free to link to anything or anywhere!





Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travelers:


Add to our interminable list of Atlantean musicians and tunes. Be alphetical!








Bootsy Collins played a number of these over the years with Parliament (on the front page, you can see a five-pickup version), but 100 of these were made by Washburn to Bootsy's exact specifications. (Notice the star inlays.) So if you want that classic, Funkadelic sound--Youngquist approved--and have $5000 or so to spend... Space is the Place!


(Played with the Clone Theory and the Bootzilla.)



Artist: M.I.A.

Track: Hussel (Feat. Afrikan Boy)

Album: Kaya



I have chosen to focus on a Sri Lankan rapper, M.I.A. (full name: Maya Arulpragasam). MIA was raised in Sri Lanka, where her father was a Sri Lankan Tamil militant who took on an active role in the growing civil war between the Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamils. When MIA was eleven she escaped to England with her mother and siblings, but her father was forced to stay behind, fighting for the Tamil movement in a civil war that has lasted nearly three decades. Known as Tamil Tigers, separatists have been fighting since to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils after decades of discrimination by majority Sinhalese-controlled governments. On a purely lyrical level, much of her music focuses on the cruelty of war and its effects on those living in war-torn countries.


The following lyrics from the track Hussel (feat. Afrikan Boy) that I have chosen to focus on are a great example of the despair of war in third world countries that MIA raps about.















But global influences are also evident in the sound of MIA’s music, not just the lyrics. She recorded the album this track is from, “Kala”, all around the globe. She spent time recording in Liberia (while a war was going on), with Aborigines in Australia, drummers in India, and musicians in Trinidad. MIA has said she enjoys bringing a third-world perspective to her music, which she believes is not heard enough in music today.


“The thing is, an American voice, in every shape, form, size, is getting heard on the planet all over the world. If you go to a mud hut in Africa, they are listening to an American voice,” M.I.A. says with her distinct British accent. “(But) a two-way exchange can exist.” “India gave me the bulk of it musically, just building the elements, and then Trinidad just gave me loads of inspiration to put those elements together and create songs and light a certain vibe,” she says.




MIA cites her influences to be pop-art of the ‘80s and early ‘90s when New Wave was popular and hip-hop was a mix between rap, rock, and pop. She also incorporates elements of Caribbean music (reggae, dub, dancehall) and club music (jungle and electronic). The track we’re listening too, "Hussel" incorporates tribal drums and jungle bird calls. Another track from this CD, "Mango Pickle Down River" is Australian-themed and consists of a standard drum beat, the unusual sound of a didgeridoo (an aboriginal instrument) and guest vocals from the Aboriginal children's hip-hop group Wilcannia Mob.




One influence that is echoed throughout the album “Kaya” is the South Indian dappangoothu music style, an indigenous music genre of South India, with a style characterized by relatively simple melodies sung to throbbing, showy percussion. It serves as a comfort music for the people, enjoyed in various celebrations, commonly by the masses. But as you can hear MIA incorporates a variety of influences from across the globe, effectively creating a hybrid style that is all her own.


Samantha Luceri




The Blues

Although blues music is derived from calls and hollers of enslaved African American field workers, it formed a new direction in African American song that was a way of personalizing a new perception of the world through their eyes. At the end of the 19th Century, slavery had just been abolished and African Americans had found a new sense of freedom, thus inspiring a new course in life, partially being the search for one’s own destiny, one’s own purpose. This change in life inspired a new personalization of music in the form of the blues. It was, in a sense, the verbalization of this search.

The blues was seen as a bonding of people under common situations. Riddled with bad luck, troubles caused by others, lost and tormented souls, and desire for better life and change of circumstances, the blues was a way to express the hardships of life. The blues used repetition and a form of classic field call and response, but in a slightly different way.

Up until the blues, solo music was rare. Call and response was an interactive music that involved others as a means to communicate and democratize. Blues music took call and response one step forward by devolving to a more internalized means of communication. Blues singers would call and use instruments to respond, allowing listeners a passing glance at the feelings and emotions that might not be heard simply through words.


The early beginnings of the blues were heard in areas of the Mississippi Delta and were referred to as folk blues. This form of the blues was often sang by men and was a frequent act on traveling performing shows such as Vaudeville. When folk blues merged with early country music, the Classic Blues was formed. As Classic Blues migrated North with newly emancipated African Americans, cities such as New York, Detroit, and Chicago offered new outlets for musicians. New Orleans “black-butt” pianists, who played in the Mid-South, sang as they played, imitating Southern guitarists and giving way to Fast Western. This music was introduced in Northern cities in nightclubs, dancehalls, and theaters. These venues became very popular and the public craved all they could get.

The first Blues recording was in 1895 by George W. Johnson. Johnson’s “Laughing Song” gave way to a long span of recordings that included artists such as Mamie Smith, who was best known for her 1920 hits "Crazy Blues" and "It's Right Here for You". This record sold 75000 copies in one month. During the 1920’s to 1930’s blues music was performed primarily by African American musicians and sold directly to and through African American stores. The records, which were referred to as “race records”, became so popular that record companies began searching for blues musicians in hopes of turning sizeable profits. Blues music marked a new era for African American music and has since inspired multitudes of artists and genres of music. It was a connection to the past, played through a new medium, a foundation for a new era of living.

Connected with blues music and country and western music is the banjo. The banjo is an adaptation of the African banjar, bangie, banjer, or banza. It was played by African American slaves in the early 17th century. The original instrument was often constructed from gourds, wood, and tanned skins with hemp or gut for strings. The banjo is also linked to the Moors, who lived north of the Sahara. The African banjar often had a fretless neck, a varying number of strings, and sometimes a gourd body. The instrument was adopted by white minstrels in the 19th century. The banjar (banjo) was brought to the attention of the nation ultimately because of white mockery in minstrel shows of African Americans’ use of the instrument.



Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Song: Machine Gun

Album: Live at the Fillmore East


(portion of lyrics)


Evil man make me kill ya

Evil man make you kill me

Evil man make me kill you

Even though we're only families apart...

Same way you shoot me down baby

You'll be going just the same

Three times the pain

And your own self to blame

Hey machine gun...

No guns, No bombs

Huh Huh

No nothin', just let's all live and live

You know instead of killin'


Evan Gallagher


Flight of the Conchords


Flight of the Conchords consists of Bret McKenzie and Jermeine Clement. They founded the group in 1998 in New Zealand. Before they formed Flight of the Conchords, they both had experience in both acting and singing. Bret was in Lord of the Rings. Since then they have won several awards on the International Comedy circuit. They won Best Newcomer at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and Best Alternative Comedy Act at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. They also had an award winning BBC radio series and a popular TV show on HBO. They have one album entitled “Folk the World.”



The song “She’s So Hot - Boom” encompasses many of the music traditions from the West Indies that we have seen with other musicians. It has syncopated rhythms with the strong beats on the second and fourth beat of each measure. It has call and response when he asks, “Who’s the Boom King” and responds, “I’m the Boom King.” There are repeated phrases, namely the word “boom.” There is a strong use of percussion and the beat in very strong. Although the performance aspect is not as evident in the video because it from their TV show, they also have life performances that differ each time they are performed.



Because Flight of the Conchords is a comedy duo, it brings up interesting issues about whether they are honoring or degrading this music tradition by incorporating these characteristics in their music. While any form of repetition can be taken as a complement, the satire can be seen a degrading to the tradition. I think that Flight of the Conchords is making fun of themselves more than this tradition. The reason this video is funny is not the song itself, but the fact that it is being sung by a comedy duo from New Zealand. It is this contradiction that makes it comedic.





Erica Osterloo


The Science of Selling Yourself Short by Less Than Jake


Less Than Jake is a third wave ska band from Gainesville, Florida. Their music represents one of the newer progressions in the long, storied history of ska music as it's traced back to Jamaica, through England and here to the United States.


Ska has its roots in Caribbean mento and calypso music. After World War II, Jamaicans had access to American music through the airwaves on their radio sets, which were now cheap and in numerous supply. The prevailing American music of the time included jazz and rhythm and blues. The Jamaicans took their calypso music, which began in the early 20th century as a cultural remembrance of the communication-based music of slaves, and infused it with the American music styles they were becoming familiar with.


Jamaicans began recording this music, starting with their own versions of popular songs and moving on to original works incorporating both their traditional music and the newfound American music, and ska quickly rose out of this experimentation. Ska was originally characterized by a walking bass line, guitar rhythms on the offbeat (or "skank") and brass horn riffs throughout.


Ska found its way into England in the 1970s and underwent a transformation into a style called 2 Tone. This variation combined ska's rhythm and melodies with punk rock lyrics and chord progressions. The music was faster, heavier, and less sparse than the ska that birthed it. The lyrics, instead of reflecting Jamaica's newfound independence like the purer ska before it, discussed many of the themes that punk undertook - disillusionment, abandonment, frustration with governmental structures.


Eventually, ska morphed into its third wave. From the 1980s on, third wave ska took the ska and 2 Tone movements and added lighter pop and jazz music. The horns and skank of ska remained, as well as the 2 Tone aesthetic and lyrical sensibilities. Less Than Jake, which got its start in the mid-90s, exemplifies third wave ska. The track "The Science of Selling Yourself Short" is a wonderful combination of all three ska movements, with its brass and skank, ska melody, self-deprecating lyrics and pop sheen.


In this song, listen for:

*Guitar upstroke (skank)

*Walking bassline

*Punk vocalization

*4/4 rhythm

*Robust horn section

*Gang vocals


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Digital sounds of resistance in a digital world: the Rx Bandits


The Rx Bandits, straight out of the O.C., bring to the music scene a new style of ska and reggae mixed with metal undertones and progressive riffs. Their first album, “Halfway Between Here and There,” introduced the Bandits as metal loving skankers, with walking bass lines and up tempo brass instruments that made you want to move around and dance. With their second album, “Progress”, electronic sounds came spewing from keyboards and pedals, producing ghost-like noise within their songs. The music from this album, while still generating the need to skank, carried a sound that more closely resembled alternative rock, spreading an euphoric desire among the masses to “mosh.” This was carried into the junior album “The Resignation,” which also introduced more progressive melodies. This was a very diverse release for the Bandits – each song had its own style that stands out and speaks to you. The most recent release, “...And the Battle Begun,” also brought new styles to life by using old influences in new ways; it reaches out to give a feeling of hope in what seems like a dark political time. The Bandits have used lyrics of peace, political corruption, consumerism and American ideals and dreams that cannot, or should not be reached, to inspire listeners to go out and fight for freedom. By using the styles of former freedom fighters, the Rx Bandits bring to this era a sound of hope.


Here for Rx tunes


This video really shows the power of the Bandits as they attempt to make the world a better place.







I chose a francophone singer, Nadiya, who is originally Algerian, but currently lives in France. Her first big hit was released in 2004, but she has made three major records since, and is currently making her fourth. She is considered pop hip-hop and is very well known throughout France. The progress of rap in France is associated with the postcolonial relationships founded with former colonies of Africa and the Caribbean. Therefore, the majority of the rappers are of African descent. The African music influences in French hip-hop also extend to the use of African instruments such as the Kora, balafon, and ngoni. Many of the drums played in Africa and the Caribbean music such as “derbuka from North Africa, djembe from Senegal, bete drums from Martinique, gwoka drums from Guadeloupe, for example “The mixture of the diverse traditional African, Caribbean, and other instrumentals is what produced the French hip-hop and made it distinct. It does not necessarily represent the French inside France, but rather the minority within France that has its own origins and African connection.” Wikipedia






Maroon Music



When gold was first discovered in the interior of French Guiana and Suriname, large numbers of gold prospectors arrived in the Ndyuka and Aluku territories; on the heels of the gold rush came a further influx of balata bleeders. Among these migrant laborers were many African-descended Creoles from the Lesser Antilles, coastal Suriname, and neighboring French Guiana. As part of a pattern of exchanges that developed out of this encounter, the Creole prospectors welcomed Maroons to their nightly festivities, which often featured Creole drumming and dance styles such as kawina, ladja, and cassé-cô (Ijzermans 1987, 50-2, 57-8). 2 Since these Creole styles were derived in part from African sources, they were not entirely foreign to Maroon ears, and Maroon drummers were quick to learn them. Some Maroons also tried their hands at the European novelties introduced by Creoles, such as the clarinet and concertina. These musical exchanges continued into the next century.



“Drums of Defiance” is a CD that was released in 1992.  International musicians of Maroon heritage compiled the CD.  There is West African influenced drumming and it illustrates the history of the long struggle that the Maroons.  Today, four major Maroon colonies still exist in Jamaica's rugged western Cockpit Country and in the eastern Blue Mountains. Some selections on this recording were previously issued in 1981 on the CD, Folkways 4027.  The attached musical piece is called "Grand Nanny," in honor of the great Maroon warrior Grand/Granny Nanny.
















Reggaeton  is a form of urban music which became popular with Latin American youth during the early 1990sand spread within 10 years to North American, European, Asian,  audiences. Originating in Panama, Reggaeton blends Jamican music influences of reggae and dancehall with those of Latin America, such as, salsa and bachata, as well as that of hip hop, R&B, and electronica The music is also combined with rapping or singing in Spanish.



The origins of reggaeton begin with the first reggae recordings being made in Panama during the 1970s But reportedly the origins of reggaeton can be traced back even further to Jamaica. The Jamaican reggae influence on Panamanian music has been strong since the at least around the 1870s and thereafter, when Jamaican laborers along with other West Indian and Caribbean immigrants were used to help build the Panama Canal.  As a result, many of these Jamaicans and West Indian/Caribbean immigrants  stayed there even after the canal was completed. Eventually they became apart of Panamanian culture, further diversifying the culture of Panama. Afro-Panamanians had been performing and recording Spanish-language reggae since the 1970s.


Reggaeton’s beat was derived from a popular Jamaican dancehall rhythm. The “Dem Bow,” from the Jamaican artist Shabba Ranks  was the first to display this song. The beat that can be heard throughout Reggaeton is an interplay of a steady kick drum and a syncopated snare. The kick drum emphasizes a 4/4 beat.






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