Friday, November 13, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - November 11/09

As I listen to Wayne & Wax, DJ/Rupture and other leading lights on the Afropop Radio documentary "World Music 2.0" I find myself blogging about a subject so world music 1.0 it's hilarious.

Now you probably know that I have more affection than most for the term 'world music'. It has aggregated and created a marketplace for audiences, artists, labels, media and other players who believe in cultural exchange through music. Of course the debate is always about the TERMS of this exchange - who makes the rules, who profits, and whether it's fundamentally a one-way system.

I have never known what the deal is with Arc Music's roster and their marketing techniques. They're a British company who release a truckload of discs every year, most of which are guilty of Photoshop 1.0 design. The greater part of these discs appear to be one-off licenses (I hope) from individual artists or fledgling producers. Its output is a mix of pop and folkloric material. Its folklore is often served up with easy-listening reverb, while its pop won't drive anyone out of the souvenir shop. This market is well established by the initial world music 1.0 conventions set up in the late 80s, then tweaked by Putumayo's success in the 90s.

What bugs me most is that too many of Arc's releases feature the style of music front and center, with the artist's name buried in the graphics. The message seems to be "here's an example of this music" in the tradition of Putumayo's compilations which reduce the individual personality of the artists to a function of the overall image or flavour.

I can't understand what's going on this disc. 'Yinguica' doesn't seem to be the name of a band; perhaps it too is a one-off. Percussionist Barry Van Zyl is a member of Johnny Clegg's band, and he's a frequent name on Arc releases. So the listener/buyer isn't even sure about this disc's intent beyond the promise of authentic-sounding 'Marrabenta'. Since this Mozambique-based music is one of Africa's lesser known party sounds but stops well short of digital boom bap, it's an opportunity for Arc to put out yet another variety of novel but unthreatening global grooves.

Fortunately, as with a small but steady proportion of the label's content, the music is worthwhile. Hard charging percussion dominates most songs, and the instrumentation is kept spare with bass, drums, and intertwining acoustic guitars. I'm no expert on the music so I can't judge its 'authenticity', but it's clear that the participants are actually working up a sweat in keeping with the "play it 'til your strings break!" ethos of Marrabenta posited by the back cover.

This won't set the blogosphere on fire, but it's further proof that there is plenty of credible music being put out by the gatekeepers of world music 1.0, even if the circumstances are sometimes obscure. Hopefully everyone is seeing a return on their investment.

In the meantime, check that Afropop doc - it's a good roundup of how disintermediation is the main characteristic of world music 2.0.


sierra alone - the embassadors (nonplace)
tiny pyramids - ratchetorchestra (no label)
the alley of enchantment - dub rocket (touchbass)
nucleus roots - automaton (satamile)
aqua con sal - bronx river parkway (truth and soul)
ni nhi me le - yinguica (arc music)
serengeti - magic drum orchestra (lion hea...d)
ghost ride - muskox (standard form)
avante me fante - mahala rai banda (asphalt tango)
plovdiska rachenista - boban i marko markovic orkestar (piranha)
joe pill - electro morocco (blue jay way)
untitled track 3 - pink saliva (no label)
lower nile - arthur blythe (india navigation)
blues n' boxing - michael kemp (no label)
independent girl - demattos (no label)
hallelujah - leroy brown (dakarai)
different strokes - kiddus i (naya)
i sight - tarrus riley (vp)
bumpy's lament - richie phoe (balanced)
don't cry dubwise - jah warrior (tanty)
stalag 23 - tony dubshot (no label)
the attorney - tommy mccook and the supersonics (pressure sounds)

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