Monday, April 27, 2009

Boom, bap...original rap! Addressing expressions of indigeneity

---Brown (Ugly)
------Tribal (Savage)
Roots (Uncivilized)---------
Soulful (Cursed)---

Dear Fili Islander/Tribal Pinoy/Roots-Reggae/Hip Hop Head:

What's all this about Filipino tribal roots? What makes you think you're so special? Do you think you're different because of your proto-indigeneity? Ok, I guess you can claim that you have "natural" island proclivities to stomp and dance, a la
Sam Slovick from the LA Weekly, but is that really what's happening here?

Come here. Let me see your feet. Does your big toe protrude inwards? Super balance on the dance floor?

What's up with all the tattoos? What does skin have to do with style? Now that you have tattoos, are you more like Pacific Islanders? Should I give you more credence in indigenous and sovereignty politics? Is Western penetration a stain just like the needle to skin?

Come here. Let me measure your skull. Is it bigger or smaller than White people's? Asian people's? Black people's? Are you smarter, dumber, more likely to consent to discipline like
Cebu prisoners?

Are you the model minority? Or are you the criminal? Are you the loved? Or the hated? Are you the owner? Or the worker? Are you the silent one? Or the loquacious?

Where is your allegiance? Who do you report to? What colors do you represent? Are you pure? Or are you a bastard? What is your language? Where are your books? Who is your God? Are you soulful? Or cursed?

Come here. Will you dance for me? Sing for me? Work for me?

Why not? What makes you think you're so special?

Until I see you again (and again),


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tagalog Rap: Machine gun style on ya

Power Struggle: Hearts & Minds

Kasamas CD

A few posts ago I commented on rap in Tagalog in lieu of the passing of the late, great Francis M. And boy, am I mistaken about the extent of rap in Tagalog today. Even though its not new (i.e. Francis M. has been doing it for decades), it seems as though rap in Tagalog is gaining more and more steam, and now even more among Fil Ams. Where is this movement heading? What will it look like in the coming years?

I copped those two CDs above from the Bayan Cultural Solidarity Night near downtown LA a few weeks back (Photo from Bayan Cultural Solidarity Night: Courtesy of Apollo Victoria). I've been a fan of Nomi of Power Struggle for a few years now, so listening to his album "Hearts and Minds" is a true pleasure. Nomi has a command of words and flow that many emcees lack. Sometimes he doesn't have to rhyme a word, but delivers a line with sharp certainty. Top that with progressive, radical, and inspiring lyrics about people's struggle and movement, then that's some hard-hitting shit.

As for the Kasamas CD, it's very well-done: the production is clear and soulful, the young emcees (youth from the Filipino Cultural Center in San Francisco) are slick, honest, and passionate. They give a good glimpse of their struggles and daily happenings in the city. But what's really interesting is the Tagalog rap in the album. Like Bambu says in one interview, people were asking how he raps so fast. He says that's just how his momma yells at him. Well, these young emcees demonstrate the quickness, alliteration, and rhythm that Tagalog enables. Saico (who cameos in "Hearts and Minds") murders ya with that machine gun-style Tagalog flow.

Saico of Kasamas shooting you with rapid fire Tagalog
(Photo courtesy of Apollo Victoria)

Emcees at the Filipino Cultural Center in the 'Sco

I wonder what the trajectory of emceeing in Tagalog will look like?
Will it become more and more popular among both Tagalog-speakers and English-speakers? Can we officially designate the category "Filipino hip hop" since the hip hop is spoken in Filipino language (re: Latin rap which, incidentally morphed into what is now called reggaeton)?

I just discovered SOULFIESTA with the dude B-Roc. You gotta peep their shit, they doin some good hip hop in the Philippines (via Turbulence Productions). Rap in Tagalog! Here it is!! Ain't it so fresh?

Nimbusnine feat. B-Roc - Champions
Written by G. Feraren & R. Andres Jr.
Produced by B-Roc for Turbulence Productions.
Recorded at Soulfiesta Studios

(More on Turbulence Productions later...)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Joe Bataan & Seattle Experience Music Project

LA Weekly: "Streetology: Joe Bataan's Rap on Latin Soul"
Festival reflections: When the fun is done

Here is a very good interview (more than 1.5 hours long) between Latin Soul legend Joe Bataan and the homey Jeff Chang in Australia. Jeff and Joe review Joe's long career in music while also playing some of Joe's classic music for the audience. As a young Afro-Filipino guy growing up in Spanish Harlem in the 1960s-70s, Joe tells great stories about breaking into the music industry and pioneering music movements such as Latin Soul (Latin-rhythmed music in English) and rap (with his song "Rap-O-Clap-O," peep the 1 hour mark).

I love his story-telling about how he aesthetically bridged the Latin and Black musical communities with boogaloo/Latin Soul, as he is able to linguistically, musically, and racially straddle both communities. For example, Joe's record company "SalSoul" successfully attempted to be the Motown of Salsa.

I also like his story about performing and fast becoming a (afro-haired) celebrity in East Germany during the heat of the Cold War!

On a related note, I will be presenting at the Experience Music Project Pop Conference in Seattle this weekend. I will be exploring Joe's success in the music industry, and the challenges of popularizing "Rap-O-Clap-O" in the United States. Here is a description of our panel:

Sunday, April 19
>> Liminal Grooves
Venue: JBL Theater
Moderated by: Gayle Wald
Oliver Wang, "Crash, Burn and Return: Betty Davis' Lost Album"
Mark Villegas, "Hitting Abroad: The Global Travels of Joe Bataan’s 'Rap-O-Clap-O'"
Jason King, "Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite: Disconnected Intimacies"
Andy Zax, "Lost in Lost Music: Rediscovering Johnny Mathis' I Love My Lady"

"Hitting Abroad: The Global Travels of Joe Bataan’s 'Rap-O-Clap-O'"
"Rap O, Clap O" was one of hip-hop's earliest hits internationally but scarcely remembered in the U.S. Recorded by Latin R&B singer Joe Bataan, "Rap O, Clap O" became a chart-topping hit in Europe and even Latin America, where Bataan rapped the song in Spanish, making it one of the first "Latin rap" songs of note. Bataan first discovered hip-hop in 1978, before the rap music movement had a formal name. Intrigued by the "rhythm-and-rhyme" styles he saw engrossing the youth of New York City, Bataan set out to produce, write and record "Rap O, Clap O" on his own, claiming to have preceded the now legendary "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang. Despite this, the single's poor reception in the U.S. has muted its legacy. (CONTINUE READING)

Also some other juicy panels/presentations:

"¡Reggeat├│n! Perreo and Beyond" with Raquel Rivera

""The Age of the Crew: ABDC and its Dance Dance Revolution"" with Christine Balance

"Seduced by Hip Hop"