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Logobi me, Africa! - click opera
February 2010
 
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Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 12:05 pm
Logobi me, Africa!

My two favourite musical experiences of the past week have been:

1. Atrium Musicae De Madrid's album "Musique Arabo Andalouse", released by the Harmonia Mundi label in 1976.

2. YouTube videos of young French "logobi" dancers like this one:



Now, you might say that these two things have little in common. One is a reconstruction of the moment when North African and Spanish musics were mingled and fused, made by a Spanish monk and his early music ensemble. The other is an African dance ritual adapted to Europe by young Parisians with family roots in the Ivory Coast. Further down the page -- like a magician waving a wand over a hen and turning it into an egg -- I hope to demonstrate that something does in fact link these two very different musics. But first I want to tell you how they popped into my life recently.

Last week I was in both Madrid and Paris. (Thank you, by the way, if you came to my concert! I had a wonderful time.) My Madrid hotel was near the big FNAC store, so I went up to the CD section to see if they had any records by Atrium Musicae de Madrid. I already have "Musique Arabo Andalouse", but since this was Madrid I thought they might have other records by the Atrium Musicae.



I went to ask the assistant if they had any "musica Arabo-Andaluse". She told me that Arabic music and Andalusian music were different things, stored in different areas of FNAC. Then, after thinking a bit, she showed me a couple of CDs that fused Islamic and Spanish idioms. I bought them, but they were disappointing. They lacked the poised strangeness and textural gorgeousness of the Atrium Musicae:



I suppose the assistant's initial denial that Andalusian and Arabic music had much to do with each other disturbed me a bit. Waiting for a train to take me to Toledo earlier that day, I'd happened to read an article in the English version of El Pais (the insert that comes with The International Herald Tribune) saying that applications to build mosques in Spain are often blocked because people think having these alien buildings in their neighbourhoods will lower the house prices. My experience of Toledo, though, seemed to suggest the opposite: all around were signs of the deep Muslim influence which plays a major part in making Toledo the world treasure that it is today.

A few days later I was in Paris, staying with friends who live between the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis and the Chateau D'Eau metro station. It's an area heavily populated with immigrants, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, Senegal and the Ivory Coast. There are a couple of streets dense with African hairdressers and Korean nail salons. As African women emerge from the Chateau D'Eau metro station, touts from the salons grab them and try to steer them (and their custom) towards their own salons.

Researching this on the internet later, I found the video of "logobi a Chateau D'Eau". What I find so exciting in this video is the unpredictable way the polyrhythms work against each other: the shouts of the men as they dance, the drum machine programming, the synth line and the African instrument twanging along with it are all semi-independent from each other, and the result is an incredibly infectious energy, something that just bursts out of the screen.

It's also kind of exciting to me to frame this as "young French culture, happening on a Paris street". You know, a couple of years ago Time magazine ran a cover feature declaring French culture dead. When you read the article, this turned out to be because the author of the piece was looking for French culture in dead places: the Prix Goncourt, New Wave cinema, Impressionism, classical music. His article didn't mention Daft Punk, and it certainly didn't get down with the Ivory Coast logobi dancers on the Boulevard de Strasbourg.

By now you can probably see where I'm going with this, and how I'm going to connect grime-logobi to Arabo-Andalusian music. They both expand the definition of European music by infusing it with vital energy from elsewhere -- specifically the continent of Africa. As long as Europe stays open to this energy, and continues to fuse it with its own cultural forms, nobody will dare to declare our fabulous continent dead.

Originally appeared on Spanish music website Playground as Africa en Europa.

28CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)

I don't actually think your opinions are in conflict with TIME. From the article:

"Therein may lie France's return to global glory. The country's angry, ambitious minorities are committing culture all over the place. France has become a multiethnic bazaar of art, music and writing from the banlieues and disparate corners of the nonwhite world. African, Asian and Latin American music get more retail space in France than perhaps any other country. Movies from Afghanistan, Argentina, Hungary and other distant lands fill the cinemas. Authors of all nations are translated into French and, inevitably, will influence the next generation of French writers. Despite all its quotas and subsidies, France is a paradise for connoisseurs of foreign cultures. "France has always been a country where people could come from any country and immediately start painting or writing in French — or even not in French," says Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian whose movie based on her graphic novel Persepolis is France's 2008 Oscar entry in the Best Foreign Film category. "The richness of French culture is based on that quality."


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)

Yes. When you read the small print, that article (which I looked at in more detail here) wasn't so much saying that French culture is dead as that American culture is currently deaf to it. Editors -- when they choose captions and summaries and headlines and illustrations -- often turn a writer's message into something more eye-catching and attention-grabbing, but a lot less nuanced and accurate.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)


Yeah. I like the main idea, which should be obvious, in that cultures thrive when cultures collide. (which is why French laws demanding certain percentages of French music are harmful and why their immigrants are one of the few things keeping them interesting)


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 10:39 am (UTC)

I of course agree with you that Europe is revitalised by all these cultural infusions, but how does that sit with your slack-jawed awe of Japan - possibly the most monocultural society of the developed world?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 10:56 am (UTC)

This is a paradox, but it would be itself a sort of noxious monoculturalism to say that all societies have to be equally multicultural.

Japan does some great things with its monoculturalism, but it's worth bearing in mind that it's only a racial monopoly, not a cultural one. You'll find more global culture represented in Japan than you will in the UK, for instance; more books in translation, more subtitled films, better stocks of South American or African music, and so on. It's also worth remembering that a nation like the UK is only more multicultural than Japan, racially, because of a long history of colonialism. It's not that we've opened our borders because we're oh-so-liberal.

It's also worth saying that I think Japan could stand to get a bit more ethnically diverse, and that I cover its existing (hidden, but not absent) ethnic diversity positively in my Japanese cultural coverage. But -- to return to the paradox I opened with -- I don't think it's up to nations whose racial diversity originates in things like slavery to make Japan feel inadequate for its stance on immigration. You cannot impose a "multiculti monoculture".


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC)

It's also worth remembering that a nation like the UK is only more multicultural than Japan, racially, because of a long history of colonialism.

And Japan doesn't have a history of colonialism? Weren't millions of ethnic Koreans forcibly repatriated after the war or something?

I'm sympathetic to your positioning here but you do seem to want the West to incorporate "the Other" whereas you want "the Other" to remain somehow untainted...


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC)

Actually, looking at Wikipedia I see I haven't got that right, the Koreans weren't forcibly repatriated, but the ones who stayed weren't treated particularly well.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
let's get our terms straight

Japanese is not a "race," it's an ethnicity. It's no more a race than Laotian, Korean, or Spanish people are.

I hate to belabor such an elementary point, but anthropologists generally consider there to be only a few primary races, the majority being so-called negroid, mongoloid and caucasoid.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
works both ways

and i don't think it's up to japan, with a long history of murderous colonization and slave labor, to lecture the west about its checkered past, as well.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Re: works both ways

You anons have killed a lot of people, too.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
Re: works both ways

yes, and we've been very forthcoming about it here, at the U.N. and elsewhere. in the case of japan, their ongoing hypocrisy is on par with many in the west, though.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)

japan does senegal:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y4Y6F4QOo0

enjoy : )

nathan fuhr


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)

Just embedding your link, Nathan!


ReplyThread Parent
olamina
olamina
blackgirlgenius
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)

this is great. thanks!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)

I'm confused. Didn't you post this already?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)

I posted an entry on Click Opera about the experiences the Playground piece came out of, yes. I tend to run the English versions of all the Playground pieces because they only run in Spanish otherwise. Plus, posting this today bought me time to write a piece for a New York Times blog about whether Japan is more highly aestheticized than other cultures. I'm on deadline for quite a lot of journalism right now.


ReplyThread Parent
olamina
olamina
blackgirlgenius
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)

I tried to make this point when questioning a presenter at a panel on archiving Eastern European dance this summer in Berlin. I tried to make the point that if they were trying to open up the space of contemporary dance to include "post-communist/socialist" nations why didn't they just go on ahead and open ALL the way up so that the dance that was going on within immigrant communities would also be part of the archival effort. the presenters (janez janša and anton cramer) seemed unwillingly or unable to address it. maybe i ought to send them this post.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)

ha... i know both of them... yes, perhaps you should (esp. the latter).

janez (f.k.a. emil hrvatin) is based in ljubljana i think... and i'd imagine perhaps a bit more (or at least capable/interested in being) engaged with immigrant communities.

glad you like the clip! (i was dancing the dakar dimension with this crew last year...)

nathan


ReplyThread Parent
olamina
olamina
blackgirlgenius
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)

the dakar dimension, oooo sounds fun. yeah i work with janez here in slovenia, and he is definitely more open than cramer seemed to be, but i am not holding my breath that either of them will be engaging these concerns. i think the door will have to be kicked in by a gang of academically-minded logobi dancers or something!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)

word !

n


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)

Wedding bearみたいな、ペアの動物のfigure買う?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)

子供っぽいのはいやね。


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)


あなたの時間を費やしている。モムス日本語を読み取りません。


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)

私は、日本語ばか読むのですか!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)

I completely agree with you here. One of the first moments of European culture fusing with African (and others eventually) was in America, and we all know how badly that went down. Jazz, hip-hop, rock, soul, R&B, disco, funk, "coolness", and the list goes on. Hybrid vigor, if you will.

I'm excited to see what comes out of Europe, though I wouldn't be surprised if Europeans are afraid they're becoming more "American" with all these outside cultures coming in and making *gasp* new things with the precious, desperately-protected brand name of Europe on it.

I'd love it, though, if the distinct styles of continental Europe developed new cultural forms like what happened in America during the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostly because I get bored easily and novel things keep me going.


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viceanglais
viceanglais
Mon, Oct. 12th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)



I love the font here, it has an intelligent humor!


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)

INSULT ISLAM THOSE WHO BEHEAD


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Oct. 13th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)

THOSE WHO BEHEAD INSULT ISLAM


ReplyThread Parent