Pearsall's Tunes

This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Beats Archipelago

Or, English-language music in other languages.

In Puerto Rico, there is reggaeton, which is Spanish-language dancehall reggae.

Ivy Queen - Alerta - from the album Diva Platinum Edition

The music is, even today, very similar to Jamaican Ragga. The same basic rhythm is employed and many of the vocals tends to be in the Ragga style, although Hip hop-styled vocals are also common. Many riddims used in Reggaeton are also directly taken from Jamaican producers, with relatively minor changes (see below).

The genre's most notably unique feature is a driving drum-machine track derived from Puerto Rican genres Bomba and Plena. This is integrated into the riddim used, whether Jamaican or locally produced. However, despite the genre's relatively high level of derivativeness it is often very creatively done, with some excellent producers and performers incorporating their own personal musical backgrounds into the crafting of songs.

The lyrics, like most working-class popular musics', are often about the reality on the streets, misunderstandings, unfair situations, love, cheating and passion.

In France, hip-hop has become tremendously successful, especially among the children of black and Arab immigrants in the banlieus, the massive housing projects that surround most French cities.

Iam - Nes Sous La Meme Etoile - from the album L'Ecole du Micro d'Argent

"Much like the 'hood' in the U.S., the banlieue in France most often signifies a community of color or a community of racial “minorities,” although not exclusively, for some poor Whites also live in the banlieues. In the case of France, the banlieue communities are disproportionately dominated by immigrants and second-generation immigrants from France’s former colonies, “protectorates,” and “departements” of Africa and the Caribbean (such as Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, Congo, Cameroon, and Martinique among others). Individuals of these cultural backgrounds seem to hold a particular and special relationship to Hip-Hop, which is again characterized by diasporic intimacy, in large part because they conceive of the cultural producers of Hip-Hop, African Americans, and themselves as being part of an African diasporic whole. Moreover, Hip-Hop has often given a voice to the politically and economically marginalized, and this rings true for immigrant youth of France.

In Brazil, the sound of the favelas is funk, a crude but fun amalgamation of Miami bass, rap, and shouting in Portuguese.

MC Cidinhoy y MC Doca - Rap da Felicidade

"Rio de Janeiro is known as the city of samba and carnival, but to most of its young population for the past decade it has been the city of funk. Depending on who you talk to, funk is either Rio's richest contemporary cultural movement or a dangerous hotbed of delinquency: the music of choice not just for the urban poor but for the armed drug gangs who control the favelas. One way the gangs provide for their communities is by organising funk balls - as in Formiga.

Outside the hangar-like hall, teenagers patrol with guns and makeshift stalls sell beer. Inside, a barricade of speakers, almost three metres high, spreads across the room. The crowd is predominantly teenage, provocatively dressed and dancing funk's famously lascivious, gyrating moves. "You can tell this is run by the traffickers," says Speed. "Look - there is no fighting. Everyone is here to have a good time. The traffickers are here to protect it."

The downside is that funk is stigmatised as the music of Rio's drug wars. To call someone a "funkeiro" is a statement not just of their taste in records but of their class, way of life and even morality. It dates back to the beach riots of 1992, when gangs rampaged across Ipanema, fighting each other and stealing from middle-class bathers. The authorities blamed funkeiros - and the reputation stuck.

Also, read Woebot's classic blog posting on 'shanty house'.

|| RPH || 4:20 AM ||


Add a comment