Monday, March 03, 2008

¿Cómo se dice en español, "Africolombia is making it rain on these hoes"?

You remember a while back when I said I was not convinced that the African music-worshiping champeta scene of Colombia was real, as in "not a meticulously contrived hipster fan fiction"?

I would now like to say, for the record: it is real, mi gente. Es muy, muy real.

Over the past couple of months (and largely thanks to the influence of Samy and some others), I have been immersing myself in the prickly pleasures of la musica afrocolombiana. I think I can safely say that at this point, Colombia has joined the Benin-Togo axis as the region of the world whose modern groove-based dance musics I most desperately want to explore more deeply.

Therefore do I thank the heavens that since the beginning of the year, our amigo Fabian Altahona Romero has been blasting away on all cylinders on his Africolombia blog.

Fabian is not playing around when it comes to kicking out the jams: You want cumbia? Highlife? Merengue? Rumba? Champeta criolla? Salsa? Afrobeat? Mbaqanga? Makossa? Ziglibithy? He puts it all out there, accompanied by essays (en español, naturalmente) illuminating the history and cultural context of the artists and their music.

I love the way our little "Afro sounds" corner of the blogosphere has been exponentially growing over the past year, and while there have been so many great new additions, this has been one of my favorites. So do yourself a favor and check it out!

While I'm plugging other blogs, I might as well urge you to check the recently concluded "Black History Mumf" series that Odienator ran over at Big Media Vandalism.

Yes, yes... I know February is over, but if we are going to celebrate the consummate character actress Regina King, the esoteric delights of Coming to America or the awesome inspirational stature of George Jefferson; to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Don Cornelius or the deleterious agenda perpetuated in the black community by the Kool-Aid Man; or just take in an all-sangin', all-dancin', all-cullid double-bill of Cabins in the Sky and Stormy Weather, and other kinky cinema and TV arcana from the soul of African-Americana, tell me--can we truly restrict ourselves to just one short (even in a leap year) month?

(My only beef is that Odie never got around to delivering his promised eulogy to Kimberly Elise. My Lord, the torch I carry for that woman could light the tenebrous recesses of Hades.)

The "Black History Mumf" compendium can be found here.

Lately, I've also been into The Rawness, which blogger T. describes as "a blog about human nature and social behavior. Especially from the viewpoints of evolutionary psychology, social dynamics and economics."

While that might sound slightly academic or intimidating, it's really a laid-back, conversational and quite funny exploration of the reasons why we people do the things we do, the way we use language to obscure our motives from others (and ourselves), and, of course, one of my obsessions: taxonomizing life: Take this analysis of the difference between nerds, geeks and dorks (a conversation I myself had many times during my years laboring in that mecca of geekery, the record store):

Geeks can range in intelligence to average to very bright, but they rarely hit the genius levels of nerds. On the bright side, they are usually nowhere near as socially inept as a nerd either. They are usually good at one or two things, but it’s rarely something useful. Their expertise is more likely to be along the lines of an encyclopedic knowledge of something like film, music, television, comic books, sports or history, but from the consumer’s side. A geek is more like a high level hobbyist than an expert genius. Since his area of expertise can often be of little real world use, it’s not uncommon to find geeks toiling away in obscurity or sometimes even mediocrity. However when the geek is lucky enough to combine his hobby with his career he can end up becoming quite successful, and even attain a level of minor celebrity. His level of knowledge comes more from a monomaniacal dedication to a subject more than high intellectual aptitude, even though geeks can often be fairly bright. Policy wonks, the pickup artist community and bloggers are geeks. Fantasy football addicts are geeks. They will dedicatedly digest every piece of knowledge out there about a topic, but aren’t likely to synthesize it into anything new, innovative and groundbreaking. They mostly tend to memorize and regurgitate, although the best of them are often capable of some very novel insights. Making this primer differentiating between nerds, geeks and dorks is something a geek would do. Analyzing the differences in physiology and brain structure and environment between them and coming up with a plausible hypothesis as to the source of those differences, however? That’s something a nerd would do.
The Rawness lives up to its name, though--it can be exacting in its mission to strip human nature down to its base, primal instincts. Sometimes it's too much to take in all at one time, and I can only check in every couple of days. But it's always entertaining and offers great insight to those who want to better understand people so as to better manipulate them!

Last but not least, here's one I discovered just last week: Stuff White People Like.

There's been a lot of buzz around this one--it's pretty much the new Black People Love Us!--an ongoing catalogue of the oddities, peculiarities, eccentricities, and comicalities of the Alabaster Genus of Humanity, rendered in a dry (yet wry) anthropological tone.

Noteworthy items: "#71 Being the only white person around" "#62 Knowing what's best for poor people," "#44 Public radio," "#60 Toyota Prius," "#36 Breakfast places," "#61 Bicycles," but of course, one of my favorites has to be

#69 Mos Def

In the olden days of white culture, people used to look up to Kings and Princes. These were the people that they adored, and every night they wished and hoped that somehow they could wake up and be just like them. But with Royal Families crumbling, that role has been filled by one man: Mos Def.

He is everything that white people dream about: authentic (”he’s from Brooklyn!”), funny (”he was on Chapelle show!”), artistic (have you heard “Black on Both Sides?”), an actor (”he’s in the new Gondry film!”) and not white (”I don’t see race”).

He has done an amazing job of being in big budget movies (The Italian Job) and having one of his songs become a white person wedding staple (Ms. Fat Booty) but still retaining authenticity and credibility.

If you find yourself in a social situation where you are asked to list your favorite actor or artist, you should always say Mos Def. This way you can name someone that everyone has heard of and you don’t look like you are trying to one up anybody. The only possible negative consequence is some white people might think “I wish I had said that first.”

The comments on Stuff White People Like are perhaps even more entertaining than the posts themselves, as readers debate the extent of the veracity of these alleged Causasoid behaviors and try to decide whether or not the very premise of the blog is offensive. ("Imagine if I, as a white guy, started a blog called “Stuff Black People Like”, and filled it with watermelon, fried chicken, dancing, gold teeth, cheap beer, pimping, etc. Can you feature the shit-storm of righteous indignation that would rain down upon me?")

I'm on the fence about it, really... The blog is at the very least racialist, if not outright racist, but I also feel fairly certain that the authors of the blog are themselves white (which I note only because of the unwritten caveat that makes it okay for persons to lampoon their own race in manner that would be unacceptable from outsiders). Essentially, the basic conceit is really the same as the "White people eat like *this*... while black people eat LIKE THIS!!!" gag that was fresh and hilarious when Richard Pryor did it 30 years ago on That Nigger's Crazy! but got worn out over the course of a million iterations on Showtime at the Apollo, HBO Def Comedy Jam and BET Comic View, except this time it's rendered through the screen of bone-dry irony... which is (let's face it) well, a bit of "white" thing to do, isn't it?

Anyway, when you get right down to it, this blog is really not so much about white people in toto, as it is about a certain subset of white people. As one commenter put it: "This blog isn’t about all white people. It’s skewering a certain kind of upper middle class, urban, liberal arts educated white person- and it does a pretty good job."

Still, maybe I shouldn't even be promoting this kind of racially contentious material here on With Comb & Razor, where we play a lot of old African records but the real theme music is an old American traditional called "Kum Ba Yah." Still, just in the interest of balance, I'll plug this spinoff blog my girl Fredara turned me on to just this afternoon:

Stuff Educated Black People Like

Anyway, peep Talib Kweli's new video, "Hostile Gospel," shot on location in Lagos by my sensei, Andrew Dosunmu:

I don't think the clip does much to showcase Andrew's signature sensual, postmodern Africana classic aesthetic, but I'm sure this is the kind of rugged vibe Kweli himself probably wanted.

The cele worshippers writhing on the beach during the "gospel" chorus is a nice touch, though.


Birdseed said...

For Colombian african-derived music I can really reccomend this article Wayne Marshall clued me on to. It's a riveting and really detailed account of the genre's origins and development and well worth a read. (It should also conclusively prove that this is not a myth!)

Africolombia said...

Hey Men,
First, thank you for showing my blog on your site. :-)

Very good article, I looked a little article is a very clear as the influence of Africa is part of us in the Colombian coast,

the "Picos" the pictures or the paintings that each had to differentiate themselves, is a mix between music and painting, it was as if each Pico, speaking through music. the exclusivity of the music

I recall that earlier to hear a particular song or album, it was necessary to hire or rent the machine.
The owner of each peak, paid a lot of money for a vinyl only on what had.
When sailors came to the coast of Cartagena and Barranquilla in ports.
the owners of "Picos" was first or fastest to reach the point of sale, was the most successful of all.
Lps some came only 1 or 2 times , and this is towards sale of Lp more expensive, clear if this vinyl was good for the DJ or "Picotero"
No mattered the cost.
When the DJ heard the Vinyl and gave the go-ahead, the P cancelled.

Then of this. They automatically Scrape (Raspaban) the label of LP and the cover art, had Disappeared(desaparecian)

So that only they had the privilege of sounded. For the competition of Picos.

For this reason a lot of music today is mysterious because it is difficult to identify.

Best Regard,

Comb & Razor said...

thanks for the article, Birdseed... it looks like a long, informative read that i am certainly going to enjoy getting into tonight!

Fabian -

the scene you describe is really fascinating to me because it sounds exactly like the early days of the Jamaican music scene! the sound systems... the fierce competition for exclusive records... the deliberate defacing of labels to obscure the records; identity...

it's just that it's in Cartagena and Barranquilla instead of Kingston and African, Haitian and soca records instead of New Orleans boogie-woogie!

the story is just amazing to me in a bizarro kinda way!

Africolombia said...

It is a great pleasure and joy to show our identity to the world,
A hug

Fabian -

jon said...

Damn you Uchenna, you had to lead me to the Stuff White People Like website! I just spent the last two hours there going 'ouch!' every now and then. It's a funny site. The target is rather an easy one however ;-) The comments are as good as the posts themselves. Thanks for that. White people like laughing at themselves as it makes them feel superior to those poor fools who take offence. . . ;-)


Comb & Razor said...

hmmm... that's more stuff white people like, huh? "Laughing at Themselves"?

(been a while since you had a mix up, btw... i know you said it was no longer gonna be weekly, but still--!!)

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with what you say god, is he cranking out the good stuff?...or what?

im actually going to sign up for a 'handle' just so i can beg fabian for more cumbia....please more cumbia...[he doesnt allow anonymous comments]...

love the blog hon...


Comb & Razor said...

thanks for checking in, Ana... Africolombia is definitely a great blog, and as often as Fabian updates already, i wish he would update more!

Africolombia said...

Greeting Ana,
first, congratulation in your day, in my country today is the international day of women.
Is a beautiful gift that God gave us.

Do not worry amigos.
I will post more Cumbia, Caribean music and African for all.

Thank you all for your support,
Fabian -

Anonymous said...


Comb & Razor said...

cele (as in "Celestial Church of Christ") is a catch-all term for the various "white garment" churches that practice a Yoruba-inflected form of charismatic Christianity.

you'd totally love it (except maybe for all the whooping and hollering)

Ivory Dome said...

that video made my day when I saw it. I want to be Andrew's assistant, teach me how to point that camera. lol