Globalistas Pt. 2
DJ /rupture

As part of his research on ‘globalist’ DJs, Camilo Rocha interviews maverick DJ, producer, blogger and radio presenter, Jace Clayton

By Camilo Rocha

 
Globalistas: an introduction
'In November of last year, having watched with keen interest the rise of various DJs/producers who, through their travels, research, collaborations, productions, performances and blogging activities have been breaking apart the traditional mould of 'world music' — artists such as Diplo, DJ /rupture and Maga Bo — I proposed a piece on ‘globalist’ DJs to Brazillian broadsheet paper Folha de S. Paulo.

I pitched it to Folha as I felt that the paper’s visibility and influence made it the ideal publication for such article. Folha de S. Paulo is Brazil's most important newspaper today; it gives excellent coverage to art and culture, and politically is more liberal than its counterparts — you could say it’s a little like the Brazilian Guardian.

I conducted lengthy interviews with the abovementioned DJs, plus Wayne Marshall, Ghislain Poirier and DJ Dolores. However, some of the interviewees were, understandably, a little miffed when they found that just a few quotes from their thoughtfully penned answers were used in the final piece. I apologise to the artists for any disappointment, however, many of the questions were asked in order to better my own factual understanding — and when it comes to a leftfield subject like this, space in papers such as Folha is restricted to say the least.

Thankfully Spannered has kindly offered to run the full transcripts from my research, which, I guess, makes up somewhat for the length of the published piece. (Unfortunately the interviews with Ghislain Poirier and DJ Dolores were conducted by phone and are unavailable for publication here.)'

Camilo Rocha, São Paulo, February 2008.
Part 1: DJ /rupture

Through his fiery three-deck DJ sets and seminal mixtapes, his productions, his blogging interests, his collaborations and his label, Soot, Boston-born Jace Clayton aka DJ /rupture has risen to prominence as a true ambassador for sounds from the experimental end of the global dancefloor. Following a spell based in Barcelona, he’s now back stateside, in New York, where his regular radio show on WFMU is gaining considerable momentum. This interview was conducted via email in November 2007.

Sum up your musical mission.
That's your job.
What made you pay attention to music outside Western culture?
About 15 years ago I heard some Moroccan music and it was incredible. I've been listening to it ever since.
How do you see the popularisation of what Wayne called 'global ghettotech'? Why has there been so much exposure and interest for these types of sounds?
The exposure and interest is overrated. 'Global ghettotech' club nights are a minority; it is just a few individuals in a few cities doing it. What has changed is the access — via blogs and Wikipedia, a lot of music is suddenly easier to access for people removed geographically from where it gets made. This amplifies the connections and influences, but it simultaneously amplifies and reproduces mistranslations, errors, and power imbalances.
How is the acceptance in America for your kind of musical approach?
Right now not a lot of people have the musical views that I do. But things change. My mixtape Gold Teeth Thief opened up a lot of doors for people; fans constantly tell me that it changed that way they thought about music and mixing, which of course makes me very pleased.
You have done a few tracks with a Middle-Eastern influences. Where have you travelled in that area?
Maghrebi culture is in Europe. It is also in the Maghrebi, but I've spent far more time in Maghrebi spaces and situations within southern Europe than in north Africa itself.  The music flows through geographic borders.
Any peculiar stories about your music-researching travels? Weird or dangerous incidents?
Yes.
A lot of ghetto music bypasses copyright as it is commonly made on pirated software and samples freely. Meanwhile, you defended Oink on your blog for providing good quality free music and comparing it to a library. Do you think we are going in an inevitable direction, where music will become free? Will that be a good thing and why? Should music have a price? Do you manage to make any money selling records?
Free access to quality information is a wonderful thing. And so is artists being able to live from their creations. It's a strange time now, lots of economic models are melting.
You seem to have a strong social concern and awareness. Do you sometimes feel there should be more political lyrics in global ghetto music (I'm thinking of Rio funk, reggaeton, kuduro and kwaito, which are largely sexual and/or party-oriented)?
Sometimes you need music to be a kind of escape; sometimes you need songs of love. It's a silly idea to think that vocalists should somehow also be political leaders.
The fear that the "natives'" music is too sexual, too crude is at least 300 years old, if not older...
It is precisely _because_ I have a strong social concern and awareness that I don't place too much importance on the lyrical content of music.
If you want to talk politics, follow the money. If you want to talk politics in music, follow the distribution, see who benefits from what.
Imagine a 'socially conscious' funk carioca hit... owned by a Westerner who profits from it while the artist gets underpaid. The song appears to be good and politically just, but it is simply an extension of an old colonial relationship. So examining lyrics won't answer any questions of power.
…or maybe feel that these musics could have more of a commitment to change or denounce their situation? (If you think they do promote some kind of social change, please explain why.)
The way in which music creates social change has nothing to do with the lyrics. It has everything to do with the spaces that the culture surrounding the music creates. Certain musical scenes bring together different parts of society and allow for new social possibilities. This is rare, but it can happen. Other scenes *reduce* the chance that various people will mix and share ideas.
What new stuff (styles/artists/producers) have you discovered recently that has really impressed you?
I'm discovering the world of cumbia — there are multiple fascinating cumbia scenes past and present, it's incredible. Also, reggada, and some Algerian chaabi and Kabyle music.
What are your plans for 2008?
I'm busy. I just started a new label with Matt Shadetek, called Dutty Artz. We're also producing internet TV pieces for it. I'm releasing a new mix CD called Uproot in February. It's a powerful one... Andy Moor and I have a live album coming out in the spring. Also, my band Nettle will release a live album in spring or summer. Right now I'm remixing two bands I really like, although I shouldn’t say the names just yet. The radio show will keep going ot!  My label Soot is releasing an AMAZING album by Maga Bo in a few months.
I can see a lot of people here in Brazil viewing all this as a new kind of exploitation: guys from the first world shopping around ghettos of the globe in search of the new rhythms to feed their DJ sets, getting credit and fame while the original artists are not mentioned or soon forgotten. Is that fair or not to say?
Sure, it a fair criticism! This happens a lot. Although, don't be so easy on the Brazilians - inside Brazil there is a lot of exploitation as well — Brazilians exploiting Brazilians *and* what you call "guys from the First World" exploiting Brazilians!

I really dislike mixtapes that hide the original artists and don't include their information. This is extremely disrespectful. That said I don’t care about "flavor of the month".  I love and follow intimately a lot of music: from mainstream rap to obscure Berber pop. I think it's much more interesting to.

Here's what I try to do with all music I really like: dig in deep, really keep up. And the shallow 'global ghettotech' doesn’t really allow for that. I used to get jungle records every week or two — to make sure I didn’t miss any heat. Within a genre one likes, hearing the 'styles within styles' is as or more rewarding than genre-skipping. It is about love and familiarity, rather than a stupid 'lust for the new' which means baile funk today and kuduro tomorrow and other music from poor black people next week.

 I *can* talk at length about the differences between Nass el Ghiwane & Jil Jilala & Lemchaheb, while to most other non-Moroccans, it all just sounds like weird old creaky music.

As a thinking person — who happens to be black and not rich — I do not fetishize poverty, or blackness. And in all my dealings with non-Western musicians, I try to make power as horizontal as possible. For example, my band Nettle: we are two Moroccans, a Scottish woman, and myself. We compose the songs together, share the profit evenly; everything is clear and in the open. We are creating a new social space; it is not 'Western' or 'non-Western' but a new third space — immigrant space, a future possibility.
Does ‘global ghettotech’ sometimes run the risk of being just a trendier guise for the rich world's old taste for ‘exotic’ (cultural tourism thrills as opposed to understanding and identification with the scenes it is exploring)?
Yes, that risk is constant.
 Read Globalistas Pt. 1: Wax Marshall
 Two English translations of Camilo Rocha’s article can be found here.
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