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Globalistas Pt. 4Maga Bo
Camilo Rocha interviews Rio-based DJ/producer and music researcher Maga Bo for the fourth in a series of interviews exploring ‘globalist DJs’
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 4: Maga Bo
When Bo Anderson isn’t hopping continents and seeking out beats from the back of beyond, the Seattle-born performer, producer and sound recordist is busily working out of his rootop studio space in Rio de Janeiro. A new Maga Bo album is due out shortly on Soot Records. The following interview was conducted via email, in Portuguese, during Bo’s recent trip the Ethiopia (translation from Portuguese by Ali Wade). Go here to read Spannered’s 2007 interview with Maga Bo in Rio.
What are you up to in Ethiopia?
I've just finished the location sound recording for a documentary about the Ethiopian wolf, in the Bale Mountains in the south of Ethiopia. My travels are, to a large extent, funded by my work as a sound technician. Once the paid work has been completed, I stay around on my own for a while to research music, meet musicians, record, produce, collaborate... Today is my first day alone (as a music producer) in Addis Ababa, and I'm starting to chase up some musicians whom I've heard about through friends. I plan to record with some traditional musicians, and perhaps some ragga MCs, but my main focus is to research Ethiopian music.Which were your last musical travels?
Listening to Jon Hassell and Brian Eno as I was flying over the Atlantic Ocean to Africa ;) Senegal, Morocco, Zanzibar, South Africa -- the results are on my new record, called Archipelagoes, launching on DJ /rupture's Soot label in January.How did you begin to take an interest in sounds and rhythms from diverse places around the world?
I believe it was through the festivals of the mid-80s in Seattle, when I saw performances by King Sunny Ade, Sonny Okosuns, Thomas Mapfumo, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and others. At the same time, I was drumming in a hardcore punk band and diving into the world of reggae. Almost every week there was a Jamaican band playing around there. I became really good at getting into nightclubs and bars (I wasn't yet 21) or to climb walls and grates so I could get in without paying. At that time I also began listening to hip hop -- mixtapes with Mantronix and Run DMC. I began to see that every type of music is interconnected. At the age of 18 I made my first trip to Jamaica on my own. I wanted to check out Reggae Sunsplash, have a smoke, go to the beach, and, you know… What happened was that my world completely changed. I discovered that, while music is a universal language, it is also a language with local subtleties that can be better understood inside of original contexts.How is your relationship with musicians/producers from around the world with whom you work? How do you make contact? What agreement do you have for payment and authorship rights?
The majority of people with whom I work I hear about from friends whose music I already know and admire. I simply introduce myself to people that I think are interesting. It's all very casual. Friendship and affinity comes way before dealings. If a cool vibe doesn't happen, the music isn't going to happen. All my works are partnerships, where the authorship rights and any future payments are equally divided. With musicians who aren't involved in the process of composition and are only interpreting [my ideas], I pay an amount and/or make a recording or production in exchange. There is very little money involved and it's necessary to be very creative in utilising the resources available. For example, the majority of my productions are recorded in cheap hotels or in the house of the musicians, and frequently with borrowed equipment.What projects are you currently working on in Rio?
Rio is where I produce, compose and take care of my work. At the moment [November 2007] I'm preparing to launch my record due out in January on Soot, creating beats for my next record - that will be in 100% partnership with carioca musicians - and administrating the transition of an online programme of Brazilian music that I've been producing for some years now. Aside from all of this, I've made a proposal to give lessons on digital production for Afroreggae in Parada de Lucas, which should commence this coming year.Why did you decide to live in Rio? When did you go there to live? What is it about the city that you like?
I moved to Rio in 1999 and fell in love with the city. Every day I am grateful to have the privilege of being able to live in Rio. I was fleeing from the rain and cold of Seattle and the lack of an interesting music scene (I'm not a rocker). I was searching for a large city, near the sea, with forest, tropical climate, good music… and where I could feel at home. I found all of this.Do you play much in Rio? How is the acceptance among Brazilians for the mixture of music that you play?
Apart from playing at the parties that Digitaldubs sometimes throw, I play in Brazil very rarely, sadly. I haven't found a great reception for my work in Rio, or in Brazil in general. It seems that I am always outside of the market model. I don't play the same style all night. It's difficult to describe what I do and none of this facilitates bookings. I've met most of the people involved with the hip hop, reggae, D'n'B and dub scenes (I produce a little from all of these styles), and I identify with them, but I don't feel that I make up part of their scene. If I don't have that feeling of public acceptance, in the same measure I have found a good reception in the area of musicians who are, in general, more aware and open. Some of the people with whom I've collaborated are BNegão, Mr Catra, Speed Freaks, Marcelo Yuka, Pivete, Marcelinho da Lua, Digitaldubs and Marechal.How do you see this popularisation of 'global ghettotech', as Wayne calls it? Why has there been so much interest and projection of these styles in the last few years?
I think it's good and bad at the same time. It's a signal that there is an interest in knowing 'the other', and that is good, but at the same time objectification and exoticisation happens, and that hampers true knowledge. But I think that this bad part constitutes part of the process of cultures meeting and beginning to integrate. Electronic beats are the meeting point. It's the field the whole world can understand. The computer - that's already been called the first 'universal folk instrument' - is accessible to the whole world. And so, the amount of music produced that could be classified with this 'global ghettotech' tag is increasing across the whole world, and the death of traditional record labels and the growth of music distribution through the internet is helping this popularisation.Many Brazilians view with distrust the idea of foreign musicians taking and exporting Brazilian music. What do you think about this?
The export of music without giving credit or payment for the artist is, obviously, always wrong, but… distrust of what exactly? Of the quality of the result? Of being a form of cultural robbery? I think it's ridiculous. Let's talk then of the inverse -- of Brazilian hip hop, of Brazilian reggae, or that we now have people making Brazilian dubstep. All of these styles are being exported to Brazil and are becoming 'Brazilified'. And the majority were, are, and will be, poor imitations. But what beauty! Let's go there!! It's like this that the music develops, evolves and grows. And it's the same thing with gringo samba: in the majority of cases it's simplified until the point that it becomes nonsense, a joke; but almost without exception, it is through imitation that new styles and imitations surface. The spirit of the music doesn't have an owner.Which sounds, DJs, producers and artists are exciting you at the moment?
I think that cumbia is really interesting. It's very malleable and open, capable of absorbing almost any style and maintaining its identity. I'm a fan of Z'Africa Brasil for their cool flow and many different Brazilian beats. Boxcutter, Benga and Jahcoozi for innovative productions. The record by The Refugee All Stars is very beautiful; it has an excellent vibe.
Two English translations of Camilo Rocha’s article can be found here.