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Halloo! When I found out I could go to med school with a Humanities degree with an Ethnomusicology emphasis, I almost peed myself. Here's to me holding it in.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ya Don't Stop

Rap, that wonderful little musical style that came out of New York via Jamaica (according to one version of the story), is by nature a historically and culturally aware genre. First on today's playlist, we have Articolo 31, with their Fidanzata. Dig the swing intro.
Then we have K'naan, reppin' some Ethiopian pop background music from the sixties.
The very famous and very diverse Black-Eyed peas, giving it up for all the Pilipino at Pilipina. 
Good ol' Big Will knows his history - compare this track (probably one of my favorite songs ever anywhere) with the next one by George Benson.

Rap music is largely based on sampling, and some of the most amazing record collections owned by individuals are in the capable hands of hip-hop producers and musicians. ?uestlove, widely known now due to the Roots' permanent place on the Jimmy Fallon show (they have always had a special place in hip-hop, but now the rest of the world knows who they are), has quite the stash (pardon the salty language):

Interviewer: “Holy shit, is this your record collection?”
(There were literally thousands upon thousands of records on ceiling high shelves that covered every wall of the room.)
?uestlove: Ehh, like 70% of it

One of my favorite uses of music history by a rap artist today (and I'm fairly certain there isn't anything to offend ANYBODY's sensibilities in this song or video [unless smoking a cigar a la 30s jazz singers is reprehensible]) is by Nas. Check it out.

People dismiss hip-hop as mindless, shallow, misogynistic, dangerous, and all of the above. Depending on the song, they might be right. But, as a medium for expression that ties together the spoken word, music history, and fat groove, rap has so many possibilities for communicating emotion, exposing sharp intellectual ability, and bringing people together in a very real way.

I don't know what kind of rap the Karmapa listens to, but I don't have any problem with a spiritual leader getting into a musical form with the capability that rap has. I wonder what rap the kids in Bylakuppe listen to. I don't think there is much of a chance that rap is not on the collective Bylakuppean playlist somewhere - the questions that beg answering are more along the lines of: who do they listen to? with what aspects of the music do they identify with? does hip-hop fashion manifest itself in the clothing of the Tibetans? are there any Tibetan rappers in Bylakuppe, and where do they draw their styles from? what about b-boys/girls, digging around on the internet for samples to make beats with? does traditional Tibetan music get sampled for hip-hop purposes? what are the reactions of the elderly? are other monks or lamas into hip-hop? how do they reconcile the various messages with the messages of Buddhism, or do they even attempt to? is lyrical content important?

Fun stuff, no?

"Up, up, up, up I, up I, up I step, up I walk, up I climb to the platform on which I await the arrival of the Blackline."
"Excuse me, brother - would you mind not dripping your umbrella into my lap?"
"John Coltrane and Chinese food is my date for tonight..."
"Going, going, going, going, going, gone - damn! I missed my stop. Writer's block."

A prize to the first person who knows what album this is from. No Googling.

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