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Reviews

Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan


E. TAYLOR ATKINS
Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2001
366 pp., ISBN: 0-8223-2721X (hbk $74.95, pbk $23.05)
This book documents the history of a particular music tradition that never quite
made it. Jazz in Japan has always been in the shadow of the American jazz tradition
and, perhaps rather curiously, E. Taylor Atkins decided to write a book about the
failure of a nation in developing its own distinctive jazz sound. Atkins opens his book
with American perspectives on Japanese jazz, which invariably consider the notion of
Jazz in Japan as superficially oxymoronic (p. 3). However, the subtle subtext
behind this oxymoron reveals interesting issues of authenticity, of the relationship
between culture, race, place and music, globalization and the effects of nationalism
and imperialism, and discourses of essentialism, which in turn impact on the
development of a musical tradition.
With a wide range of sources from media archives, films, oral histories and his own
conversations with veterans of the Japanese jazz scene at his fingertips, Atkins
provides an insightful and often witty documentary of both the history and culture of
this tradition and the myriad historical developments in 20th-century Japan. It is
eminently readable, written with the pace of good journalism and accessible to a wide
audience. Particularly attractive are Atkins vibrant descriptions of the bohemian
coffee houses of Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Tokyo, in which the Japanese jazz tradition
flourished and grew.
The first half of the book contextualizes early jazz within a rapidly changing
Japanese society. Jazz, or jazu as it is referred to in Japan, gained popularity during
the era of Americas own Jazz Age that preceded the depression era. In Japan, jazz
became part of an escapist culture that embraced the carefree cosmopolitanism of
American culture, ostensibly helping to break Japan out of the shackles of tradition
into a mass consumer culture. Indeed, Atkins makes a strong case for the idea that
jazz, with its ideals of freedom, democracy and risk, actually served as a catalyst for
Japans triumphant embrace of capitalism and modernism. Atkins argues that, in
spite of its ambivalent relationship with hegemonic practices and political authorities,
jazz enabled Japanese youth to see and act differently, which ultimately engendered a
cultural transformation in Japanese society.
Atkins introductory chapter is perhaps his best. Drawing on influential literature
from both sociology and cultural studies (Stuart Hall, Pierre Bourdieu) and (Peter
Kivy), he introduces the complex debate surrounding authenticity that has continued
Ethnomusicology Forum
Vol. 13, No. 1, January 2004, pp. 153/168
ISSN 1741-1912 (print)/ISSN 1741-1920 (online) # 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/1741191042000215318
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to plague the Japanese scene. Issues surrounding authenticity have disciplined the jazz
canon into excluding particular forms of expression because of their cultural
provenance. This sharply contradicts the perceived ideal of jazz as a free, democratic
and cathartic expression, and undermines its claim to be a universal language.
Atkins describes how Japanese musicians create strategies of authentication so as to
combat their sense of ambivalence towards so-called authentic US models, while
simultaneously legitimating their own jazz tradition (p. 11). The subsequent chapters
navigate the Japanese jazz tradition through the safe waters of imitation (of
American models) and the storms of innovation.
Jazu became a synonym for modernism in 1920s Japan and an important symbol
through which some Japanese youths could feel a cultural parity with Western
nations. The jazz tradition soared in popularity through the inter-war period, giving
voice to the emerging urban middle class and its newfound American-style cultural
values. However, this provoked a hostile response in the form of the growing
imperialist presence in East Asia which resisted Western social mores and attempted
to harness nationalist forms of expression. A polemic emerged between cosmopolitans
and nativists, and jazz became a favourite target of nationalist assaults wherever a
trumpet bent a blue note (p. 96). The new order sought militant action to preserve
the essence of Japanese culture, and the purging of Western influences placed jazz
under close scrutiny. Jazzs sensual fetishization of the body and its apparent
promotion of selfish individualism ran counter to the restoration of what the
imperialists imagined their traditional indigenous culture to be. In wartime Japan this
hostility towards the appropriation of Western values led the Japanese to develop their
own form of jazz. For example, folk songs were arranged in a jazz style in an effort to
nativize the jazz tradition, which, if rendered expressive of the Japanese Spirit,
could help serve the country (p. 146). However, Americas jazz hegemony forever
loomed overhead. Most attempts to experiment with new forms were swallowed up
by the latest American trend, leaving the Japanese deflated and ceaselessly playing
catch up in order to articulate any sense of cultural legitimacy in jazzs world order.
Atkins portrayal of the ways in which jazz became a metaphor for Japanese
culture, identity and its relationship to hegemonic Western values during the 20th
century is fascinating and illuminating. There are interesting parallels between this
book and Burton Perettis excellent Jazz in American Culture, in which he illustrates
the nature of jazz as a key thread in the tapestry of American culture (1997, 5).
Musics role in not only reflecting but creating the social order and the construction
of identity is well recognized here. Atkins book will be a useful addition to the
increasing body of literature that deals with the value of musics relationship with
emerging nationalist and counter-nationalist narratives. Furthermore, Atkins relent-
less pursuit of the issue concerning appropriation and authenticity provides an ideal
platform for scholars based in other musical traditions to explore the social, cultural
and economic implications surrounding authenticity, popular music and mass media
production, social capital and so on. Atkins book thus provides an excellent template
for any thorough ethnography of a modern musical culture.
154 Reviews
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Chapter 5 promised to be the most interesting for me. It deals with the post-war
jazz styles, the bebop revolution and the emergence of a modern sound in Japan.
However, it was at this point that Atkins narrative became unclear and his historical
evidence was less compelling than in the previous outstanding chapters. To my mind,
part of the problem lies in the fact that there is an absence of musical analysis, and a
lack of adequate reference to musical sounds, musical developments, techniques and
so on. Interestingly, this shortcoming is also evident in Perettis aforementioned
definitive social history of jazz.
While Atkins short biographies of Watanabe Sadao, Akiyoshi Toshiko and others
are useful for historical purposes, we get little impression of what their music actually
sounded like. Furthermore, if Atkins thesis aims to explore the relationship between
Japanese and American styles (particularly the ways in which the former are musically
dependent on the latter, and the ways in which the Japanese are perennially playing
catch up to American stylistic innovations) how can a reader who is primarily
interested in the music gain a sense of this relationship without adequate musical
examples and analysis? I found this aspect a little unsatisfying, particularly since, by
Atkins own admission, recordings of Japanese musicians are seldom found in Europe
and the States.
Finally, further studies would the reveal the extent to which issues of authenticity
are endemic in the jazz tradition itself rather than exclusive to the Japanese tradition.
It appears to be the case that today aspiring young jazz musicians throughout the
world experience similar limitations on their creativity to those imposed upon their
Japanese counterparts. Post-Civil Rights Movement aesthetics set new standards for
authenticity and legitimacy of jazz expression that did not affect solely Japan. Once
the ideologically produced jazz canon became entrenched, jazz no longer became a
metaphor for freedom; its effect in engendering social change was transferred to other
musical idioms. It is precisely at this point that jazz in Japan also lost its cultural
potency and exploded into an array of specialized and largely inaccessible sub-genres.
However, I felt that Atkins did not sufficiently acknowledge this in his discussion of
contemporary jazz styles and it is at this point in his book that his discussion of
authenticity also lost the potency he had maintained so skilfully and convincingly.
Reference
Peretti, Burton W. 1997. Jazz in American culture. Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee.
IAIN FOREMAN
Department of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London, UK
112425@soas.ac.uk
Ethnomusicology Forum 155
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`
Tue-tete: Chant et Violon au Pays de lOach, Roumanie
JACQUES BOUE

T, BERNARD LORTAT-JACOB & SPERANT A RA

DULESCU
Nanterre, Societe dEthnologie, 2002
ISBN: 2-901161-66-9
The most striking feature in this book is an ingenious and highly successful
presentational strategy. The authors cleanly separate and then interleave two very
different stories, and even label them A and B. A is a narration of events, roughly
chronologically ordered, informal in tone and descriptive in character, and delivered
in the first person plural. In contrast, B is theoretical, and even analytical, in
orientation, factual and austere in manner, and delivered in the third person. I am not
recommending it, but it would be perfectly possible to read either A or B as a
separate, relatively self-contained story, or indeed to read them successively rather
than interleaved. The advantage of this presentational strategy is partly that it
formalizes what can often seem an uncomfortable disjunction of discourses in music
monographs, and partly that it mitigates the tendency for important music-
theoretical material to get lost through a kind of dispersal of insights across the
entire span of a book. When you get used to it, the abrupt change of tone is simply
not a problem. The narrative switches / like a kind of cinematic inter-cutting / from
chatty, often evocative and atmospheric, accounts of local festivities (the vagaries of
the weather; the problems of financing a wedding; the singular personalities of the
informants) to genre definitions, formal archetypes and paradigmatic analysis.
The setting is a corner of northern (present-day) Romania known as the Pays de
lOach, comprising in all some 36 villages and their environs. The geographical
isolation of this region, ringed as it is by mountains, has ensured that older layers of
music-making have survived rather longer than elsewhere in Romania the impinge-
ment of modernity, the effects of emigration and / perhaps most of all / the
folkorization that was promoted by the Communist regime. Jacques Bouet first
visited the region briefly in 1969, returning in 1979, and these two trips form the
prelude to the main action of the book, a series of extended visits made by all three
authors in the 1990s. The focuses of their fieldwork are the danse dominicale, in
which voice and violin are ever present, the musical system underlying the
characteristic genres of the Pays de lOach, especially as represented by the ubiquitous
dant , and the complex ceremonial dimensions of social events, notably, but not
exclusively, weddings. In the course of this research, the authors work towards
answers to some of the intractable questions already posed by Bouet during his earlier
visits (the continuity of practices is striking here), while at the same time they gloss
and refine the yet earlier findings of Brailoiu and Barto k on Romanian folk music
more generally.
Without wishing to over-theorize the approach adopted by these three authors, I
would suggest that they engage in a hermeneutic exercise in this book. Of course in
one sense just about any fieldwork is that. A knowledge of where our respondent
comes from influences the kinds of questions we ask; we understand what motivates
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the answers partly from the answers themselves; through a feedback process we learn
to ask productive rather than unproductive questions. But what distinguishes this
book (and also relates it to some other recent ethnomusicology) is the extent to
which the authors themselves are drawn into the hermeneutic circle, even when they
purport to analyse the musical products. We travel with them on a voyage of
discovery, as they first acquire a vocabulary, much of it quite new to them, and then
test out its possible (distinctly contested) meanings. First in line is the enigmatic
dant , a term whose use by informants seems highly permissive, at least at first; then
there is pont , a component of dant , it seems, but again with definitions that seem to
vary widely from musician to musician. And likewise with figura . We work through
the various stages of clarification with the authors, until they arrive first at a more-or-
less satisfactory definition of pont (short melodic segments subject to variation) and
then at a general scheme for the dant , represented schematically at the end of Part 2
of the book. Yet even this remains provisional, for it has yet to draw into its meaning
the social dimension that is the main business of Part 3. These successive stages could
serve as an object lesson in understanding genre, and not only within folk practices.
The accompanying DVD is both instructive and entertaining, not least for its
glorious examples of singing (yelling!) a` tue-tete. Yet in some ways it points to some
of the difficulties of this enterprise, not least by exposing the unbridgeable gap
between acoustic and notational forms. The inadequacies of many of the transcrip-
tions are all too apparent, especially, but not only, in the rhythmic domain; one
almost prefers a less refined methodology such as that of Brailoiu, where notation is
more explicitly indicative in function (paradoxically, the spectographic analyses in the
present book, while transparently more accurate, run the risk of tautology). The
notational difficulty is then multiplied when a transcription becomes the basis of the
paradigmatic analyses scattered throughout the book. Frankly, some of this stretches
credulity. It is obvious that there is a central insight underlying the analyses: that this
music is a play on endlessly varied segments; that it hinges on patterns of small-scale
identities and differences. The authors musical instincts, in other words, are
trustworthy. But the analytical demonstration of these endlessly recycled patterns is
in practice something of a permissive society (I refer you to Example 6 on the DVD).
On the other hand, those analyses that demonstrate the relation between simple and
complex forms are convincingly done, whether one thinks of the elaboration of basic
models or the reduction of surface fecundity.
This is a richly textured study, crammed with detail. We are given foundational
information (not least on instruments), exploratory theory on forms, genres and
modes, and the occasional excursus. This includes a useful discussion of Rom
musicians, though the controversial question of just how we should relate their
performances to those of other traditional musicians / a question much studied
elsewhere in the Balkans / is not really engaged with. Not the least of the books
strengths is the authors concern to frame their research by relating it to earlier
traditions of ethnomusicology and by speculating on future directions. On the
former, the obvious reference points have to be Brailoiu and Barto k, and Part 7 of this
Ethnomusicology Forum 157
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book provides a wealth of material / anecdotal and scholarly / on this. Interestingly
Tiberiu Alexandru is represented only by his early (1956) study of instrumental
music, with no reference, even in the bibliography, to his later synthetic study of
Romanian folk music, which has itself interesting things to say about the contrasted
methods of Brailoiu and Barto k. As to the future: well the message is predictable
enough. If you want to hear this music, you had better book your flight now.
JIM SAMSON
Department of Music, Royal Holloway College
University of London, UK
Jim.Samson@rhul.ac.uk
Music and Technoculture
RENE

T.A. LYSLOFF & LESLIE C. GAY (eds)


Middletown, CT, Wesleyan University Press, 2003
410 pp., ISBN: 0-8195-6514-8 (hbk $70, pbk $27.95)
Technoculture is a term the editors of Music and Technoculture have borrowed
from cultural studies scholar Andrew Ross to denote communities and forms of
cultural practice that have emerged in response to changing media and information
technologies (p. 2). Within the scope of ethnomusicology, this concept leads to a
concern with how technology implicates cultural practices involving music. These
are the opening insights of Music and Technoculture, a wide-ranging yet surprisingly
cohesive collection of essays on the broad topic of music and technology. In their
introduction, the editors further outline the importance of analyzing technology
along three distinct methodological lines: the ontological (addressing what technol-
ogy is); the pragmatic (involving how technology is used); and the phenomenological
(emphasizing how technology is experienced) (p. 7). Overall, the emphasis of the
essays in Music and Technoculture is far more on the latter two of these categories
than the first. The focus on technological artifacts that dominates so much writing in
technology studies, musical and otherwise, is largely absent from the collection. This
orientation is mostly to the benefit of the book, although in some of the essays the
lack of any detailed discussion of technology as such limits the conclusions drawn
about technological use and experience.
From an ethnomusicological point of view, the editors of Music and Technoculture
seem to be most concerned with using the subjects of technology and technocul-
ture to complicate certain persistent assumptions about the opposition between
technology and some more unmediated forms of culture. On this score, the volume
does its work effectively, demonstrating through a variety of case studies that
technology is not merely a mediating agent but rather a fully implicated element of
cultural production and a significant cultural resource in its own right. One of the
most illuminating essays in this regard is Deborah Wongs Plugged in at home, an
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ethnographic account of the work of Vietnamese American composer Pham Duy and
his relationship to the community of Little Saigon in Orange County, California,
where he resides. According to Wong, Little Saigon is the centre of Vietnamese
American mass media, and thus a place where local culture itself often assumes a
mediated form. Pham Duy, in turn, makes creative use of digital technologies in
compositions that project immigrant memories of Vietnam into the contemporary
Vietnamese American cultural landscape. That he is assisted in his work by his son
only solidifies the ways in which digital technology works for Pham Duy, and
potentially for the larger community, as an intergenerational tool. Drawing upon the
theoretical insights of Marc Auge, Wong argues for understanding Pham Duys work
as a product of multiple overlapping geographic and spatial sensibilities in which the
dislocation of immigrant experience is mapped onto the more generalized
fragmentation of postmodernity. For Wong, Pham Duys compositional work does
not simply reproduce this fragmentation, but uses technologically sophisticated
means to assert the value of memory and place.
Other essays in Music and Technoculture explore similar themes less effectively.
Janet Sturmans piece on Colombian popular music is a generally solid study of the
Colombian performer Carlos Vives and his revisionist approach to vallenato, a
musical form rooted in the rural valley at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains
(pp. 157/8). She is most concerned with the ways in which Vives has incorporated
modern instrumentation and taken advantage of large-scale media channels to
circulate a musical style and image that updates vallenato sound and style while
celebrating its rural base. What Sturmans essay lacks is the kind of specified
description of technological practices that makes Wongs case study so rich.
Furthermore, her argument regarding vallenato too often seems predicated upon a
somewhat simplified opposition between modernizing technology and rural
tradition even as she upholds Vives fusion of these elements.
A rather different approach is pursued by Paul Theberge and Timothy Taylor in
their respective contributions. Rather than observe the ways in which technology has
been incorporated into local practices, they attend to the peculiar ways in which
technological mediation has shaped the transmission of cultural meaning under
conditions of globalization. Theberges article on the sampling of ethnic sounds is
more a think piece than a fully realized case study, but includes some astute
observations regarding the ease with which musical sounds are decontextualized as
they circulate via digital technologies. His concluding insight that technoculture
neither allows nor requires a sort of profound encounter with cultural otherness
strikes a valuable note of caution regarding the capacity for music technologies to
bridge established boundaries (p. 106). Taylors piece is a slightly modified version of
that which also appears in his own book on music and technology, Strange Sounds
(2001). Here, Taylor considers a wonderfully complex instance of intercultural
appropriation, in which European musician/producer Michael Cretu was sued for his
use of a Taiwanese field recording that he sampled from a commercial world music
release as the basis for his group Enigmas worldwide hit, Return to innocence.
Ethnomusicology Forum 159
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Taylor tracks the strange twists of the songs commercial life, the resulting lawsuit and
the disturbing Enigma fan reaction with an ironic tone that does not undercut the
critical edge of his argument. Most compelling is Taylors portrait of Taiwanese
musicians Kuo Ying-nan and Kuo Shin-chu as creative agents whose determination to
receive compensation for the use of their music posed a decisive challenge to the
romanticized condescension shown towards them by Cretu and his supporters. Taylor
also pointedly observes that sampling makes possible the use of distant musical
resources as a form of exploitative cheap labour in the global economy (p. 83).
The bulk of the contributions to Music and Technoculture pursue technological
subjects outside the framework of globalization and cultural identity. Although this is
not a shortcoming of the collection per se, it is too bad in a sense that more articles
along the lines of the above could not have been included. Studies of music
technology all too rarely address questions of cultural identity and difference with
real sophistication / this is especially true of work informed by historical and social
scientific methods such as that featured in the journal Technology and Culture, the
leading journal in the field of technology studies. One can think of exceptions to this
rule / Peter Manuels Cassette culture: Popular music and technology in North India
(1993) and Tricia Roses Black noise: rap music and black culture in contemporary
America (1994) are two notable books along these lines. Nonetheless, the inclusion of
such work is one of the features that marks Music and Technoculture as a unique
contribution to the study of music and technology, and more articles in this vein
would only have enhanced its status in this regard.
More significantly absent from Music and Technoculture is any consistent
engagement with questions of gender. Only one of the fourteen principal essays
features gender as its main subject, Charity Marsh and Melissa Wests study of how
the nature/technology binary has informed the work of female pop performers Bjork
and Madonna. In this, the collection can be deemed to lag behind the field of
technology studies as a whole, within which gender has become increasingly
prominent (though admittedly still of subsidiary interest). Particularly striking is
the lack of any sustained analysis of the role of technology in the social construction
of masculinity among the various contributions, a subject that has been ably analyzed
by Susan Douglas (1999), Ruth Oldenziel (1999) and Roger Horowitz (2001), among
others.
These points, germane to the volume as a whole, do not detract from the value of
the remaining articles, some of which are among the strongest in the collection. Two
of the best pieces / Thomas Porcellos Tails out, an experimental ethnography
addressing the ways in which recording technology shapes musical experience, and
Jonathan Sternes Sounds like the mall of America, a detailed account of the
architectural dimensions of music in the largest shopping complex in the United
States / have already seen publication in the pages of the journal Ethnomusicology. In
Consuming audio, Marc Perlman offers some useful insights concerning techno-
logical use and the capacity for audio consumers to tweak and thus appropriate
equipment to their own specifications based on his ethnographic work with high
160 Reviews
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fidelity stereo enthusiasts. Also addressing issues of use and appropriation is Kai
Fikentscher, who analyzes the 12-inch vinyl record as a performative technology in
the hands of club DJs who have managed to fuse mediated music with musical
immediacy (p. 295). Fikentschers essay also stands out for the way in which he
examines the history of recording technology, which allows him to situate the specific
importance of the vinyl record within the broader tendency to use sound recording
for more than strictly reproductive purposes.
Finally deserving of mention are the individual contributions of the editors. Leslie
Gays Before the deluge is the only essay in Music and Technoculture to deal with
music technology prior to the twentieth century. Gay observes song-sheet publishing
as the dominant technocultural formation in 19th-century Galveston, Texas, and
effectively uses song sheets as historical sources that reveal something about the social
relationships of the town. Finding scarce evidence of published music intended for
any audience other than the white middle class within a town proximate to the Texas/
Mexican border, Gay claims that song-sheet publishing might have allowed for
movement across social boundaries, but more often worked to mediate among
similar, like-minded folks near and far (p. 224).
Rene Lysloff s Musical life in softcity takes as its subject the mod scene / not
the well-studied 1960s British subculture and its offshoots, but an online community
devoted to the design and exchange of original sample-based musical compositions.
Drawing upon a range of cultural theoretical strands, Lysloff convincingly argues that
the scene is not merely a virtual construction, but functions in ways that are similar
to more geographically rooted music scenes and communities. He also charges that
the mod scene is defined by the exchange not of information but of products, which
are posted to the scenes websites free of charge for other users to explore (p. 43).
Freedom of access is a key aspect of the scene, one that sets it apart as a DIY network
of cultural producers (p. 34). Yet as Lysloff documents, mod participants also guard
against abuses of this freedom, chastising those who borrow too liberally from posted
mod products in crafting their own. For its detail and depth of analysis, Lysloff s
study is one of the more distinctive pieces yet published to assess the role of the
internet in the distribution of musical products and the cultivation of music
communities.
Taken as a whole, Music and Technoculture covers an impressive range of topics on
the subject of music and technology, and includes a number of essays that are
valuable studies of the topic in their own right. One might complain that the
technoculture concept that ostensibly organizes the collection is neither consis-
tently evident nor consistently employed from essay to essay. Whether one prefers
more or less internal consistency in an edited collection is largely a matter of
preference, and for this reader the apparent freedom allowed to the various
contributors is more an asset than a liability. Those looking for an anthology that
covers a range of different national and cultural settings will likely be disappointed
with the overall scope of the contributions. Shortcomings aside, Music and
Technoculture is an important addition to the literature on music technology and
Ethnomusicology Forum 161
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will hopefully encourage more work that explores the place of technology in musical
practice and its impact upon musical experience.
References
Douglas, Susan. 1999. Listening in: Radio and the American imagination. New York: Times Books.
Horowitz, Roger, ed. 2001. Boys and their toys? Masculinity, class, and technology in America. New
York: Routledge.
Manuel, Peter. 1993. Cassette culture: Popular music and technology in North India. Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press.
Oldenziel, Ruth. 1999. Making technology masculine: Men, women and modern machines in America,
1870/1945. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Rose, Tricia. 1994. Black Noise: Rap music and Black culture in contemporary America. Hanover, NH:
Wesleyan University Press/University Press of New England.
Taylor, Timothy. 2001. Strange sounds: Music, technology and culture. New York: Routledge.
STEVE WAKSMAN
Department of Music, Smith College
Northampton, MA, USA
swaksman@email.smith.edu
Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA
TONY MITCHELL (ed.)
Middletown, CT, Wesleyan University Press, 2002
ISBN: 0-8195-6502-4 (pbk 15.95)
Notions of musical migration are hardly unfamiliar to the annals of popular music. If
the US sounds of rocknroll and R&B made significant inroads into British culture in
the late 1950s and early 1960s, then the process may have been regarded as virtually a
reciprocation, if a rather belated one. After all, had not a wholesale export of folk,
traditional and religious musics from the UK and other parts of Europe to the New
World occurred from the 17th century onwards? Two hundred years later, those
influences had been subtly woven into the emerging North American tapestry, in the
blues, in country and the ballad, and were making their transatlantic journey in
reverse.
Nor, of course, was that the end of the story. The mid-20th-century American
invasion, triggered by Presley and Haley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, proved to
be anything but one-way traffic. If the reigning assumption was that ownership of the
pop idiom was firmly ensconced in the theatres of Broadway, the film studios of Los
Angeles and the recording capitals of New York and Nashville, if the presiding
wisdom was that US domination of the field, artistically and economically, was pretty
well assured, such an overview would prove complacent at best, hopelessly misguided
at worst, in the years that followed.
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By the middle of 1960s, the British had struck back with their own edition of the
rock prototype. The Beatles, by blending of rocknroll and soul styles, had produced
an intoxicating cocktail, irresistible from East Coast to West. Meanwhile, the Rolling
Stones and Eric Clapton were re-energizing the blues and selling the sounds of
Chicago and the Deep South back to white audiences, little familiar with the work of
Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson. The counter-invasion sent the US industry into a
whirl and left artists, producers and label bosses scurrying for cover, wondering how
to resist this tidal wave of Anglo upstarts who quickly washed away the predominant
bridgehead of home-grown solo vocalists and girl groups.
So when a book like Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, edited by
Tony Mitchell of the University of Technology, Sydney, emerges, we can perhaps
identify its subject of concern as part of the same continuing discourse. In this
discourse music can become a fluid means of cultural exchange, adapted and
adopted, appropriated and assimilated, and sometimes returned whence it came to
further enrich, even challenge, the relationship between those who coined a style and
those who endeavoured to enhance the hybrid in some manner.
It might be proposed, however, that the dissemination of hip-hop to a wider world
and its subsequent use by various communities across the globe has forged an even
more complex network of associations and alliances than those earlier crossovers
between Tin Pan Alley and Presley, the Beatles and the Stones. If the creatively
promiscuous dabblings of the 1960s spread a broadly similar musical manifesto to the
industrially mature economies of the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan, the spiders
web of influence that has sprung from hip-hop has also enveloped the cultures of the
developing world in Africa, South East Asia and South America.
On the other hand, there are arguments for suggesting that the remarkable
transformation between 1956 and 1966 was the dramatic sea-change / as the new
pop styles became the lingua franca of the industrialized, capitalist world / that laid
the ground, offered the possibility that a style such as hip-hop could, ultimately,
escape the backstreets of the Bronx and flourish in the clubs of Brixton, the bars of
Marseilles and the cafes of Tokyo.
In short, the potent challenge to sharply drawn divisions by the musical
miscegenation of Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lennon, McCartney and co.
was revolutionary indeed, entangled with notions of the post-war Zeitgeist : the rise of
the teenager, a spreading economic boom and the emergence of black America as a
social force. What has happened since the late 1970s, when hip-hop began its
extraordinary journey, might be viewed as merely the latest chapter in a history of
entwinement between innovative African-American artistry and the desire of
territories further afield to bask, by association, in the glow of US cool.
But the world has become a rather more complicated place since the golden
simplicities of the 1960s: the American ethic is no longer regarded as the model many
wish to duplicate. McDonalds, Coca Cola and their fellow multinationals are now
seen as imperialistic threats to local autonomy. So where does a mould-breaking
movement like hip-hop fit into that story?
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In fact, hip-hop in its first American decade may actually have been regarded as a
serious challenge from within to the overriding values of the commercial US
monolith, from the early ghetto appeals of Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa
to the later, unsettling social critiques of Public Enemy and NWA. But the 1990s
witnessed a crucial shift: hip-hop not only became a predominant music in the
mainstream American marketplace, a mainstay of MTV, for example, but its frontline
artists were no longer regarded as spokesmen with a political conscience.
Rappers like Snoop Doggy Dogg, 2-Pac and the Notorious BIG became
inextricably linked to the very worlds many earlier hip-hop artists had tried to build
strategies against / drug abuse, gang allegiance, violence and misogyny / which
emerged, instead, as principal themes in new versions of the genre that were now
being dubbed gangsta rap. Snoop Dogg would face legal action over his alleged links
to a drive-by shooting while 2-Pac and BIG would die in a horrific, tit-for-tat label
war.
Yet the years that saw the character of US hip-hop transformed witnessed, in
addition, a much wider fascination, beyond the South Bronx and Compton, LA, with
a musical form that combined dance beats and electronic rhythms but also
emphasized a rhyming, spoken vocal ingredient, placing words at the forefront of
popular music in a way they had not been since the vintage protest ballads of Bob
Dylan around 1963 and 1964. While there may have been superficial links to be made
with mid-1970s punk / pop as strident political gesture / hip-hops lyrics were rarely
buried in the musical soundscape as they had been on the majority of new wave
records. On the contrary, it was the slickly turned stanzas that appeared central to
hip-hops appeal.
Global Noise shows how broadly and deeply this format attracted attention and
admiration, and stimulated widespread homage, in dozens of countries across all
continents. Perhaps the very fact that its musical components were, technically,
relatively simple to replicate and that its core was a lyric-based message made it an
adaptable, user-friendly structure onto which far-flung performers could graft their
own local subjects, their own narratives, their own concerns.
As Tony Mitchell states in his introduction:
For a sense of innovation, surprise and musical substance in hip-hop culture and
rap music, it is becoming increasingly necessary to look outside the USA to
countries such as France, England, Germany, Italy and Japan, where strong local
currents of hip-hop indigenization have taken place. Models and idioms derived
from the peak period of hip-hop in the USA in the mid to late 1980s have been
combined in these countries with local musical idioms and vernaculars to produce
excitingly distinctive syncretic manifestations of African American influences and
local indigenous elements. (p. 3)
Yet he is concerned that [m]ost US academic commentaries on rap not only are
restricted to the United States and African American contexts, but continue to insist
on the socially marginal and politically oppositional aspects of US hip-hop in
regarding it as a coherent, cohesive, and unproblematical expression of an
emancipatory African American culture of resistance (p. 3). He refers to Paul
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Gilroy as a rare voice who challenges this prevailing interpretation, one whose
commentary focuses, instead, on the disappearance of any rhetoric of freedom
from rap music in the USA since the early 1990s and its replacement by an ethos of
abjection, male sexual predatoriness, and male body introspection (ibid.).
Paradoxically, hip-hops transnational energies appear to have been re-mobilized to
political effect in many of the territories that have taken on the style. The rhetoric of
freedom may have been mislaid amid the bravado and machismo of the more
recent US gangsta rappers but the use of rap by cultures as diverse as the Maori in
New Zealand, by black South Africans in Cape Town, by Islamic militants in Palestine
and even among native Americans has re-invigorated hip-hops campaigning
dimension, recalling the spirit of the styles earlier incarnations in the US.
This phenomenon is particularly evident in the land where hip-hops thumbprint
has been most indelibly left, if we move beyond the confines of the US. France has
proved the most significant secondary scene for hip-hop, and the original
emancipatory note that once sounded in the States still, it seems, chimes there.
Citing Steve Cannons account in Post-Colonial cultures in France (1997), the
introduction states: [H]ip hop in France is characterised to a great extent by its role
as a cultural expression of resistance by young people of minority ethnic origin to the
racism, oppression, and social marginalisation they experience within Frances
banlieues and in its major towns and cities (p. 14). Andre J. M. Prevos chapter
Post-colonial popular music in France: Rap music and hip-hop culture in the 1980s
and 1990s (pp. 39/56) further unwraps this phenomenon.
Where else does Global Noise take us? To Japan and Korea, to the Basque country
and to Bulgaria, to other European satellites of the tradition, like Germany, Italy and
the UK. David Hesmondhalgh and Caspar Melville in their chapter Urban breakbeat
culture: Repercussions of hip-hop in the United Kingdom (pp. 86/110) stress that
in Britain there are particular ways in which blackness is inflected (p. 88) and
proceed to offer an overview that embraces elements of Caribbean influence, the
impact of immigration from the Indian sub-continent and the power of dance venues
associated with club culture from the mid-1980s, which crossed boundaries of class,
race, ethnicity and sexuality (p. 89). Notions of distinct local interpretation are
emphasized frequently and Roland Roberstons theories of the glocal (pp. 11/12)
provide an accompanying touchstone to the planet-crossing examples displayed.
Global Noise is a rich reminder that a musical form - whether country or blues or
ballad, rocknroll, R&B or reggae / can take root in a culturally specific environment
but enjoy an enriching transformation when it travels outside the boundaries of its
birthplace. If hip-hop and rap in the US have cast off much of the political potency
associated with the early years of the musics development, this volume provides
impressive evidence that the crusading vigour of the genre has been carried and
sustained by a large number of communities which have identified the adaptability
of the style to a host of different situations and diverse causes over the last two
decades.
Ethnomusicology Forum 165
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Reference
Cannon, Steve. 1997. Paname City rapping: B-boys in the banlieues and beyond. In Post-Colonial
Cultures in France, edited by Alec Hargreaves and Mark McKinney. London: Routledge.
SIMON WARNER
School of Music, University of Leeds, UK
s.r.warner@leeds.ac.uk
An Impression of the Pipa: A recording in 24 hrs
SAMUEL WONG SHENGMIAO
Singapore, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 2003
c. 70 mins of music and interviews with Samuel Wong
Impressions of a Pipa Player
SAMUEL WONG SHENGMIAO
Singapore, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 2003
216 pp., photos, bibliography, index, appendix
This CD and book duo, each available separately, is an oddity. On the plus side 20-
year-old Singaporean student Samuel Wong presents some useful material in each /
some decent performances of standard pipa repertory on the CD and, in the book,
extracts from interviews with top players in China and overseas. Against that, the
whole project is terribly self-indulgent and at least a little off balance. Credits on the
CD acknowledge a production cast of thousands (well, around thirty), and money
has clearly been poured into making this an attractive pair of products, yet no one
seems to have checked the written English in either the book or the extensive CD-
liner notes. That is not to say the writing or typing is poor, but Samuel Wong writes
in idiomatic Singaporean English, which may distract or confuse the non-
Singaporean reader unused to such an effusive style. The CD makes play of having
been recorded in 24 hours, but I remain unsure of the precise virtue (for the potential
purchaser) of this. The speed with which a studio recording is made is not one of the
primary criteria that persuade me to buy a recording. On the contrary, I expect a
professional performer to take whatever time is necessary to generate worthwhile
performances when creating a permanent record like a commercial CD. The same
kind of question can be raised with regard to the cover blurb (repeated on the CD
interview tracks) that describes Wong as arguably the most accomplished pipa
player of his age in his native Singapore. Thats (arguably) an achievement to be
proud of, and one to build on, yet it is not a sufficiently persuasive claim in the fully
professional international market that the CD or book seem to be aimed at.
Then there are the lavish colour photos of young Samuel that pop up throughout
the CD liner. In one full-page shot he dons reflective sunglasses and toys with a yellow
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bathtime duck. In another hes topless, having bound himself to his instrument by
means of a reel of masking tape. We see him in a carefully posed yawn, red lips agape,
and then, on the facing page, seemingly dozing with hands clasped around a fat
candle protruding suggestively from his lap. And, in yet another, he poses with his
head inside a plastic bag. In short, this is all rather different from the average pipa
disc. Such an approach could work / there is a place, outside tabloid accounts of the
Conservative Party, for auto-whatever it is called, whether in marketing some of the
repertories of popular music or perhaps the more lascivious 15th-century madrigals,
but it seems to me to suit the sexually circumspect recital solos recorded here rather
less well.
The book is like this too. Glossy and attractive on initial impression, closer
examination finds it self-focused to the point of distraction and seemingly none too
thoroughly thought through. Still, there is useful content for specialists in the
interviews with the professionals, and Wongs energy has to be admired. Perhaps, in
time and after contact with music research more generally (and hopefully greater
practice at writing), we will hear more from this performer-cum-author.
JONATHAN P.J. STOCK
Department of Music, University of Sheffield, UK
j.p.j.stock@sheffield.ac.uk
Before the Revolution: A 1909 Recording Expedition in the Caucasus and Central
Asia by The Gramophone Company
Compilation and text by Will Prentice
Topic Records, TSCD921, 2002
Before the Revolution is one of the more unusual releases in a superb series of CDs
now emerging from the International Music Collection of the National Sound
Archive in London.
1
You might think of World Music as a recent phenomenon, but
this CD documents the early 20th-century roots of the international trade in recorded
music. The CD follows the journey of one Franz Hampe, a recording engineer
employed by the Gramophone Company, as he travelled across the Russian Empire in
its dying years, recording local artists from Vladikavkaz in the North Caucasus to
Marghelan on the eastern border of Russian Turkestan.
Stopping off in ten cities on his way, Hampe encountered a remarkable array of
culture groups, including Ossetian, Kumyk, Armenian, Afghan and Sart. Some of
these names have been replaced by new ethnic formations and ethnonyms in the
modern era. We hear on the CD the changing musical worlds as Hampe passed
through, from the a cappella male choirs and accordion dance tunes of the North
Caucasus, to the duduk and frame drum in Tiflis (now Tbilisi), to the long-necked
lutes and hammer dulcimers of Central Asia.
The tracks of the CD have been selected to provide what we might hear as echoes
across space. There are three very different renditions of the popular Caucasus dance
Ethnomusicology Forum 167
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tune Lezghinka, on Chechen tar, Kabardian accordion and Georgian duduk (tracks 2,
4 and 7). Several different traditions of makam are featured, from Tiflis (track 9),
Bukhara (track 13) and Khojend (track 18). The majority of the recordings feature
male voices. The technology of the time favoured strong voices over instruments, and
women were generally excluded from recording sessions through cultural considera-
tions of modesty. Only one womans voice features on this CD, the clear tones of Taji
Khan Khajimetova of Kokand, which now lies within the national boundary of
Uzbekistan (track 17).
Hampe made a total 60 hours worth of recordings on his 1909 trip, and of this 55
hours were printed onto disc in London, and transported back to their place of origin
for sale in the local market. Copies of some of these discs found their way into the
International Music Collection in London, where they now serve as a valuable
resource for scholars from the new Republics seeking the pre-Soviet roots of their
music cultures, and indeed for any ethnomusicologist interested in musical change in
the region.
This CD release offers wider access to this resource, and is supported by valuable
research undertaken by the compiler, Will Prentice. Prentice retraced Hampes
footsteps, consulting surviving relatives of the musicians recorded by Hampe, local
musicologists and archives. He pieced together a picture of the local music cultures of
the period, including musicians biographies and deciphering the often-garbled titles
left by Hampe, which had usually come from the musicians via a Russian interpreter
into English. Prentice stresses the shared music cultures which cross contemporary
ethnic boundaries, citing well-known singers of the period like Bagrat, the then very
popular Armenian singer who sang Azeri, Georgian and Armenian songs (track 9),
who has seemingly been forgotten in the national imaginations of each of these states.
Apart from its historical interest, the CD also manages to convey considerable
charm musically. I was especially taken with the haunting male choirs of the Caucasus
(tracks 1 and 3) and the wild falsetto of the Sart trio from Marghelan (track 22). The
courtesy of Central Asian musicians echoes down the years; at the end of several
tracks you can hear their hurried yell of Rakhmat! (Thank you). Enjoy the journey!
RACHEL HARRIS
Department of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London, UK
rh@soas.ac.uk
Note
[1] The International Music Collection has recently been renamed the World and Traditional
Music Section. The National Sound Archive has been renamed The British Library Sound
Archive.
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