Listen to the Banned

While the idea of a banning an entire genre of music in the digital era may seem laughable, it’s important to remember that the success of a ban isn’t measured by whether or not the thing being banned can reach its audience, but rather by whether the people trying to sell it can stay in business.

Africa Beatz Deejays – Tarraxo Sem Respeito

For an example of when this has been tried before, one need look no further than North America’s neighbor to the south, Puerto Rico. You may remember from earlier this month our discussion of the origin of that island’s most recent contribution to dance music, Reggaeton. In the mid-90’s when reggaeton mixtapes were beginning to gain traction among Puerto Rico’s youth, a politician named Velda González became the island’s version of Tipper Gore when she championed the cause of protecting it from the musics’s supposed social ills.

The Constitution says we all got a right to speak
Say what we want Tip, your argument is weak

—Ice T – Freedom

Unlike the courts here in the States, the Puerto Rican authorities succeeded in establishing that reggaeton qualified as illegal pornography. To be fair, there was a visual element to the genre that was largely inspired by North American artists’ depictions of hip hop’s subject matter. And the Puerto Rican version stretched the limits of tastelessness to perhaps an even greater extent. (I’ll spare you the details, but if you peruse the video search results for Ranking Stone, you’ll get the idea.)

DJ Playero – 39 Respect

Regardless of its ethical merit, the ban on reggaeton was used to seize thousands of dollars worth of cassettes and CDs from stores all over Puerto Rico. At the time, you could be pulled over for having it playing in your car and forced to hand over the tape. While the ruling that made this legal was ultimately overturned, the response from the business community was to do the converse of what record labels in the United States found necessary in the PMRC‘s regulatory environment. Rather than putting labels on releases containing “objectionable” content, they took it upon themselves to label the stuff that wasn’t particularly vulgar and, in some cases, stick to only selling material of that variety:

Clean Lyrics label used to label reggaeton as such


Explicit Beats

Earlier this year, DJ Umb of Generation Bass put forth somewhat of a pioneering collection of tracks which we can only guess were painstakingly culled from the disorganized and poorly-credited labyrinth of pay-per-click hosting and Facebook updates found at the vanguard of emerging music scenes that lack formal means of promotion and distribution.

DJ Marfox performs at Red Bull Academy

What makes this mix special is that all of the tracks in it can be described as part of a new genre known in Portugal as fodencia, a word which can be more or less translated as, “fuckery”. Something that makes fodencia interesting is that DJs who play it can’t get bookings in Portuguese clubs. Currently there is a ban on it due to its sexual nature, a situation a bit perplexing  given the fact that almost every example we can find of the stuff is 99% instrumental. Have a listen:

As we’ve been finding in our exploration of bubbling/reggaeton/latin house/moombahton, variations of a single rhythm, played at different tempos tend to develop unique aesthetics that coalesce in the form of distinct genres. In the case of kuduro you have a very fast kind of beat which, when slowed down, gives you a very different feel. Various artists have taken this in different directions and one of those is what has come to be known as fodencia.


Dutch Latin House from Brazil

A few months ago, a sound I had yet to discover made its way into my SoundCloud. It consisted mostly of baile funk, US top 40 hits, and big room house bangers from the likes of Hardwell, Showtek, and members of the Spinnin’ Records roster remixed in a very specific way, with a characteristic kind of high-pitched groove, a super-wet slapping kind of drum sample, two notes back and forth in the bass, and a predictable intro/build-up/break-down/drop sequence. I don’t know why, but it spoke to me. If you haven’t heard what I’m talking about, I’ll let your introduction be the same as mine:

Kelvin Douglas & Guilherme Morais – Podcast Abril 2014

If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to find that the handful of young producers putting out tracks in this unusual micro-genre all hail from the same town in Western Brazil and all tend to label the stuff Dutch House or Latin House.

Yvan Serano & Gleydson Werneck – Dingo Zee (Original Mix)

In much the same way that not all “Dutch House” comes from the Netherlands, it is evident that the label “Latin House” is liberally applied outside of Latin America, and while I’ll concede that Brazil is a Latin American country, its contributions to popular music tend to stand apart from what most of us think of when we characterize the region’s music.

Holland’s Latin Festival

An example of some people you might meet at the LatinVillage festival in Amsterdam

The choice of “Latin House” as a label for the genre discussed in my latest post remained a mystery to me until I discovered a Dutch music festival called LatinVillage. A quick perusal of “LatinVillage” search results turns up an interesting variety from typical festival house fair, to dancehall, to trap. More interestingly, though, are glimpses like this of what may be inspiring the Porto Velho scene:

D-Rashid’s Minimix for LatinVillage 2013

If we can agree that this is where artists like Kelvin Douglas and Guilherme Morais are looking for inspiration, it is still unclear what exactly makes this “Latin”. Of course it seems pretty arbitrary what words electronic musicians use to define their sounds. For example, if you look up “Baile Funk” or “UK Funky“, you won’t hear anything like James Brown or Parliament.

Valesca Popozuda’s baile funk hit, Beijinho No Ombro has 37,094,055 views on YouTube

While their tracks possess a more “polished” quality, I am beginning to find Dutch producers whose tracks roughly follow the formula found in the Porto Velho style (including liberal use of flange and phaser). Here’s an example:

Skillz N Fame – Essa (Moganga Recordings)

No Fest 2014

In typical Volumes of Bass fashion, I’m about a week behind on this, but something irresistibly interesting is happening today.  I’m speaking, of course, of the 7th annual Nofest.

Shane performs at Nofest 2012 with the Dead Air Fresheners

I first caught Nofest in 2009. In case you find this kind of thing amusing, here’s proof (yes, that’s me in the yellow Amigos de las America‘s shirt). It was at this event oh-so-many years ago that I had my first exposure to Butoh,  a form of dance and/or theater which lives on in my weirdest dreams (Artslandia take not).

2012 was pretty epic. Too bad I was in the DR

The standout performance for me that year, which somehow didn’t make it into my show log was Pulse Emitter, signified by the fact that five years later I remember it (Stepmother,  however, it present as is Mattress.

Popping Bubbels Part 3

While it is true that the reggaeton we know and love today came of age in Puerto Rico in the first decade of the new millennium, earlier examples of what would eventually lead to its creation seem to come primarily from Panama where historical records indicate an influx of workers from the West Indies in the early 1900’s for the construction of the Panama Canal.

El General – Rica y Apretadita

While many did not stay there, a significant enough proportion did that parts of Panama City now have a majority black population. As is often the case when foreigners bring their music and culture to a new country, you saw an interesting blend of sounds which led to what some consider reggaeton’s closest relative, Reggae En Español.

Nando Boom – Dem Bow

In an amusing example of circular logic, a click on the link to the English-language translation for the Dutch wikipedia article on bubbeling takes the reader to the article on sandungueo. Known more widely as “perreo” or what we here in North America might call “bump and grind,” sandungueo is the style of dance most closely associated with reggaeton.

Latin Fresh – Ella Se Arrebata

Thus, by following a musical trajectory from the Caribbean to the Netherlands and a separate one from the Caribbean to Latin America, we arrive in the same tiny corner of cyberspace concerned not with balanced inquiry into what exactly these musical styles are but rather the scandal of all the pelvic thrusts that happen when they are played.

Popping Bubbels Part 2

Dutch youths in blackface for a Christmas celebration
Dutch youths in blackface for a Christmas celebration

It can’t be denied that the Netherlands has a fascination with the culture of the West Indies. The country’s Christmas folklore even incorporated a black character during a period contemporaneous with the country’s importation of black slaves to work the sugar fields of the Dutch Antilles. That practice eventually led to the existence of a significant diaspora of blacks in Holland from the Caribbean and Suriname, especially in parts of Amsterdam.

Googling for “bubbling” or the Dutch language’s own “bubbeling” yields not only the special brand of house that gave birth to moombahton, but also numerous examples of the unedited riddims found at dancehall/bashment reggae parties around the world.

If my theory is correct, it was the Dutch-Caribbean subculture’s version of these parties, where dancehall was first sped up from its modest double-digit tempos to the neighborhood of 110 bpm, giving us the machine gun drum fills characteristic of tracks released 20 years later in tracks like this:

Interestingly, the sound to which bubbeling tracks are most often compared when they are slowed back down also has its origins in a diaspora of Afro-Caribbeans. I’m speaking, of course, of reggaeton.