Monday, December 27, 2010

New Cumbia mix & Cumbia history

My new Cumbia Dynamite mix is online now at The one I did earlier this year is here: Cinco de Mayo Cumbia mix. Cumbia has been an obsession of mine in 2010. I am mostly interested in the digital cumbia that is coming from all corners of the world but the roots cumbia I have been listening to throughout the year has shown me why the new cumbia is so damn good. New schoolers are using melodies that are sometimes 50 years old or more to create fresh tracks based on the solid roots of cumbia.

Cumbia started in the northern coast of South America, what is now Colombia and Panama, mainly in or around Cartagena during the period of Spanish colonization. Spain used its ports to import African slaves, who tried to preserve their musical traditions and also turned the drumming and dances into a courtship ritual. Cumbia was mainly performed with just drums and claves. It is thought that it was played for a courtship dance practiced among the African slave population and was later mixed with European instruments and musical characteristics. The main "shuffle" rhythm you hear in cumbia is arguably hundreds of years old or more. It has been traced to the Cumbe rhythm in Guinean music and also traced to the rhythm of music played by the Yoruba (more specifically, the rhythm is associated with the would have been creationist god Obatala of the Yoruba culture), and in other musical traditions across West Africa. 

I love this music. I love the history of this music. There is mad change in its' history yet it has retained much of its beauty & roots through centuries of diaspora and brutality. In fact, it is often the case that art is made more beautiful through things like diaspora, brutality and general struggle. I think this is especially true for Cumbia. In modern times it has African, South American, Central American, North American and European influences mixing with the technology of the day to create a music that is unlike any other. Viva La Cumbia! 

Friday, December 24, 2010


Augustus Pablo murders the melodica every time he touches it. He took the melodica deep into the belly of Reggae and Reggae said, "mmmmmm, thank you and Jah bless." This track is an original of his called Java.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black Star - Respiration

Respiration, another gem off the Black Star album. I honestly don't think Hip Hop can get any better than this. As good yes, but I don't think better. 

Black Star - Thieves in the Night

Here is the centerpiece of the Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star album from 1998. It's called Thieves In The Night and is inspired by a particular paragraph from Toni Morrison's powerful first novel The Bluest Eye. In the album's liner notes, Kweli explains that the paragraph "struck me as one of the truest critiques of our society, and I read that in high school when I was only 15 years old. I think it is especially true in the world of hip hop, because we get blinded by these illusions." The excerpt interpolated in the song is as follows:

And fantasy it was, for we were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not good but well-behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life.

And the version on the track:
Not strong, only aggressive/Not free, we only licensed/Not compassionate, only polite (now who the nicest?)/Not good but well-behaved/Chasin' after death so we could call ourselves brave, still livin' like mental slaves/Hiding like thieves in the night from life/Illusions of oasis making you look twice.

Talib Kweli - Def Poetry Jam

Talib Kweli doing some spoken word on Def Poetry Jam. Talib's always pushing for positive change with his words, whether in song or in poetry. I remember waiting in line at a late night record store in 1998 on Tuesday at 12am to buy his first release with Mos Def called Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star. I was jaw dropped at how good that album was and knew right then both him and Mos Def would be changing the game for decades to come.

Immortal Technique - Point Of No Return (lyrics included)

Immortal Technique is one of the few hip hop artists that is controversial for the political/historical lyrical content he uses and not for some clownish way he leads his life in the club. The reason most people have never heard even one lyric from this extremely talented poet and emcee is somewhat due to the fact that he is on his own independent label Viper Records. It has a lot more to do with this little known fact: In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. This was considered "alarming" at the time. Only 6 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, Viacom (Viacom is formerly CBS) and General Electric's NBC -- now control almost all of the mass media industry in the U.S. as of 2010. Do you think any of these corporations would dare release an Immortal Technique album? Take a listen to a track off of any of his three albums and you will know the answer immediately. The man spits fire. Here is his biography: Immortal Technique 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Captain Beefheart & Magic Band - Sure 'nuff 'n Yes I do

Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) passed away yesterday so here is my tribute to one of modern music's true innovators. In addition to playing music he also sculpted and created some famous expressionist paintings and drawings. Some say he was bat shit crazy, others say he was a genius. Some say his music was terrible, others say it was some of the best ever made. He blended rock, blues and psychedelia with avant-garde to create a truly unique sound. He achieved very little main stream or commercial success but his legacy and influence definitely spurred mad changes in the history of music (especially in New Wave and Punk).

Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan

These guys are legends. Buena Vista Social Club is a group of musicians that are, in large part, responsible for defining Havana musically in what was Cuba's pre-Castro 1940s. They have had a huge influence on Cuba's music scene (and the region's) for almost 60 years now. The lyrics of this song can be found translated online. The two characters in the song are named Juanita and Chan Chan.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yin Yang Rita Indiana El Blu del Ping Pong

Rita Indiana y Los Misterios are from the Dominican Republic and she is doing some amazing things. I first heard her "Jardinera" track about a year ago and instantly fell in love with it. I guess they put on a hell of a show and their music is often quite different from track to track. She is on the cutting edge of Dominican music and pushing the boundaries of all Caribbean music by blending merengue, cumbia, dancehall, and rock. In addition to her music my hat goes off to her for being openly gay in a region that has all sorts of issues with homosexuality. She is all about mad change and for that I have chosen Rita Indiana y Los Misterios as my first Latin music post.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jay Electronica - Jazzmatazz

Jay Electronica is the man in terms of new Hip Hop artists. Here is his newest track, Jazzmataz, which is a tribute to Guru who just recently passed. It's so fresh, I only wish all new Hip Hop sounded remotely as fresh as this. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Street History - Hip Hop documentary narrated by the Radio DJ legend Gary Byrd

Since I'm on the topic of the roots of Hip Hop here is one of my favorite documentaries about the history of Hip Hop. I have no idea where this doc originated or who funded it but I do know Gary Byrd, the narrator, was a DJ on the Buffalo, New York radio station WWRL in the late 60s and early 70s. He had a significant but largely ignored influence on Hip Hop's early days. He became a recording artist in 1972. Here is a pretty amazing, yet totally unknown track he did with Stevie Wonder called The Crown: The Crown produced by Stevie Wonder. Enjoy the documentary below by double clicking on the video, it's definitely one of a kind.

Last Poets - BeYonDer (Part 2)

Part 2 of 2

THE LAST POETS be (be. yond .er)

One of my favorite tracks of The Last Poets. Part 1 of 2

Poetry by Langston Hughes - The Weary Blues

Even earlier roots of Hip Hop lie in the 1920s. Langston Hughes, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, E. E. Cummings and many others were responsible for the creation of Jazz Poetry or poetry that "demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the feel of improvisation". It eventually developed into a style of reading or improvising poetry over jazz and simple, rhythmic beats as early as the 1920s. The significance of the simultaneous evolution of poetry and jazz in the 1920s cannot be understated when talking about the modern emcee, slam poetry, Hip Hop or the history of American music in general.

Gil Scott Heron "The Bottle" (1974)

And for good measure here is my favorite Gil-Scott Heron song, "The Bottle". His lyrics, like in this song, are almost always poetic, progressive and political. This style along with his cadenced rapping style when reading poetry solo or accompanied by a simple, rhythmic beat made him the father of Hip Hop along with the The Last Poets. Both released their first album in 1970 though the Last Poets did form earlier in 1968.

Gil Scott-Heron - 'Me And The Devil' (Official HD Video)

Gil-Scott Heron's "Me And The Devil" inspired by Robert Johnson's original version almost 75 years earlier. Check his new album "I'm New Here" and the remixes that have stemmed from it, especially the remix of "New York Is Killing Me" by Jamie xx.

Robert Johnson - Me And The Devil Blues

One my all time favorite early 20th century artists is Robert Johnson. One of my favorite late 20th century artists is Gil-Scott Heron. I was delighted to hear that Gil-Scott Heron released a new album in early 2010, after a long hiatus, and even more delighted to hear one of the tracks was called "Me And The Devil". It's not a direct cover but was inspired by Robert Johnson's original "Me And The Devil" which was recorded almost 75 years earlier. Both are amazing poets and musicians who are not well known today but both have contributed some absolutely stunning recordings to the history of music. We are lucky to have Gil-Scott Heron back churning out quality recordings at 61 years of age. Buy or preview his album "I'm New Here" @

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mos Def - Undeniable

MF Doom - Anti-Matter (King Geedorah)

My personal favorite of the Hip Hop influences.

ill bill - Unstoppable (instrumental)

RZA as Bobby Digital "You Can't Stop Me Now"

Nas - You Can't Stop Us Now

Onto the influence on Hip Hop it has had...

Ganja Plant (Message From A Black Man) - Prince Buster

Derrick Harriott - Message From A Black Man - Trojan Reggae

Message from a Black Man - The Heptones

Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - Message from a black man

Now for the Reggae and Ska covers...

Message From A Black Man (Truth and Soul Version

Instrumental Soul & Truth version.

S.O.U.L. - Message From A Black Man

Instrumental version of the song. I love this group by the way: S.O.U.L. They were a relatively obscure funk/soul combo from the 70s who's music is mostly out of print. 

The Whatnauts - Message From A Black Man

The Temptations - Message From A Black Man

Message From A Black Man-The Spinners-1970

This blog is very much about how old has influenced new. How one genre has influenced another. How politics influences music. How music influences politics. How one musician influences another and how one specific region, country, or continent of the world influences another through music. This is a quintessential example of this sort of multi-influential piece of music. The Spinners had no idea they were setting in motion a multi-genre, multi-national, multi-era influence with the release of "Message From A Blackman" in 1970. It was obviously influenced by politics in America at the time (civil rights struggle, assassinations of black leaders, Cointelpro and the recent 1967 Detroit Riots ((Spinners were from Detroit)) to name some major happenings). The song went on to be covered/sampled by at least 5 other soul and funk bands, at least 4 reggae bands and the beat (and lyrics) has been used by at least 5 hip hop artists to date. I will post multiple examples of the influence this single track has had on the history of music.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton was a brilliant revolutionary who stood for the uplift of the proletariat. He was murdered while asleep by the Chicago Police in 1969. Not enough people know about the story of Fred Hampton though I have feeling we all would have had he not been murdered at 21 years of age. His talent as both a speaker and a political organizer was remarkable. I really like the use of his words against the Nightmares On Wax track "Night's Interlude". This track, like Pharcyde's "Passin Me By" uses the instrumental from Quincy Jones's classic "Summer In The City" track.

If you are interested in the entire story of Fred Hampton, check out this documentary: The Murder Of Fred Hampton. This is linked to part 1 of a 4 part, hour and a half long documentary posted on youtube.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creating MadChange

Welcome earth people, to the MadChange blog. I plan to blog here about music that has both changed my personal relationship with music as well as music that has changed society's relationship with music. There will be elements of history and politics mixed into the blog and some of the music that I post will have been or will currently be directly political. I am a DJ and a music collector but this blog is not meant to be about me. It is meant to be about the ever changing landscape of music. A lot of this blog will be centered on roots music and the music that has evolved from roots music (which in my opinion is almost all music we hear post WWII). I plan to show modern examples of musical evolution contrasted with some of the earliest recorded examples of music and its' early evolution. I can guarantee you will not like everything I post to this blog. The same way you do not like all of the elements and genres of music itself. I only plan to post what I know (which is more than the common music fan or DJ, less than an ethnomusicologist or music historian). It may not be much in the scheme of things but bits of it will hopefully help someone, somewhere add to their ideas of what music exists, where it comes from and what it consists of as a whole.

I will probably not always have time to explain why I post certain things so let me just say now that all that I post will have something to do with what I wrote above. Whether it is a Folk track recorded in 1926 or a Moombahton track recorded in 2011 what I post will be what I believe has pushed and is pushing the evolution of music. I will, for the most part, stay away from things like Pop music, Rock and electric Blues. I am going to try and theme this blog more with political music, early American folk/blues music, world music and lesser known soul/jazz/hip hop music (I will also post some modern dance videos as well). Why I want to theme it around this I do not exactly know myself but a lot of my knowledge and interest in music seems to fall into those loose categories so it just makes sense (to me anyway).

I see modern DJ music much like folk music of past times. In 1930 many people were probably being asked to play "she'll be comin round the mountain when she comes" at dances and the like because it was "popular" at that time. There was a great deal of amazing music that was around at that time that somehow got retained (thanks to guys like Alan Lomax & Harry Everett Smith) and helped to change the history of music that was not "popular" and many people never even heard back then. The same holds true today in the sense that DJs are often being asked to play Michael Jackson or Black Eyed Peas (who by the way definitely change the landscape of music) because it is "popular" while, in my opinion, much of the amazing music of today goes unheard by the masses just as it went unheard 100 years ago. I want to showcase this undercurrent of music which has changed the evolution of music arguably more than any and all popular music because there is so much more of it. The undercurrent decides how fast and in which direction the river runs but the top layer of water is often all we see and give credit to for the direction and speed of the river. Much of the reason some of the amazing music of a century ago went unheard was because of people's inability to access it or because there was much less exposure to music in general. I believe much of the reason some of the amazing music of today is going unheard is almost for the opposite reason. It is because of the overwhelming amount of music that is accessible to us at any time as well as the over-saturation of commercialized music.

I've already posted a few tracks from some music legends utilizing the word "Change" only because I thought it would be fitting to start the blog that way. In addition to this blog, I will continue to post an assortment of music that has influenced my relationship with music over at my MadCoins blog so please check that out as well. The MadCoins blog will be geared more toward electronic music, IDM, Chillwave, Trip Hop and other oddities. Thanks for checking out what I have to share. Enjoy!