Monday, July 09, 2007

Good Riddance

You'll all be happy to know that the N-Word is now officially dead and buried. There apparently were at least 2 ceremonies over the past couple of days in
Houston and Detroit where the oh so troublesome word was put out of our misery. In Houston;

...the so-called interment celebration will be at Houston Memorial Gardens in Pearland. A casket, draped with a banner, will contain a hanging noose, a burned cross, a replica of a Ku Klux Klan robe and an ax. It will be buried in an unmarked grave site.

"This word wasn't created by blacks," said Tammie Campbell, the former president of the Missouri City NAACP. "It was created by whites. They have a responsibility as well as blacks — more so than anybody else — to destroy and annihilate this racial term that has hurt this nation as a whole."

While in Detroit, the burial served as an opening for the NAACP Annual Conference (Hat tip to the Field Negro). According to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick;

"Today we're not just burying the N-word, we're taking it out of our spirit. We gather burying all the things that go with the N-word. We have to bury the 'pimps' and the 'hos' that go with it. Die N-word, and we don't want to see you 'round here no more."

I really don't know what to say, but I do think the umarked grave in Houston was a nice touch. Or as my friend P.B. said, " I wish I'd been there so I could've said 'seeya later n*gga' when it was all over with."


POPOBAWA said...


Move over Reggaeton! Ringitone is here. Or at least that is what they are saying in the East African islands of Zanzibar. Whereas the former grew out of the increasing popularity of dancehall reggae en Espanol which came from the decendents of Jamaican migrant workers in Panama in the 1990's and became a huge international dance craze earlier this decade, ringitone is only similar in its African roots.
Listening to the hit "Njoo Mpenzi [Babangu Kasafiri]" by one of ringitone's most celebrated vocalists Ali-Z and you'll see why. If the backing track sounds uncannily like 50 Cent's "Windowshopper" that's because it is actually a polyphonic ringtone of the song downloaded onto a Siemen's 255 cellular phone at Zanzibar's number one studio Hooney Toons. I spoke to maverick ringitone producer Hassan Makame Mtwana, known to all as H-Ditty after waiting for him to stop talking over his bluetooth mouthpiece for over half an hour. "Alot of niggaz want to hate cos' we got the flyest beats around. Matta fact we was first to go polyphonic," he explains in stilted Swahili with a distinctly African American inflected slang, "but now everyone is logged on to and trying to be down. We from the old school. I started out with just one raggedy second hand Ericcson that I bought for like 20,000/tsh [about $18] way back in October 2005. Now all I can tell them is 'How you like me now!'"
H-Ditty and his partner Jamal Dupree initially faced alot of opposition from Zenji Flava purists. Post-modern taarab or Zenji Flava as its called, is a spicey mixture of Shaggy, Kevin Lyttle, and T.O.K. riffs which are found freely in the tutorial sections of some learners edition studio software. I spoke with one his detractors who preferred not be named, "Basically they are ruining our culture, we have a long history in Zanzibar of using Frooty Loops and pre-packaged hooks from Cubase that goes as far back as 2003."
Some decry what they view as a lack of real of musicianship, I heard one unemployed Zenji Flava artist saying, "They just calling up shorties on the phone and begging them to sleep with them and playing some appropriate ringtones to show their love. That's not music. Back in the day we used to take the tunes from the qasidas we learned in Quran school and turned them into sexy r'n'b songs with actual pre-programmed Cubase loops from a T.O.K. song, and then we would put California Love on the voice to get, you know, pitch correction, cos we couldn't sing, because most of us got kicked out of Quran school for trying to touch the honeys they had up in there. You know what I'm sayin? This stuff they doing today; it lacks originality. And even that song, that was my song, I sang "Njoo Mpenzi [Mamangu Kaenda Kuhijji]" back in the old school, like were talking 2004. These are just new jacks trying to cash in on the trail that we blazed for them."
Judging by the amount of prepaid scratch phone cards littering the ground outside of Hooney Toons Records studios it would seem that Ringitone is here to stay. I had to wade through a crowd of Fair'n'Lovely bleached out teenage groupies in transparent bui-bui's to get inside Hooney Toons studios. What I was delighted to see was the lack of clumsy recording equipment. Aside from some red Italian leather couches giving it a distinctly Urban Contemporary feel, there were just a couple of guys with heavily gelled S-Curl hairstyles deeply engrossed in seductive conversation on some of the hottest cellphones out of Dubai. Another was using a cameraphone to film the whole thing. This was an actual Ringitone video shoot in progress!
Impressed by the minimalism of Ringitone, I later went and talked to ex-pat ethnomusicologist Jennifer Blousenstern, at the offices of the American cultural NGO, EWOC [Enablers Without a Clue].
I found her twirling her hair around an index finger chatting away comfortably in Swanglish, slightly flushed, in a seeming sililoquoy to no-one in particular. It was only when she signalled that I sit down that I noticed the hands-free headset dangling around her collar.
Waiting for her to wrap up her conversation I perused her extensive anthropological library. A p.H.D. in African Studies from Barnard hung on the wall. In the corner were three cellphones being charged in an overloaded electrical socket, their wires draped over an elaborately carved ebony wood fertility statue from the Makonde tribe of Southern Tanzania. After exchanging pleasantries Ms. Blousenstern needed no prodding to discuss her own ringing approval of the ringitone movement.
"When jazz came along people said 'That's not music!' Hip hop, the same story. Now you see rap music in advertisements for soda and everything else. Ringitone is going through that same initial Eurocentric reluctance now. If we look at it from a cultural perspective, its really quite African. I see the ringitone caller [as ringitone artists are known] as akin to the griot or the praise singer. But instead of singing to praise a chief or to recount the oral history of great kings of their clan, they are trying to convince underage girls to come over to their parents' unsupervised air-conditioned mansions and have pre-marital sex with them."
When Kool DJ Herc used two turntables and a mixer in the 1970's South Bronx, he was recontextualising the available modern technology into a unique new-world African form. According to Blousenstern, Ringitone takes it one step further.
"Another thing I find intriguing about Ringitone is its implicit Pan-African thrust. The callers are coupling African-American slang with call and response. The phones themselves have the mineral koltan in their circuitry. Its a well known fact that the only source of koltan is in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo." She draws a perfect circle in the air, "So they are bringing it back home to your Motherland and keeping it real at the same time!"
"So there is this whole defiant subtext in which the ringitone caller is saying to the Western World, 'You might deny me the right of a visa to live and work in the UK or the US because of the color of my skin or maybe because there are purported members of al-Qaeda who share my surname, but you cannot keep me from talking over the telephone in an African-American slang or listening to Shania Twain, Beyonce, or Fabolous.... and liking that shit!'"

POPOBAWA said...


East African Ringitone star Ali-Z was hamstrung and taken hostage by
automatic weapon toting pirates in the early hours of Sunday morning
off of the East African archipelago of Zanzibar. Several of his guests
were injured and robbed of their possessions at a champagne brunch
after-party to the Death Star Unplugged environmental awareness
concerts which had taken place the previous evening up and down the
Swahili speaking East African coast.

Guests were snapping pictures of several frogmen who were posing as
black-pearl divers when suddenly the leeward sides of the boats in the
flotilla were simultaneously boarded by men in Barawa lungis
brandishing spearfishing guns. Ali Z in a typical show of Swahili hospitality
welcomed the men to eggs Benedict, ice cold Moet and showed them several bikini clad
aid workers who were dancing to the sounds of Zenji Flava and Ringitone
on the lido deck of his Scarab cigarette speedboat. The leader of the
group, later identified as Slinger Francisco promptly unsheathed a
Turkana simi concealed in his waistcloth and hamstrung the
unsuspecting Z and catching in mid-air, his large Cohiba cigar and placing
it in his mouth, proceeded  to instruct guests to remove all
valuables. Forcing them to walk the plank, Francisco made off with mad
cheddar as a despondent Z lay bleeding in pool of Crys, piss and
bilgewater. Just hours later a video surfaced on a repatriationist
website showing a haggard Ali Z in good spirits in the dark makuti
backdrop of the BPLA hideout. He said, "In the future I will shut the
fuck up when I don't know," and said  "I am being treated well and am
learning alot. And they gave me, like a mosquito net and whatnot, so
its all good!"

"Oh my god, that was so whacked! I couldn't believe how mean they
were." Remarked Kathy Johannson, commonly known Clove-Nyce, a member
of The Spyce Girls, the Swanglish bubblegum Ringitone trio made up
entirely of ex-pat Anti-Excision activists from Berkeley who was among
those who performed at the Death Star concerts and had been aboard Z's
boat "Fiesta Mami" when the incident took place.

BPLA, the Black Pearl Liberation Army is a ambiguous group with no clear
aims dominated by the whims of
its leader Slinger Francisco, a shadowy figure who has in the past had
links to Mungiki and Mashiftah criminal elements up and down the East
African Coast. He has also has been identified as a major player the
illegal " African blood pearl" trade and has been linked to the
alleged mercenary activities of Haines International in a failed coup
attempt in the tiny oil rich islands of San Pedro. Francisco who was
born, Natty Morgan, in the rural Jamaican Parish of Westmoreland rose
to prominence as the charismatic polygamist leader of the millenarian
Church of the Rice Bowl movement in the late 70's which grew out of
the shantytowns and back alleys of Illtown, East Orange. After being
indicted for tax evasion and e-mail fraud in the famed Borman Six Case
he was jailed at Clinton State Correctional facility for Women where
he made a daring escape and fled to Guyana, reluctantly welcomed by the
Burnham government. Years later he resurfaced as the chakacha crooner
The Stinker with a string of hits including "White Man's Hell is a
Black Man's Paradise" and  "Don't Touch Me Pylons, Holly".

"Our thoughts go out to you Ali Z. Stay strong and keep it real, son,"
the Zenji Flava artist Case Quarter appeals in a stylish PSA run
hourly on the African video channel MTV BASE. If you want to sign the
petition calling for Ali Z's speedy safe return, click on the link