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Month: February 2006

songs from the city, songs from the streets

This’ll be disjointed. Times have been intense.

In the span of a few days I’ve been on the receiving end of some really ecstatically wonderful news from my bestest homeslice (love ou for life, gu!), followed by an awful, shocking update on an old friend from highschool. Then, more bad news on Dilla. Peace to everyone who’s hurting right now. This is a hard time of year, in more ways than one.

I spent the weekend feeling ill and run down, two sweaters deep with a scarf wrapped and tied just under my chin. It’s that whooping cough, man! It’s that flu going around! No lie! Still though, sometimes being sick is a good excuse to step away from day-to-day stresses and responsibilities and get into some other work. Up on my agenda right now, and related to a current project, is an as-yet-untitled musical endeavour that I’m going to need a fair bit of help with. The goal: find as many (great, dope, fantasmagoo) songs about Toronto and mix them together. This is where the “help” comes into play:

!! PLEASE HELP ME BRAINSTORM SONGS ABOUT TORONTO !!

I’m trying to think of as many songs about Toronto as I possibly can. Any genre, any time period, any subject — anything that speaks to life in the city. Parkdale, Lawrence Heights, Jamestown, Kensington, Rexdale to Lakeshore to the Scar Town Bluffs and back again. Beaches, Black Creek, Danforth, Moss Park, High Park, I’m looking in y’alls directions! Songs that shout out neighbourhoods directly or in passing, songs about spotting a cute girl at Sneaky’s, about passing out on the Spadina streetcar, about BS megacity politics, aaaaaaanything. SONGS ABOUT TORONTO.

I mostly know the rap tunes, which is why I’m reaching to other minds and ears for help. I sent out a likkle preliminary email a week or two ago, and this is what a handful of my contacts and I have come up with so far:

  • T.Ode — Abdominal & Notes To Self
  • Kipling To Kennedy — Bishop
  • Spadina Bus — Shuffle Demons
  • Compton to Scarbro — The Carps
  • Toronto — Mathematic
  • Where I’m From — Black-I
  • Blame Canada — Collizhun & Mindbender

…Plus, pretty much half of Theology 3’s Screwface EP would apply here. This list is far from complete, as you can see, which is why I need help. Torontonians, please take a moment to jog your musical memories — I know there’s more out there! Dang, I think even Sparrow had a song about this city. Rock, ska, pop, anything, everything. Step right up! Please give generously.

– – –

On a completely different tip, allow me to get righteous (and nit-picky) for a moment and spark up a topic that’s been on my mind for a while now. Tara, I wish you’d set up comments on your site, because I would have loved to get into this conversation right about here. I’ll be blunt about it and say — there’s something about the term “Global Hip Hop” that grinds on me. Grinds on me much in the same way “World Music” does, though on a somewhat smaller scale.

In both cases it feels as though there’s a grand division of sorts, where the Western world is placed in the centre of everything as an authentic norm, and the rest of the planet is lumped together as one uniform Other in juxtaposition. In the context of broader conversations on diversity, globalization, and multiculturalism in the West, this separation becomes more like a relationship of oppositions. The most vocal critics of multiculturalism cite how, too often, so many diverse and dynamic identities and expressions are reduced to either a single mass, or a series of static “tiles” (flowing from the metaphor of a cultural mosaic) held in place by a neutral mainstream. In either case, the normalized core culture (typically white, traditionally Western) is always the centrepiece and the measure by which all others are contextualized and discussed.

I mean, just thinking of the term “World Music” makes me feel icky. It’s a label that has long been sullied by unsavory images of white dreads, socks worn with sandals, spiritual vacations to India/Africa/insert-Third-World-reference-here, bad interpretive dancing, clothes that stink of patchouli and/or incense, and people who have no qualms about using the word “exotic” to describe their fellow human beings (when really that term should be reserved for flowers and fruit). All jokes aside, as an all-encompassing, beach-umbrella of a genre and marketing label, World Music really is quite insulting.

Global Hip Hop, if you want to defend it by saying that it encompasses hip hop movements from all over the planet, becomes redundant as a term. Wouldn’t it just be hip hop, in that case? Does anyone use the term “World Rock”? “Global Funk”? I realize that if you say “hip hop,” a whole lot of people in this part of the world are really only going to think of North American music and culture, automatically discounting movements from other countries and communities. But then again, if the strategy to open up minds and bend definitions requires the naming of a separate category — where an enormous number of voices, tongues, sounds, and traditions are all captured and sold under the same banner — how much good is that really accomplishing? Isn’t there some other way to go about this?

I’m just exploring some ideas, trying to put my finger on why it bothers me so. Am I being over-sensitive? Maybe. Anybody else got their .02 to throw in the mix? Don’t let me be the only one talking here, cause that’s just embarrassing.