Friday, January 20, 2006

Five: Krush Groove (199...)

Quarter past midnight, and we’re late for the concert. Luckily, the Effenaar is too (true to form), so as we arrive, the doors are just swinging open. The crowd surges in, bubbling with enthusiasm and excitement. Once inside, I’m taken aback by the massive crowd already milling about the place. The size and high spirits of the audience are reminiscent of the Return of the B-Boy extravaganzas. The warm atmosphere slowly rolls over me. My limbs loosen, my head starts bobbing to the vibes DJ Deen is unleashing onto the dancefloor. A large number of people squat on a makeshift platform, resembling a stand. Anticipation builds up.

Suddenly, a second figure materialises behind the wheels of steel, a Japanese man with blonde hair. DJ Krush has taken to the stage. Over the dying strains of Deen’s records, Krush starts cutting in a ghostly sound backed up by a sharp clacking rhythm. The crowd freezes and turns to face the stage. Most expect Krush to commence a cut and scratch show, exhibiting his majestic turntable skills. But this is where Krush distinguishes himself from his colleagues. He doesn’t put himself in the spotlight, rendering attention to himself by rendering the music unlistenable. Instead, he respects the songs he’s spinning, pays homage to them even, by adopting a completely unselfish and un-selfcentred role. All that occupies Krush is keeping the discs jocking and providing the perfect party soundscapes. The crowd loves it and is even wrong-footed when Krush flips on an 80’s disco tune (who said Japanese don’t have a sense of humour?).

Towards the end of the set comes the biggest irony of the whole performance. The Great Adventures of Grandmaster Flash Behind the Wheels of Steel. More scratches in two minutes than we’d heard in the past two hours! I wonder what DJ Krush was saying with that; was he paying tribute to the pioneer, underlining the contrast between himself and conventional DJ’s, or was he ridiculing the Father of Hip Hop for his exuberant, macho style?

Whatever the reason, contrary to De La Soul’s teasing lyrics “My DJ gave a scratch, yours was flawless”, with hardly a scratch, Krush proved himself to be greater than many of his peers.

DJ Krush - Milight (1997)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Four: Bring the Ruckus or, a tribute to "indie"-labels

I love it when hip hop gets namechecked by non-rap artists that I really respect. I encountered it twice last week: first in listening to Jens Lekman, the somewhat melancholy but ever-melodic bard from Sweden, who intones "I still remember Regulate with Warren G, could that have been back in the sweet summer of 1993" in the great track Another sweet summer's night on Hammer Hill. Wrong year, but he hits the nail on the head nonetheless; that track evokes strong memories in a lot of people. Listen to this and more on his lovely CD "Oh you're so silent Jens" and check out some other songs of his here. Secondly, I read an interview excerpt in the Daily Telegraph of Tom Waits giving hip hop artists props, because he dug rap music's realness and immediacy (ok ok, the interview was from a 1988 Playboy, but hey...).
But that is not what this post was supposed to be about: it was actually intended as a tribute to some of the small, impressive labels in hip hop, in this particular case Rawkus and Stones Throw. Not sure what Rawkus Records is up to right now, but they sure commanded plenty of respect and attention (including mine) between five and ten years ago. For me, their role has recently been usurped by Stones Throw, whose amazing artist rostrum and sonicscapes have blown me away. Here is a sample of their music... the King is dead, long live the King! Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Friday, January 13, 2006


A. took a glance along the beach to see whether Childe, D. Litt, D.SC., F.B.A was still standing in the shade. The syncopated pounding stopped. The professor was still there.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Two: Legends

Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane. Two of my favourite jazz musicians. When they pair up... take cover. Or just close your eyes and zone out. I know nothing about music: can't read notes, don't understand complex melodies, and therefore am probably only appreciating a smidgeon of what is going on when these two play. I don't care though, I like it, that's enough for me. Been reading about when these two played together in 1957. Turns out they spent a seminal 4 months or so playing together. The day would start with John dragging Thelonius out of bed and over to the piano, upon which rehearsals would start. Evenings consisted of gigs at The Five Spot. At this time, they cut a record that appeared as "Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane ". And that was apparently the only testimony to the great sound of these legends paired up. Until all of a sudden Voice of America recordings were discovered of a Carnegie Hall performance from the same period. According to the experts, all kinds of interesting conclusions can be drawn from a comparison between the two sets (read the booklet after buying the CD :)), but who cares? It's all good, period. Check it out for yourselves below...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

One: The Average White Band

I didn't really know these guys' music until I got my rapidshare-hands on their Very Best collection. I did know that some of their stuff had been sampled by hip hop artists but I couldn't remember which songs/artists etc. So what a pleasant surprise to hear within the space of 15 minutes two ultra-recognisable samples: YZ's Thinking of a Masterplan (from the AWB track Person to Person) and then, four tracks later, Eric B. and Rakim's Microphone Fiend (from the AWB track Schoolboy Crush)! And that's just the ones I picked up on... It reminds me of when I used to listen to hip hop cd's in the record stores, and as soon as the headphones were in place, it was time to leaf through the cd booklet, to find out A: whether the lyrics were reprinted, B: who had produced the track and C: what samples had been used. Except that now, some ten years later, I am finally getting round to the original music itself, rather than just the "obscure" samples... And I suppose I should round off this post by giving you a link to the music, but I am still working on that, so, patience please!


First post ever. This is really just so I can see for myself how this all works and what the blog looks like. I'll try and come up with stuff that would actually be of interest in future...