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What a wild, wild scene - A look back at Ditch Parties for Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 8, 2012 04:12pm | Post a Comment

INTRODUCTION TO DPS



Truancy is presumably exactly as old as education. Some 800,000 years ago in the Middle East, people learned how to start fires. Though an important skill and an entertaining subject, I’m sure that some frustrated student thought to her or his self, “Lame. I’m outta here.” Later truants organized parties during school hours. My research for this blog entry turned up accounts of actress Sharon Tate and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa frequenting them in the 1960s. I myself -- though something of an advanced ditcher of high school -- only attended one organized ditching event (it wasn’t really a party. The drumline I was in all went to a restaurant and played tabletop shuffleboard. My punishment was having to work in the school library for a spell).

In the early 1990s, a ditch party scene emerged as a phenomenon on LA’s Eastside (for clarification: the region east of the LA River). That is the subject of this entry. DISCLAIMER: This post is not meant to glorify drug abuse nor truancy; neither is it meant to suggest that I’m an authority on the subject. I didn’t even move to Los Angeles until well after the scene had faded. 

I have searched for firsthand accounts of the “Old School Ditch Party” scene but, aside from a couple of blog entries, and scanned images from Street Beat magazine, almost all of the information in this post is derived from the sensationalistic and comically disapproving FOX Undercover stories from the era. So far only one of my friends has told me about her firsthand experiences with the scene. So this isn’t mean to be taken as anything remotely suggesting a serious study but rather an invitation for readers to share their memories and help fill out the picture of this seemingly scarcely documented but fondly remembered era.


WHAT, THEN, WAS A DITCH PARTY

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Sparare un paninazzo nel gargarozzo - a look back at Paninari

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 22, 2012 04:10pm | Post a Comment
Pet Shop Boys "Suburbia"

On this day (22 September), 1986, the Pet Shop Boys released the single "Suburbia" b/w "Paninaro," which introduced an Italian subculture to the wider world. It was certainly my introduction. 

 


Paninari - che è il gran gallo?

Paninari (the plural of Paninaro) were an Italian youth subculture in the 1980s. Their name came from the word "panino," Italian for "bread." La Stampa branded them that due to the fact that their original, preferred hang-out was the Al Panino, a sandwich joint in in Milan's Via Agnello, where they first congregated in 1983.  




In 1985 the now defunct Burghy, an Italian chain specializing in American fast food, opened a location on Piazza San Babila, that became their home base.
 

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All-Female Bands of the Early 20th Century - Happy Women's History Month!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 12, 2012 02:43pm | Post a Comment


Female singers have been popular since ancient times. Earlier this year a tomb was discovered in Egypt housing the earthly remains of Nehmes Bastet, a singer who lived and died some 2,900 years ago -- around the time of Carthage's founding and that the Iron Age was making big waves in Central Europe. To date, she's the only known woman buried in the Valley of Kings who wasn't related to the royal families.

Nearly 3,000 years after her death, female singers were still undeniably popular. Although female musicians have long been celebrated in the rest of the world, in the west most were limited to either the piano or harp -- and strictly in a non-professional role -- until the dawn of the 20th Century.

An important development in all-female bands was Lee De Forest's invention of Phonofilms in 1919. Before then, a few early attempts at marrying music to short films were made with Kinetoscopes but were hampered by their short length of 22 seconds. Phonofilms, which were essentially music videos, were longer and often featured female musicians.

Predictably, many of these pioneers were apparently valued more for their looks and/or novelty than their cultural contributions but that, of course, isn't a reflection on their technical or artistic merits. It's just that, as Sherry Tucker's book Swing Shift (one of the few books on the subject) put it, the public "looks first and listens later."

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Western Music - Kind of a Latino Thing - Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 4, 2011 04:46pm | Post a Comment


I love Western music. Not "Western music" as in "music rooted in European traditions," but rather the "Western" of "Country & Western." Cowboy Music. In many ways, Country and Western is an odd pairing. The two genres seem to be at complete odds. Sure, the performers evince a similar sartorial sensibility, but the subject matter of Western music is about hard-working buckeroos following honor and dogies out under the wide open sky.


Country, which I love too, is quite the opposite. Country celebrates the sedentary life - working and dying in the same small town, farm, or trailer court in which you were born -- and to hell with ethical codes of conduct; get drunk, cheat on your wife, and show up for your crappy job hungover.


Musically speaking, they're only distant cousins - no more closely related than Bluegrass and Jazz, House and Rap, Rock 'n' Roll and the Blues  -- but of those examples, only Country & Western get so invariably lumped together as a single genre that people usually omit the "Western" altogether.


Country's - or Hillbilly's - roots are in EnglishIrishScottish, and Welsh ballads although Africans brought banjos, Germans brought dulcimers, Italians brought mandolins, and Spanish brought guitars into the volatile mix. Hillbilly music was traditionally often played by small string bands that thoroughly blended their influences into something recognizably American.



In Western music, on the other hand, the solo guitar is much more prominent. Cowboys weren't known for traveling with a whole orchestra to be whipped out around the campfire. In Western music, the same ballad traditions of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland are still easily discernible but the main influences are Hispanic, coming from Mexico and Spain.


Sure, there's some musical overlap between Country and Western -- especially in the Southern Plains, which produced artists like Marty Robbins and Tex Ritter -- but for the most part, Country and Western existed and developed independently, separated geographically by many miles until some citified marketing genius stupidly shoved them in the same slot.


To some historians, the first published Western song was "Blue Juaniata" in 1844. At the time, anything west of Appalachia was "The West" and "Blue Juanita" was about a young Native woman waiting on the banks of Pennsylvania's Juaniata River for her brave. Over a century later, it was recorded by one of the biggest acts in Western music, The Sons of the Pioneers. By then, manifest destiny had long ago necessitated European-Americans invading and displacing all indigenous people from sea to shining sea.
 

As various Europeans conquered what's now thought of as the West, Western music became intrinsically bound to that most indelible symbol of the West, the cowboy. The roots of the cowboy are in northern Mexico's vaquero traditions, not surprising when you consider the ankle deep Rio Grande as the imagined division between Americ'as "The West" and Mexico's "El Norte." 


Naturally, western bound Anglos and northern bound Mexicans' traditions combined to a large extent. "Vaquero" was Anglicized as "Buckaroo" in the West, but the vaquero tradition itself could be traced to medieval Spain's hacienda system. In Mexico there were several types of vaqueros, perhaps most recognizably the charro of the Michoacán and Jalisco (where Mariachi developed).


Ranchera is another old form of Mexican music (LA has only one Ranchera station, La Ranchera 930). If Western has a sibling, it's its Mexican half-brother, Ranchera, not Country. In Ranchera, a solo guitarist usually sings about love, nature, honor, work… the same subject matter of most Western music.


There are also ballads about heroic and villainous gunfighters, which developed (with pronounced influence of German and Czech immigrants in northern Mexico) into Corridos and Norteños (or Conjuntos) that are much more popular today. "Norteño," meaning, "Northern," merely reflects the different geographic orientation of Mexico, which lies to the south of what we call "The West." And where would cowboys be without their "yeehaws" and "yahoos," which are merely their take on the "grito Mexicano " that features so prominently in Ranchera and Norteños.

 

Western music's commercial heyday was in the 1930s and '40s, when something like 75% of films made in the US were Westerns. The hard-working cattlemen and gunslingers were both highly romanticized and almost completely whitewashed. Hollywood's version of the West included a few Mexicans, most often as opportunistic-but-not-especially-effective villains, rather than the Cowboys' equal. Not to mention on the Silver Screen there were far fewer Asians and blacks than populated and developed the actual West of the 19th century.


The biggest singing cowboys in film were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, whose formulaic movies were primarily constructed around performances of Western songs. Popular female Western performers included Billie Maxwell, The Girls of the Golden West (Millie and Dolly Good), Patsy Montana, and Texas Ruby.


Western music incorporated sophisticated harmonies with The Sons of the Pioneers.


Western Swing, developed and popularized by Bob Wills, absorbed Jazz and (with greats like Harry Choates) Cajun music too.


TV and Radio shows continued to evince Americans' love of the old west through the 1950s. With the decline of Old Time Radio and film Westerns' popularity toward the end of that decade, Western music also faded and today you find very few Western groups out there (such as little-known Sons of San Joaquin and Riders in the Sky), where as commercialized Country had flourished financially (if not creatively). However, scan your FM and you'll likely hear some Norteños or Bandas that keep the Western flame alive more than some Cashville mannequin in a cowboy hat. Ayyyyaaah ha haaaaaa!


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3Ball Pursuit - An LA Weddo in King Kumbia's Kourt

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 12, 2011 04:58pm | Post a Comment
STUMBLING ONTO A SCENE


Three years ago I went to a party in Echo Park at a friend's home near the New Hope Mission Methodist Church. I don't remember what my friends were playing but outside the downstairs neighbors were bumping some amazing dance music. It was a variety of Cumbia, which I've always loved since being exposed to Carmen Rivero y su Conjunto's Cumbia LP as a child. I don't just like traditional Cumbia either; from the creative, unsteady "Cumbia Sobria el Rio" by Celso Piña, Control Machete, and Blanquito Man to the straight up cheese of groups like Los Temerarios, I like it all… and the album covers make me happy too.




Anyway, the DJ kept playing tune after amazing tune and, whilst three generations of friends and family danced, I was transfixed by the music. It was fast and almost completely synthesized. I don't think I had Shazam on my phone but I'd bet all of it would've come up unrecognized anyway. I figured I'd just go into Amoeba the next day and hit up the helpful folks in the World section. I was pointed in the direction of some hip Chicha collections which, though interesting, were not at all what I was looking for.



This music was fast like modern Merengue with the aggressive energy of Crunk… the kind of thing cultural watchdogs won't accept for another forty years. I tried to make a Pandora station but it just turned into the Baja Fresh soundtrack. I pretty much gave up until I caught a VBS.TV segment called "Mexican Pointy Boots" about Mexican dance crews and their favored impractical footwear. The soundtrack to the program was the music I'd heard years earlier and never since.




In the "suggestions" column were several videos described as being "Tribal" or "Trival" or "3ball." I was hooked. Mix after mix of amazing music that you can't find on the ridiculously over-hyped Spotify (which, as far as I can tell, is basically Youtube minus the videos and with about 3% of their catalog).


THE HISTORY AND ROOTS OF TRIVAL



 
The roots of the Trival scene stretch back to 2004, with Tribal House artists like Antoine Clamaran, Alma Matris, DJ Fist, Mario Ochoa (Drumma), Tribal Taranted, and Mats Tribal, who were popular in Latin America. A Mexican producer, Ricardo Reyna, had the idea of adding a pre-Hispanic influence to Tribal House and created the hit, "Danza Azteca." Around the same time a DJ then calling himself Tanke (and now going by Xookwanki) had a hit with his Tribal-Cumbia hybrid called "La Cumbia." Hits by DJ Sobrino, Mark Albardado, DJ Antena, Chilango Drums and others in a similar vein followed and came to initially be marketed as "Tribal Hispanic."



Toward the end of 2005, DJ Mouse and other Mexican DJs began incorporating the rhythms and bass lines of Cumbias and Guacharacas, creating what came to sometimes be known as "Tribal Guarachero" or "Tribal Guaracha." Early the following year, DJ Mouse and DJ Manuel Palafox released the Tribal Guaracha hits "Folklore," "El Sonida de Arpa," and "La Guitarra." Over the course of the year, Tribal Guaracha spread in popularity across the dance floors of southern Mexican states including Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, and Veracruz.

El Arcoiris MTY

Meanwhile, in the north, Tribal began being played in Monterrey's influential Arcoiris Club. The northern clubgoers, unfamiliar with the theretofore southern phenomenon and as unsure of what to call it as I was at the Echo Park party, simply began referring to it locally as "Musica Arko." Soon, other clubs around Nuevo León began spinning "Musica Arko" as well.



Back in the south, in 2007, "Tribal Costeño" was created by DJ Tetris, a DJ in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca who incorporated elements of his region's traditional music. Examples of this style included "La Tortuga del Arenal Remix," "Revolucion Costeña," and "La Azteca Remix."



In 2008, DJ Mouse, DJ Manual Palafox, DJ Shaggy MTY, and DJ Alan Rosales took Tribal Guaracha in an increasingly electronic direction, replacing flutes with dinky synthesizers, and sampled African and Afro-Cuban vocals with their own -- often synthesized. Roberto Mejia's "Con La Mano Arriba Todos," DJ Shaggy and DJ Kokis's "Pompi Cadera & El Alacran," DJ Vampiro's "LA Culebritika," and LDS's "El Parrandero del Barrio" exemplified the new direction.



At the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, Monterrey DJs DJ Erick Rincon (formerly DJ Shaggy MTY) and DJ Sheeqo Beat collaborated on Colectivo Tribal Monterrey (3Ball MTY), which mixed the style of Tribal Guarachero with earlier Tribal Prehispanic. Back in Oaxaca, DJ Tetris and DJ Remses had Tribal Costeña hits with "La Zandunguita," "La Tequita," and "Bailando y Gozando," while new southern talent including DJ Chombo and DJ Mando also joined the fray…



Today, newer Trival artists include DJ A.B., DJ Baldomero, DJ Gecko, DJ Guero, DJ Jezzy, DJ Lunyboy, DJ Tripa, and many more. So if you like Trival like I like Trival then head to Amoeba and ask them to get some for you. There's also Cumbia Trival page on Facebook where people frequently post videos and new mixes.

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