distritocosmico

What are your stereotypes about Washington, DC? A place to go for protests? Full of suits and wonks? Epicenter of evil? Totally boring?

We residents of the District call bullshit. Sure, there is some truth to be found in those assumptions, but the reality is so much more than that. We’re a place of people fighting on the front lines against gentrification and for social justice, a place with many stories of amazing music, dance and creative cultures. Not enough people talk about this. These aspects are lost not only on most people from elsewhere, but even on some in the area.

Thursday’s release of ‘Distrito Cósmico’ hopefully will help change that. “It’s a song inspired by the Maracuyeah community — music elevating and uniting people beyond the mundane in collective and collaborative experiences that celebrate culture, community and fun,” says Lucy Pacheco AKA La Yorona, who wrote and sings this DC cumbia original (G-Flux composed the music and Luis Torrealva weighs in on chorus).

She’s talking of course of local DJ and booking collective Maracuyeah! (in which I’m something of a sub-comandante to comandantes rAt and Mafe) which has been expanding the dance and party universe in our city for over a year. “Maracuyeah has a role as a creative forcefield in this release,” says rAt, describing how she and Mafe helped the song come to fruition. The various players were all doing their own thing until they came together in Maracuyeah space. “La Yorona and G-Flux have been collaborators with us,” says Mafe. “They met each other at a Maracuyeah gathering and decided to work together. We’ve been part of the process through creative input and media outreach and are very excited to present this new single.”

Maracuyeah siempre sabrosa
Fiesta tropical — travesura
Fiesta tropical — baile duro
Fiesta tropical con mi gente nocturna

Says La Yorona:

“Synchronicity connected me with Mafe, rAt, G-Flux and Luis Torrealva and ‘Distrito Cósmico’ just seemed like a fitting representation of this collaborative representation of DC’s tropicalismo. My approach to MCing is based on playfulness, fun and encouraging others to let loose and enjoy themselves, to notice the inspiring spaces and experiences we are all creating together. The song is a representation of playfulness; I love it. I love that it’s DC artists meeting and creating together through music.”

Global sonidos turnin’ up the heat
Booty beats all up in the street
Cuz we takin’ over like a tropical boom
Tropical monsoon, tropical typhoon

Maracuyeah, like sister collective Anthology of Booty and several other projects, is part of a new wave of music and party innovation that has a long history in our city. “We have created a space for collaboration of people interested in exploring alternative tropical sounds,” says Mafe. “This single reflects the coming together of individuals who have been in the DC music scene for a while, collaborating with individuals who are newer to the scene.”

At Maracuyeah’s one year anniversary in April, the incredible local cumbia band Los Tribaldis played, along with Dutty Artz wunderkind Chief Boima plus rAt, Mafe and other local DJs. It represented the dual efforts of Maracuyeah — highlighting amazing DC talent as well as bringing folks to the city who otherwise wouldn’t come here, like Chancha via Circuito, Zuzuka Poderosa or Pernett.

“We are excited about the vibrant community that keeps growing and mutating and producing exciting experiments like ‘Distrito Cósmico,’” says rAt. “We are excited to see what comes next. I love to see creative people criss-crossing ‘flavor lines’ and expanding the concepts of self-interest and solidarity, in meaningful, long-lasting ways.”

The download for ‘Distrito Cósmico’ will be available on Friday — the release party is Thursday night at Tropicalia on U Street. Birthed in transitional 2012, La Yorona says she’s “gonna keep creating and collaborating and dancing.” Same goes for Maracuyeah… and DC.

save_the_date_both_sides_600

For the past two summers I’ve traveled to Detroit for the Allied Media Conference, now coming up on its 15th year. This incredible happening pulls together a phenomenal array of folks from networks across the country (and a few internationally) working on technology, media, community organizing, art, music, and more. Several of my compañeras in DC have been going for much longer and established deep roots with the conference and Detroit – roots I have been happy to slip into. There are so many amazing things about the Allied Media Conference that it is hard to explain, but I’ll make an effort to do so, briefly.

(more…)

Flyer from the first Backdoor, August 2009

Way back in the summer of 2009, a bunch of us in DC wanted to try an experiment — take the energy of the house parties we were throwing and DJing and try to transfer it onto the dancefloor at a club. We formed a new entity — the Anthology of Booty — with a preliminary mission:

committed to resisting negative forces such as racism, misogyny, and homophobia in social spaces like dances, clubs, and bars. We create spaces for dancing, enjoyment, relaxation, and art with an emphasis on inclusion and respect. As DJs, we play all kinds of music reflecting our different communities and passions.

You know, basically stuff that is discussed here all the time. Our vehicle to achieve this lofty goal of consensual fanny-bumping was the party Backdoor — paying homage to and carrying the tradition of so many communities forced to use the backdoor, sidedoor, separate entrance, and to the clandestine places where they/we partied anyway. It was also a play on the venue where we threw Backdoor — the basement of the 9:30 Club, called Backbar. We kept it on the downlow, advertised by word of mouth, and soon had ourselves a sweaty, sultry underground party.

It didn’t take long to outgrow the space, unfortunately, and so we set off in search of another venue for Backdoor, which proved to be challenging. Backdoor became nomadic, and even went on hiatus at times as we returned to our roots with some warehouse/studio events. Yet we still yearned for the days of a regular, monthly space where our blend of global booty beats and dancefloor politics could be counted on amidst all the other nightlife options. So its quite exciting to be having the first Backdoor party in quite some time, with the hopes that it will be the first of many. What’s more, it’s back in a basement!

I Want to Believe in Backdoor

If you’re in DC, stop through. If not, let’s see how we can get you here for the next one. Believe — we can throw banging parties and think about things at the same time…

[co-written with DJ Ripley]

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that for those like the two of us (Ripley & bent) the “personal is political” mantra saturates our lives on and off the dancefloor. We are constantly thinking, talking, grinding, mixing and dubbing our way through the politics of music and dance in the 21st century. From the infamous “boobahton” Facebook debate of 2010 to exciting workshops we did at the Allied Media Conference this year, we question our own approaches and those of others to beats and booty-bouncing. It’s not about tearing anyone down or harshing a mellow, but quite simply about having the best parties and music culture possible.

We stand firmly in the camp of those who can both think critically and throw slamming dance parties at the same time (to quote Ripley). Or, in other words, we are those seeking, building, imagining “a utopia where everyone in the world considers the politics of their booty shaking” as Emynd so succinctly put it in this recent twitter mishmash convo. Consider it a snippet from a continuous discussion played out backward and forward through time online, in person, on the dancefloor and via mixtapes — one which defies easy conclusions. [i couldn’t get the whole thing to embed, so click the link!]

 

[View the story “Politics of booty shaking #1” on Storify]

Ripley ended the story with Emynd’s response because it summed up one of the motivating factors behind our and many folks’ involvement in music, but that’s only one way the conversation could have gone. Some of the points raised early on by Uncle Jesse connect to later arguments in the thread — he talks about “us” and “them” in the music, and suggest there are specific concerns about representation and race that matter, even painfully, to him as well as others. Jubilee is suspicious of the whole process of publicly engaging with these tricky questions in a medium like Twitter. This should remind us that many times these conversations may happen face to face — just because we don’t see them in the media doesn’t mean folks aren’t talking.

But we think there are good reasons to speak up as well and continue the discussion. On Twitter or other public (or privately-owned but sorta-public-acting) sites like Facebook, there are a lot more readers than there are speakers. And for a lot of people learning about scenes, or choosing where to get involved, the kinds of conversations that are visible are what shape who chooses to get involved. So alongside the possibility of sharing with the people in the debate or discussion, there is everything you communicate to the lurkers, to the readers, to the new faces, or those who have been silent up until now.

Since bent and Ripley, like so many others are “committed to resisting negative forces such as racism, misogyny, and homophobia in social spaces like dances, clubs, and bars” one way of doing that is to enter into the public debate and try to change its terms, to carve out a space for clearer language about what we’re really interested in — so many people get hung up on fake conflicts like thinking vs. dancing, or smart vs. fun/raw/sexy. But the existence of so many slamming parties and djs and producers and rappers who do it ALL (props to iBomba, Azucar, Maracuyeah!, Anthology of Booty, Cupcake Collective, Hey Queen, Precolumbian, Rizzla, D’hana, Le1f, Venus X, Chief Boima, and other Dutty Artz folks to name just a few) proves them wrong.

And another side effect of speaking out is that then people who are onto the same stuff can see you — for every grumpy naysayer in public on Twitter or YouTube comments there are ten emails, txts, DMs, or even just silent nods plus a bit more inspiration to carry on in the beautiful struggle!

Blue Horse by Bk Adams I Am Art

yesterday i made my first visit to the smithsonian’s museum in anacostia — across the anacostia river from the rest of the district and in many ways a pretty different place from The National Mall where the other smithsonian museums are.

The Walking Exhibit by BK Adams I Am Art

it was the final day of the “Exercise Your Mynd” exhibit by BK Adams I Am Art, a local artist whose work i had seen around. but this was the firs time i saw such a large body (over 50 pieces) of his art, and it really blew me away. he advocates “100% mynd use” to achieve our full creative potential and works with themes of flying, bicycles, scuptures from found stuff, and incredibly detailed colorful paintings.

Fascinating People by BK Adams I Am Art

the pieces are fantastic, so i’ll let them speak for themselves, and urge you to see BK Adams I Am Art if you’re ever able to do so. actually, here’s a somewhat old video of him talking about his work and collaboration with other artists in dc:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSgvVIAwSm8[/youtube]

 

 

don’t be fooled by the latest BS from “washington” – it’s wild, musical, rebellious times in DC! after an amazing weekend with the phenomenal RIPLEY (who i connected with via the great 2011 facebook-moombahton-boobie debate), including a great party, another incredible dj geekout, and the future of music coalition policy summit, the fun continues tonight as MARACUYEAH! hosts PERNETT, live and direct from colombia! made possible by collab with DA fam!

pernett parranda extravaganza flyer

the future holds even more. saturday is BACKDOOR once again, when the ANTHOLOGY OF BOOTY hoists our flag of revolutionary raunch and compels the people to scrub da ground. we’re fortunate enough to have a lost daughter return this weekend with KIRAN GANDHI bringing live percussionism into the mix.

next thursday myself and MOTHERSHIESTER try something new with an anti-colonial journey via music, dancing, and libations – AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY (not to be confused with the rad blog of a similar name) is our latest effort to deconstruct the elision of cairo, accra, dar es salaam, and durban.

and stay tuned for more excitement as other plans continue to evolve.

DC > washington.

shelden and 2nd, detroit

 

Detroit is a shell of a city buzzing with insanely creative activity. So many abandoned buildings and vacant lots, but so many incredible grassroots projects popping up and flourishing. The Allied Media Conference, where I spent the weekend, is just one example, and serves as a window into the larger context of what’s going down in “the D.”

And what an incredible conference – perhaps the best I’ve ever witnessed – a whole bunch of media geeks and radical shit-kickers coming together to share knowledge and dream the future. It was also exciting that so many people got into our DJ geek-out presentation and demanded that we do another one next year. Hopefully there is video out there somewhere, but in the meantime here’s the basic rundown:

Behind the Music: Geekout Style” with DJs Trash and Mothershiester (mapping places that have left a musical mark)

“Mi Primer Amor: Chicha del Perú” with DJ rAt (on her personal relationship with huayno and cumbia in Peru)

“Pinoy Funk, Hanggang Magdamag” with the Pinstriped Rebel (exploring the development of Filipino funk & soul)

“Finding My Latina Punk Identity” with DJ precolumbian (up the ponx! …in peru and south america.)

“Didn’t Mean to Turn You On: The Unsung Women of ‘80s R&B and Shifting Black Identity” with DJ K la Rock (gender and racial politics via Klymaxx and Patrice Rushen)

“Reexamining Electroclash” with DJ Junebullet (questioning double standards in treatment of electroclash, as a genre dominated by female producers)

“Jamaican Mento” with DJ Prism (looking at different eras of Jamaican music, from mento to dubstep)

“The Many Lives of Dembow” with DJ bent (tracing the sound/word on its travels through the Caribbean and beyond, and her experience with it)

“D.C. Cover Discovery” with DJ Zombie (a foray into D.C.’s go-go music as it covers mainstream hits and gives them street cred)

 

electroclash vs the disembodied female voice

The event went off beautifully, starting with a brief description of the DJ geek-outs that we have been having, and building into a full-on dance party on the stage while we each did our piece (about seven minutes apiece). We had a projector for our visuals (some written text, some photos, some videos), a full dj set up, a mic for those who spoke during their set, a Twitter wall showing mentions of #djgeekout, and of course dancing. We are hoping to do a repeat of the session in D.C. at some point soon, so keep an eye out. We are also hoping to hear about more DJ geek-outs popping up around the country, since so many people seemed inspired by our model of meeting over food and drink to share music and our relationships with it.

Although working on the session took up a good deal of my time, I was able to get to a few other workshops. There was some great strategizing around the importance of radical media as well as social justice types working within mainstream media organs. I was inspired by one person’s use of “environmental” sounds (a door slamming, keys jangling) to make beats, rather than a drum machine or computer program. And there was the entire “Science Fictions & Movement: Imagining a New Possible” track which was amazing, and produced this incredible reading/viewing/listening list. It felt very prescient to be able to pop in on the Mudd Up Book Clubb briefly on my last day in Detroit, having agreed over the weekend with others to finally jumpstart a long-discussed D.C. Octavia Butler Reading Group.

Of course there were also the nights of music, which included amazing DJs, great rappers and singers, and a beatboxing/cello duet. Plus Tunde Olaniran (mentioned by TAL1ES1N), who blew me away with his “dark R&B pop” music and performance, complete with robotic back-up dancers. Mark down June 30-July 2 2012 on your calendar for the next AMC

tunde olaniran performing with robot back-up dancers at AMC music showcase

 

Today is the first full day of the always-amazing (or so I’m told, since it’s my first time, but holds true so far) Allied Media Conference in Detroit – in it’s 13th year. I’m here with an incredible crew from D.C., local DJs and folks from Radio CPR. The conference exists to “cultivate strategies for a more just and creative world. We come together to share tools and tactics for transforming our communities through media-based organizing.” And they do this in a way that’s different form most conferences I’ve been too – with a really solid grounding in their local community and context. In addition to workshops on media and organizing, there are tours of Detroit with various emphases like musical history or labor struggles.

For years my fellow compañeras from Anthology of Booty and other media types have been trying to get me to come, so I finally made it, along with like two dozen folks from our community. Ten of us are presenting tomorrow (Saturday) as an extension of a project we’ve been doing for the past year that we have dubbed “DJ Geekout.” We come together irregularly for food and drink in someone’s living room to share music we are passionate about, to share our relationship with it, its history, connections between musical genres and places/people, and so on. Here’s our workshop description (its at 2:10 on Saturday if you’re at #amc2011):

DJs bent, Junebullet, K La Rock, Mothershiester, Pinstriped Rebel, Precolumbian, Prism, rAt, Trash, & Zombie. Our Geekout Collective reps many DJ Projects: Anthology of Booty, First Ladies, Radio CPR, Girls Rock DC, She.Rex, and Maracuyeah.com, in DC and Philly.

This session will invite participants into a DJ collaboration/movement that exploded out of AMC2010, and has continued to grow, twist and turn with transformative power throughout the past year. About 20 of us, all D.C./Detroit/Philly underground DJs, have been doing living-room jams that include pecha kuchas, vinyl sharing, and storytelling. We are visioning & discovering together how we live the art of djing – as the power & responsibility to create, spark and sustain spaces, make community connections, and create change that there’s little language for. Here, we share our mini-movement in a matinee party with live DJ sets, geek video projections, pop-up video style captions, a DJ101 How-To corner, an interactive Twitter screen & other ways for you to jump in!

I am so psyched for this – folks will be touching on how D.C.’s go-go music takes pop hits and makes them “suitable for the streets,” electro-clash and the disembodied female voice, racial politics expressed through ‘80s RnB, and much more.

My part of the session will explore my personal experience of the evolution of “dembow” from Jamaica through Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and beyond. “No Me Uses” by 2 Sweet (from Playero 38) will be in the mix, and we’re hoping to upload somewhere some (or all?!) of the songs from this geeked-out presentation so everyone can enjoy.

2 Sweet — No Me Uses

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