Brian Eno once famously remarked that the problem with computers is that there isn't enough Africa in them. I kind of think its the opposite: they're bringing the ideals of Africa. After all, computers are about connectivity, shareware, a sense of global discussion about topics and issues, the relentless density of info overload, and above all the willingness to engage and discuss it all that's something you could find on any street corner in Africa.
I just wanted to highlight the point: Digital Africa is here, and has been here for a while. This isn't "retro" it's about the future.
For the Venice Biennial 2007 I decided to go through a lot of my files of music from around the African continent, to accompany my installation for the Africa Pavilion. I looked through my record collection for non cliche kinds of stuff, like the Baka People, who make drums out the way they play in water. Or the "Car Horn Orchestra" of Ghana, which has a gathering of many taxi drivers who converge in downtown Accra to make a large symphony of honks from their taxis at the end of the work day or for funerals of drivers.
When I was a kid I went through different parts of Africa with my mother: we went to Kenya, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Egypt, but this was the first time I'd been to Angola. The mix reflects a lot of my interests in electronic music from the continent, and the way they've shaped and moulded a lot of material in the "New World."
The "Ghost World" mix is all about the multiple rhythms and languages of Africa, but it makes no attempt to give you everything it's from my record collection. That's why the "story" of the mix is about: polyrhythm, multiplex reality. There's even more current material, like the Kuduru sounds of Luanda (who says Techno doesn't exist in Africa!?) and old school hip hop, like Zimbabwe Legit from the early 90's of classic "conscious" school hip hop. Yes there's material from Akon, but he gets mixed with Nelson Mandela, or MC Solaar, but I looked for material of his that combined with jazz, so Ron Carter's brilliant bass playing worked out with that. There's even material from my favorite South African composer, Abdullah Ibrahim, and vocal outtakes from David Byrne and Brian Eno's "My Life in The Bush of Ghosts." Plus various guest appearances by African dictator Idi Amin or the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo talking about democracy in Nigeria.
Pretty ironic, eh? From the northern part of the continent, groups like the Lotfi Double Kanon or the Master Musicians of Jajouka represent radically different approaches to history and contemporary Arab culture's complex hybridity, as does the legendary voice of Egypt, Oum Kalthoum. It'd be a pretty wild party to see them all hanging out together!
Anyway, contemporary Africa is a place of paradox where some of the world's most resource rich countries are bound hand and foot by corruption, human malice, and the basic sense that the continent has been left out of the march of progress of many of the "rich" nations of the world.
I made elements of this mix when I was in Luanda, Angola, getting ready for the Venice Biennial, and the sound that was coming out of all the clubs and soundsystems was "Kuduru," a kind of relentlessly fast minimalist rhythm that combines hip hop and techno. I like to think of this mix as a homage to Ben Okri's novels and the classic works of Amos Tutuola. William Gibson said back in the ancient early 90's: The future is already here, but it's unevenly distributed. I like to think that this mix is about the future of Africa and its global diaspora, as much as it is about the past.
History is never silent. It reminds us, again and again and again, that we live its presence in every part of our life every day. This mix is an art project that accompanies my installation at the Venice Biennial Africa Pavilion.
P.S. You can download a high res, printable version of my Venice Biennial sticker/poster at the bottom of this page.
Africa Remix: Ghost World – A Story in Sound
Dj Spooky Presents a Project for the Dokolo Foundation at the Venice Biennial 2007
"In Africa, When an old man dies, it is like a library burning to the ground" a quote attributed to Leopold Senghor
Por Por Akwaaba Welcome! Car Horn Orchestra of Ghana
Intro: Lafayette Afro Rock Band "Darkest Light" mixed w/Max Roach and Abdullah Ibrahim "Streams of Consciousness" (NY and South Africa)
African Anarchist Radio
Malcolm X "The Roots of Savagery" mixed w/
Max Roach/Abdullah Ibrahim "Streams of Consciousness" (NY/South Africa)
Tony Allen "Crazy Afro Beat" w/scratches by Rob Swift Vs Dj Spooky (NY and Nigeria)
X Plastaz "Msimu kwa msimu" (Tanzania)
Alif "Douta Mbaye"(Senegal)
K'naan "Soobax" (Somalia)
Kelis "Trick Me" (dancehall mix) (USA)
Fela "Kalakuta Show" (Mix Master Mike, Lateef and The Gift of Gab Remix) (Nigeria)
Lotfi Double Kanon "Bled Miki" (Tunisia)
MC Solaar featuring Ron Carter "Un Ange En Danger" (France/Senegal)
Akon "Locked Up" mixed w/ Nelson Mandela "Moments in Black History (Brad Sanders)" (NY/Senegal/South Africa)
Angola National Anthem – "Angola, avante!" Author: Manuel Rui Alves Monteiro (b.1941); Composer: Rui Alberto Vieira Dias Mingao
Mixed w/Malcolm X "The Root of Civilization"
Dj Spooky featuring Tapper Zukie "Revolution Dub" (NY/Jamaica)
Frederic Galliano featuring Pancha Angola: Kuduru Sound System
Frederic Galliano featuring Pinta Tirru "Entra No Roda" (Angola/France)
Bunny Lee Meets King Tubby "African Roots and Reggae" – (Jamaica)
Cesoria Evora – Angola (original + Carl Craig remix) -Dj Spooky remix (Cape Verde Islands/Detroit/NY)
David Byrne and Brian Eno "My Life in The Bush of Ghosts: Vocal Outtakes" (New York/London)
Fela "Zombie" (Nigeria) (remix)
King Britt "Obafunke Theme" (Philadelphia) mixed w/
Interlude Idi Amin speaks (Uganda)
Orson Welles "Citizen Kane" (L.A.)
President Obasanjo mixed w/"Move" by J Dilla (Detroit)
Ryuichi Sakamoto "Riot in Lagos" mixed w/ Nigerian National Anthem (Japan/Nigeria)
Baka Forest People of South East Cameroon – Water Drums (Cameroon) mixed w/
Foday Musa Suso "World Wide Funk" (DJ Spooky remix) (Gambia)
Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Talvin Singh "You Can Find the Feeling" mixed w/ Abdul Nasser "Independence Forever" (Morocco/Egypt/India)
Duke Ellington "Afro-Euraasian Eclipse" (NY)
Oum Kalthoum "Hob Eih" (Egypt) – Dj Spooky remix
Mixed w/Tectonic "Heat Sensor"
Charlie Dark "Afro Dreaming"(UK-Ghana)
The Monks of Keur Moussa "Nous Te Louons, Pere Invisible" (Senegal)
Ginger Baker/Tony Allen (UK/Nigeria) – drum solo mixed w/
Drexciya "Polymono Plexusgel" (Detroit)
Zimbabwe Legit "Shadows Legit Mix" Dj Shadow remix (Zimbabwe/San Francisco)
Soweto Gospel Choir "Rivers of Babylon" (South Africa)
Konono No1 "Kule Kule" (Congo)
Abdullah Ibrahim "Mindif" (Dj Spooky remix) (South Africa/NY)