Talk at Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro

Museu Nacional Announcement

I’m looking forward to giving this talk at Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. I feel especially honored to present at one of Brazil’s oldest social anthropology departments and the first with a graduate program. Thank you PPGAS (Graduate Program in Social Anthropology) and NEsCom (Center for Studies of Complex Societies) for the invitation. Now, wish me luck presenting in Portuguese!

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Bike Powered Sounds at Movable Party

A few weeks ago, I was lucky to DJ a truly green party: Movable Party, a pedal-powered dance party in LA. Participants on three bikes with hub motors powered speakers, a mixer, and laptop in a corner of MacArthur Park with its lake, fountain, and vendors of fresh fruit con sal, limón, y chile. Fittingly the cycling-generated soundsystem made its city debut for CicLAvia, a street closure event which opens up LA’s streets for cyclists and pedestrians. All in the city where car culture was born!


Movable Parts, the organizers, planners and makers behind the Movable Party, are a group of collaborators and friends whose shared mission is “to deploy creative practices to re-imagine the streets and public spaces in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area…. Our efforts augment the spatial and social flow of the public sphere at a human scale. We believe in the open-source ethos, promoting communalism and free exchange of knowledge…. Experimenting with high-tech and low-tech modes of practices, we make and transform materials ranging from the cultural and embodied, to the mechanical and computational.”

For over three hours Movable Party playfully reversed people’s relationship to electricity switching from merely consuming to generating power. In addition to their hub motors the bikes had been modified with Arduino sensors on the saddle, the pedals and the handlebars. Rocking back and forth on the saddle, squeezing the handlebars in different ways triggered various effects and peddling faster or slower altered the tempo. Voilá bike-human-synthesizer cyborg!

Plans for the future involve creating a moving–bike powered– performance platform with a generator and custom built sound system. Organizers including Wendy Hsiu take inspiration from other minimal resource and human-powered vehicles and street soundsystems, such as Nakashi street music trucks in Taiwan and various mobile music setups everywhere from Indonesia, Mexico, to Japan. I look forward to their next iterations of experiments in human-scale, transnationally inspired  sounds.

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Critical Karaoke at EMPLA


Experience Music Project LA Pop Conference

Bringing together academics, musicians, and critics, this year’s EMP Pop Conference is happening right now simultaneously in Seattle, Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. The localization lends itself to the “Locals Only: Pop and Politics in This Town” title for LA’s conference.

The opening night’s, “It All Dies Anyway: LA, Jabberjaw, and the End of an Era,” was a fantastic roundtable discussion of and remembrance of LA’s legendary, all-ages independent music venue, which lasted from 1989-1997.

Tomorrow I’m excited to participate in Critical Karaoke at REDCAT Theatre. Each of us will have the length of a song to discuss it as the song plays in the background. I enjoy the playfulness of the idea and how it experiments with form and performance. The organizers promise a “jukebox of eclectic tastes, knowledge and styles.”

See the full EMPL.A. schedule up here.

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The materialities of sampling: a lecture

O MPC do Sany

Tomorrow I’m thrilled to be guest lecturing for Wendy Hsu‘s class on Digital Music-Cultures at Occidental College. Wendy is a Fellow at the Center for Digital Learning and Research. As part of her series on Digital Ethnography, she recently wrote a fascinating piece engaging and experimenting with sound, “Magnifying the Materiality of Culture.”

In the class I will be discussing sampling in funk carioca in relation to  technological change, aesthetics, and networked authorship. To provide a comparison and contrast to my research in Brazil, I assigned a chapter from Kembrew McLeod and Peter DiCola’s Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling. The reading gets at a history of the rise and fall of sampling in the U.S. and the litigiousness surrounding music and copyright in American hip-hop. I hope the class will be provoke questions and conversation around the politics and cultures of music sampling, fair use, and the materialities of exchange and creativity.

Cientista DJ in 1992 (check out 2:15)

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José Camelô

André Ramiro debuted as an actor in Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad), a film famously billed as the most watched Brazilian DVD ever. A leaked version of the film flooded the streets of Brazil to be sold by camelô (street vendors) three months before the cinema debut. Now André Ramiro’s album debut as a rapper features a song written from the perspective of a camelô.

I remember hearing André rapping an earlier version of this song in 2008 when I began my fieldwork. It’s great to hear the recorded version and its samba pagode elements. Yes to the quica!

A nice line from the song, which may or may not be lost in translation:

“They want to take me off the streets so the gringo won’t see me/                                           But everyone including the president’s watched my DVD”

The whole album Crônicas de um Rimador is available for streaming and free download.

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Urban Speculations & Contested Geographies

I’m excited to be co-organizing this conference with Ameeth Vijay and C.J. Gordon!

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“We Don’t Just Want Police”

“What would you do if you organized the baptism of your son, or the birthday party of your daughter, and the police banned the event a few hours before it starts? This is happening in many favelas of Rio. Because of a decree based on a Dictatorship-era law, the police now have the power to veto or simply withdraw the license of any cultural event, often at short notice, the according to criteria that they themselves can invent. In the favelas with UPPs [Union of Pacifying Police], this has generated many abuses such as arbitrary prohibition of all kinds of events, principally bailes funk.” (My translation of the video’s description)

In preparation for hosting the Olympics (2016) and the World Cup (2014), Rio de Janeiro has “pacified” many favelas in key locations (i.e. close to the Maracana soccer stadium and close to tourist hotels along the beaches). Pacifying police have established a permanent presence in these favelas to end armed drug trade. The police in these favelas, however, also have an inordinate amount of power that they do not have on “the asphalt” (formal neighborhoods). A decree based on dictatorship-era logic allows the police to ban or stop any cultural event in a pacified favela.

Meu Rio, APAFUNK, and Direito Para Quem? (“Rights For Whom?”) are petitioning to end Decree 013, which revives a dicatorship-era law in “pacified” communities of Rio.

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