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(Still) Dancing on John Wayne's Head: two albums of "raging blakkindian dub"
December 29, 2012 4:10 PM   Subscribe

This is probably one of the most unusual and creative dub records you're ever likely to hear. Imagine typical bottom-heavy, bass-filled Jamaican dub reggae -- complete with horns, percussion, the whole nine yards -- mixed with traditional Native American vocal music (don't ask how it works, just believe that somehow it does). Now add spoken word samples from Native American, black, Russian, women's lib, and other sociopolitical leaders discussing the effects of colonial imperialism and totalitarian governments on the common man (and, of course, woman), and what you get is this radically inventive album.

Dancing on John Wayne's Head was followed up by Still Dancing on John Wayne's Head, both exploring the connections between Blacks and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas, put together under the banner of The Fire This Time, who aim "to provide a greater understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the various indigenous peoples and other freedom fighters."

Pat Andrade, on how the original album was made:
"We went down to Jamaica with chants and asked the musicians in Jamaica to improvise around traditional drumming and chants and then we did the reverse of that and asked the traditional singers to sing along with completed reggae tracks."
The follow-up album saw some tracks re-worked by various dance music producers.
posted by filthy light thief (29 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reminds me of Thievery Corporation. Thanks, filthy light thief!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:24 PM on December 29, 2012


Well, the thing with dub is that it has become the thing that it is precisely because one can pretty much mashup anything into dub.

NA Indian sounds like it would be very cool, but it reminds me that artists have pretty much mined the hell out of dub-with-Middle-Eastern-trance, dub-with-Indian-Ragas and dub-with-Cuban-son already.

And much of it is really good, in that head-nodding, boy-I-could-smoke-a-fattie way that dub gets.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:33 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"There are no releases like this, no precedent," says Andrade, reflecting on his job of coordinator and organizer."

Precedents for this are *very* numerous, not just with the mixing of dub with the sounds of other, non-Jamaican cultures, but specifically making the connection between blacks in the Americas and indigenous peoples. Suns of Arqa have done plenty of stuff like this, Culture sang about the issue, JA reggae group the Jay Boys did a great version of the Paul Revere & the Raiders' hit "Indian Reservation" that makes this connection explicit (they retitled it "African People"), Joe Gibbs and plenty of others used Native American rhythms / motifs against a reggae / dub backdrop - many of them ten to twenty years before these recordings.

To act like this is a new idea seems like a form of cultural imperialism in itself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dee, thanks for those counter-examples. I didn't quote that bit because I thought it was an overly bold statement, but I think the difference (at least, the difference that Pat claims) is that there were more direct collaborations between people, instead of pulling in influences. Also, there is the larger incorporation of a wide variety of sociopolitical themes, but I agree that Pat's claim ignores significant groups and recordings in modern music. Sadly, it sounds like fairly common music hype to ignore or not credit relevant musical predecessors, even if they didn't directly influence the specific recordings.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:08 PM on December 29, 2012


Yeah, Dee pretty much nails it. If you think there's never been spoken word dub Native American politically conscious music before, you don't know much about those words. Which is OK! But you should be a little more restrained if you're going to write reviews about them.

I'm also nervous about "spoken word samples"with dub and dance music. A lot of the time it's a terrible butchering of the native culture and language to make high first worlders feel groovy.
posted by freebird at 5:11 PM on December 29, 2012


Keep in mind, this album came out in 1995, if you're going to talk about precedents. I think the reviews were written then, also.
posted by empath at 5:19 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of how much the Havasupai in Arizona revere Bob Marley. I believe he played a concert on the reservation at one point (?). There is some mention of the relationship here. I know that Marley is a pretty far cry from most dub, but it seems apposite.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


To act like this is a new idea seems like a form of cultural imperialism in itself.

That seem like a needlessly strong statement. I know reggae is something you pay attention to and feel strongly about, but how is it "cultural imperialism" to not be as knowledgeable as some other White reggae lover is of the precedents here?
posted by OmieWise at 5:35 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Empath: I know the record was made in 1995 - the examples I provided date back (generally) 15 to 25 years before that, from the early 70s though the early 80s.

I see this for what I think it is - a couple of guys basically assembled a cool record by hiring a bunch of session musicians (even if the session musicians included some genuine reggae greats.) Suns of Arqa and Culture or the Jay Boys (et al) aren't household names, so I wouldn't necessarily expect someone who stumbles across this record to realize it's been done before.

My comment wasn't directed at filthy light thief - and I don't think he took it that way. But if you're enough of a reggae fan that you're going to Jamaica and you're able to hire folks like Augustus Pablo and Mikey Dread, then yes . . . you definitely should know what you're talking about. My comment was directed at one of the creators of the record, who saw fit to make a very definitive statement about the (supposed) lack of precedent to this record. In doing so, he denies the contributions of the people who actually were the innovators here.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2012


Precedents for this are *very* numerous, not just with the mixing of dub with the sounds of other, non-Jamaican cultures, but specifically making the connection between blacks in the Americas and indigenous peoples.

If you want to talk about what precedents for "this" might already exist, we need to know exactly what "this" is referring to. Let's reread the quote:
"There are no releases like this, no precedent," says Andrade, reflecting on his job of coordinator and organizer. "We went down to Jamaica with chants and asked the musicians in Jamaica to improvise around traditional drumming and chants and then we did the reverse of that and asked the traditional singers to sing along with completed reggae tracks."
A far more charitable interpretation of his words is that "this" is not referring to a release with the general idea of NA dub, but rather a release that used this particular production workflow. If his emphasis is on the production workflow, then you can see that your accusation of cultural imperialism would be quite dramatically off the mark; the workflow he's talking about is symmetric. People A improvise off People B's track. People B improvise off People A's track.

If that were indeed his meaning, then a proper attack on his quote would center on people that had already used that particular workflow, not people doing NA dub in general.
posted by Jpfed at 8:24 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


If his emphasis is on the production workflow, then you can see that your accusation of cultural imperialism would be quite dramatically off the mark; the workflow he's talking about is symmetric. People A improvise off People B's track. People B improvise off People A's track.

Yeah, I'd agree, if it weren't for the fact that there are probably even more precedents for that - even if you were to limit the field to reggae-based musics. I can't really think of anything about this project that even comes close to being original enough to merit a claim that there's no precedent for it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:46 PM on December 29, 2012


filthy light thief: "- mixed with traditional Native American vocal music"

Which Native American tradition? There are many, and not all of them are HI ya-ya-ya HI ya-ya-ya.

We're talking two continents here.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:03 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My comment wasn't directed at filthy light thief - and I don't think he took it that way. But if you're enough of a reggae fan that you're going to Jamaica and you're able to hire folks like Augustus Pablo and Mikey Dread, then yes . . . you definitely should know what you're talking about. My comment was directed at one of the creators of the record, who saw fit to make a very definitive statement about the (supposed) lack of precedent to this record. In doing so, he denies the contributions of the people who actually were the innovators here.

Thanks for clarifying, I misread that. But then you're left using the self-aggrandizing statement of one of the producers to make the charge, which seems strange too.

Which Native American tradition? There are many, and not all of them are HI ya-ya-ya HI ya-ya-ya.

Oh, for Christ's sake.
posted by OmieWise at 3:27 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not done before? I'll just mention one...
African Headcharge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Head_Charge

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmWjn2w8-VA
posted by stthspl at 5:59 AM on December 30, 2012


To act like this is a new idea seems like a form of cultural imperialism in itself.
...
Which Native American tradition? There are many, and not all of them are HI ya-ya-ya HI ya-ya-ya.

Thanks for playing MeFi's favorite game: I Am Less Racist Than You!
posted by Edgewise at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, I am being totally serious, and am not trying to be a pedantic jerk. I really dig music and blanket terms don't work for me. I would honestly like to know.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:53 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Edgewise:

I don't think there's anything wrong with calling out grandiose pretentious statements for what they are or are likely to be. And I don't recall mentioning my own level of racism (or not), either.

I presented evidence to back my opinion. If you want to claim your mixing music from cultures (specifically the ones in question) other than your own as "unprecedented," then you should be able to defy easy evidence that refutes it. Otherwise, I think it's fair to read the situation where your taking credit from something that (in this case) Jamaicans had been doing for decades is a form of theft. Particularly when the person making the comment has a fairly deep knowledge of reggae.

You may not be interested in this, since you haven't contributed anything to this dialogue other than a snarky form of what amounts to name-calling, but that doesn't make it any less true. If you have a knowledge of dub and cross-cultural pollination in music that leads you to disagree, tell us how and why. Otherwise, it's just noise, isn't it?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:14 PM on December 30, 2012


hi there..im quite fascinated by the comments im reading here...thought it would be helpful to give some insights into the process of making the dancing on john waynes cd...first of all im the producer of the record..im a person of black and native ancestry ...i grew up in jamaica and in canada played in a traditional native american drum group. and spent alot of time in native communities and doing activism for native issues...i was struck by how much traditional native drumming vibe and certain beats reminded me of nyabinghi and one drop...ten years before this cd was made in 1980's i made a cassette where we made a reggae trak using powwow drums...and put native poets to dub tracks..we didnt have resources to make a vinyl at that time..nor did we have resources to use more than a 4 trak or 8 trak deck
since i was doing a reggae /native radio show in conjunction with a native dj and musician we used to do serious research at the time into the connection of reggae artists and native music...i sure would like to hear those joe gibbs records that are being referred to as using native riddims...cuz we actually talked to joe gibbs and he never mentioned it to us..also we are you referring to authentic traditional drumming patterns like round dances etc which patterns did you hear in these recordings ?..the actual cd was a result of a long process of collaborations and friendships between black and native musicians and activists...when myself and the native dj used to spin mikey dread and augustus pablo records we also used to dream about what if they played on a trak that had a native influence and lyrically content..the reason we said at the time ..that it hadnt been done like this before was that for many many years as radio djs /activists we were always searching for music with this combination to play and we couldnt find so ultimatley we decided to make ourselves ...we also wanted to find to find music in this vein where they native references that werent coming from
sterotypes and caricatures of native cultures..yes you can find references to native culture in some reggae songs but most of the time when we talked to the artists we realised that they were influenced by some of the holly wood references of native people that werent based in the true reality of native people ...artists like mutaburaka where he says' the true owners of your nation are forced to live on a reservation ' was one of first artists from jamaica to make really specific references to native people and at the same time attacking and conscious of the hollywood sterotypes...
we had personal reasoning sessions with musicians like augustus pablo and santa davis...people who becuz of touring opportunities had had the opportunity to occaisonally actually meet some native people and native communities . .and they were struck by a similarity of vibes of some native philosphy and rasta thought..so they were sympathetic to the vibe we wanted to create...and they felt a real spiritual link with what were trying to do ...( by the way bob marley didnt play on havasupai reserve a plce we have visited but rita marley did visit there with some of the wailers)
iniatly when we started out making this record rd there was alot of resistance cuz people thought it was a bit crazy cuz they couldnt see the cultural connection ..but since we were living in both cultures ....we didnt see it as something strange or 'exotic'.. for us it was a natural vibe...
for us to actually make it into a decent 24 trak studio took us about ten years..it was simply a question of not having resources...if we had had resources we would have made this record 10 years earlier....so it would have come out 25 years ago...we love on u sound and adrian sherwood productions....used to listen and play african headcharge all the time ...but never heard native american references and musical forms in them ...we would have been overjoyed to hear them.. and it was a happy moment for us when sherwood who is a really wonderful and generous person did a remix for us...as for suns of arqa ..some one actually put us into contact with them for a possibility of making a benefit album..they were curious about about work ..they hadnt heard of work like what we were doing ...
what we were trying to do was really make a record that reflected some of the friendships and cultural bonds between black and native people that we experienced day to day .. ..and to put into he recording accurate and radical references to black and native culture....for example the fire this time trak 'poundmakers dub' is a reference to a cree warrior and resistance leader chief poundmaker from canada in the 18 th century who had dreadlocks....we found out about him when one day we were drumming at a native friendship centre and a native singer came up to us and said do you know there was adreadlocked cree warrior called poundmaker..if you find this book you will find a picture of him and sure enough there was this picture of this warrior with long dreadlocks who refused to cut them for spiritual reasons...
in some tracks there are lyrics in the mohawk language and choruses in english that make specific references to the iroquois constitution ..which was in fact plagiarised by those who made the american constitution ...
we just rereleased dancing on john waynes head ..in a form closer to how we would have liked it to have been and with info in a way we we are more comfortable with since we have now put it out on our own label and the info connected to this new version of the release is almost exclusively focussed on the lyrical and political meanings of the various traks ..which we feel is ultimatley much more important http://dubreality.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/ir-20-dancing-on-john-waynes-head-aboriginal-resistance-dub-music/ ....i hope this is helpful ..give thanxs
posted by p.a at 1:57 PM on December 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


p.a, thanks for joining and adding more history to these albums! And I completely missed the fact that you had remastered and expanded the original album earlier this year, thanks for that link.

Here's a bit on Poundmaker, a Cree who was "adopted" by Blackfoot Chief Crowfoot. On a further tangent, Poundmaker's name references his skill in making buffalo pounds or enclosures (that Wiki page is currently a stub, but the most concise reference I could find).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:32 PM on December 30, 2012


[MetaTalk: Welcome to MetaFilter, p.a]
posted by filthy light thief at 2:52 PM on December 30, 2012


Whoa, I am so happy to see this post.

I got my copy of Still Dancing for free in a copy of the (now defunct) revolutionary Blu Magazine. Those first two tracks on the album ("I Love Tha Future" and "Reluctant Warrior") that feature Assata Shakur speaking over music and beats are two of the most beautiful songs/pieces of art I've ever encountered. I've put them on 90% of the mixes I've made since I acquired the album in 1999. They've also sustained and inspired me as an activist when my burnout was killing me. I always thought I was one of a small number of people who still thought about this album. Thank you for this post and thank you, Pat Andrade.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 5:08 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Native American hip hop is huge. Likewise Native American reggae. Both styles are in their 3d generations by now.

p.a., perhaps you could tell us about your First Nations ancestry, activism, and drum group membership? As a person of indigenous ancestry, you are no doubt aware of how common it is for people (and very much especially artists) to assert "Native Heritage" as a license to appropriate Native themes, symbols, styles, songs, and rituals. What is your tribal affiliation? It would help me to interpret your music and your words above, at least, if you could be a bit more specific about what Native/First Nations/Indigenous musical traditions you've learned and practiced and been influenced by, and what your relationship is to those traditions.
posted by spitbull at 5:41 PM on December 30, 2012


In other words, I'm not doubting your assertion, but wanting more details.
posted by spitbull at 5:43 PM on December 30, 2012


And as I think about it, at least in the US, Native American reggae is arguably in its fourth generation.
posted by spitbull at 5:44 PM on December 30, 2012


p.a - punctuation and formatting would go a long way towards making your wall of text post a bit more readable.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:22 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I am being totally serious, and am not trying to be a pedantic jerk.

Yeah, I was being hard on you. You weren't actually saying anything wrong; I just lumped you in unfairly in order to bolster my point. Funny how I actually undermined it in the process.

If you have a knowledge of dub and cross-cultural pollination in music that leads you to disagree, tell us how and why.

On the other hand, I think your post was a fair target. Personally, I like dub, but I couldn't name anyone past Lee Scratch Perry, King Tubby and Mad Professor. I have absolutely no opinion on the novelty of the music in this particular post.

I just find your accusation of cultural imperialism to be excessive, presumptuous and silly for several reasons. First of all, in the quote, he's discussing about the manner of production, not necessarily the music itself, and your comments only addressed the latter. Second of all, even if he's incorrect about it, you're presuming bad faith instead of the possibility that he might just be uninformed about the particular antecedents. Third, from what he's posted about his own background, it sounds like your accusation is quite impossible, even if he's straight-up lying.

I presented evidence to back my opinion.

True, but I just think your opinion doesn't actually bear on Andrade's claim. I think you misunderstood both what he was actually saying, as well as his ancestry. And you assumed bad faith.

Otherwise, it's just noise, isn't it?

This sounds like you're suggesting that I don't enjoy dub, but I have no idea why you would think that. You seem to assume a lot.
posted by Edgewise at 10:56 PM on December 30, 2012


Also, may I assume you sought permission and/or are paying license fees for any Native American music recordings you might have sampled? As an indigenous activist yourself, you know how important that can be to address a history of theft, I assume.
posted by spitbull at 2:03 AM on December 31, 2012


For example on track 6, "First Nations Stance," I believe I hear Lakota or Dakota chants sampled in the intro and then played in extended forms in the middle. Where did those come from? Who are the original performers? Have those recordings been repatriated, and the performers or their descendants compensated? Are those songs acceptable for use in this commercial context?
posted by spitbull at 2:09 AM on December 31, 2012


Wow PA, thanks for the response!
posted by dunkadunc at 10:21 AM on December 31, 2012


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