Word The Cat

Word the Cat

kartel on kartel

Posted by Chris on July 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm  


vybz kartel carries many different faces: skin bleacher, tattoo wearer, sex tune don, mavado feuder, conscious songwriter, skinny freaky looking man, biggest dancehall entertainer of recent times, world boss, teacher, reality tv star… he wears different cloaks for different occasions. meaning doesn’t stick to him easily, he’s always switching up his presence. since last autumn he’s been in jail, initially on ganja charges. those charges have been dropped, but he’s now facing two murder charges. he’s a magnet for messy, contested meanings and controversy. he’s also a master lyricist and storyteller. the symbolism is always deep. his crew is called gaza. notorious across the carribean for ‘obscene’ lyrics (banned on numerous radio stations) and for his use of skin bleaching cake soap, a few months before his arrest in May 2011, he issued the statement below [full version]…

See Jamaica, Vybz Kartel has been carrying a secret for a very long time and I think it is time that I reveal it before persons try to derail the projects that I have put together by continuing to make false reports about me in their attempt to have me muzzled.two years ago, I had an epiphany whilst on stage. I saw thousands of people screaming for Kartel, jumping up and down, listening to ever word that I uttered on stage, it was like the people were eating out of the palm of my hands. At that moment, something strange came over me, as I heard the people screaming for more, I suddenly realized that my calling was to be more than a Deejay.

I realized that the people were not eating out my hands but they wanted to hear Kartel speak because finally somebody was telling their story in a profound no holds barred manner. Whether I was addressing sexuality,poverty, police brutality, injustice,the trials and tribulations of the ghetto I was finally giving ghetto people a voice – a big voice like society never heard before.

I know I am not the first that has ever attempted to do this. Because when I researched I saw that Marcus, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle all spoke directly to the powers that be on behalf of the people but were ostracized and in some cases killed. Later, Marley, Tosh, Jacob Miller did the same thing and all died young under unique somewhat mysterious circumstances. I have seen what they have done to ancient Rastamen, People’s Telecom, the Marcus Garvey Political Party and other entities that attacked Babylon head on.

I did not want the same fate to reach me at the time, I did not want them to muzzle me also, so I took a decision that I felt I had to, I had to trick Babylon. I realized if I kept doing outrageous and outlandish stuff, they would write me off as just an attention seeking artiste and not realize that since July 26, 2009 behind closed doors I have been writing my book and setting up my GEL (Gaza Education and Literacy) program. So they put the spotlight on me, not knowing that they were actually putting the spotlight on themselves because Vybz Kartel is not about braces, bleaching and hairstyles but I am about elevating the cause of Ghetto people.

Please understand Jamaica sometimes you have to trick Babylon with confusion. If I revealed my intentions two years ago, do you think the people that control the media would report everything I do? Babylon, you have been tricked. For 500 years, the system has been using reverse psychology to trick my people,I have now used reverse psychology to trick them Let’s see societal hypocrisy for what it is. Now that my book is going to be released, now that most of my songs will have a more cultural overtone as i have already taken the decision to stop deejaying gun lyrics, now that I am going to be providing educational opportunities for young people,will you be giving me the same attention?


for me, to ask whether he’s for real or not kind of misses the point, he’s blowing smokescreens any which way, moving undercover and channeling something deep and chaotic. i’ve been working on an experimental radio/sound art piece called ‘kartel on kartel’. culled from the digital deritus of youtube videos, road DVDs and pirated mp3s, this piece is cut with news reports of his arrest last year and heavily processed re-interpretations of his songs. much of the work was done on audiosculpt which allows you to map visual images and text onto the parameters which effect sound manipulation. this piece was made for Human Fiction Tartini presents Sonic Hologram (an hour of listening) at Apiary Studios, London in July 2012. the embed is below:


Heygate Heaven

Posted by Chris on July 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm  

London is a city built on power and restraint. Class strictures and verticality. The unending rise of the Shard, a physical metaphor for a brave new end of economic boom and bust driven by Qatari sovereign wealth. In its shadow, people are trying to live as they have done for the past forty years in state owned council housing. Over the past few months I made a couple of radio programmes about two estates in Southwark, the borough that hosts the Shard. They stretch south from Elephant and Castle, an area that is currently subject to a £1.5 billion urban regeneration project (the biggest in Europe). The Heygate estate is itself part of this regeneration plan, formerly housing around 4000 people, there are now two households left. It sits monolithic and largely empty, windows sealed with metal sheeting and electricity disconnected. Much of it is still open to the public, however and a visit will show you allotments which local residents have carved out of the open spaces, free runners climbing the concrete walkways and ruin tourists taking pictures on high end DSLRs.

I’ve been making a radio documentary over the past five months about the Heygate as it stands now, its past and its possible futures. It’s composed from the soundscape of the area and the voices of former and current residents of the estate, the original architect, a former leader of Southwark council, the head planner for the Elephant and Castle regeneration, academics and researchers. (stream below or listen here)

During this time I also worked on a hour long current affairs programme that looked at council housing and affordable housing london-wide. It was composed of some recordings from the Heygate, but also from the Aylesbury estate, a little further down the road from Elephant and Castle. This is one of the largest public housing estates in Europe and provides homes for around 10,000 people. Parts of the estate are being demolished and re-built according to a new rubric of ‘mixed communities’ containing ‘affordable housing’. Both of these are very slippery terms and, to put it mildly, there are serious concerns about how socially inclusive any new housing on the site will be. The programme was broadcast on London-based station NTS radio last month. you can listen here.

grime numbers

Posted by Chris on June 15, 2012 at 11:38 am  

forthcoming on ResonanceFM GRIME NUMBERS edited by autodespair. it’s a great, dense edit of numbers being announced on pirate radio. most of the stations are playing grime. in case you don’t know, when a listener wants to give appreciation to a tune or a vocal they’ll send a missed call to the studio phone, the host then reads out the last three digits of their number. grime numbers has these, the various studio numbers, the station’s frequency and even lyrics which use numbers (wiley on the 38 bus).

Grime Numbers Station by autodespair

a few years ago, Kode9 did a similar piece which just concentrated on those last three digits of callers’ numbers. it came on a cd published with a great experimental radio book called ‘radio territories’. there’s a review of the book here.

Kode 9 – The Last 3 Digits (2006)

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here in full. less numbers, more MCing. a set for deja vu fm from 2003 with just about everyone in the scene (wiley, d double, a young dizzee, crazy titch, lady fury etc. etc… ). there’s an explication of the video by dan hancox here.

dubious prey visual devices

Posted by Chris on January 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm  


lamin fofana brings percussive chamber atmospheriks for the new year with a three track EP on sticks and stones records. vinyl forthcoming on 30th jan. digital on 27th feb.

(there’s a soundcloud link and a youtube link. which to post?) the head of audio at the bbc thinks radio should offer more visual content. this is kind of reactionary. phones and tablets have screens so radio should use screens. but what do we put on the screens? a dozen bbc executives dip their heads in simultaneous consternation. ask youtube, it could be good.

black is a country

Posted by Chris on at 4:30 pm  


Big up the BBC and Brook Lapping Productions. Erykah Badu presents two half hours of radio on the Black Power movement and the aesthetics and music that accompanied it. Great montage and interviews with Archie Shepp, Amiri Baraka, Ornette Coleman, Sonia Sanchez, Lloyd McNeil and Talib Kweli.

Kweli describes a situation from around 10 years ago where he booked a plane ticket over the phone. In the background he was listening to Stokely Carmichael speeches. When he turned up at the airport the authorities were waiting for him. The lesson he takes from this is that white power sees no problem with violence in the ghetto, but when anger turns righteous and directs its attention out to a broader context it becomes a serious threat. Even someone listening to a speech becomes a potential threat.

Here’s the write up. links below:

“Singer and songwriter Erykah Badu presents a two part series exploring the extraordinary underground music generated by the Black Power movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies: radical, beautiful and rare

Black Power – with its symbol of a fist clenched in anger and defiance – politicised African American music in ways the Civil Rights movement had not. The desire for integration gave way to a new, fighting impulse of cultural separatism and self-determination. Politics and music became explosively attuned. From 1968 The Black Arts Movement – ‘the cultural and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept’ – flourished, dedicated to the foundation of an authentic Black aesthetic in literature, poetry and music. ‘The Black Power and Black Arts concept both relate to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood’ wrote the African American philosopher Larry Neale in 1968,’…a main tenet of Black Power is the necessity for Black people to define the world in their own terms. The Black artist will make the same point in the context of aesthetics.’

The quest for freedom had both a musical and political resonance. Musicians opened up new and unexplored worlds of musical possibility. Players like Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp pioneered the ‘New Thing’ – an avant-garde in jazz, pushing the limits of harmony and rhythm. Music was explicitly pressed into political service: The Black Panther Party even produced its own album of underground anthems ‘Seize the Time’ and Black music as a whole became far more vocal in its opposition to white mainstream society. Poet-musicians like Gill Scott Heron and the Last Poets delivered stinging attacks on the political failure of Civil Rights and the reality of the black experience in cities across America. Meanwhile Africa became as a powerful symbol for a younger generation of black American artists, a source of political identification, spiritual sustenance and often exotic, musical inspiration.

Black Power transformed the way musicians negotiated control and ownership of their own music. The club and bar circuit gave way to performances in galleries, lofts, community halls and public spaces. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians was inaugurated in Chicago (and still thrives today) and other collectives followed. Radical independent labels flourished with very limited vinyl release. Many of these records, infused with the Black Power ethos, are extremely rare, and are featured throughout the series.”

Black is a Country pt1

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Black is a Country pt2

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There’s some more music from these times in this old post.

cosmopollination: a radio programme about urban beekeeping

Posted by Chris on October 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm  

Since April 2011, myself and Alyssa Moxley have been recording people who keep bees in London, their hives and the soundscape around… We spoke to people from Capital Bee, the Golden Company, Walworth Garden Farm and the Southbank Centre and recorded them tending to their hives and discussing what the practice of beekeeping and the organisation of the hive mean to them and to the wider urban environment. The programme was broadcast on Resonance FM on Tuesday 27th September.


More and more organisations are turning to beekeeping as a way to embed themselves into the urban fabric. The bees activity is a (embed) code which draws upon the urban environment, condenses it and transforms it into food. Pollen from plants 3 miles around the hive is collected and transformed into honey. People with severe allergies seek out local honey because the pollen from their surroundings, re-processed into something benign and absorbable by their bodies can increase immunity. Likewise, a bank or arts centre can embed itself into their physical locality quite easily by putting hives on the roof and having the bees forage in parks, gardens and window boxes nearby. Airborne urban farming which stitches itself into the city and re-processes urban materials into food.

Here are some of our recordings manipulated and re-presented as a 10 minute soundscape. The bass is by “Variacoes em La” by Carlos Baretto.

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bee soundscape


“After they developed social living, they realised that diversity was a help”

The queen bee carries around all the sperm she will ever use after one mating cycle. The bees in the hive will share the same mother, but have many fathers. Genetic variety in the hive allows for more gradated behaviour: If it gets cold outside, several bees will stop work and concentrate on insulating the hive with their bodies, if it gets cooler still, more bees will switch to working on insulation. If all the bees had the same genetics they would be more likely to switch behaviour at the same point, abandoning the other tasks in the hive. “They actually operate like they care less about identity and more about function. The function being preserving the conditions required to make new life.”

“honeybees bring in spring”

Bees are pollinators. This is one of the reasons that people are so worried about the colony collapse disorder. Honeybees (as opposed to solitary bees) move in an organised mass, the weight of their pollination is one of the factors in allowing the change in seasons to be realised and for new plants to bloom.

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