I wanted to produce the imbricated sounds of the documentary machines that have for centuries been engaged in producing and reproducing a monolithic “idea of Africa.” Yet I wanted to do so through a process that would trouble rather than reify the documentary practices and impulses of post/neo/colonial anthropology. The processes of the sonic material are in a sense reversed: the “instrumental” aspects of the track are composed primarily of field recordings around my house; the drums and percussive sounds in particular were highly processed recordings of mundane objects in my home. These sounds balk at the primitivism that is often inscribed in Western fixations on African drumming. These seemingly “organic” sounds are placed in fluid relation to the more self-consciously mechanized and computerized sounds of synthesizers and electronic flourishes. The interweaving of these sounds and textures is meant to create sonic moments wherein the romantic distinction between “natural” and “mechanized,” or any other similarly naïve opposition, is troubled. The structure of the track is then driven by the programmed vocal changes of the sampled voice—of probably the second most famous popular African musician of the 20th century (at least in the West), Miriam Makeba.
Makeba’s voice is a recording, a record, so it remains a familiar referent for those of us who have interacted with 20th century African musics primarily through the exoticism of the recording industry’s genre, “World Music.” Yet this authenticated referent is also alienated by the audible material sounds of the record and the new musical context that her voice occupies and transforms. By antagonizing the Eurocentric/Afrocentric anthropological views that have created the documentary “Idea of Africa,” this track hopes to explore a set of practices by which this inherited “invention” might be sonically rethought and symbolically undone.