September 19, 2020

the cultural trips of sampling


Today Britney Spears as a pop icon is subjected to all kinds of cultural struggles: from the electrical storm generated by his flirtation with Marxism in an Instagram post until #FreeBritney, the network campaign that seeks to help the artist to gain legal and financial control of her life, also denying the deviant image that was built of her since 2007. Tamara Tenembaum explains it in “Britney Spears: insanity or rebellion, I document the constant coincidences between non-normative femininity and insanity throughout history.

Eminem and Beyoncé, a popularity built on snippets of '70s songs

Eminem and Beyoncé, a popularity built on snippets of ’70s songs

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Long before that, when his music career was booming and his construction as a pop icon reached its peak, “Toxic” was published. The song was featured on Britney Spears’ fourth album in 2003 and its corresponding video clip today accumulates more than 400 million views on YouTube. What many people may not know (despite the fact that the data is clearly indicated on Wikipedia) is that this song uses samples from a Bollywood song.


Samples produce cultural journeys between eras, styles and contexts: the producer of “Toxic” is the Swedish DJ and remixer Christian Karlsson (better known for being a member of Galantis). Karlsson took a fragment of “Tere Mere Beech Mein” (1981), a song that is part of the soundtrack of the movie “Ek Duuje Ke Liye” (We’re made for each other), a romantic tragedy that was a Bollywood hit in the 1980s.

Although the final result may seem like a hit that was incorporated into a homogeneous crowd, the truth is that behind many samples there is usually a music lover. Karlsson acknowledged in an interview A few years ago I was collecting vinyl of all kinds of music since I was 4 years old. Insider dissected the remix on Youtube at the beginning of the year, demonstrating the complexity behind the apparent simplicity of certain cultural products.

The entertainment industry is a gigantic copy machine and it is something quite integrated into the way of producing music. But that same industry is also a forgetful monster that continually celebrates authorship and artistic genius. It usually hides the traces of the copies that are produced between works of different periods or the mixtures between styles, thus hiding the connections that show how music is an endless story that is continually regenerated sometimes from remixes, versions and all kinds of copies.


In 2017, during Trump’s official visit to France, the national military band performed a mix of various Daft Punk songs. Macron was exultant and even kept pace with his head. Trump, bewildered, was awkwardly maintaining his diplomatic composure. This was a rather curious moment: an electronic music group elevated to the status of a national symbol in the middle of France’s National Day and with the military applauding to the rhythm of the music as if they were in a Primavera Sound bar.

The song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (2001) was included in the repertoire. And the funny thing is that in this exercise of communion imposed between cultures, what perhaps many of the attendees did not know is that the famous Daft Punk song uses a sample from “Cola Bottle Baby” (1978), a song by the Californian musician Edwin Birdsong .


And now Daft Punk.


“My whole life is a lie,” someone said jokingly in the YouTube comments on the Birdsong theme. And it is that on many occasions the exercise of borrowing a piece of music is morally penalized. Even when there is a legal framework to use the sample. What is not usually done less is to celebrate that two great songs can be a good contribution to culture while maintaining the contradictory binomial that a sampling usually implies: they look alike but they are different.

Like the famous quote (attributed to the 1925 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature Bernard Shaw, although no evidence of this has been found): “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange the apples, then both you and I will continue to have an apple each. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange ideas, then we will both have two ideas. ” This is the case with “Crazy” (2006) by Gnarls Barkley, which samples “II Carico d’Oro” (1968), a song by Italian composer Gianfranco Reverberi included in the western “The Hanged Clan”, starring Terence Hill.


And the famous song by Gnarls Barkley.


The connection of a remix is ​​not always between two recognizable works. Sometimes it has an unexpected origin.

At the beginning of the year, Billie Eilish acknowledged in a report that the origin of the base that appears sampled in “Bad Guy” occurred while walking with her mother through Sydney: “We were on a street next to the hotel waiting to cross and the traffic lights have this little button that sounds when pressed doop, doop… ”. Eilish then recorded a voice memo and sent it to her producer. In the note you can hear how the sound changes towards the one that indicates that you have to cross. Much more rhythmic and faster. And that sound is part of the song.

This process of deconstruction of a song shows us how many layers there are. As if each song were a tree: with its roots that move in multiple directions towards the bottom, sometimes colliding with others and sharing land. With its trunk, full of layers that represent different moments in history. With its branches and leaves, rising to the sky and reaching different and increasingly distant places.

As we have been counting on this seriesThis has always happened and we can understand it better since we have the ability to record music. As with “Love me tender” (1956) by Elvis Presley, who actually sample, “Aurea Lea”, a folk song from 1861. Music is an endless journey.


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