Influences; or, the beat my heart is skipping

I am discovering a new range of music, in large part because of some blog-reading I've been doing elsewhere about the development of reggae, dancehall, and ragga in Jamaica. I have hated reggae for a long time because of the fraternity guys who lived near me for half of my college career. My sophomore year, in particular, the boys who lived upstairs from me would open their beautifully leaded bay windows wide and turn their speakers to face the quad and blast Bob Marley while they lobbed lacrosse balls around. Certain sound frequencies can't be blocked out with ear plugs, pretty much no matter how high a rating they have, and reggae's heavy, insistent bass is among them. And so my eighteen-year-old self, self-righteous and pissed off, would storm out of the dorm and find somewhere else to be until the frat guys wandered off.

Those frat guys were only occasionally amusing. They weren't amusing when they poured stale beer out their windows so that it landed in my window-wells (I lived in the basement) on Saturday mornings. They weren't amusing when they started giving that stale beer to the poor dog who lived with them for awhile. However, they were excruciatingly amusing the night they decided to run towards the dorm, at full tilt, from the middle of the quad, hoping to be able to dive into their window--which was probably seven feet off the ground.

Because of their overall idiocy, I've completely blocked reggae from my realm of possibility for more than a decade. Now I'm starting to wonder whether I should give it another try. This evening, I opened the latest New Yorker to find Sasha Frere-Jones's article about reggaeton--basically, rapping in Spanish over a reggae beat, to produce a decidedly Latin hip-hop--and the Puerto Rican impresario Daddy Yankee. (I was a goner at the line, "Rather than stressing the first pulse in every measure, the music accents offbeats, and the difference is evident on the dance floor: reggaeton speaks to hips, hip-hop to heads and shoulders." As those of you who know me know, hip-hop already speaks to my hips, so this new stuff is bound to, I don't know, deliver impassioned monologues of love.) Who knew?! I mean, besides everyone.

And somehow, in the process of acquiring Daddy Yankee's Barrio Fino (2004), I happened upon Seu Jorge's "studio sessions" acoustic recordings of the David Bowie covers he did for The Life Aquatic. Which, in turn, led me to Jorge's Carolina (2002), which is simply incredible. I can't quite explain it: I think Jorge might be my first musician boyfriend, with his incredible voice and superlative basslines and truly extraordinary abs. Carolina is the best kind of album; the songs all blend together, but they're never motonous. Disco kisses reggae buddies up with something like a loungey rhumba leads into more funk heads right up to an easy-going samba. And if you haven't already heard the Bowie covers, hie your way to iTunes, or similar, and pick them up.

And all this newness from reading someone else's blog entry about a genre I didn't think I'd ever want to hear again, ever.

source for today's image: Mr. Bongo's Seu Jorge page.