Crate Kings » Crate Digging » DJ Frank Digs Vinyl In West Africa

DJ Frank Digs Vinyl In West Africa

July 29, 2008

Truth be told, I struggled about whether or not this video should be posted as I take serious issue with its undertones.  Regardless, it’s an interesting video following DJ Frank as he travels through West Africa digging up wax.

[Respect to MT]

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Big g July 29, 2008 at 8:58 am

This vid is pure bullshit.

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Semantik July 29, 2008 at 9:09 am

Didn’t want to take it there, but I fully agree… I actually had an intense 45 minute IM conversation/debate prior to making the decision to post this.

Something about arrogant foreigners traversing West Africa for cultural artifacts make my blood boil. My full feelings about this would probably be better suited for a political based site though.

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dyllemma July 29, 2008 at 10:59 am

Sup Semantik?

Peace and respect you run a great site here. I check it everyday. Im curious about your opinions on this video. I know this is isn’t a political forum but would still like to know what you mean about the undertones. I personally dont have any issue with this vid. I mean i dont think its that great but i dont see the difference in going to west africa, japan or brazil to dig for records. Now that i think more about if dj frank’s intention was to exploit the music of this culture that would be real fucked up. I didn’t get that from the video though to me it seems like a guy who loves records going wherever he can to find some dope shit. however i didn’t watch it that closely…

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Semantik July 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

Alright, here’s the thing that really made me upset. In the beginning of the vid he starts speaking on lost music, vinyl, etc. and says,

“Many people here they don’t value it. People burn records because for them it’s an old format.”

Meanwhile, as he says this, there’s footage of a young child with no pants running past burning tree branches and playing with a tire on a dirt road!

Are people really burning their records simply because they don’t care about the format? He’s clearly going through neighborhoods with developing infrastructure, unpaved roads, and makeshift homes. Could it be possible that there are other, more pressing concerns and priorities than vinyl? Even in my relatively comfortable life, collecting records is a luxury that nowadays I only occasionally delve into.

I have no doubt about the sincerity and authenticity of his love for music, however, Frank comes across as callous in describing the attitudes of Africans for their cultural works. It’s presented as if Africans disregard their music and a foreigner is suddenly here to save this treasured material.

I also considered that I haven’t traveled to Africa in quite some time years and am judging a very small snippet of commentary, however, there are definite undertones to the comments made.

Again, I didn’t want to get too deep into it because this is really a conversation for another place. My apologies to those that were distracted by this… I usually try to keep the site mostly free from useless gossip and political discussion.

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haroon July 29, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Yeah I can see where you’re coming from. I can see the attempt to show it as a slum, backward place — even if subconscious. It’s the long legacy of “Orientalism” that Edward Said, Frantz Fanon and others have discussed — the point at which racism becomes so hidden that the practitioner may not even realize its presence.

That said, it’s a trailer. Perhaps he brings out the human aspects of the culture later on. Maybe this is a teaser to draw the common man into it.

If he were pushing a clear social or political agenda I’d probably be looking at it with a different lens. I think it is an arrogant statement though for him to say — oh, they don’t value these recordings, then show footage of a guy so into it that he grabs a guitar to play along.

But can an outsider or someone without extensive worldly knowledge do a better job? Maybe this is his first hands-on exposure to foreign culture. At any rate I’m interested in seeing the final product and, even with its faults, can appreciate the fact that he attempted to create it.

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richdirection July 29, 2008 at 1:26 pm

he’ll probably steal their rights, and you’ll hear this on a huge movie soundtrack, this is not about vinyl, but publishing. he’ll round up the owners and offer them $$$ for the publishing rights. that’s about it. whether it was Brooklyn, or East Africa; if its funky and old, these ‘kind’ of people will search for it and steal it. sample it, and it’ll be a huge hit, in London, and the people who make it, and their families, will know nothing of it, or benefit from it.

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bill cosby July 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm

woord. damn, these european crackers still pillaging africa for the black man’s soul, eh? when will yall learn? you can copy, imitate, expropriate, and you’ll never get it. they need cook that fool and keep yo’ soul brotha.

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Semantik July 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

@haroon
Fanon was the exactly the name that came to mind when I saw this. Hopefully this is just the result of a botched editing job on a quick trailer.

“But can an outsider or someone without extensive worldly knowledge do a better job? Maybe this is his first hands-on exposure to foreign culture”

Good point… we can’t be totally sure of his intentions. I just have a gut feeling it’ll end up being one of those all too familiar anthropological situations of an outsider viewing a culture close to the way a scientist looks at bacteria on a petri dish.

There have been other similar works that have brought about similar feelings. For example, the documentary about american collector Joe Bussard entitled Desperate Man Blues, where he traveled through poor Southern neighborhoods looking for records. Interesting documentary, but some very disturbing under the surface comments. This was a case where I decided it was better just not to post or publicize the movie rather than go on a rant.

@ dyllemma
“I dont see the difference in going to west africa, japan or brazil to dig for records”

Funny, I don’t get the same feeling from things I’ve watched or read about digging in Brazil or Japan. Most of the writing/commentary I’ve seen about those has been clear to mention that Brazilian & Japanese artists and their music are celebrated and valued within their own cultures. I haven’t seen them portrayed as simple, ignorant people.

@richdirection
I tend to agree with your analysis of the situation. It’s about something much bigger than merely collecting vinyl. This involves an intense combination of culture, business, and intellectual property rights. Tracking down the original artists for recording dates (and possibly other rare recordings) just wreaks of an ulterior motive. Then again, it’s always been a common practice to snatch up publishing on smaller works… business as usual.

Producer/DJ Fusion Ultd. has made it known that he does exactly the same thing. Is it any different because he’s an African-American artist doing the same thing with Funk and Soul? I personally don’t have an answer.

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richdirection July 29, 2008 at 2:54 pm

i think its fair, if the owner knows what its worth. talking to a poor wife in Africa, she doesn’t know what its worth to her and her kids if she keeps the rights and licenses it to a label.

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Rafferty July 29, 2008 at 3:02 pm

yeah, kind of tricky.

I noticed one contradiction where, as you mentioned, dude says “Many people here they don’t value it. People burn records because for them it’s an old format.” But then later on we hear about how they don’t want to lose these pieces of their history…?

Yeah it reminds me a little of some different white men and their interaction with some different non-white men in another time and place: specifically the trading of furs and pertinant survival information in exchange for coloured glass beads. “Here ya go, you little scamp!” *ruffles his hair playfully “You want measles with that?”

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Quartz July 30, 2008 at 1:09 am

I get what you’re saying here about the undertones but I don’t really think he is intending to be condescending or a prick.

I think its just the way he speaks and his manner that makes it seem that way. A lot of people travel out to Africa, especially Lagos in Nigeria to go and collect and find never heard gems. Soundway Records for example put out brilliant LP’s of never heard or forgotten tunes from Nigeria along with brilliant information on the artists and the country during that time period.

Without a lot of these people, these things wouldn’t be heard. I feel what you’re saying about outsiders but sometimes it takes an outsider to appreciate what we have on the inside, as we may take it for granted or not see it for how great it is.

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Cai July 30, 2008 at 6:48 am

peace my brothers peace…

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dyllemma July 30, 2008 at 7:04 am

yea, no doubt, i didn’t catch that when he said they dont value music. hes completely out of line to say something like that, not to mention that statement is completely inaccurate. how are you gonna say people in west africa dont value music!

when i said the thing about the i dont see the difference in going to japan, brazil thing i meant that no place is off limits to diggin in the crates: actually the point is going somewhere no one else goes. obviously the content of the crates/culture will vary from place to place and thats perhaps the most driving reason for choosing any particular spot.

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djm August 1, 2008 at 10:21 am

I agree the video comes across as culturally imperialist, but if you actually read some of the guy’s blog (http://voodoofunk.blogspot.com/) I think you get a better sense that he’s actually got his heart in the right place.

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dtrav March 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm

First visit here, in response to a search for DJFrank’s film. I came across his incredible afropop mixes awhile ago, and also spent time in his part of the world. Based on that, and extensive reading of his blog, I don’t believe he’s being exploitive at all. For an african to have a ‘blanc’ come to his home, and value and appreciate music he made in his youth, would be considered a huge complement and honor. And for an avg person to receive good money for something they considered useless, would also be very good. The music obviously fascinates him (me too!) and it’s that fascination, and not a sense of exploitation, that comes through to me. (BTW, re: burning records, sorry to say, for trash disposal they burn almost everything, batteries, tires &c.)

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