Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hip-hop Competencia

After funk night at Makena, one of the girls that I met gave me a call to let me know that there would be an underground hip-hop comepenticia then fiesta going on that evening at around 10.

Unfortunately, (and Fortunately of course) that evening, I was singing with a friends group called Mukele (check them out!) A very instrumental world-beat funk band, all of the vocals were hooks and improvisation.


It was a fun and intimate show, without rehearsal. Their primary female vocalist, Gaby, has an incredible ability to harmonize and improvise! Although I enjoy singing a lot as a thing in the shower, it really made me want to work on learning some of the basics of voice!

My roommates of course were in the audience, but my two friends from Dock Sud showed up suspiciously, and ridiculously late. J

My roommate Emilse and I are constantly joking about our differences in style. I like my men “morocho, o con color”, BROWN skinneded and super ethnically ambiguous, speaking to me in Spanish or Portuguese.

Her boyfriend is a pale-faced Englishman with blue eyes, whose accent has marked her even when she sings 60’s soul songs with me.

I research hip-hop, I like to sing R&B, soul, funk. She likes indie rock, and whiney Argentine boy rock. Ok, I’m not giving her much credit, but you get the point.

Luckily when I got out of the concert, and had my fill of free drinks from the bar, the hip-hop competencia had barely started. In the back of a bar, that looked like a warehouse we all entered with curiousity. What was Buenos Aires offering?

All of us more than a little bit curious about the hip-hop scene, we entered and were immediately inundated with the energy of the scene. Well, it was either the energy of the underground crowd—or it was smell of aerosols burning our brain cells. On either side of the wide club there were scaffoldings full of taggers posted like construction workers, painting, spraying, designing, and admiring. Flor, my friend pulled me to the middle of the club where the dance battles were happening. All of us just went into swivel mode, trying to take in the colors of the atmosphere, the youth formed into crowds getting amped up to dance, and trying not to huff too much paint.

Then, I was sucked into every photographer’s nightmare—ok let’s say amateur photographer, because real photographers I’m sure don’t get into this type of trouble.

All of this art, energy, excitement and hip-hop…and my roommate hadn’t charged my battery, and hadn’t erased photos from the memory card.

I looked around for fellow videographers and photographers frantically. It seemed there weren’t too many people interested in taking the pictures. The first kid I met was strapped with a D60.

I gave him props for his camera choice, then promptly went back to my mission of searching for a videographer.

And then I saw him, under the scaffolding. What was that that glistened in the dark light? It was the black shell of a Panasonic Lumix DMC….the EXACT same camera that I own!!!!

For real though, out of two cameras in an entire building, the exact same semi-professional semi-point and shoot camera that I own?

After doing a bit of a thank you dance to the universe, I explained to him my situation. He promptly handed me his full battery, and his empty memory card and I went to work.

As the grafitti artists put their finishing touches on their pieces, the dance battles started. A table of three judges (veterans in the hip-hop community) sat at the foot of the dance floor ready do give their expert opinion

All those who weren’t hanging in the stands of the scaffolding formed a circle around the dancers, and each would come break into the center for a rapid-fire one minute solo battle.When the beat switched the next dancer jumped in for their kinetic rebuttal. The judges had a quick second to deliberate then they would shout an “un, dos, tres” and each would point in the direction of their favorite. The winning dancer would move onto battle the winner of the following series.

They had competitions in freestyle, dancehall, breaking, pop-locking, and krumping. In the fast paced competition, the technical highlights were definitely in the bboys. Although the photographer warned me that there was another Porteno cat who could out break all of these kids, there was definitely some real talent. Super-de-duper head spins, flips, a lot of acrobatic movement. What was missing though it seemed was the differenciating style. Most b-boys were lacking in their top-lock, in their transition, and in the attitude that made me crush on so many of my friends older brothers growing up—the shamelessly smooth style.

But what the scene lacked in originality they definitely supplanted with energy. My two friends stood on the sidelines mouths wide, heads bobbing back and forth, chiming in with the crowd with their own ‘ooooooohs”.

The Dancehall session was equipt with an androgynous gent with all the attitude in his hips, gyrating his booty so fast that it made me dizzy (again, could’ve been the paint fumes). A girl who I think learned krumping from watching a few episodes of Community (SEE VIDEO) but from my point of view, it was an exciting starting point for two reasons.

1.) The hip-hop community of Buenos Aires is definitely in it’s infancia, it’s not like many Latin American communities who aggressively latched on to hip-hop like Chile, or Columbia. Buenos Aires, the larger part of the marginalized population is more comfortable with cumbia villiera—a form of similar based music that has many of the characteristics of a reggaeton. But, the two have a very, very, close relation, and I imagine more and more the two moving together and getting closer and closer to marriage. BUT, the community is very, young, excited youth, looking for their form of expression.

2.) There is definitely a lot of Afro presence within the hip-hop community. The African immigrants always posted up in Lost are part of the scene, but it also really excites me that Afro-Argentines, and a lot of the mutted and mixed kids of Buenos Aires have latched on to this type of dance and expression.

We all cut out of the joint around 4am. As I passed the photographer mis datos, I noticed his hijo de puta girl/friend rushing me, and encouraging me not to give him my information. In her rush to get him out of my sight, I left without getting his information.

And sadly, I have yet to hear from him…I can only imagine how the girlfriend disposed of my information. So Venezuelano, if you’re out there….give me my pictures & footage back!!!

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