"Senegambia Rebel" remixes field recordings into surreal representations of times and places.
Leonard P. from Italy’s Voodoo Rebel record label spent a month in 2014 traveling through Senegal and Gambia to make field recordings of music, rituals, and ambient sounds. Then, he tasked DJs from around the world to create tracks from his source material, and the result is Senegambia Rebel—an album that uses the tools of dance music to make something that is ultimately trippy. Capibara is a Roman future bass producer whose “15” owes a lot to dub as the spacious soundscape is defined by a low, intermittent bass line, insistent, ticking percussion at the top, and two different vocal parts drifting in and out of the upper register. Staten Island’s DJ Reaganomics comes the closest to straightening out the source beats to make something dance floor-friendly with “Jola House.” A stringed instrument contributes a distinctive texture next to the familiar, metallic drum programming while a voice croaks out a punctuating beat.
The results could be heard in many ways. Perhaps we're hearing the triumph of DJ Culture as there is no place and no music it doesn't reach and nothing that producers can't remake into new music. Perhaps we’re hearing another instance of cultural imperialism, with producers remaking cultural products to fit modern pop tastes. I don’t tend to hear Senegambia Rebel that way, perhaps because the music is never made to conform to a rigid, club-oriented thump, nor do the producers present their tracks as African music. They're not offering a substitute; they're presenting a new hybrid inspired in part by indigenous musics and sounds.
I think it's more productive to consider these tracks as a sonic account of Senegal and Gambia that is more poetically accurate than we realize, or as Future Now moments, where we hear the intersection of traditional, physical tribes with the technological trappings of contemporary, metaphorical ones.