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Disclaimer: This post about the 2nd Plug Independent Music Awards was stuck in my drafts for two years because I felt it was a little too incisive and personal to post.  But right now I’m posting it because it was a damn good sentiment and well written at that.  We’ve come a long way since 2006 – networks are intermingling more intimately than a soggy night at the Transfer, and even the Grammies are saluting Hot Chip, Daft Punk, and the like now (motherfuckers aren’t even from the US…).  The following post serves as a marker of the times (and as proof that I was keen enough to point out the flaw of this award, and perhaps a little too selfish to help make it broader).

11/26/2006

So I’ve just been tipped on the PLUG Independent Music Awards, dedicated to — you guessed it — our fair and burgeoning scene of hipster cream, electro-folk nostalgia, rebellious Caucasian dreams. Supported by the oft self-effacing blogosphere, myspace, and massive multimedia festivals in dehydrated desert terrain. The two basic umbrellas: Music and Media, both of which are broken into ‘General’ and ‘Obsessive’ (clever indeed).

Familiar 2006/2005 winners include Bloc Party, Clap your Hands Say Yeah, Dangerdoom, Coachella, Wax Poetics. However, 2007 Nominees leave me puzzled; I am nearly clueless about many of these non hip hop/electronica names. And with an incredulous (and yet pitifully admissable) slap to the face of my electronic/dance/hip hop/deep-house/broken beat world, I realize how heavy indie rock/folk is held in the grand spectrum of a community that worships Coachella as its darling savior and Pitchfork as its godlike messenger.

[Sigh] Suffice to say that the breadth of musical knowledge shown by the PLUG Awards criminally ignores the efforts and evolution of independent (and largely electronic) soul, funk, jazz, broken beat, and deep house exhibited by Sonar Kollektiv, Ubiquity, BBE, Brownswood/Gilles, among others, including KCRW (up for best non-commercial station) and Wax Poetics (up for best Zine). Hasn’t it long been cliche to define Electronica/Dance with Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk, Crystal Method, Fischerspooner, Goldfrapp, Ladytron, etc? In my opinion, the bias is far too British and Northern European, while disappointingly deaf to German and even Japanese output. In some cases, when seen from the perspective that PLUG’s idea of ‘independent’ doesn’t include the artists that make it on KCRW and Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide (or only includes the big ones), then it would seem the bias is not British enough. On a related note, where the fuck is Red Bull Music Academy? That concept does more for music education than PLUG could ever aspire to.

The problem is that while the definition of independent music, heralded as “independently produced, marketed, consumed without major label support,” implies the exploration of new voices in music, it doesn’t account for the prevalence of independent production of traditional styles, nor does it cover the range of truly innovative non-techno rooted electronica. In straight up terms? Much of the electronica (as well as non-hip hop nominees) are Anglo/Aryan in development and subsequently consumed by these audiences, while much of jazz/soul and its electronic derivatives come from African/Latin roots, consumed by a more diverse audience. And while this is just a personal (historical) observation based on years of listening to music, studying its cultural contexts, and watching its branches of evolution, I have a suspicion it is very true, if even just from a socio-cultural-cognitive standpoint. The West has traditionally been a bastion of the mind, with the South and East revelling in spirit and soul. My suggestion is that PLUG’s nominations are musically limited because one realm of sound honestly does not hear the other.

You want examples? Breakestra produces the most authentic funk in the modern music scene to date, and is entirely independent of commercial labels; Quentin Harris, Masters at Work, Osunlade/Yoruba, the most deeply primal and soulful dance music; Vikter Duplaix, Dwele, King Britt, the most excruciatingly sensual and romantic.

And yet where is the recognition for these artists, let alone their disciplines? There isn’t any, because (I suspect, anyway) the indie set, powered by an eccentric youth devoid of an education in music’s roots, has not yet developed a broadly mature enough ear for beats like these. I said it: this shit is grown-up music and kids don’t have the soul for it. The closest that PLUG gets to the global (aka cultural) realm of music is Amp Fiddler and that was two years ago.

True, the indie kids get their roots from hip hop, no question, and they recognize 9th Wonder, Danger Mouse, Dilla, Madlib, and RJD2. The irony is that they don’t see where these men come from, what their sound has developed from, and how those original forms have evolved in the hands of SA-RA, Waajeed, Prefuse 73, Quantic, and 7 Samurai, to name a few mindblowing examples.

If independent music is about self-exploration, self-promotion, and self-preservation, then it should be a crime to leave out those whom innovate on a regular basis. Think about it: Rock, Folk/Americana, Punk, Hip Hop — these forms are more than 20 years old, and arguably didn’t even originate in the US. Jazz, Funk, Soul, rest in generations prior and parallel, and to include the former set and not the latter, would be inaccurate, inconclusive, and most of all, unjust. PLUG is an example of how independent music sleeps on itself.

The term “indie,” applied in its current context, (to me) refers more to the rock sound than hip hop, only including the latter in recent years when it was realized that hip hop hustled its shit into existence way before the dancerock-screamo set ever took to the stage. Rap and Hip Hop are the definition of “independent,” and lets not forget that. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that many of the children of the first Hip Hop generations went and funneled their upbringing to create their own styles, their own channels, their own success.

Yo La Tengo “I am not afraid of you and I will Kick your Ass”

I’m interested in discussing these with anyone, because cmon.. Girl Talk? I honestly don’t see/hear it. DJ, sure, their mixes are complex and party happy–mashups aint easy. But artist of the year, what? If anything it’s a nice guide to dive into new music. I’ll slsk some/all of these, pass em on so we can do some real balanced voting. Takers?

Music Categories:
(General)
Album
(New/Male/Female) Artist
Indie Rock/Metal/Hip Hop/Americana/Punk/Dance-Electronica/DJ/Avant Album

(Obsessive) (and if you can accurately vote in all of these, you ARE)
Artist
Live Act
Song
Record Producer
Music Video
Album Art/Packaging
Record Label
Live Music Venue
Music Festival

Media:
Music Website
Music Blog
Magazine
College/Non-Comm
Record Store
Music DVD

(Obsessive):
Zine (small distro mag):
Specialty Show (Commercial Radio)
Podcast
Internet-only Radio Station
Online (Terrestrial counterpart) Radio Station
Online Record Store

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