Tiger Dance? And a Review of Skrillex and Damian Marley’s “Make It Bun Dem”
Houseguest: (Has no idea how he got in here) Why don’t tigers dance?
Me: (Has no idea how he got in here) I think my mother told me why once.
Houseguest: What did she say?
Me: (Glaring) Come up to my upper level.
Here I am upstairs. I rifle through a stack of CDs on the floor.
Houseguest: Look, it’s raining nails outside.
Me: (Not buying it) Sure. Sure.
Houseguest: No, really. Look.
So it is. Raining nails in heaven. Did someone get into head office’s weather control system? Terrific clattering peals break out as the nails come down wave on wave onto the roof.
Me: Lucky there’s no strong southwestern wind.
Houseguest: (Confused. Shuffling slowly toward the exit.) I can see what you mean.
There it was.
Me: Got it!
Houseguest: What’s that?
Me: It’s dance music, my friend.
Houseguest: Tigers don’t dance.
Me: (Putting in the CD) Let’s do this.
The roof creaked, moaning like a distressed dog. The beams began to crack. When the CD began to spin, there was a slight breath of wind. Nails falling from the sky bent and tumbled acrobatically through the air. Where there was constant clatter there was now a confused tangle of noises. Many of them originating from my kickin’ stereo system.
Houseguest: Should we go down to the basement for shelter?
Me: Why worry? If this is heaven, then we can’t die or feel pain, right? I mean, how many times have you slept with parts of your body in your stomach this week?
Houseguest: None. I gave up on that years ago.
Me: So it seems you’ve been here a long time.
Houseguest: Yes, you could say that. I was shot and killed by a fur trapper in the Russian wilderness over two centuries ago.
Me: What do you do now? What fills your infinity?
Houseguest: I often visit other tigers. You’re the first one I’ve met with a house, rather nice one by the way. You also have a strong Canadian accent. Keep that up. Also, I meditate on the meaninglessness of heaven.
Me: (Secretly admiring) That’s odd. No one else talks like that up here.
Houseguest: No. This is why I came over here. You’re supposed to be the doubter.
Me: How did you know that?
Houseguest: I’ve been reading the book.
Me: So I’m not the only one with an avatar on Earth. Welcome to my house! I should have been more hospitable. I would have…well, I can’t remember precisely when you came in.
Houseguest: I’ve been doubting the same things. It took me far longer, but I think there is something sinister here. We’re not humans so we have no scriptures, but I suspect something has gone wrong.
Me: On a cosmic level.
Houseguest: (Wincing asthe nails fall down on the roof) Can we at least get one floor down? Are there no windows we can watch the storm from?
Me: I think the storm ended.
Houseguest: What’s making that noise, then?
Me: That’s the song.
The last nails clink down onto the ground. Tigers tiptoe and gallop–lightly–outside, fearing the nails. Some of the tigers are astonished to see drips of blood crusted over on the surface of the nails.
Review: “Make It Bun Dem”
I understand the hatred for Skrillex. Well, not completely. I live in a realm without hate, where there is only ethereal and Elysian joy. Choke me with a sycamore tree, I can’t be that dishonest.
Damian Marley is the son of documentary subject and reggae prophet Bob Marley. Skrillex is a young man named Sonny John Moore (which sounds a lot like the handle of a reggae Rasta, now that I think on it). The latter of these two gentlemen has three Grammy awards and a load of record sales. He earned these in a rather roundabout way: he’s an electronic dance music DJ and producer whose music attracts an assortment of headbangers and clubby young males. His rise was meteoric. The backlash has been seething. People love to hate this guy, and maybe some of them have a good reason. His explosive and sharp-toothed dubstep/electro hybrid music is polarizing, taking the heavy metal paradigm of guitar playing and applying it to synths.
“Make It Bun Dem,” is a title that tells us volumes about the content behind it. First, it takes the sounds of reggae and American dubstep and crushes them together. More truthfully, it appropriates a reggae rhythm with some genuinely great production and then slashes it fatally with an avalanche of jagged beeping.
The beat has this hypnotic and danceable quality. There is a sort of audible fuzz hovering around the bass-kick, the staccato reggae guitar sound is there, though it sounds more like an organ. Damian Marley spills his voice in brief ragga bursts and fits well in the mix and has a suitable fiery quality. And, hey, if you enjoy Skrillex’s abrasiveness and also like to groove to reggae, there might be a place for this song in your skinny, bony human body. As for this tiger, I won’t be pulling this one out of the rifling stack much. I think it sears my sensitive ears too much for me to focus on how well the beat accomplishes its work. I hope that playing this song through speakers will yield better results. Listening to it alone is just no fun, and that’s what this song is aiming for.
Verdict on this one: not bad, but it’s no nailstorm.
On a music history level, this collaboration has some elements worth examining. First, dubstep originated from dub, which is itself a reggae production style. The dancefloor music of twenty-first century America is more compatible than Jamaica’s pop music than you might expect. They both are ultimately trying to get you to shake it, and since electronic dance music is fundamentally inclusive, it can incorporate beats from any musical form, no matter the geographic origin.
The great promise of electronic music lies in its expansive and inclusive character. Computers can generate an infinity of sounds, and even less immediately palatable styles like American dubstep can always be spun by an innovative DJ into something great. This song is not the one to do that, and I like what it stands for and what it tells us about how music is made these days more than the music itself.
Still, as I said, not bad.