Photo by Ian Witlen
Ultra Music Festival at Bicentennial Park, Miami
Saturday, March 27, 2009
Better than: Ninety-nine percent of the acts at Ultra.
Making fun, party music is a difficult thing to do. No, seriously. You can either go the obviously route and create straight-up track about partying (i.e. most of LMFAO's catalog), but where's the fun in that? Part of an artists responsibility to their craft is pushing the limits and introducing new sounds.
That's perhaps why when Major Lazor -- Switch and Diplo -- released their debut, Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do, I was instantly floored. I even picked it and its summer anthem "Pon De Floor" as the best thing released in 2009. But in the end it is simply just party music, but with a huge twist. Switch and Diplo mix traditional dancehall and Jamaican riddims with electro beats. It shouldn't work but it does.
As a live performance, Major Lazer works even better. Switch and Diplo take the backseat allowing MC/dancer Skerrit Bwoy and his female counterpart to literally steal the show. Major Lazer's album includes a long list of contributors include Santigold, Nina Sky, Amanda Blank, Vybz Kartel, Mr. Lexx, and more. None of them were missed on Saturday as Skerrit Bwoy and backtracks took care of most of the vocals.
Switch and Diplo's role was purely as conductors of the Major Lazer vehicle. They never stepped from behind the decks. Still, they mashed up tracks such as "Hold the Line" and "Keep It Goin' Louder," along with popular dance song's like Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction," which surprisingly makes for a great dancehall track.
The obivous crowd pleaser was "Pon De Floor," which everyone in the crowd raised their foam laser gun hands (provided by Major Lazer, of course), and dance furiously to the beat of the song.
You can accuse Switch and Diplo, two white men, of appropriating another aspect of black culture, but if you had witnessed the live show Saturday, you would have seen two men glady taking a step back while giving a Jamaican staple a new twist. Yes, this is dancehall for hipsters, but it's fun.
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Personal Bias: I literally almost lost a friend after he took a long time to give me back my copy of Major Lazer's debut -- that's how much I love the album.
Random Detail: Jamaican dancehall dancing is dirty -- wondering if there is a class somewhere to learn some moves.
By the Way: Diplo did an amazing surprise guest set at Bar Friday night, which was completely free to whoever showed up.