Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Disco Dancer" Covers: Good for Dance Music In General

So I've been flirting with a fleeting interest in the freaky tribal hip hop of M.I.A.'s last album, "Kala" ever since it came out in August, and I think I'm now officially hooked. Despite hearing she's a dull, lifeless performer, despite my first exposure to the gunfire rhythm section of "Paper Planes" (which kinda freaked me out to be honest), and despite all of the off-putting hype, she's grown on me like a fungus, like athlete's foot if I were indeed an athlete.

Her sound is all over the map in so many ways--geographically, sonically, lyrically---that to track its cultural origins seems as tedious as long division; the Observer did a great job of recapping her globe-trotting recording sessions, though.

And then there's the familiarity of some of the songs. Specifically "Jimmy", which I just discovered is actually a cover of the only Bollywood film I've ever viewed in its entirety, 1982's "The Disco Dancer." I won't pretend to know that I understood anything about that film, my friend Gabriel played host to a viewing a few years back and he could speak volumes on it, I'm sure. I do recall that it involved an electric guitar capable of emitting electric shocks to people, and that there was a thrilling world disco competition.

Also, the choreography of that film was just mind-blowing. I didn't realize that the human body was capable of purposefully producing a graceful, rhythmic epileptic fit, in such a way that it comes across as both sexy and demure.

Here's the video of the song "Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja" that inspired M.I.A.'s cover:

I LOOOVE M.I.A.'s cover, but I wish she'd actually dance to give proper justice to this song, instead of using a Shiva getup to hide her lack of moves. Apparently M.I.A. danced to this as a little girl in Sri Lanka to entertain party guests, it's a wonder why she didn't break them out here:

I'm really glad she covered this song though, allowing the world of Bollywood music to clandestinely seep into the Western mainstream of "urban" pop. I feel like America has been lacking in the dance music department for far too long, and if this can inspire dancing, I am very excited. On a related note, I've been dying to take Indian dance lessons ever since watching this film, this is the only place on the internets where I was able to track an instructor in all of San Francisco. Who's up for this in July?


gjg said...

I saw your comment on my blog before I read this... man, M.I.A. hasn't quite grown on me yet. "Boys" and "Paper Planes" are pretty catchy, but something about the energy is kind of weird and not-quite-there. She just sounds a bit too comatose.

Anyway, I totally agree that she needs to beef up her dance moves, big time. And the arm-multiplying thing? Not feeling it... I mean, if she's going to participate in the stereotyping of her own culture, what'll be left for us Westerners to do?

amityb said...

Yeah yeah yeah, but I refuse to believe you would not shake your ass to her music if you did not recognize it immediately.

gjg said...

There's only one way to settle this, and that's with a dance party. Or potentially a dance battle a la West Side Story.