Ex Gets World Music Right

Ex in Ethiopia
Lets face it. When Western pop stars attempt to appropriate world music, the results are usually downright laughable — maybe even insulting in a fascist-liberal kinda way. Oh sure, some joker out here -- right this second -- is saying, "Hold on, dude. What about my man Paul Simon and all those South African drummers?" Ah, yes, Simon's Graceland LP from '86: That doesn't work 'cause his Occidental pop could exist just fine without the "tribal" sweetener, meaning Mr. One Trick Pony is just another colonialist. Instead of immersing himself in their culture; he simply pilfered it in order to make a splash on the Billboard charts — sorta like Samuel Dole asking Congress in 1894 to annex Hawaii so white farmers could continue to steal the islands' abundance of sugar cane. There does, however, exist one exception: the Ex, a radical, old-school punk outfit from the Netherlands. As it proved on Saturday night at the Grog Shop, the band reverses Simon's process. It raids punk's raw goods (aggressive dissonance, jagged percussion, and anti-authoritarian lyrics), incorporating them into world music. The results sound like Afrobeat funk grooves and Hungarian folks tunes injected full of screaming feedback, physical aggression, and political outrage. The Ex achieved this unique fusion (which can be heard on the disc Turn), not only by touring Africa, but by playing FREE CONCERTS in isolated African villages. Like writer Nate Cavalieri implied in his profile of the Ex, total cultural immersion just might be the most revolutionary statement a honky artist can make in 2006, when Western imperialism appears stronger than ever. Of course, that's a point for the academics to debate. But what cannot be denied is just how ass-shakin' the Ex's brand of world punk can be — a great fuckin' show. — Justin Farrar