Category: Hari Kunzru

  • JumpJim’s Southern Journey

    Some of the music JumpJim describes hearing on his trip to buy old blues records with Chester Bly — a trip that has many unintended consequences. JumpJim describes: Chester, knocking on doors, asking his monomaniacal question. Got any records? Under your porch, maybe? Pay a dime a piece. Here are some of the records the […]

  • Ridden by the Spirit(s)

    Down South I always went to church . . . those services were rich with music and emotion. I would sit caught up in the music and watch those people who had “got happy” or “got the spirit” jumping around all over the place . . . In the Black [church] . . . the […]

  • Captain Jack

    In the novel White Tears by Hari Kunzru, which is about the haunting of a 21st-century sound engineer by the ghost of a forgotten early-20th-century bluesman, the allegorical figure of “Captain Jack” appears early on, in a quoted song lyric. The lyric is from Son House’s “County Farm Blues” (1941): Down South, when you do […]

  • The Voices That Have Gone: Blues Ghosts

    The only known photograph of Delta bluesman Charley Patton. Hari Kunzru based his portrait of mid-twentieth-century collectors of early blues recordings on a loosely-knit real-life group of blues enthusiasts — made up almost entirely white men — who called themselves the “Blues Mafia.” The character of Chester Bly in particular was inspired by the legendary […]

  • Roll and Tumble

    White Tears begins with an epigraph: I rolled and I tumbledCried the whole night longWoke up this morningI didn’t know right from wrong The earliest recorded version of these lyrics are from Hambone Willie Newbern’s “Roll and Tumble Blues,” on a 1929 Okeh Records 78. Alan Lomax recorded Delta blueswoman Rosa Lee Hill singing a […]

  • Hauntological Remixing

    DJ Shadow’s 1996 Endtroducing was the first album produced entirely from samples, and, as such, is considered not only a landmark of instrumental hip-hop, but also one of the greatest albums of all time. What do you think makes it great? How does an album made up entirely of samples advance musical creativity and innovation? […]

  • Authenticity, part III: White Tears

    As you know by now, White Tears is the story (among other things!) of Seth, a young, white, college-educated sound engineer, who accidentally records a line from an old blues song while picking up ambient sounds in Washington Square Park. His business partner Carter, the scion of a wealthy family whose riches come from running […]

  • Authenticity, part II: Living Music Inspired by Ghosts

    When you hear a musical recording that’s scratchy and distant, you might naturally assume it’s old: a relic from the early days of sound recording. But what would modern music sound like were it subject to the same limitations that musicians faced in those days? That’s the question posed by The 78 Project, which gives musicians the […]

  • Authenticity (part I)

    The protagonist of Hari Kunzru’s 2017 novel White Tears, a young white recording engineer named Seth, describes days spent listening to music with his college friend, Carter Wallace: We worshipped music like [Lee “Scratch”] Perry’s but we knew we didn’t own it, a fact we tried to ignore as far as possible, masking our disabling […]