Deconstructed Genre via Hybridization


  1. “Fission Core Fluid”, HHY and the Kampala Unit, Lithium Blast, 2020, Uganda
  2. “Glad You Came My Way”, Wayne Wonder, No Holding Back, 2003, Jamaica
  3. “Dreaming”, Ashaye, Dreaming (Single), 1994, England
  4. “Saying Everyday Sayings (Static Vinyl Version)”, Chess Moves and DDouble Impact, Saying Everyday Sayings (single), 2021, England
  5. “Om Shanti”, Alice Coltrane, Divine Songs, 1987, United States
  6. “Less Al Thulatha”, Hany Mehanna, Music For Airplanes, 2021, Egypt
  7. “Intro”, Ms. Nina, Perreando Por Fuera, Llorando Por Dentro, 2019, Argentina
  8. “Shobo”, Csso, Sounds of Sisso, 2017, Tanzania
  9. “Frogville (MK Ultra)”, MIKE, Disco, 2021, United States
  10. “Eva”, Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti, Robson Jorge e Lincoln Olivetti, 1982, Brazil

In many ways, genres direct the way we understand and listen to the music we engage with. Ask anyone what they listen to, and they more than likely will respond with a handful of genres they see their music as being a part of. Furthermore, with streaming platforms dominating the way people consume, people often find new music by searching through playlists that fall under a specific category. This all makes sense considering music is primarily distributed through the big capitalist forces that are record labels. The consuming public thus is potentially informed by the ways labels present its classification, with the underlying intent to reach as big of an audience as possible. This on the one hand can make music consumption easier but also limit our understanding of its full context and nuance. When genres are too broad, they “lump[ing] together musics that bear tremendous differences in history, style, aesthetics, and meaning, as well as degree and strategy of hybridization” and as a result “obscures, rather than clarifies” (Zheng 2010) the music it is intending to categorize. When genres are treated narrowly, they can act as barriers that treat innovation and new sounds like a bad thing. My intent with this playlist is to offer songs that use hybridization to create music that sounds unique to itself and thus challenges concepts of genre. The songs have elements of many genres but at the same time don’t fit neatly under a specific one and as a result, belong to many genres at once and create their own genre via having their own sound.

I start my playlist with HHY and the Kampala Unit’s song “Fission Core Fluid.” The song acts as an instrumental opener to the playlist before delving into more traditionally structured songs with hooks, choruses, etc. The group, from Kampala, Uganda, described themselves on their Bandcamp page as a “futuristic exploration of a fresh, yet submerse territory in music mixing up dub, techno, traditional drumming and elements of trance over ghostly and unnerving cinematic passages (Kampala Unit).” The song and group, which include youth activist Florence Lugemwa, exemplify the use of hybridization for semi-political purposes. By combining traditional drumming styles along with sci-fi-like spacey synths, electronic bass, and saxophone, a dystopian vision of the future is presented that is rooted in traditional culture with clear outside influences. The output sound is clearly unique to the picture being evoked but also doesn’t fit snug in a single genre.

The next song, “Glad You Came My Way,” is a transition from the dark opening track. This and the next three songs present examples of the use of hybrid forms of music using synthesizers to evoke different atmospheres. Wayne Wonder began his career as a reggae and dancehall artist. He became popular in Jamaica after songs featuring production from legendary dub producer King Tubby. As his career progressed, he started to include different styles in his music (“Wayne Wonder 2021). On this track, Wayne Wonder’s roots in dancehall are apparent in the riddim-like drum grooves but also incorporate very smooth synths, r&b singing, and a pop music progression. Together, the song creates its own form of a dance track.

“Dreaming” compliments the r&b influences apparent in the last track. Ashaye began his career in an r&b scene. He was also around a lot of soul and reggae bands and briefly sang for a jazz-funk band. After years into his career, he became interested and involved with techno and jungle scenes in the UK (“Dreaming Numero). Drawing from these influences, he created “Dreaming” and its jungle remix. This song contains the slow beat, piano chords, and singing style of an r&b song along with the heavily reverberated vocals of a dancehall track, airy synths of techno, and on the jungle remix, incorporates a breakbeat. The original mix feels like it could be played live in a dance club, especially because of the synths and vocals, but creates a very different mood from most dance music with its slow tempo and soul and r&b influences.

“Saying Everyday Sayings (Static Vinyl Version)” picks up the speed from the last track. Spoken word artist DDouble Impact takes a new approach to rap from any common style; he raps a bunch of common sayings as the title suggests. Though there is clear inspiration from rap with the rhythmic delivery of the sayings, the content and delivery create a departure from traditional ways of rapping. As a result, it feels like its own style. The beat further emphasizes the outside nature of the rap genre with a loop of wobbling synths and very little of a beat.

The fifth track, “Om Shanti” pairs well with the last track with its deep and lush synths but is at a slower tempo than the previous track. It was made in a period of Alice Coltrane’s career after her husband’s death, which made her become more spiritual and intensify her studying Hinduism. The song incorporates chanting that draws from variations of Vedic ceremonies that she would perform. Though Coltrane performs only a small amount of synth to create a deep atmosphere alongside her bare yet emotionally striking singing, the combination is innovative. She combines a religious form of music with electronic sounds and in the process creates a new realm for healing (from her loss) and spirituality.

“Less Al Thulatha” comes next, complementing the hybrids of spiritual music heard in the last track. Hany Mehanna made music from a young age in Egypt and went on to score several movies and TV series, which this song is a part of. His Sufi father influenced his understanding of music as transcendental and the growing popularity of instruments like the synth both contributed to his sound. Mehanna’s style involved mixing Arabic maqams with avant-garde electronic psychedelia. The blend in styles creates this track which has a dance-like groove in its drum loop, a pulsating hypnotic synth in the background, and a string-sounding synth playing maqams. Together, the song challenges the norms of the styles it takes influence from.

The next track, “Intro”, has a more modern electronic edge to it. Ms. Nina is an Argentinian artist who plays music that takes influence from reggaeton and trap. On this track she combines a reggaeton-style beat with sound effects that sound like sci-fi gun sound effects from a movie, giving it a futuristic edge. Her vocal delivery is reminiscent of rapping but also something very different. There are passages where she speaks and then it breaks into a repeated sample of her saying “Cucu.” The sample is played over and over to the point where it feels like one of the instruments in the song and overall creates very distinct energy to the track.

“Shobo” uses vocal sampling in a similar way and continues the upbeat energy as the last track. Stemming from an electronic scene in Tanzania, Csso on this track uses drums and synths loops in a similar fashion as some form of techno. However, everything is sped up much faster than is common in techno. Csso is a relatively new project. Their DIY quality exemplifies how in the age of the internet, thanks to platforms such as Soundcloud, music is becoming less bound by location and can take influence from many scenes all over the world. In a sense, the internet has created its own scenes that overall challenge the notion of genre in style and concept as something that is bounded by location.

The ninth song “Frogville (MK Ultra)” connects to the past two songs in its use of vocal samples, though here it is incorporated into the instrumental MIKE raps over. While sampling is not new to rap instrumentals, there is more going on here. MIKE creates a beat that is cloudy, sounding like it is being played underwater. It is cut in with sampled vocal groans and a voice that says “yeah, just like that” in a similar style to some sort of slow dance or techno music. The drum pattern is also very skeletal and diverts from most common beats used in rap and trap. The irregular beat creates a space that feels outside of rap but clearly sits close by.

I end the playlist with “Eva” because it is a song that is smooth, has a happy tune, and leaves things on an overall uplifting note. Robson Jorge was a prominent, yet semi-behind-the-scenes, figure in the popular music coming out of Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s. Taking clear influences from soul, jazz, and funk, Jorge creates a piece here that feels like the opening to a funk track. It moves forward with its disco-like drums and his casual humming through a vocoder. However, it never breaks out into a faster piece of dance music or has a real build to something it feels like it is hinting to. While it has elements of funk, the piece is much more atmospheric and relaxed.

This playlist shows that rather than the way genres are marketed, approaching new music as not inherently belonging to a genre allows us to better appreciate the nuance it offers to its sonic foundations. This is not to say genre serves no purpose (they can provide cultural context), but rather that they are boundaries that constrain music to certain areas, which sometimes are not fully defined. In the process of labels and consumers insisting on labeling music as being part of a genre, it can take away from fully appreciating the music.


Max is a current second-year in the college with an undecided major. He enjoys seeing live music in his free time.



“Dreaming.” Numero Group. Accessed December 10, 2021. 

Zheng, Su. 2010. “The Formation of a Diasporic Musical Culture as a Site of
Contradiction.” Chapter 2 in Claiming Diaspora: Music, Transnationalism, and Cultural Politics in Asian/Chinese America, Oxford University Press, pp. 34

“Wayne Wonder.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, October 23, 2021.