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Published: 2007/02/19
by Jesse Jarnow

Slow Down – Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad


"It's amazing what pandas can do these days," Julie said. It was Sunday. We were at the zoo. My legs were a bit sore. I'd been inside all week.

The bears didn't seem to care about the cold. "It's pretty good," I said. "Really, I like it. They're very evolved." I'd been really excited to see them. I'd seen their viral video, of course, but it was fuzzy. No pun intended. But I didn't care about that. Computer speakers could never really convey the bass, anyway.

So, we'd gotten up early, packed sandwiches and beers in paper bags, and took the bus to the zoo. It was cold, and I wore long johns. There was still a small crowd there to see the pandas. At first, all the musical equipment seemed totally out of place in the habitat. Even when the pandas had first come out, it didn't add up. They sat, munching languidly on bamboo stalks, until a trainer came and switched on amplifier. There was a large thwang of a reverb unit humming into gear. Sensing the vibrations, the bears padded over to the instruments and began to play. Maybe needless to say, they were miraculously graceful.

"I like this one," I said, "it sounds almost Hawaiian."

"Ah," said the guide, a bright-eyed college student in a uniform. "This one is called 'Sunshine Dub.'" He walked over to a family, lingering in the back.

"Do you think they've ever heard the Dave Matthews Band?" Julie whispered to me, even though there was nobody in earshot and the pandas were a good 20 yards away.

"Well, why not?" I asked. "I mean, it's pretty improbable that pandas would've heard dub to begin with. Why not dub and Dave Matthews? Besides, I kind of like that. They can write melodies. They’re not trying to sound too irie."

"Yeah," Julie agreed. "Some of the lyrics aren't so bad, either. I really liked that line about how 'just because you're naked doesn't mean you're sexy.' It kind of sounds like something Dylan would write, but in a good way."

We nodded along with the music. The bass wasn't bad, I thought, but it was nowhere near as devastating as what I'd hoped for out of recently militarized post-communist pandas playing dub at an American zoo. There wasn't enough reverb, either.

"These are the injustices of the world," I sighed to Julie.

"But they're still really good, especially for pandas. So maybe it's not dub. So what? I like some of these songs."

"Good," I said. "Because there's a CD you can buy."

"Yay," Julie said. That was one of our better Sundays that winter.

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