by carl wilson

Chaining Miss Daisy (Notes from All Over)

Above, the foreign ministers of France and Germany - Bernard Kouchner (who was one of the founders of Medicins Sans Frontieres, among much else) and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in the process of recording a song to promote integration, in both the European-constitutional and the Islamic-immigrant senses, 2 da yout'. I can hear you wincing from here, but the ministers merely join in on singing the chorus of "Deutschland" but the rest is by German-Turkish musician Muhabett and 17-year-old Sefo in a style they're calling R&Besk; (a fusion of pop-R&B; and Turkish Arabesk, sung in German) - as you can hear here, it's none too shabby. You might even call it a fine case of "musical miscegenation." And while it's easy enough to make jokes, it's pretty cool to me that these politicians are going out of their way to take an interest in the street and pop music of marginalized Arab young people in Europe. Better that politicos sometimes embarrass themselves by embracing art clumsily than that they demonize and censor it. (Has anyone heard the Hugo Chavez album?)

Speaking of miscegenation, Franklin Bruno's contribution to the 33 1/3 blog series at Powell's reminded me that his book on Elvis Costello's Armed Forces is, quite subtly, one of the more subtle, thoughtful takes on indie-style rock culture and race out there, taking Costello's "Columbus incident" as a case study in the problematics of appropriation, cultural distance and "blue-eyed soul." I also liked his point about first encountering a lot of black American music through UK post-punk covers. It reminded me how I first learned about reggae because a lot of 1980s Canadian new-waveish and even folkie musicians (like their US and UK counterparts) - particularly ones from Toronto - were using reggae rhythms. It was only later I understood they hadn't just picked out reggae as a cool sound they liked but because, like London, Toronto had a substantial Jamaican community. Indeed, my tastes in reggae to this day pretty much stick close to the "golden age" artists that most influenced that generation, like Jimmy Cliff, Culture, Burning Spear, etc., plus dub. (Due to bad-context overexposure it's rare for me to find circumstances where I enjoy listening to Bob Marley but that's no slight on the Wailers.) I've never managed to focus more than fleeting attention on dancehall/ragga. That's one of the questions that's come up in passing in recent discussion - how often are cross-cultural influences picked up secondhand rather than from, as it were, primary sources, and is it a bad thing when listeners go no further or, for example, musicians borrow elements that way without returning to source? (In some ways isn't that broken-telephone effect a possible force for good mutations as well as bad appropriations?)

There's a lot else in the Powell's series worth reading, by the way, including recent reading lists from Mike McGonigal and Douglas Wolk, or today's Erik Davis joint on guilty pleasures, Amon Amarth and weightlifting.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, November 13 at 2:58 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

COMMENTS

"...how often are cross-cultural influences picked up secondhand rather than from, as it were, primary sources, and is it a bad thing when listeners go no further or, for example, musicians borrow elements that way without returning to source?"

I used to rail that kids needed to go to original sources to learn about culture, but I've given up on it. The internet is a gigantic source of information but at the same time it reduces the attention span because it provides so much information it's distracting. Besides, ghetto culture all over the world seems to be about getting as much culture as they can get from any source whatever, blending it all as quickly and efficiently as possible, and producing art that is danceable, finger-pointing, lamenting, sexy, angry, and quite smart. Case in point: hip hop comes from various american [yankee and latin and caribbean] black music sources. Does it matter to the average African MC that he or she doesn't know it's roots in reggae and funk? Mohawk kid on a reserve learns blues because his dad and uncle played it and doesn't bother to listen to Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters records? Iraqi girl screams her throat raw without ever once picking up a Slayer album? [i've been waiting for a girl in a hijab to enter western pop culture in a serious way, either through metal or hip hop...god forbid it's new country though] I think it's all in context, and whether or not you like it. I love King Cobb Steelie and how they use dub [and south asian drones and singing] but Bedouin Soundclash and their reggae-lite irritate me.

Posted by andrew on November 17, 2007 10:06 PM

 

 

Uh, yeah, sorry, slip of the brain.

Posted by zoilus on November 15, 2007 6:47 PM

 

 

"...the street and pop music of marginalized Arab young people..."
Wait a sec - didn't you just say the artists are Turkish-German?

Posted by michelangelo on November 15, 2007 5:17 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson