Wednesday, February 24, 2010

But Is It Music Misuse?

An emergency phone call came in Sunday evening as I was peacefully enjoying a night off from the household Olympics obsession.

"Quick! Run to the TV! You have to see these horrible ice dancing costumes!" urged DJ Blanche. So run to the living room I did, just in time to catch the multicolored rags the Russian ice dancing team called the "Aboriginal Original" as Blanche accused them of blatant misuse of Hungarian gypsy music. Hopefully, she'll write in with more of her misgivings about the whole multi-culti ice dancing mash up mish mash and I can present that to you in this space.

Yikes! so many ways.

For this reporter...there's a reason I ignore the ice dancing. Hate the costumes and cheesy moves and big fake smiles. Yech! Where is the class of Shen and Zhou when we need it?

But the incident has caused me to muse on that whole big issue of (TAH-tum) cultural appropriation. When is it stealing? When is it sampling? What's respectful and what's not? Is it better to give credit where credit is due or is that insulting the intelligence of your audience? Or maybe it's the job of those websites that list all the songs sampled in various tunes.

Here's DJ Blanche on round 2.
I can't believe more wasn't made of the inappropriate music accompanying the Fauxborigine costumes last night. I'd have liked to have seen the looks on the faces of various Hungarian musicians. Hey, hey! Wait a minute! That music's not from Australia, it's from Hungary!

Things were of a higher caliber tonight, but oh, that tired, tired music. If rules are going to be enacted, how about outlawing any more use of "Phantom of the Opera" and "Ave Maria" for the next century?

Setting aside the "tired, tired music" issue for the time being, I do have to wonder about how Russian ice dancers represent traditional folk culture with Hungarian Gypsy music mashed over a didgeridoo sample and pseudo Aboriginal costumes? I mean, really. What were they thinking? "Oh here, this is primitive sounding/looking?" Aboriginal artists and leaders weren't so into the look. People were pissed! More people were more pissed!

It's supposed to represent "a melange of ethnicities."


So. Is that your cultural appropriation then? Who gets to decide? It's my culture and you're copying me and I don't like it? You're "stealing" our stuff because you're too educated/not educated enough/ not from here/have more power/blah blah blah.

Can any cultural anything be off limits in the age of You Tube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter?

Did De La Soul rip off Steely Dan's culture on "Eye Know" from Three Feet High and Rising?

Just for some throwback fun, here's a De La Soul "Three is the Magic Number" vid. What does it all mean?

As a consumer mostly of this thing we're calling global music, I don't care where it comes from and what's mixed into it, as long as it rocks. The best music often comes from the culture clashes. French/North African. German/Turkish. Polish/reggae. Brazilian/Techno.

Now, obviously there are well done mixes and there's half-assed crap. There's slapping an unimaginative beat over samples of something "primitive" or "ethnic." Then there's the high powered techno of Recycler (not just because they have the best remix sampling a Jew's harp EVER! 1998's "Khomuzedric") or the classy remixes of DJ Click.

Are DJ Delores' remixes intrinsically better because he's a Brazilian remixing Brazilian rhythms and Click is a French guy using South Asian and Gypsy music? M.I.A. rips off everybody's culture - - and everybody respects her.

Would Dengue Fever's music be cultural appropriation if singer Chhom Nimol wasn't Southeast Asian? Is Chicha Libre not respectful because none of the guys are from Peru? Is Antibalas ripping off Fela? Is it OK for Pistolera or Grupo Fantasma to play cumbias because there are Latino musicians in the bands but not OK for Brave Combo to work some cumbias in with their polkas? Are musicians from countries other than Poland appropriating the polska?

Enough already.

How could I take sides in the cultural appropriation wars? It's too late. Everything is out there for everyone to see and hear and taste. The best all of us can do is learn from and respect each other. Cross pollinate. Keep the tunes coming.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Ah, but remember those ice dancing costumes when Halloween 2010 comes around.