Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Afro Indie

I just read this very interesting article in The Age online written by Melbourne writer, label-boss and muso Guy Blackman entitled "Cutlural Copyright". In it he talks about the new (but naff) tag Afro Indie which is being used to describe the music of bands like Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer and Ruby Suns (pictured above and featured on my latest podcast). Guy acknowledges that musical appropriation "is intrinsic to modern life", and that tapping into the influence of African music is nothing new but still asks the pertinent question:

"when you appropriate this music, do you owe a debt to its originators?"

He goes on to argue that yes, you kinda do, but that some elements of the self proclaimed 'afro-indie' scene don't go out of their way to pay a debt or acknowledge the political nature of the music they are referencing. In contrast to previous generations of musicians (Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, some of the white English bluesman in the 60s) who took up not only the sound of marginalised musicians from the US, Africa and the Caribbean but also championed their political causes. Of the Ruby Suns he says:

"Then there's the nominally American Ryan McPhun, who has spent much of this decade in New Zealand, but whose band the Ruby Suns head into African territory on second album Sea Lion, to be released by US indie giant Sub Pop in March. For McPhun, the connection is personal - he wrote tracks including Ole Rinka and the cheesily named Kenya Dig It? while visiting his father and Zimbabwe-born stepmother at their Kenyan home in 2006."

More of the article here.

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