As for Vampire Weekend, the newest kids on the Afro-indie block, their adoption of West African and Madagascan musical elements seems deliberately apolitical. "There are certainly going to be a lot of people that listen to our music and they couldn't care less about that stuff," says drummer Chris Tomson, who met his bandmates as students at Columbia University, a prestigious Ivy League college in Manhattan's moneyed Upper West Side.
Despite their protestations, Vampire Weekend are undeniably provocative, and arguably offensive. Their preppy image and campus-based lyrics invoke connotations of rare privilege, while musically they mix their clean Sunny Ade guitars with a heavy dose of Weezer-style nerd rock. They describe their music as "Upper West Side Soweto", and filmed the video to first single Mansard Roof aboard a yacht on the New York Bay. Their debut self-titled album (released last month on influential British label XL Recordings) includes a song entitled Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.
But it seems the past decade or so of conservative rule in the West, along with the progressive dilution of independent music culture into the diminutive, apolitical genre that is indie, has divorced many young artists from the larger ramifications of their music. These days everything is available, everything is free, and so nothing needs to mean anything.I wonder whether the whole taking-the-music-of-the-downtrodden-and-singing-about-elite-colleges thing is meant to be some kind of deliberate attempt at ironic asshole cool, like Gavin McInnes (the Vice editor) wearing a Skrewdriver T-shirt with a Michael Jackson badge.
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