The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'afrobeat'
For those who missed it the first time around: a Pitchfork piece from a few years ago recapping the history of the various music scenes of Africa over the past few decades. These scenes include the scenes of Anglophone countries like Nigeria and Kenya, in which was born highlife, a fusion of various imported musical styles and local rhythms, which in turn gave rise to the more politically conscious Afrobeat of Fela Kuti. Kuti's home country, Nigeria, had quite a vibrant music scene, with local forms of funk, soul and disco rising and the local subsidiaries of Western record labels pumping money in. Elsewhere, things varied in Ghana, between small shoestring record labels, centrally-planned systems of orchestras in Guinea, and the peculiar situation in Ethiopia where, for a short time between the thaw in of the state monopoly on music distribution around the late 1960s (Haile Selassie doesn't seem to have been a reggae fan; the bands that existed under his imperial imprimatur tended to have names like the Police Band and the Imperial Body Guard Band) and the brutal Soviet-led coup in 1975, the unique "Swinging Addis" scene flourished:
Ethiopian music can probably best be described as dark, psychedelic funk and soul. It's as though a group of highly skilled musicians were told what funk, rock, soul, and jazz sounded like without hearing any examples and then went and played all of those styles at once on whatever instruments were around-- horns, vibes, electric organs, electric guitars, piano, harp; all of it was fair game.The article concludes with a list of labels selling African pop music of this period, and the track listing of a mix of notable tracks (consisting, somewhat uselessly, of links to lala.com, the service Apple bought and are shutting down).
Guy Blackman writes about the recent wave of afrobeat-influenced indie, excoriates Vampire Weekend for being privileged, apolitical hipsters and using the music of the global downtrodden to essentially crow about their own privileged lives:
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.