Tag Archives: music

Who Racialized the Music?

by Guest Contributor Kelvin

As a kid growing up in Nigeria, I was exposed to a lot of music by my parents. I grew up listening to artists such as Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Sting, Phil Collins, Fela Kuti, and Candi Staton. Back then, music was just that – music.

There were no artificial limitations on what you could and couldn’t listen to. That was when I was a kid in the 1980’s. Now, I’m an adult in my mid twenties living in the United States and my perspective on music has been challenged. I’ve come to understand that there are certain genres of music that black people are supposed to listen to and other genres they aren’t supposed to listen to.

When I say supposed, I’m not saying that someone is going to put a gun to your head because you listen to Foo Fighters. Rather, there is a societal expectation that if you are black, your choice in music should be hip hop, R&B, and Jazz. Black folks who listen to anything outside of the scared 3 genres are looked at as weird, acting white, fake, white wannabes so on and so forth. This new perspective leads me to ask this question: can taste in music be attributed to a person’s race? Continue reading

Latino Artists Bear Burden of Anti- Immigrant Frenzy

JLo in Bordertown(Jennifer Lopez in “Bordertown,” which won’t be seen in the United States)

by Guest Contributor Alisa Valdes-Rodiguez, originally published at Multiplicative Indentity

In 2007, Mexican-born author Reyna Grande’s first novel, “Across a Hundred Mountains,” is released to critical acclaim, and wins the American Book Award – yet Grande’s San Diego bookstore appearance is canceled after anti-immigrant patrons call the manager to protest their support of a novel by and about “illegals”.

In 2004, the South Coast Repertory Theater in Costa Mesa, Calif., kills its Hispanic Playwright’s Project, in part to appease donors who fear “illegals” benefiting from their money.

In 2007, Touchstone Pictures pulls the plug on “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” a feature film starring Eva Longoria, about a fully assimilated Mexican American woman, saying there is nothing particularly “Latina” about an educated, professional shopaholic from Texas; meaning, the character is “too American” for audiences to believe as “Latina”. (Meanwhile, Texas is no longer a majority-white state, and most Latinos there speak English…)

In 2005, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles dismantles all four of its minority playwright development programs.

In 2008, People magazine puts Latina singer Christina Aguilera on the cover and sees the average number of copies sold drop by more than 100,000.

The Latin Grammys, created in 2000 with a mainstream English-language CBS audience in mind, have since been downgraded to Univision only, in part due to protests from anti-Latino viewers.

In 2007, ABC decides to pull the plug on The George Lopez Show, even though the show had better ratings than at least two other series that were renewed; he is replaced by a short-lived sitcom about cavemen.

Also in 2007, Jennifer Lopez wraps filming on the Gregory Nava movie “Bordertown,” about serial killings of Mexican women along the US-Mexico border, only to find that it will not be released in the United States after all; hostile anti-Mexican reaction in screenings relegate the film to release in Europe only. Variety magazine savages the film’s anti-NAFTA stance. The film goes on to win several awards at the Berlin film festival, including one from Amnesty International.

I, meanwhile, have seen my publisher decide to stop printing my books simultaneously in Spanish for the domestic market, citing a waning interest from booksellers for such material. Latina authors in my circle of friends all say times have gotten harder and harder for them over the past two or three years, with several telling me they, like I, have been on the receiving end of more and more hate-mail through their web sites and blogs. Personally, I have seen the advances paid on my books decline by 80 percent, and the size of my book tours slashed from 14 cities to 4.

Taken separately, these anecdotes might appear to be nothing more than bad luck, or flukes, a the natural ebb and flow of a career in the fickle entertainment industry. But taken together, and held up against a shifting corporate media climate that increasingly scapegoats and targets immigrants and Latinos (a trend both the ACLU and FBI blame for drastic rise in hate-crimes against Latinos), they paint a frightening picture of an increasingly hostile America for all Latinos – creative artists included.

Continue reading

Amy Winehouse’s drug addiction is “a familiar black stereotype?”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

You gotta read Lauren’s excellent post on Stereohyped, in response to James Hannaham’s recent Salon piece in which he had this to say about singer Amy Winehouse (emphasis mine):

Winehouse answers that question by digging deep for scraps of authenticity. In addition to foregrounding her knowledge of R&B history in her lyrics, she mines her personal experiences for material, naming names, keeping those names in the news, and in the process, all but eliminates the barrier between biography and artistic expression, tabloid and Billboard. Only a complete novice could wonder what her songs mean, to which events they refer, or about whom they are written. Meanwhile, she acts out and “keeps it real” by defending her drug and alcohol addictions, and by standing by her jailed ne’er-do-well husband. The whole package smells like a bizarre simulation of a familiar black stereotype.

Wha? This is why I love Lauren – check out what she wrote in response:

To me, she’s not simulating some familiar black stereotype, she is the embodiment of a familiar white one. But I guess I’m wrong.

Winehouse’s musical influences are black, so her sad, sad behavior can be boiled down to her being a little Jewish girl embracing drugs and rejecting her culture in a desperate-but-failed attempt to “keep it real.” Because white people, let alone famous (Jewish) ones, never engage in harmful drug use or marry ne’er-do-wells. If they did, white people like Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty and Lindsay Lohan would be criticized just as much as black hip hop stars for being terrible influences on the children who love their movies and music. Instead, they get pass after pass and often sympathy for what is seen as some isolated problem instead of what it really is, which is flat-out criminal behavior of the sort that non-famous people, particularly non-famous black people (or famous black people, for that matter) actually get sent to prison for.

But go read the rest here.

Morrissey under fire for anti-immigration remarks

by guest contributor Yolanda Carrington, originally published at The Primary Contradiction

The United States isn’t the only society plagued with xenophobia, as a recent controversy over a legendary singer’s remarks shows. And we sure aren’t the only society where white folks’ understanding of systemic racism is jawdroppingly low, nor is this great land the only society where most white folks will do anything to avoid discussing race. The latest racism scandal in the entertainment world involves not a tired shock-jock or stand-up comic, but the ethereal voice behind such classics as The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder.

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey—a musical icon for many folks of my generation—has been under fire for the past couple of weeks over comments he made about immigration in a piece published by New Musical Express (more popularly known these days as simply NME). When asked by journalist Tom Jonze if he would consider moving back to the UK after over a decade of living abroad (alternating between Los Angeles and Rome), Morrissey reportedly said:

Britain’s a terribly negative place. And it hammers people down and it pulls you back and it prevents you. Also, with the issue of immigration, it’s very difficult because although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears [my emphasis].

And:

If you walk through Knightsbridge [London neighborhood] on any bland day of the week you won’t hear an English accent. You’ll hear every accent under the sun apart from the British accent.

Morrissey claims that NME ambushed him with a “stitch-up” job on him in order to sell papers, and he and his lawyers are currently pursuing legal action against the NME and its editor Conor McNicholas. Interviewer Jonze maintains that every quote attributed to Morrissey is accurate, and points out the fact that he never once asked Morrissey about immigration, yet the singer felt compelled to unleash his views anyway. Many people were quick to side with Morrissey against the NME, since the paper has a not-so-upstanding reputation with music fans in the UK. Other supporters defend Morrissey’s right to free speech, while others express agreement with his views on immigration, insisting that it all has nothing to do with racism but just the natural response to a “massive” wave of immigration that is destroying Britain’s national identity and way of life. Now where have we heard that argument before? Continue reading

The Diversity of (Black) Thought

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

I’ve been having way too much fun writing for Clutch Magazine.

As a member of staff, I generally spend my time conducting interviews with artists, writers, and directors that I love. It is a welcome reprieve from all the editorial I write here and for Cerise, and allows me to climb inside someone else’s mind for a few minutes.

Lately, I’ve started to notice some interesting patterns emerging, especially when I talk to artists about community issues.

Rissi Palmer is a black country singer and rising star. Before the interview, I had asked around to see exactly what questions I should pose. Most Clutch readers aren’t really into country – we tend to focus on neo-soul, hip-hop, and R & B, with a few notable exceptions. I did not want to ask too many of the obvious questions. I knew everyone was going to ask her about race and the role it plays in her career and while I wanted to cover those issues, I also wanted to go a little deeper.

I did a bit more digging and asked her about a blog entry she wrote concerning the Jena 6:

Clutch: I noticed on your blog that you wrote about the Jena 6 issue. That blew one of my main misconceptions out of the water, so it was good to see that a black girl doing country could still be racially aware. (Going by popular perception here that African Americans and C & W don’t normally mix.) Do you think your race has influenced your treatment in the music industry? How does race impact you in your daily life? (Or does it?)

RP: Let me start by saying that I’m extremely excited someone read my blog! Seriously though, It saddens me a little to know that people would assume that because I sing Country music, that I must be going through some sort of identity crisis. I am a proud Black woman who is racially aware and very cognizant of the issues that affect myself and other human beings. I decided to write about the Jena 6 in my blog because I know that many different people, from various racial backgrounds, read it and I felt like it was an issue that affected EVERYONE and that they should be aware, if they weren’t already (I also posted a link to the petition). I don’t want to go off on a tangent but it blew my mind that in this day and age when a black man is running for president, there is still discussion of unequal justice between whites and people of color. It saddens and frustrates me, but the one bright spot was the way everyone came together peacefully to show support in Jena. I hated that I wasn’t able to go but I did wear black in support.

Rissi’s responses to another question were also very telling. When asked about reactions to her first effort and single, she commented:

As far as the African-American community, the feedback has been extremely positive and supportive. So many people say: “finally there’s someone out there that looks just like me that I can relate to.” Also, a lot of African-Americans who maybe aren’t necessarily country fans are just happy to see someone venture outside the box and simply like the music I make.

She hit that last nail on the head – in our comments section, a few commenters mentioned how refreshing it was to see an African American woman finding her voice in a different musical niche. Others were just proud that she shattered boundaries.

In subsequent interviews, I started to ask more probing questions. I wanted to know what some of our favorite artists were thinking about. What was important to them? Continue reading

ROCK OF ASIAN: Arash

by guest contributor DISGRASIAN, originally published at DISGRASIAN

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Snow’s 1993 hit, “Informer,” I get all giddy and nostalgic inside. You can’t summon the energy? Would a photo help?

Ohhhhhh yeah. Those round sunglasses, so low on the nose bridge. That hair! That sullen gaze! And that sultry, smooth Snow voice! OMG. I can’t deal.

Okay, if you’re not feeling it like me, I can’t force you. But I can offer you an exciting new take on the oh-so-good-even-though-it-feels-so-wrong original:

THE BOLLYWOOD VERSION! Fabulous Arash turns the “Informer” tune into “Chori Chori” (Secretly).

Now mind you, the lyrics and the talent may be new and different, but if you just close your eyes and relax, I swear you’ll kinda believe it’s snowing. Just a little bit.

Ebony magazine takes on Africa

by guest contributor Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin

This is almost too easy, but if you’ve not yet picked up or flipped through December 2007′s self-proclaimed “special collector’s edition” of EBONY, get a gander at:

- Michael Jackson on the cover…and way too much inside (“25 Years After Thriller“), glowing, translucently; with an almost inner light.

- “The Africa You Don’t Know”: An ehh-not-the-worst-given-it’s-EBONY section on the continent. (Even if you don’t buy the issue, check p. 115 for Nigerian journalist Gbemisola Olujobi’s pull-quote about “disaster pornography”; probably the sharpest 42 words you’ll read about the continent this winter.)

- An interview with Bill Clinton about Africa, continuing mainstream Black media’s despicable tradition of speaking to important government leaders through mouths full of puffery. ESSENCE interviews Condoleezza Rice, but doesn’t ask her why she was buying BDSM boots while New Orleansers were floating face down in rancid water, or EBONY talking to Clinton about the continent, but not a single question about Darfur, not to mention Rwanda. (They did get in two questions about “the American Dream,” however. What????)

In fact, Clinton raises the genocide in Rwanda. He doesn’t discuss it, though, or his role in it. He just says, “Take Rwanda, devastated by the 1994 genocide,” the lets fly a paragraph’s worth of “but now”-type banter, plus violas: “Now look at what they’re doing. They’re growing rapidly; they have all kinds of partners, including [Microsoft's] Bill Gates and me. They’ve opened themselves to the world. They’ve even developed a film industry, for goodness sakes.” Yes; that’s what they needed 13 years ago to stop crudely stamped, Chinese-made machetes: software partnerships and film.

- A story of interracial love as only EBONY can tell it: Janet Langhart and Bill Cohen (Clinton’s defense secretary), with an opening, “our love is alive” photo portrait (p. 158) so fake it’ll make you swear off interracial romance.

Wow. I guess EBONY is still good for something.

Forget Spanglish! The New Wave is the ‘Japoñol’

by guest contributor Laura Martinez, originally published at mi blog es tu blog

I love, love these guys.

Peruvian reggaetón trio Los Kalibre is making the Japanese shake their butts with catchy songs and lyrics mixing Spanish and Japanese in what the media is already calling Japoñol. The Peru-born recent Japan immigrants are convinced the Japanese will embrace their music and dump the salsa rhythms, simply because reggaetón it’s easier to dance… and to sing. (Really, how difficult is it to learn the lyrics of Gasolina?)

According to Lando, Dando and Nani, their music gets an inspiration from Rafael, Celia Cruz, Nino Bravo and José Feliciano; the trick, they say, is to mix both languages (Spanish and Japanese) and inventing new forms and verbs. ¡Que Viva el Japoñol!