The Other "Black Music"
14 Sep 2005
I recently stumbled across African Hip Hop Radio. I’m certainly no authority on hip hop, but while I find the African hip hop interesting, I wouldn’t call it good. (Yet.)
It makes me wonder, though… how much of the interest generated in the African hip hop scene (both in Africa and around the world) is based on the racist assumption that if blacks in America (or elsewhere) can do it, so can blacks in Africa? Such an assumption denies successful black hip hop artists the credit they deserve and simply feeds into a “black people have rhythm” stereotype. It also ignores the role of the United States and other countries in creating a cultural atmosphere conducive to the production of such music.
Personally, I would be much more interested in African music that was completely devoid of some (imagined) cultural/ethnic/racist link. African country music, African punk, African emo… now that would get my attention. I would also expect the African interpretations of those genres of music more innovation and adaption of those music forms.
On the other hand, African musicians may just be seeing this as an “easy in.” Because it’s hip hop and the rest of the world has some interest in hip hop, they have hope of recognition. The racist idea that blackness functions as some kind of validating factor for the quality of the hip hop music produced works to the African musicians’ advantage.
Take the Chinese example, though. The rest of the world, in general, has little interest in traditional Chinese music. Chinese immigrants have not developed entirely new genres of music in other countries. Most modern Chinese music is often viewed as derivative of Western pop, Western rock, Western rap, etc. The few Chinese musicians that dare to be innovative receive scant attention overseas. The Chinese musicians have a difficult task ahead of them because they have no “easy in.”
I make these observations off the top of my head; my views are not researched. I’m interested in other opinions on this. Whatever the case, though, I am very interested in musical innovation coming from Africa, China, and anywhere. Even if I consider the music uninteresting, I respect the artists’ courage to innovate.