Thursday, June 01, 2006

Stolen from Africa Brought to America?

Senegalese Rappers Daara J have an infectious song out about Hip Hop returning to its homeland in Africa. "Boomerang" [here's the iTunes URL] says the music we now know as Hip Hop derives directly from West African griot singing, and the song celebrates its return "home".

It's a brilliant twist on Hip Hop's endless battles for authenticity - instead of saying, "I'm more of a criminal than you, therefore I'm less of a sell-out than you, therefore I'm more authentic than you," Daara J stake their claim on cultural ancestry.

America would do well in general to own our African roots. Almost all our music has black DNA - from Country to Rock. Even a lot of Polka is played with blue notes.

Still, there is a bit of superiority built into the Boomerang claim: a cult of purity. The fact of the matter is that most black music in America has white DNA as well, especially in harmonies. Daara J's Afrocentric approach glosses over the contributions of Europe to the American soul.

That being said, the best aspect of "Boomerang" is the worldview: that authenticity comes from belonging in history, rather than being an autonomous individual. That's a lesson we desperately need in the contemporary West. Posted by Picasa


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