While I have been collecting information to develop a research report, I’ve decided it makes more sense to construct a digital artefact in the form of a youtube video to convey the information and arguments I’ve collected and developed about musician activism through the medium of music videos.
This post will be focussing on representation of race and culture in music videos and the repercussions of the portrayal and application.
One of the biggest arguments circulating the internet at the moment is of cultural appropriation – be that a Kardashian braiding her hair or wearing a bindi at a festival, the list goes on. Cultural appropriation is the act of someone borrowing an element of a culture that does not belong to them. The more innocent minds of us may miss the point in thinking ‘it doesn’t harm the culture’ (p. 8, Rao P. V., Ziff B., 1997); a more appreciative outlook on the appropriated culture. The point in this argument, however, is the privileged people in power who are appropriating a culture without acknowledging the backstory and/or using their power to support the minority groups of that culture.
A recent video that has received backlash for cultural appropriation is Coldplay’s ‘Hymn For The Weekend‘ which features Beyoncé. This video actually goes two ways for this argument. From one point, it glorifies Indian culture throughout – mainly focussing on the slums and the people rather than the lavish architecture they could have used as location. Looking at the comments from viewers I found that people felt liberated and proud of their culture. The promotion and positive insight to this culture that the video garners provides enlightened outlook and aids in the removal of negative connotations.
From the other point, Beyoncé is targeted for appropriating the Indian culture with her stereotypical use of henna tattoos on her hands and traditional Desi clothing. This sort of appropriation begs the question; why wasn’t an Indian woman chosen for the role of Bey in this song?
While Queen Bey was at the end of this pointed finger, her ongoing support of the black community throughout her work is unmatchable. She is nothing but meticulous in her practice and her recent reliance on video in her music pursuits has been no different. Creditable mention: Lemonade.
Artists will utilise their power to raise the issues of their own culture if they have seen first hand the inequalities, but it is always uplifting to see musicians who are unaffected yet still use their platforms to preach awareness. David Bowie’s music video for ‘Let’s Dance‘, for instance, directly addressed racism right here in Australia for Indigenous people back in the early 80’s. Bowie described Australia as ‘one of the most racially intolerant countries on the planet along with apartheid-era South Africa‘ (Wilson J., 2015). Ouch. Creating this music video allowed us to see what we looked like to outsiders which gave us an opportunity to change our ways in progress for equality between races in Australia.
Rao P. V., Ziff B. (1997) Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation, Rutgers University Press, USA.
Wilson J. (2015) David Bowie’s Antiracist ‘Let’s Dance’ Video Brought Outback To A Global Audience, Sydney Morning Herald Entertainment, accessed 1-5-2016, source.