Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Afro-pop and Everything Else With a Hyphen

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the band Vampire Weekend. They're a band born out of an Ivy League University, playing Afro-pop music that sounds like it was made specifically to be played after an episode of the Hills on MTV or to be featured as a great "emerging artist" everywhere you turn. What I mean by this is that their music is at the same time fresh but also nonthreatening. Not much American music has an African influence, and I will admit I enjoy Vampire Weekend's music. What I wonder is how many African artists with much of the same sound will gain mainstream success in the U.S.? My guess is probably not many.

Why is this though? Is it purely the business model that says that five clean-cut white guys straight out of college are more marketable than an actual African music group? Or is it part of American culture to take one phenomenon and mix it with another, forming something new? American music history is rich with the beginnings of blues and jazz, and the eventual development of hip-hop and rock and roll. Then again, I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn't only an American phenomenon, but something that happens around the world. Music goes through stylistic changes not only through the new ideas of individual people, but possibly more often through influence of other types of music from different cultures and groups of people.

Music is a creative outlet that reflects the artist's experiences and often his or her culture. Since most of human existence involves our relation to one another, it is no wonder that music can be influenced by so many different styles and genres.

What is your favorite band or artist that mixes seemingly different styles, genres or regional influence?

[As an end note, I thought this was a pretty interesting and relevant Wikipedia entry on Jazz Fusion.]

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