Two weeks ago, I was studying Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo opera in my Antiquity to Baroque music history class and by coincidence the singer Imany released her song, “You Will Never Know,” whose video is a take on the 1959 Brazilian film, Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). For those who do not know, Orpheus was the Greek story about a half-god and musician who goes to underworld to rescue his wife who died after she was bit by snake.
VV Brown feat. Chiddy Bang- Children
Does this tune sound familiar? Hear ice cream trucks play it all the time? Well, this tune is actually over 150 years old. It was a well-known American folk song from the early 19th century. Originally popularized with blackface minstrel performers, the tune was associated with several songs — “Old Zip Coon,” “Turkey in the Straw” and “Natchez Under the Hill.” The minstrel character of Zip Coon was a black stock character representing a free northern black who was basically an “uppity negro” and imitating whites. Supposedly the tune came from an old ballad, “My Grandmother Lived on Yonder Little Green,” which came from an old Irish ballad, “The Old Rose Tree.” Since then the tune has been used in a variety of sources, especially child-related ones, which explains VV Brown’s usage of the song. This just shows how a popular cultural item’s use can transform in a society over time and also hide a less than favorable past.
One of my favorite songs is Parliament Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop. Just a few days ago, I found out about a collection of films called Cosmic Slop, which was produced by the group. Basically, this is the Afrofuturist version of the Twilight Zone. The first film is about what would happen if America was in shambles and aliens came to rescue them but only under one condition — to give the aliens all the black people. Next is a film about a Puerto Rican Catholic priest who is struggling with his faith in the Catholic church versus the syncretic religion of Santeria. Last is a film about a woman who is in an abusive relationship and receives a gift that helps her to fight back. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did…
On this Thanksgiving day, while we spend time together with family and friends, eat and be thankful for everything, I still want everyone to be knowledgeable of the myth of the origin of the holiday:
Enjoy the day!
Lee “Scratch” Perry – Roast Fish, Collie Weed And Cornbread
“I returned to music through machines. The difference is that the machines are clean, and the machines are not corrupted. What I create here cannot hurt people, but you can bring an impure musician to play in your studio and create your own doom. My brain represent the bass, an’ if an evil man is playing on my brain, it’ll cause me trouble as he’s trying to chip away at my brain. And if an evil drummer is playing my beat with an evil thought, I think he can hurt my brain by playing a dreadful drum. But the machine cannot play a dreadful drum, and the machine cannot play a dreadful bass.”
“Orixas. I took a picture of these paintings in the market across the Elevador Lacerda in Salvador, Brazil. If anyone knows the name of the artist I would love to give him/her credit. What I love about the Orixas is the subversive nature of their presence in Latin American culture. Imagine being dragged from your home, raped, tortured, and basically treated worse than an animal together with people from a vast continent whose languages you don’t understand. Dragged across the ocean, your identity, beliefs, language beaten out of you so you could bow to the cross while being whipped in the back. Imagine building nations with your bloody hands and sweat. Being told you are ugly, stupid, not even human for generations. Despite all that horror it’s so beautiful to see traces and powerful symbols of African culture throughout the region. Maybe the names are pronounced differently but the essence is there! Axé!”
These are gorgeous!
For the past couple of years, I have gained an interest in studying Vodun and all the other religious systems that stemmed from it. So, I have become sensitive to portrayals of those religions (they are not cults), especially when they are put in binary to Christianity. I watched Florence and the Machine‘s video for “No Light, No Light,” and I need someone to explain to me this video. And do not tell me it is not at all racist because it is art; art can have racism and privilege in it (Think Birth of a Nation).
While watching the video, it seems that Florence’s character in the video is being possessed by a Vodun (voodoo) priest, who is wildly dancing and violently using a “voodoo doll” against her (stabbing the doll over and over). She is also shown running away from him in several shots. Later in the video, she is rescued by a group of calmly singing Catholic boys, landing in their arms after she falls from a skyscraper structure into a church. Even as she is held in their arms, she is still resisting the attack of the voodoo priest as if she is trying to exorcise a demon. Also, in the end of the video, there are some sexual scenes between her and a white male, and I wonder if that was suppose to be in conjunction with the voodoo priest.
Images are stronger than music itself. I learned in my music and society class that vision trumps all other senses. So, people can say what they want about the music and lyrics, the music video stands out the most. I actually do like Florence and the Machine’s music, but this video puts Vodun and Christianity in a simplistic binary– one is wild, violent, hyper-sexual and evil, and the other is soothing, calming, and innocent. For African descendants who believe in Vodun and its variations, depicting their religions in this way is not only stereotypical, lazy and ignorant, it is also racist.