Thursday, June 29, 2017

Oops! I Left Out My Principal Argument on Cultural Appropriation~Music!

This should the final segment on the criticism of a local artist for creating art in a style similar to indigenous folk who once lived somewhat south of our border.  The charge was "cultural appropriation" or, actually misappropriation.

Some local artists and others seem to feel one needs the necessary lineage to create in an already existing style, as if those with a different ethnicity are thieves of intellectual property.

One local Facebook commenter, Johnny Chingaz, reasoned otherwise: 

"It's a sad state of affairs and what it says about our current culture is nothing good. What is cultural appropriation? Did we not do the very same thing? I never heard anyone complain when we took the German Polka and made it our very own. I still hear it in our music today and so do many of my friends from Wisconsin and Minnesota, but they're not complaining. Quite the contrary, it is seen as an excellent example of imitation being the greatest form of flattery. I think we still have much to learn and even more of our culture to share."

A sensitive area of U.S. culture is the alleged "stealing" of black music by white artists, Pat Boone's sanitized cover of Little Richard's song Tutti Frutti, for example.

Little Richard was certainly pissed off that Boone covered, not only Tutti Frutti, but Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly and Rip It Up, toning down the songs' sensuality and lyrics.  Boone achieved commercial success as whites at the time seldom bought so-called "race records," but got little regard historically for his efforts.  One could make a case for Boone simply "using" black material without respecting or embracing it.

If Boone ripped off Little Richard, the dominant groups of the so-called British Invasion DID recognize and acknowledge their affinity and debt to Black music.  Notice this John Lennon quote from Jet Magazine:

"We didn't sing our own songs in the early days
- they weren't good enough - the one thing we always did was to make it known that these were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could. in the '50s there were few people listening to blues - R + B - rock and roll, in America as well as Britain. People like - Eric Burdons Animals - Micks Stones - and us drank ate and slept the music, and also recorded it, many kids were turned on to black music by us. It wasn't a rip off. It was a love in."

Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger
The Rolling Stones also grew up with Black music, unashamedly utilizing the same style.  But, they credited and toured with blues legends like Buddy Guy or as Jagger introduces him:  "mutherfuckin' Buddy Guy!!!!"

Jagger at 2011 Grammy Awards
Who can forget Mick Jagger's tribute to blues legend Solomon Burke at the 2011 Grammys? It was not cultural appropriation as much as cultural appreciation.

Maybe England's UB40 shouldn't sing reggae, leaving only for natives of Jamaica! Lol!

The fact is that artists, yes artists from all over the world sing and perform all types of music, not just the music of their forebears, their ethnic group. In the music world, white men like Stevie Ray Vaughn or Eric Clapton are blues men, singing and playing a music originating with slaves on the Mississippi delta. 

Anyone thinking somehow this artistry is cultural appropriation is simply insecure and, in a way, racist.  

We apply the same sensibility to art.


  1. The indigenous culture of this continent is actually quite rich from New England and the Nortern Plains to the tip of South America. Hardly a year goes by without major new discoveries. The fact I am 1/8 Nicaro does not entitle me to ownership of the indigenous culture. And unless those who are complaining are 100% indigeous they are lying to themselves. There is a high probabilty their original Spanish ancestors killed indigenous people and maybe in fact started their current blood line out of a rape. I am very well read in all of the large and even many of the smaller indigenous cultures and people all over the continent and invite anyone who is well informed in the art or culture to do everything possible to educate any one and everyone who will listen. I do not care what your background is. If your heart is truly about the indigenous people and their culture then you favor anyone and everyone promoting it regardless of their background.

  2. We need more gringos like ornery Mark Clark, outsiders who love and celebrate our culture and dedicate their lives appreciating our history and art more than 99.9 percent of locals. Like most gringos who come from a culture where you create your own opportunities and unabashedly promote your idea of art, Mark doesn't wait around moping about lost opportunities. If the national media seeks him for his opinion as a border artist it's because he knows that creating art (a two-headed Aztec calendar or a square Egyptian pyramid) is the easy part. Exposing and promoting your work to the masses is the hard part. The passion from the two angry brown sisters for the love of Mexican indigenous art is inspiring but their appropriation criticism of Mark is misguided or simply fueled by professional envy. Is Mark's art setting the world on fire? Probably not. But he's out there, believing he can. The good thing about your criticism of Mark's art is that it does make you think about what makes people angry and what a silly and petty thing jealousy and envy is.



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