Published November 7, 2013
Apparently there has been some controversy — and some misunderstanding — regarding my recent comment about certain Icelandic bands and the music of the African diaspora. I do choose my words carefully, but some people didn’t read them very carefully. They seemed to be just seeing what they wanted to see instead of what was actually there.
The misunderstanding specifically hinges on one word: “replicate.” I advised Icelandic bands not to try to “replicate” the music of the African diaspora. To clarify: to replicate means to repeat, to duplicate. That is far different from adapting or interpreting, which are very good creative things to do.
And in fact, although I criticized Ojba Rasta for attempting to replicate reggae, I praised the band for adapting what I specifically called “Middle Eastern” sounds. Later, I praised a Swedish band (Goat) for adapting the music of Fela Kuti. Not to mention praising Prins Póló for adapting Neu and Jonathan Richman. So, you see, the issue is replication. And I think we can all agree that imitation is generally not a commendable artistic approach.
That’s why I also wrote “Just be yourself” — because when you imitate something instead of bending it to your own creative vision, you are, by definition, not being yourself. And being yourself is the whole idea.