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How Globalism Destroyed Western European Traditional Music

Music prodigy Nelly Furtado in 2001

Out of all European spheres, the Latin one is the worst. It not only forces the colonized ones to submit to a false ideology of Latinidad, racial equality and the non-existence of racism but it also blocks them from claiming and cherishing the cultures, the history, the essence they created and developed in the name of Latinidad, another concept of white supremacy proper to the Latin world, understand Southern European space.

Before the emergence of culture vulture, colonial agent Rosalia -who shamelessly stole flamenco from the Gypsy and African originators in order to make it Spanish while clearly Gypsy and African- and of the new wave of reggaeton singers who are all white (Karol G, Bad Bunny, Maluma, J. Balvin among many others), the question of cultural appropriation was debated in the music world.

In the 1990s, as the world was turning to the first phase of globalism, icons such as Janet Jackson or Madonna, and even black male producers, were exposed by some Indian, Arab or West African journalists and musicians for cultural theft. Indeed, the many reinventions of Madonna only happened through cultural appropriation. Madonna’s short spiritual rebirth experienced in the late 90s with the release of her album Ray of Light could not take place without the exploitation of Asian spirituality and fashion. That act lasted for an era, as in the next one, Madge was seen dancing surrounded by gay cow boys and black female strippers.

Gwen Stefani, while still apart of the band No Doubt, stole from Indian culture before she took advantage of Japanese concepts, as Northeastern Asian aesthetics were popular at the beginning of the new millennium in both white and black Western groups.

The Cranberries

In order to understand the cultural and racial thefts of a woman like Rosalia, one needs to focus on colonialism within the Latin spheres, whether in France, Portugal, Spain or Italy. Indeed, colonial theft first took place within the walls of the Latin countries.

If flamenco is clearly Gypsy and not Spanish, for belonging to the Gypsy community, the Spanish institutions which still despise both the Africans and the Gypsies had no problem take the essence of flamenco away from its originators in order to make it Spaniard, thus national, while rooting in in the idea of a pure whiteness. It is in Spain and Portugal, within the frontiers of these two colonial nations, that black and other minorities’ creations are stolen.

Olivier Cachin, white French man who intellectualize hip-hop. Though not a bad person, only white writers take hip-hop and studies about the movement. The black ones remain in the back

In France, the theft is much more intellectual than cultural. If white French journalists can not deny the fact that rap was made popular and crafted by the black African immigrants and their descendants who live in the banlieues, the same journalists do not like the idea of letting black French authors, journalists and scholars write, intellectualize concepts for other French Blacks. Like any Latin colonial nation, the thought of imagining black groups getting together without the white agent to supervise them scares the institutions. If the French rappers are black, the white French intellectuals do everything in their power to gatekeep this culture. Worst, this paternalistic approach is furthered by white leftists the most, since the right-wingers consider hip-hop to be a sub-culture of degenerates.

In that sense, almost twenty three years ago, a pretty young brown skin Portuguese-Canadian graced our tv screens with her optimistic music. I’m Like a Bird was played every hour.

Furtado was not like the other singers at the time. She seemed not to focus on her body, but rather on the depth of her music while displaying a sense of humor. She was unusual, original, innovative, intelligent but also culturally rich, hence qualities which were important for that specific era.

As Europe was going through a transition going from the old traditional world to the first phase of globalism, the European music scene was made of pop, rock, alternative, R’n’B thanks to the Black Brits, but also of traditional folk sounds. It was frequent to hear Celtic, traditional Corsican music played on the radio in France in the 1990s. Some bands like Manau from Bretagne blended their traditional Celtic sounds with hip-hop, as illustrated by the song Tribu de Dana

Manau blended traditional Celtic sounds with hip-hop. Though ahead of their time, they were mocked by the hip-hop community at the time
Matmatah’s Lambé An Dro. Their song released in 1999 mixed pop-rock with their traditional Celtic sounds. The song was a hit in France back then
I Muvrini, a Corsican band released this song in the late 90s. They sang in Corsican

French musicians in the 1990s were proud of their regions and did not appropriate per se, but rather used new popular genres to blend it with their own traditional sounds.

Born to two Portuguese parents with roots in the Azores in Canada, Nelly Furtado also perpetuated this tradition. In the late 90s and 2000s, Irish bands, such as The Cranberries, the Corrs placed their ancestral sound at the center of everything and Furtado did the same. Even if Europe was becoming more globalised, the focus on traditions and heritages was the most important aspect of one’s identity.

When it comes to Portugal, the issue of appropriation is even worst than one could think about.

In the nation, a former colonial power which endured decades of dictatorship, black Portuguese, whether of Cape Verdean, Angolan, Guinean descent endure social isolation, poverty, and police brutality. Regarding music, the latter, though involved in hip-hop, are not visible at all. While they remain in the back, white Portuguese rappers are the chosen faces of a genre which was crafted and perfected by the oppressed black Portuguese community. Worst. These white Portuguese rappers perform in Creole as well. If many black Hispanicized writers and journalists denounce the brutality of their ostracism, the black Lusophone community of Lisbon is afraid and remains in the dark. There, in Portugal, issues related to colonialism, slavery are never evoked on TV, and when it does, only white Portuguese historians and sociologists express themselves on the issue.

Nelly Furtado’s first albums followed the French, and Irish traditions. A member of the Portuguese diaspora, she blended her Azorean roots with trip-hop, hip-hop, pop, and some bossa nova. Later, with Timbaland, she focused on R’n’B, but also on South American sounds. Despite the musical blendings, Furtado was criticized for her sexualized image with the release of her album Loose in 2006 it is true, but not much for cultural appropriation. Furtado was always respectful of people’s boundaries, was pretty much aligned within her Portuguese roots she placed at the center of her work. She has since left the mainstream scene and went back to her initial sound.

Her respect for other people’s works and sounds proved that the exploitation of Caribbean music by white Europeans such as Rosalia is orchestrated, the cultural thieves being aware of their actions towards the crushed minorities. If we speak about cultural theft from the white group this reality reveals that globalism destroyed their heritage and roots to the bone, so much so that stealing from the minorities have become the norm.

In an 2017 interview for Huffpost, Furtado said:

“Being the daughter of immigrants has really informed who I am,” she says. “My parents gave us the gift of attending Portuguese night school while speaking English as a first language at home. Right away, we were exposed to this duality that we could embrace both things, that we could embrace being Canadian and embrace our roots which was very empowering, actually.

“It taught me that I could also infuse those roots in my music, that there was a way to blend those worlds. There was a way to celebrate who I was rather than hide it, and for that to be a plus, a positive, and something that made me more interesting.”

The racial and cultural theft of Rosalia and Karol G are clearly rooted in the miserable legacy of capitalism where anybody and anything can be bought by those who possess and wish to dominate. Nelly Furtado tapped into different worlds she was exposed to, but she was aware and proud of her Portuguese essence she embraced as a resource. This fact can not be said for the younger Iberian musicians who forge their images through the culture of minorities in order to give themselves street credibility.

Globalism not only damaged the indigenous European traditions, but it also made them irrelevant to the eyes of the members of the younger generation.

This traditional erasure went hand in hand with the desire of abolishing distinctions between cultures and people as promoted by many Western European leaders. It was thus replaced by a generic pop sound which followed the American sound of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

By Victoria “V.K.Y.” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved 2023

[1] Ostroff, Joshua “Nelly Furtado On Growing Up As A Child Of Immigrants And Being Told To ‘Go Back To Portugal’” Huffington Post, 2017 https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/nelly-furtado-on-growing-up-as-a-child-of-immigrants-and-being-t_n_15365356

[2] Blayer, Irene, ““I never felt like I was only Portuguese, or only Canadian” Nelly Furtado”, RTP Açores, October 2015, https://www.rtp.pt/acores/comunidades/i-never-felt-like-i-was-only-portuguese-or-only-canadian-nelly-furtado_48353

[3] “Nelly Furtado’s “Big Hoops” Video: Native dancers represent!”, Native Appropriations, 2012 https://nativeappropriations.com/2012/05/nelly-furtados-big-hoops-video-native-dancers-represent.html

[4] Freeman, Alan, “Woah ! Portugal She’s Ours!” The Globe and Mail, May 30th 2001 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/whoa-portugal-shes-ours/article4148540/

[5] “Nelly Furtado’s ‘Folklore’”, Nelly Furtado, NPR, 2004, https://www.npr.org/2004/01/16/1599639/nelly-furtados-folklore

[6] Sullivan, Caroline, “So, Nelly, what kind of bird are you?”, The Guardian, 2001 https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/aug/31/artsfeatures

[7] Braga, Rui, “Portugal, colonialism and racial justice – From denial to reparation”, Open Democracy, 2020 https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/justicia-racial-colonialismo-portugal-negacionismo-reparaci%C3%B3n-en/

[8] Holguin, Sandy “The Complicated History of Flamenco in Spain” The Smithonian, 2019 https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/complicated-history-flamenco-spain-180973398/

[9] The Hidden Blackness of Flamenco, Afropop, 2019 https://afropop.org/audio-programs/the-hidden-blackness-of-flamenco

[10] Valis Hills, Costance, “Flamenco’s Afro-Andalusian Roots: The Music of Raúl Rodríguez”, LARB (LA Review Books), 2019 https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/flamencos-afro-andalusian-roots-music-raul-rodriguez/

[11] Jones, Nicolas R “On the Blackness of Flamenco”, Black Perspectives, 2019 https://www.aaihs.org/on-the-blackness-of-flamenco/

[12] Aouteda, Antonio, “THREE CULTURES -WHICH ARE NOT THE GYPSY CULTURE- THAT INFLUENCED THE ORIGINS OF FLAMENCO”, Casa del Arte Flamenco, 2019 https://www.casadelarteflamenco.com/en/cultures-origins-of-flamenco/

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