Sunday, April 12, 2009

Janelle Monae, Ahmed Gallab + Thoughts on Race

JANELLE MONAE'S COMING TO MY TOWN!!! Next weekend!!!




I don't know if I'm more excited to see her amazing performance, or to ask her about her hair if I get a chance... LOL

She's opening for Of Montreal - I've never heard their music. Does anyone know if they're any good?


***Edit, 9.35pmI did a little digging - Of Montreal has been around since the 90s (funny how that sounds like so long ago) and make mostly indie pop-rock music, which changes in its sound from happy to weird invariably. Not particularly my cup of tea. I'm more interested in their sometimes collaborator, Ahmed Gallab:




Originally from Sudan, he came to the US as a refugee when he was 6 years old. He drums for Of Montreal, and for Caribou, who's this psychedelic rock dude with a Ph.D in Mathematics from Imperial College, London. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that a psychedelic rock dude would have a Ph.D in mathematics - maybe people who play psychedelic rock and enjoy math think the same way... but I digress. Ahmed's making waves in the indie rock scene because of his awesome drumming, and also has his own stuff out, under the name Sinkane. It's not bad from what I heard on his MySpace, but I will be checking out the rest of his music, so will let you know if it's raveworthy or not. On a thread I learned that he's into Ethiopian Jazz and West African 70's-style funk. That info, along with this very cool pic, definitely puts him on my list of very cool people. Too bad he won't be at the Of Montreal show - he's touring with Born Ruffians opening for Franz Ferdinand.

I just realized there aren't that many black people in the indie rock scene - at least in the mainstream bands. We have Black Kids (LOVE this band), TV On the Radio (the lead singer's Nigerian) and Of Montreal when Ahmed's around... but not much else. Good thing there's things like Afropunk to showcase the bands we don't usually get to see.

Also, since coming to the US, I've started to talk a lot more about race and diversity. This worries me, because I never did this before, and I don't want to become one of those people who's too hung up on race and diversity - pulling the race card, hating people of other races, etc. Someone in the Elephant 6 forum asked why it mattered that Ahmed Gallab might be the only black dude on the label (he isn't, by the way - there's one other dude). I think matters because it's noticeable. All things being equal, he shouldn't be the only black dude on the label. And you can't say that maybe black people just aren't into indie rock, because that's making gross generalizations about a group of people because of the color of their skin. And that's not cool. It's not necessarily racist, but it's not cool. Am I being too hung up on race for thinking this?

Also, in my experience, people who think like that particular commenter are usually white - the only people talking about race are people of color. It makes sense in some regards because Caucasians thought up the idea of race as we know and experience it today, and people of color bear the brunt of it. But white is a race too, and it comes with its own set of stereotypes. Only once have I heard a white person complaining about stereotypes being placed on them, and that was in a reactionary, and somewhat misplaced response to The Young and Disenchanted's post about her relationship with her white male friend. So can you really say "race doesn't matter" if the people who say this are the only ones who aren't affected by it?

Okay, so this went from a happy music post to a short speech from the soapbox. But I encounter race every day, and it affects me. Aren't my thoughts, feelings, questions, and opinions important, and worthy of voicing, even if you and I don't experience the same thing? Another dude on the forum posted this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by pinocchio
Is this the first AFRICAN AMERICAN e6 affiliated person
ever? Comments? Yes... I said it. But I think it may just be true... a factual
observation.


Isn't Ahmed actually from Sudan? Which would make him African African? God,
you guys really crack me up with your Whatever-American... Why does everyone
have to announce their pedigree?

First of all, it's not a pedigree. We're not dogs, neither are we claiming royal ancestry. And people say that because people like you make it seem like things like race and identity don't matter. But other people think they do matter. A lot.

Does anyone else feel like this? Is talking about race just a part of the minority experience in the US, or is it just something that black people do to make an unnecessary fuss about things?

NB: I wrote "other people" but then thought " 'other' people"... oh dear. The US is screwing with my mind. I want to go back to the days when the only thing that concerned me was what color crayon I'd use to write my name that day.

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