Sunday, March 22, 2009

Visiting Blogger: On British Pop, Daniel Kaufman

I was listening to some Lily Allen and I formulated a question that I sent to my good friend, Dan Kaufman, who used to live in Great Britain.

The question was this:

Why is Great Britain the only country in Europe that really understands pop (I refer mostly to music, but other forms of pop as examples are welcome)?

Discuss in terms of cultural history
Island geography
Imperialism, including its relation to the birth of The United States
Superior aesthetic compared with France, Germany, Italy and Spain
Paganism, local natural forces, resistance to the church
The class system

And now, a few words from Daniel Kaufman:

Brit blacks.

The blacks who brought their music to the UK did it by way of Jamaica. Jamaican pop music was their version of what they heard from the American radio they were able to pick up on the island.

There was no interesting pop music in the UK until Jamaicans got there in the 50s. You need a folk culture that isn't constrained by the need to remain pure and black people to reinterpret it through their African lens.

In fact, American/English folk, like our language and culture, always sought to appropriate what is best about societies we encountered by whatever means.

I remember being at a festival in Strassburg listening to a brass band. They had the same instruments, or similar variations, of the ones played by Duke Ellington's group, but the music that came out was incredibly stale polka. It had no swing, no soul singing rhythm, no crotch grabbing beat. It probably sounded the same for the past 200 years.

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