Showing posts with label pop culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pop culture. Show all posts

Friday, August 31, 2012

South Africa's Great Advertising [Creative] Divide

Over @ the Daily Maverick, Mandy de Waal has a much discussed piece about South Africa’s extremely white advertising industry, and why she thinks it continues as "a colonial enclave where racial polarisation is rife and the best profits are being creamed by a handful of foreign-owned advertising companies." But it is the quote from the Association of Black Communications Practitioners' spokesperson, Taelo Immanuel, that sets up the video clip below:
“There’s a white creative director and a black team, and when they try and talk to each other there’s that chasm because of their respective upbringing. The references are vastly different. As a result there’s a cult of viewing life in an American way through hip hop, movies and music videos,” said Immanuel, who maintained that because of this the advertising mirror that reflects black culture back to South Africans is warped. What we’re seeing isn’t a true reflection of real South African life, but a perversion of its peoples and culture. “In terms of advertising work that speaks to your everyday black South African—say, for instance, my own parents—it is very difficult to find creative work like that. You just don’t get work that has real insight into the South African condition. Instead agencies and brands go to film, and there are black people singing and dancing and they slap in whatever product they want to sell,” said Immanuel. 
One of those American references for white South Africans Immanuel was referring to above was the Cosby Show. Watch the first 3 mins of the 2009 interview with South African director Gavin Hood to get an idea of how huge, for white South Africans, the Huxtables were and the gratitude owed to Bill Cosby.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Evolution of Nigerian Characters on U.S. Television

Season 8, Ep. 17 of American Dad, comic Wayne Brady plays Tungee (Tunji?), one of those kids in the pictures sent to you by American NGOs/charities in those late night infomercials, asking you to stick the kid's pic on your fridge and send a few cents to the NGO every month so the kid can eat. Anyway, Tungee is all grown up now, and he flies to the U.S to visit his long time pen pal benefactors, Stan and Francine, who thought the kid died ages ago. The twist is how Stan and Francine now find the grown up Tungee's round-the-clock positivity and healthy attitude to life a big turn off for them.

Yep. I think we are beginning to sense subtle changes in the treatment of Nigerian characters actually depicted on U.S. TV screens. References to online scams, corruption and other things Americans have come to know still come up, but all those things have quit being the focus. American TV writers are more aware and are now, indirectly, creating complexity an American audience can digest in such characters by taking what they think makes these character different-- i.e. that sense or illusion of naivete, innocence and authenticity people from the developed world thoroughly enjoy in less developed places--and making it into a mirror and a foil for critiquing American cultural hangups, arrogance or exceptionalism. No better example than in the 2009 episode of Monk (Season 8, ep 2) titled "Monk and the Foreign Man", starring Nigeria-British actor, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

More changes - here. Follow "supervillians of the modern age" series of posts - here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

U.S.- Arab Relations - The Age of Hip Hop Diplomacy

The Grand (Hip Hop) Chessboard by Hishaam Aidi

And this is the crux the growing debate over hip-hop diplomacy: Proponents claim that hip-hop can have the same liberating and rebranding effect as jazz did in the 1950s, somehow overlooking Washington’s close alliances with the authoritarian regimes of North Africa and the Middle East. The Cold War is not the “war on terror.” The US could use jazz to “sell” America behind the Iron Curtain and foster dissent in Soviet-backed regimes, but can American “soft power” liberate people in US-backed tyrannies? The hip-hop initiatives may be more successful in generating good will in Europe, where Muslims are marginalized, but do enjoy some rights, or in a non-allied dictatorship like Burma, where rap artists are heavily censored, than in authoritarian regimes backed by US hard power. The hip-hop diplomacy initiatives have sparked a heated debate over the purpose of hip-hop: whether it is “protest music” or “party music”; whether it is the “soundtrack to the struggle,” as the immensely popular Lowkey titled his latest album, or to American unipolarity; whether to accept embassy assistance or not; and what it means that states—not just corporations—have entered the hip-hop game. Hip-hop activists have long been concerned about how to protect their music from corporate power, but now that the music is being used in diplomacy and counter-terrorism, the conversation is shifting. “Hip-hop at its best has exposed power, challenged power, it hasn’t served power,” says the London-based “underground” rapper Lowkey. “When the US government loves the same rappers you love, whose interests are those rappers serving?”

Monday, September 26, 2011

DSK and the Chambermaid - Law and Order SVU Close Up

That was fast. Season 13 premier of Law and Order SVU, dubbed "Scorched Earth," rips Guinean hotel maid accusing former IMF chair, Dominque Strauss-Kahn, of rape straight from the headlines. In this episode though, DSK gets swapped for an Italian diplomat played by a guiltier looking Franco Nero, who allegedly rapes a Sudanese hotel maid who may or may not be in it for the money.

Full episode here. The Gothamist on the writing:
The episode covers all the big points: DSK/Nero's insistence of innocence, the maid's allegedly sketchy past, and some scandalous surprise testimony from a last-minute source (ok, so that last part may have been exaggerated for TV, BUT). Showrunner Warren Leight said this episode was a beast to write: "In this case, I don’t believe we ripped from the headlines. I believe the actual story ripped us off...We had to do rewrites. Everything we had in our initial draft had to be changed." Right.
...but I’m a sucker for ripped-from-the-headlines campiness, and the decision to plug the SVU squad into the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case made for some fun bits, all of them involving Ice T. (When Faux-DSK demanded to know why he was being paraded in front of cameras, Ice T cackled: “Freedom of the press, baby!”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Do You Call Flattering Japanese "Wiggers"?

Metropolis TV reporter Mao reports on Japanese kids appropriating a ‘B-style’ or the ‘black lifestyle’ which sees them not only channeling hip hop culture and aesthetics, but also shedding their pale skin for a darker look with regular visits to tanning salons to become as dark as American hip hop artists and music video eye candy.

Citing other examples, Michael over @ Cynicalones draws that blurry line of appropriation between flattery and minstrelsy:
Unlike these idiots who are clearly mocking black people. It’s women like them and Kreayshawn that make you almost want to wish a yeast infection on someone. Almost. The karma isn’t worth it. I learned that from Mother Oprah.Anyway, these Japanese ladies are different. I get the feeling that if they took a field trip to Brooklyn they would find a way to stay permanently. Then they would go off and find the Asian dancer from Soul Train on Facebook in order to get a blueprint on how to find their place in a different world. The proof lies in the comments they deliver with a big cheesy grin in each and every instance.
Another look at black cultural appropriation: this time it's Norwegian girls appropriating the Congo. Plus what happens when the appropriator becomes better than 'the original'.

And an earlier discussion about "Wiggers" and 'wiggin' out', especially when performance questions how we define minstrelsy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ghana: "A Self-Invented Bicycle Culture"

A short documentary from Accra about the self-taught, self-invented bicycle culture which young people in Accra have created and passed on to their younger contemporaries over time. It follows crews of these young bicycle gurus as they try and use their skills to make money, gain recognition, and live on their own terms/ Bikelordz

Come to think of it, Accra would make for a bewildering bmx obstacle course. Towards the end of the clip below, Wanlov the Kubolor, one half of the Ghanaian rap duo, Fokn' Bois, explains how the architectural layout of the city allows for a maze of shortcuts and backways referred to as lungu lungu:

H/T: Benjamin Lebrave/ Fader

Friday, May 27, 2011


Miles would have been 85 on Thursday. Jazz Video Guy's new short film stays in the electric Miles era to, with the help of Sonny Rollins and Gary Bartz, laud the "Picasso of Jazz." The filmmaker drops his meetings with Miles music below:

Check out the "Chomsky versus Foucault face off" over Miles fusion/electric years - here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Eritrea: Talk About an "Obscure" Reference...

... for American television that is. Someone recently pointed out to us this out-of-no where reference Roger the alien drops in a 2009 episode of American Dad in which he is caught cheating on his adopted American family with other families. The reference is to Eritrean soccer and national team captain, Debesai Ghierghis Ogbazghi. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Botswana: A Metal Bridge Between Cattles and Loud Distorted Guitars

Steel Panther

Taking the cue from Africa Unchained, its time we also stashed over here a link to the awesome VICE piece, Atlas Hoods: Botswana’s Cowboy Metalheads, introducing Frank Marshall's photographs of the Botswana metal scene. The piece has burned a swath through the blogosphere in past month.


A Wyoming professor once said "Botswana is the Wyoming of Africa... Lots of beef and cowboys" and " Wyoming, [the] country also struggles with the often conflicting desires for development and protection of a precious way of life”. In light of that statement, what Skinflint, one of metal bands featured in the VICE piece and one of the few with a white member, said about...

... about the fusion of heavy metal and the rural cattle herding/farming culture was really interesting:
Giuseppe Sbrana is the lead guitarist and vocalist with the band Skinflint. He’s also one of the few white metallers in Botswana, and reckons that the scene’s dress code is ‘old school.’ “A good example of where we get the style from is Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades cover,” he says. “Also, many metalheads in Botswana are cowboys from the villages and farms, so they mix the cowboy image with a biker metal look. Many wear hunting knives and parts of dead animals. We drink from the hollowed-out cow horns.” 
Cue to 2:33 of this BBC feature on Botswana for a feel of the hot cattle farms and outposts some of the Batswana metalheads hail from.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

South Africa: Playboy Arrives on the Continent..., Cont'd

... after the blogosphere's resounding yawn, the mag decides to spice things up a bit:

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Saturday, April 2, 2011


This 2007 Christian Science Monitor piece by Michael Birnbaum about Mason Whitlock, one of the last original typewriter repairmen (he started repairing typewriters in 1930 when Herbert Hoover was president and the Empire State Building was under construction) makes a nice prelude to Jessica Bruder's piece in the NYTimes about a growing movement of digital bobos' fascinated with typewriters and the growing culture/market around reviving them. Excerpt:
Why celebrate the humble typewriter? Devotees have many reasons.... Typewriters are good at only one thing: putting words on paper. “If I’m on a computer, there’s no way I can concentrate on just writing, said Jon Roth, 23, a journalist who is writing a book on typewriters. “I’ll be checking my e-mail, my Twitter.” When he uses a typewriter, Mr. Roth said: “I can sit down and I know I’m writing. It sounds like I’m writing.” And there’s something else about typewriters. In more than a dozen interviews, young typewriter aficionados raised a common theme. Though they grew up on computers, they enjoy prying at the seams of digital culture. Like urban beekeepers, hip knitters and other icons of the D.I.Y. renaissance, they appreciate tangibility, the object-ness of things. They chafe against digital doctrines that identify human “progress” as a ceaseless march toward greater efficiency, the search for a frictionless machine.
The part of the article where Bruder writes that many of the younger typewriter users have "the old technology rest[...] comfortably beside the new," she might as well be talking about the guys behind this new awesome line of usbtypewriters:

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Freelance editor Jeff Yorke just mashed together the "greatest film ever" with the music that inspired the "greatest music video ever" - Beastie Boyz' "Sabotage." We think it's so cool that the mashing of both surreptitiously draws from what you remember from the Spike Jonze video.

And speaking of movie mashups ahead of 83rd Academy Awards tomorrow, Exophrine blog this week put up a 150 famous catchphrases and movie lines going as far back as 1932! Full list of catch phrases and the movies they are from - here.

Oops! They left out Juggernaut and the Dude. But an insane list nonetheless.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Libya: Gaddafi, Qaddafi, Khaddafi... - Smell the Jasmine, Cont'd

At last, above we finally have all the various ways to spell the man's name. Yesterday though Clinton Yates' over at Wa Po's Lunchline email newsletter got a reader who is an Arabic scholar to explain why there are so many variations for Ga, Qaddafi's the man's name. Apparently...
[His name] in Arabic uses a letter with a sound that has no direct translation or pronunciation in English. The third letter from the right in القذافي has a guttural sound made from the throat. It is impossible to pronounce by a native English speaker. As a result, it ends up getting pronounced as a K or Q or Qa or most regularly a G — "Guh" type sound." 
And has pulled clips of Gaddafi and Libyan references from the pop culture archives, starting way back from Naked Gun and Back to the Future to episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy and SNL's parody of Gaddafi's UN speech. If you asked us, that speech doubled as its own parody.

H/T: Daily Beast

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I recall writing my thesis on intersections between the graphic novel and postcolonial writing back in '04 or '05 and citing stuff from Jefferey Brown's book on the then defunct DC comics Milestone imprint --  a '90s line of comic books created and edited by McDuffie et al. featuring, let's say, a more diverse makeup of characters than you'd normally find in the DC universe. It was around that time I went on a nostalgia bender and went searching for all those Milestone issues of Shadow Cabinet (written by Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by John Paul Leon) I wasn't  able to lay my hands on in the '90s. You didn't have to be a black comic book fan back in the '90s to grasp just how important some of those Milestone books were even to those of us outside the United States. Just seeing the cover of McDuffie's Static and some of the other Milestone books hanging on the wall of Will and Carlton's poolhouse pad every week on syndicated episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a trip for some us.


Peers remember the legend - here. NYT - here. TNC - here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


This blog is all about sampling and remixing a certain kind of information about a certain kind of subject, thus Kirby Ferguson "Everything is a Remix" series has been dear to our heart.

Part one looked at music, which we remixed - here. Part 2 focuses on film:

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.


Thinking of dropping money for the much hyped Yale Anthology of Rap? Don't. Support The Hip-Hop Word Count: A Searchable Rap Almanac instead:

Below, the 4 minute-long beat-boxed history of rap, delivered in one take:


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ghana/Kenya: Theater Renewal - Discovering the Middle Class, Cont'd

Nothing says middle class aspirations like a theater audience and signs of a re-emerging and expanding African middle class suggest theater revivals. Reuters' African Journal recently took a closer look at the re-surging Ghanaian theater scene, recalling the age of playwrights like Joe De Graft,  Efua Sutherland , the Drama Studio and the '60s Ghanaian cultural revival.  In this current revival, the report looks at the work of Ghanaian playwright James Ebo Whyte. His plays, House of Secrets or  The Devil in the Mirror , which can be viewed on YouTube, deal with everyday social issues and stereotypes middle class audiences readily relate to. Watching them on this side of the ocean, the Tyler Perry-Chitlin vibe is palpable.

Meanwhile the resurgence in Kenya's theater scene has prompted the debut of a theater critic, Anne Manyara, on the pages of The East African newspaper. Her intro seems to be pondering how an African theater critic reconciles 2 things: 1) an obligation to a resurgent theater scene reflecting the popular tastes and riding the momentum of an expanding  African middle class with 2) the academic rigor and bourgeois standards demanded of the craft:
On January 22, I watched the Heartstrings production Oh My God! which was played to a house full of a thoroughly amused audience. But if I gave my honest view about it, I would most likely be dismissed as an academic killjoy. Such a sentiment is echoed by 19th century American social critic Washington Irving who wrote, ironically, (being a critic himself) in the Morning Chronicle, "The critics, my dear Jonathan, are the very pests of society ... they reduce our feelings to a state of miserable refinement and destroy entirely all the enjoyments in which our coarser sensations delighted." There are some practitioners however, like the legendary British director Peter Brook, who have lovely things to say about theatre critics: "A critic is always serving the theatre when he is hounding out incompetence. If he spends most of his time grumbling, he is almost always right." My opinion is that there couldn't be a better time for theatre criticism in Kenya and the region. A recent World Bank report highlighted the growth of the African middle class.In Kenya, this rise in affluence means that there are more people able and willing to pay Ksh500 ($6.17) for a theatre ticket than there were some years ago, and more organisations are willing to sponsor theatre. As a result, there are more people taking up theatre and other arts as their full-time career, which has inevitably led to the current "renaissance" of the arts. However, while patronage makes art flourish, (constructive) criticism refines it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nigeria: Lagos Generators

Generators on roofs of Oshodi Market, Lagos, 
Nigeria, 2009/ Julian Röder

Fav blog Africa is a Country recently flagged a series of pictures by Julian Röder titled Lagos - Transformation The particular picture that caught our eye was the one with all those generators dotting the rooftops at Oshodi market. The same applies--not necessarily on rooftops--to all manner of low income habitat, where the affordable 2 horsepower noisemakers (with key start!) are somewhat an affordable status symbol popularly  referred to by Lagosians as "I better pass my neighbor." Rather than explain the phrase, we recall stumbling across a beautiful piece over at Leadership by Zulfikar Aliyu Adamu, explaining not only the trend but the irony:
For a country that has been gasping in the fumes of generators for over two decades, it has become a status symbol to be seen as being able to buy one set. And since owning a generator also comes with small matters like fueling it regularly, it has become an economic indicator for many who are eager to be associated with it, in order to distance themselves from society's have-nots. In our uniquely Nigerian way of showing off, being a generator owner gives the wife that significant edge over the neighbours when "Super Story" or any opera is being aired at night. The husband is also able to walk into the house with that extra swagger, as he dangles the car keys after a hard day at work. The corruption and chronic incompetence (at the top level), which have supervised the decay in the power sector can only be matched by the over-zealous sense of vanity and sheer avarice (at the bottom level), which led to the common man to name a generator set: "I pass my neighbor." (more)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Senegal: Nerdcore

Akon, Africa's gift to the auto-tune, actually made this gone-viral Lonely Island/SNL sketch memorable. Feels like a millenium ago when Lazy Sunday brought us nerdcore rap and made YouTube a household name.


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