The Catalan singer has just released her album 'El mal querer' and the controversy has been unleashed in Spain
The singer Rosalía is without a doubt a musical phenomenon. She won two Latin Grammys for his single 'Malamente' this past Thursday and the music video of this song already has more than 34 million views. In her album the singer makes fusions between flamenco, her most clear musical influence, and other rhythms such as trap and pop. In Spain, a controversy has arisen around the fact that a Catalan woman is turning commercial gypsy music in southern Spain.
Leer en español: El polémico escándalo de Rosalía por su nuevo disco
It could be said that the controversy began, like many, in social networks. Noelia Cortés, a gypsy Twitter user, explained through this medium in December of last year why Rosalía's music seemed "anti-Gypsy". In response to this criticism, journalist Raúl Guillén wrote a column for the middle Jenesaispop, a magazine of Spanish pop culture, in which he argued that quite the opposite of offending the gypsy culture, what Rosalia did was to open the doors to another public as before have been done by others such as Paco de Lucía.
To this, Noelia Cortés, who would have initiated the debate in networks, responds with another column in the same medium in which she expresses the annoyance caused by the so-called salvador of flamenco being a young Catalan 'disguised' as Roma. She also says that Rosalía appropriates a music of resistance from an oppressed people, the gypsy.
What are the limits of cultural appropriation?
The theme of cultural appropriation has been a subject that has been much commented on in recent years. Without a doubt, Rosalía's music is not the first case. There are many pop music singers who use symbols from other cultures for their aesthetics and for their staging. But what is really the limit of cultural appropriation and musical influences?
Rosalía is not Andalusian, she is Catalan. And in plain sight, you can see that she is not gypsy. But does it depend on the color of the skin if you can sing flamenco or not? While it is true that flamenco has been a music of resistance for centuries, it is also true that given the nomadic gypsy culture, this rhythm has spread throughout Europe, by its very nature.
Behind the blues, for example, is the cry of the black slaves in the plantations of Louisiana. This rhythm was mutating to jazz and then to swing, which white people danced in clubs in the southern United States. Thus, I think it is of greater value that these rhythms, which were the music of the oppressed, will reach the clubs where the whites danced because it is to the spheres of power where they should arrive, and not stay in the plantations forever. The same thing happened with rap and hip-hop. When Eminem wanted to sign his first contract with Dr. Dre, many advised the latter not to do it because Eminem had clear eyes and was blond. He, seeing the talent of this young Eminem, decided to do the same. And is that rap could not stay in the streets of New York or Los Angeles, should sound on the radio, should accompany the riots of the 90s in Los Angeles, they spoke of a reality, spoke of racism.
In this sense, I think it is more important that these rhythms that come from a resistance reach the spheres of power, which spread throughout the world so that we can all listen to them, not only because of their message but because of their musical quality. The spread of these rhythms is preferable to the defense of a purity. I also consider that this is not only good that happens, but it is inevitable. Today in this globalized world in which we live it is almost impossible that rhythms around the world do not mix. Shakira is clearly not an Arab woman, she was born on the other side of the planet. But she uses these influences in his music and he made that in Colombia the adolescents heard these rhythms in the 90s, rhythms originating from the other side of the planet.
The flamenco case
In the case of flamenco, in addition, we must remember that it also has Arab influences, is this then the cultural appropriation of an oppressed community? No, it's a musical influence. Flamenco takes elements of Arabic music and is not accused of the same thing that Rosalia is accused of. It is clear that all this must be done with respect. The annoyance of Noelia Cortés is totally legitimate when she feels that the singer 'disguises' herself as a gypsy, but I consider the accusation of anti-Gypsyism unjust. I think it is possible to love and admire the rhythms and symbols of other cultures and, why not, use them in one's own cultural productions, as long as it is done with respect.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón
Translated from: "El fenómeno Rosalía y los límites de la apropiación cultural "
* The opinion of the writer does not represent this newspaper
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