Notes on "World Beat" - Steven Feld
In the article "Notes on "World Beat", Steven Feld discusses the Americanization of African music and vice versa, and what is appropriate for an artist using music originating in other cultures in their own songs. He specifically addresses Paul Simon's album Graceland, which is described as a mix of world pop and African folk music. The album was an enormous success and Paul Simon received much acclaim for the music, but Feld points out the means by which Paul Simon gained this success. Even though Paul Simon worked with and paid South African groups and gave credit to his cowriters, the album is "produced by Paul Simon". This points to questions of ownership and power over the music, as Paul Simon seems to place himself above all of the people he worked with and makes himself seem like the overall composer and creator. Feld also points out that Simon does not properly credit coworkers in the United States, and questions why Simon may feel the need to credit those he collaborated with in South Africa and not those he collaborate with in the United States.
To me, this article shows how separate Simon views musical culture. Because he originates from America and traditionally has written American folk music, he feels entitled to the genre and the acclaim for anything he participates in. But when it came to utilizing African folk styles, he was suddenly much more concerned with citing everyone he worked with. As Feld almost implies, this seems derogatory in a way when compared to how he treats American artists/styles, because it seems as though the South African artists are beneath him and he wants to credit them to make himself seem like a legitimate, considerate artist. I was somewhat bothered by this because I have always loved Paul Simon, especially his album Graceland. But I can admit that I was unaware of all of the collaboration Paul Simon has done, because he does not make a point of emphasizing his collaboration. In the end, he wants the credit.
This made me think about where the line is between other musical styles influencing your own and flat out ignoring the rights of artists' composition. We are all influenced by styles we hear, consciously and subconsciously, so when do we need to credit other artists/styles? How we determine how much of any composition can be attributed to the artist him/herself versus major stylistic influences?