Unpicking the New Sudanese-Inspired Track Featuring JessB and Estère

What is cultural appreciation and what is cultural appropriation?

May 18 2018, 5:25am

When I heard Jon Toogood was adopting a Sudanese sound for his latest release from The Adults I was curious. See the thing is, with globalisation and the rate at which information and ideas are exchanged the blurred lines of cultural appropriation are becoming blurrier. What is cultural appreciation and what is cultural appropriation?

Paying homage to the traditional sounds of Aghani-Al-Banat 'Bloodlines' features performances by Estère and JessB, both powerful vocalists and lyricists. During his wedding ceremony in Khartoum, Sudan (North Africa) Jon was introduced to the traditional sounds of Aghani-Al-Banat. Aghani-Al-Banat literally translates to ‘girls music’ and is an aspect of Sudanese music that deals exclusively with women, their lives and their issues. In Sudan, this urban fusion musical tradition created a space for Sudanese women to redefine their roles by asserting themselves through song.

In the video, the tradition of Aghani-Al-Banat is carried out with the dancers, who remind me of warrior women and the lyrics. What I loved about the warrior dancers was the inclusiveness and diverse representation. At first glance, you can’t specifically point out what culture these dancers are borrowing from, I remember thinking okay I see some African dance styles, that looks Polynesian and then it hit me, this video was reflective of our communities and the cultural makeup of New Zealand.

Directed and shot by Shae Sterling in Piha and Karekare, this cinematic piece is an act of skillfully yoking the modern with the traditional and a blend of disparate sounds together. As a proud Westie and a Zimbabwean-born woman, seeing the hills and valleys of the Waitakere Ranges with a beat that sounded distinctly North African left me in chills. It was like a beautiful marriage of my nostalgic childhood memories and upbringing in Zimbabwe with my current life in Auckland, I mean Karekare and Piha are my locals!

While there is more to African culture than drums, this release combines a traditional sound, carries a message of empowerment and a battle-cry for love from a female perspective. When JessB raps “Every time I fall down a warrior gon help me up”, I was reminded of the women that came before me and one of my favourite quotes came to mind: “They buried us, but they didn’t know we were seeds”.

Not only empowering and visually alluring, “Bloodlines”, combines material recorded in Khartoum, the use of traditional percussion, idiosyncratic harmonies blended with the grove of hip-hop; delivering an intoxicating blend of hip-hop, electronica and a traditional Sudanese sound.

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