Hymn for the Weekend: Cultural appropriation or appreciation?
Hymn for the Weekend: Cultural appropriation or appreciation?Introduction:
Coldplay released its music video ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ with Beyoncé playing Bollywood star in traditional sari and exotic variations of costumes. Years back people would have seen this as appreciation of Indian culture by the West but now it is being trolled as ‘cultural appropriation’.
The use of traditional adornments is being criticized. The video, directed by Ben Mor, features a Bollywood actress in her traditionally outlandish look while Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin goes to a very local cinema to watch her latest production. The old style single screen cinema is also being looked down upon as an attempt to show India still lagging behind.
India used to be the land of snake charmers but to keep the identity of our country confined to that and to promote the same on international music videos is appropriation. But at the same time, this attempt is being seen as appreciation of something that has been a part of our culture, something that makes us unique.
1. A repeated mistake: We saw Iggy Azalea in the video ‘Bounce’ do similar annexation that Selena Gomez went on to follow in ‘Come and Get it’ and now we have Beyoncé doing the same all over again. They don’t learn from criticism, no doubt, but that shouldn’t stop us from being offended when we are deliberately being projected as a backward third world nation. There are other things to India than Sadhus and playing with colors all-round the year.
2. Exotification: Indian women are projected as the exotic shimmying glamour in heavy costumes and henna with no other individuality of their own. Glitzy costumes of Beyoncé throughout the video are simply too loud – louder than life. Our women don’t go about adorning themselves in head gears like that and looking all exhibit like all their life. Even at the end when Sonam Kapoor is featured, she is dressed all traditional and lost looking. Is that the image they have of us? Yes. Are we encouraging more of the same by supporting these videos? Yes.
3. Just a glimpse of ‘Bollywood star’: Sonam Kapoor is featured only for a couple of glimpse at the end of the video. By the time we made sure it is actually Sonam in the video, her part was over. If the video was to show cultural appreciation of India, we wonder why Sonam wasn’t picked to do the entire part of the Bollywood star ‘Rani’ instead of Beyoncé trying so hard to look all eerie in colorful clads. Indian Bollywood actresses in general are shown to be just the piece of glam for the entire show while men enjoy the dominant role.
4. Stereotypes: The video has unpleasant images of slum dwellers and half-naked kids running around in rags while the foreman goes around singing. And of course they believe we play holi all the time – that’s what imparts the exotic color to our skin. Sadhus, elephants, ramlila troops, kathakali dancers – that’s all there is to India according to this video. What’s more, they think we still watch movies in single screen with the age old projector. Poverty ridden nation where people only dance on streets for our discotheques and pubs are confined to the firangs. If that’s not appropriation then what is?
5. Prop: Beyoncé used Indian culture as the fitting prop that could depict India as the poverty stricken backward nation where slum kids have no proper clothes to wear and the Bollywood star gets all the jewelry to deck herself from head to toe.
1. The offended lot: We Indians are simply the best when it comes to being offended. We could make ourselves believe that we are offended just because media has put it forth that way. We are offended because a pop singer from the West decked herself up with traditional costumes in an English music video. Had it been a desi band instead of Coldplay, we would have applauded Beyoncé for taking all the efforts to promote our art and culture. We need to put our mind into a matter before we jump to the conclusion of ‘this-offends-me.’
2. Are we ashamed of our culture? Yes, there is much more to Indian women that glittering costumes but are we ashamed to admit that our ethnic wears are a part of our traditions and once in a lifetime every Indian women adorns herself with heena, sari and jewelries? How are we expected to appreciate or make others appreciate our culture when we ourselves associate Indian attires to being socially backward? Those attires are what makes us stand out for the world. Beyoncé’s efforts to dress in traditional way is definitely an appreciation that we need to learn to accept.
3. The vivid colors of holi: Holi is celebrated all around the world, even by those who do not know the mythical stories behind the festival. It is a celebration of colors and its origin is India. Depicting Indians celebrating their true colors freely is not appropriation but appreciation. We are being shown the way we are – no false show offs of any kind or imitations of any other culture.
4. Stop wearing Western clothes: If you think Beyoncé promoted appropriation of our culture by wearing Indian traditional costumes, you must immediately stop wearing any kind of Western attire to prevent yourself from appropriating their culture. What do we expect to be shown to depict India? Celebration of Halloween with kids dressed into gothic pumpkins? We need to stop complaining about everything and anything.
5. It’s a pop video for goodness sake: Yes, the colors are too loud to be true. But isn’t that what pop music is all about? Intensifying the vividness of Indian culture in a pop video is not supposed to be a problem for anyone except media people obsessed with finding a debatable story out of everything under the sun. People, stop following trends and start using the part of brain that has long been snoozing!
Unless you expect Coldplay and Beyoncé to go singing around Taj Mahal or in our newly inaugurated clean train or even better the upcoming dream bullet train or discuss development plans of India under the not-so-new government, you my friend, should not be offended.
There is no cultural appropriation in the video and the way this criticism trolled, we have only Indian media to blame. The moment some people read reports of someone somewhere getting offended by a new music video by Coldplay and Beyoncé, they had already set their minds to act all peeved once they would watch the video.
Feeling deprived for the 2-3 seconds of appearance of Sonam Kapoor in the video is also derived from what you heard and read for all we know Sonam tweeted about being excited about her short appearance and has plans to share the story with her grandkids.