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Accused of cultural appropriation -- Skip Elliott Bowman‎


Skip Elliott Bowman‎
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When Steel Talks
Yesterday at 10:47am ·

Reposted from another steelpan page:

I was accused of cultural appropriation (by a Caucasian non-musician) for being an American who plays the national instrument (steelpan) of Trinidad and Tobago. He was of the opinion that I had no business treating it as just another instrument to play whatever music I wanted while not being from TnT or anywhere in the Caribbean. How dare I play jazz and country and bossa nova and bluegrass? At least, stick to calypso! He let me have both barrels.

I wanted to tell him that my instrument was custom-made for me by a man who had learned how to construct them from the man who invented the thing in 1947.

I wanted to tell him I've visited TnT and studied with masters there, and attended the world championship of pan orchestras as well as having marched in the annual Carnival parade, the most famous in the world.

I wanted to tell him that I had played the instrument for almost 20 years, loved it way more than twice that long, made it a priority in my life in that time, had made an intensive study of the science and the history of the instrument over that time, and that I had introduced many individuals to it on an academic and scholastic as well as entertainment level.

I wanted to tell him that I know the difference between soca, kaiso, calypso, zouk, zu, tumba, and wals, all Afro-Caribbean genres of music, and that it goes a lot farther than "Yellow Bird" and "Island in the Sun" and how he should study the lyrics of those two songs if he wanted to demonstrate his own sincerity or at least appear to know what the hell he was talking about.

I wanted to tell him these things, in my own defense.

In the end, I didn't. Or, to be more accurate, I didn't bother defending myself from him. Why? He wouldn't have been interested. To him, I was just another uppity Negro who needed to be put in his place.

Some people are always trying to paddle uphill. Why show them my respect when there are true explorers who have long earned my respect for their words as well as their sacrifices?

Folks like him don't care about me or the music. They just want to show off a supremacy they haven't earned, and then hand me the bill.

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