More on “cultural appropriation” and Caribbean artists

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A report by Christina Santi for Ebony. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.

Sting, former bassist for the new wave rock band the Police has teamed up with dancehall reggae artist Shaggy. The two are working on an unlikely collaborative album 44/876 that is heavily entrenched in the sounds of reggae music. While promoting the effort on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne asked the English musician if he “ever felt guilty” for making reggae-influenced early on in his career. In the 1980s when Black artists weren’t allowed on MTV, Sting likely benefitted from the mainstream access given to him performing Black music.

From there Sting spoke about his upbringing in England which is densely populated with West Indian culture and seeking out an “authentic” Jamaican musician like Shaggy. With all the debates about Bruno Mars culturally appropriating Black R&B music, he also revealed that all musicians learn to create by appropriating something.

“I think for me it was an homage to something that I love. I love reggae music. I was brought up in England in the 50s and 60s and we have a very influential West Indian community. I grew up with Calypso and then Ska music, Blue Beat. When Bob Marley came to England it was totally revolutionary for me because he turned Rock music on its head. ..So for me, it wasn’t cultural appropriation. It was an homage to something that I loved. That I still love and now I’m working with an authentic artist Shaggy. I feel it’s a natural home to me… I think all musicians appropriate that’s how we learn you know I mean a bird learns to sing by copying their parents. That’s how we do it. We hear it. we hear music, and we copy it, and then we make it our own.”

Hear Sting speak about his upbringing and paying homage to reggae beginning at the 11:03 mark. 44/876 will be released on April 20, 2018.

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