Yeah I listen to K-pop. And what?
The best thing about an increasingly global world is that the older I get, the less weird looks I get when I say that some of my favourite songs aren’t in English or any language associated with my heritage (assumed or otherwise). I’ve got skin as thick as a rhino’s backside so when I was younger and realised that it was weird to be black and listen to K-pop and J-pop (K-pop’s cuter and more colourful cousin), it didn’t really bother me. Nor did it bother me when I got more than a few raised eyebrows in the middle of my Fall Out Boy rants. Yeah I went through an emo phase too. Fringe, black eyeliner, fingerless gloves and all. I cringe at my fashion sense back then but I can still sing all the lyrics to CrushCrushCrush at the top of my lungs and pretend I’m Hayley Williams. Some things stay with you.
Music is weird. It’s ancient and rhythmic and changes with the ages and the cultures. It’s constantly morphing into new exciting forms that somehow manages to bring us together and split us apart. I was told that rock music was for “white people” (the creation of rock and roll is often credited to a black woman) as if Jimi Hendrix was a blip in history and the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses doesn’t have an African-American mother. The music of my people and therefore of me was meant to be solely dancehall, soca, reggae and calypso – which I love, don’t get me wrong… but so do a heckuva lot of Japanese people. If I was to move out of my region to look for music, I was meant to go as far as BET for RnB, Hip Hop and Rap. And hey, I was also embroiled in the Bow Wow vs Romeo debate, B2K was whatever the equivalent of BAE was back then, and anyone who serenades me with a song by BoyzIIMen, Joe or Usher will get my hand in marriage. I just… I just also really really like Welcome to the Black Parade, OK?
The increasing popularity of Afrobeats intrigues me as well. See, in between listening to the Fullmetal Alchemist second opening track, Bump Bump Bump and I Write Sins Not Tragedies, I was also listening to the songs of my mother’s people. Miriam Makeba. Hugh Masekela. Brenda Fassie. I listened to Kwaito music and the Soweto Gospel Choir. So when Afrobeats began to infiltrate clubs in between Igniton(Remix) and Temperature, I wondered if music from other parts of Africa would follow… but nah just West Africa. So when I first heard Kukere I slotted it in between PonPonPon and King of the Dancehall and waved my rag for all three. Just something else to add to my growing playlist.
This may sound bad but the best part about Afrobeats was that it gave me another retort in my arsenal against people who questioned my music choices, one already full of dancehall-related comebacks. “Why do you listen to Korean hip hop when you can’t understand the words?” I get asked. “Talk to me when you can honestly say you understand all the words to Ojuelegba,” I reply. Just like no one is here for Wizkid or Sean Paul’s incredible diction and catchy prose, I’m not here to understand what they’re singing about. I’m here to dance and move and just generally be an embarrassment to the human race as a species.
My moves are not contained by borders, only by the universal prompt to flail around to a rhythm. And as the world simultaneously grows in size and shrinks in distance, my behemoth of a playlist increases in mass and weirdness. I have and always will welcome this. Throw a song my way and dance with me. In public. Let’s make other people uncomfortable… or join in! We don’t need no education, guys… we just need to shake our asses and watch ourselves.