Clara Amfo, a major UK journalist and one of the top DJs at BBC Radio 1, has a message that speaks to the trauma she’s experiencing now and gets to the heart of what appropriation means in music.
This seems a message those of us non-black audience members urgently need to hear:
It is dangerously tempting to get defensive when you hear phrases like “techno is black music” or discussions around cultural appropriation and music. And I understand, that’s also because music-making is a personal, intimate, and vulnerable thing for everybody.
But this is one of the world’s leading music journalists talking about why the sight of the news made her unable to show up for work. It’s a reminder that this is violence that a whole swath of people experience, both directly and indirectly.
That particularly hits her with George Floyd – but also explains why this is a issue for everyone in music:
“Knowing how the word enjoys blackness, and seeing what happened to George, we [black people] get the feeling that people want our culture but do not want us … you want my talent, but you don’t want me.”
And that’s really why there’s something wrong with music – that any of us would be selfish enough to make music a place for our expression, but simultaneously make it feel like an act of violence and theft from someone else’s expression – let alone someone who feels pushed out of society in countless other ways.
Anyway, I think this is something best not seen in video or read in words (least of all mine), but heard. Sometimes radio is the best form to convey emotions. I appreciate Clara Amfo’s honesty here. I hope we can be as honest in doing something to answer it.
Check out her journalism – including her excellent podcast, This City, which looks at the music scene in London:
She’s also a contributing editor at Elle (and sometimes gets to discuss lighter topics, like 90s music videos).