Monday, April 16, 2012

Review on Meintjes

I haven't previously heard of Graceland or Paul Simon, but through looking up online, Paul is known for the hit song Graceland. The song is unique as an eclectic mixture of musical styles including pop, a cappella, rock, isicathamiya, and mbaqanga(the last two styles of music originated from South African Zulus). The song sounds very engaging to me; i was especially drawn to the rhythm consisting of very complex layers of percussion instruments-bass drum in two, sycopated tamborines, and a distant sound of a bamboo like instrument.
It is interesting to see in this article by Meintjes, the song is considered as a complex polysemic sign vehicle that comes to stand for social collaboration, specifically between a White American and Black South Africans. Since the song was produced in the 80s, way past the hot conflict time(civil rights movements) in the 60s , maybe it wasn't news for these them to collaborate in music, but the collaboration still seems politically ambiguous. The author repeatedly stresses that, it is often up to the listener to interpret the political meaning behind the song or make sense of the musical collaboration in his or her terms.
For lengths of the paper, the author describes how Simon, while claiming to collaborate with, but actually sort of "exploit"the african musicians in production and organization. And from there he brings up the point about music styles and their integration. He defines music styles in its social terms as " an intuitive, felt, social feature expressing, forming, and representing a social coherence system."
In the end, the author states that It is the timing and placing of Graceland in South Africain the 1980s as well as the prominence and problematics of South Africa'spositioning within the global system that has made Graceland controversial and, along with the artistic and technical skills of its makers, the winner of the 1986 Record of the Year Grammyaward. My question is, is the author overemphasizing the political/social meaning of the song? Best record of the year Award is often highly associated with its commercial success and popularity, are the majority of the fan listeners actually aware of any of the controversies?

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