Terry Richardson It has been a steady climb for Rihanna as she has finally…
- Posted on Jan 22nd 2010 10:30AM by Georgia Kral
It wasn't just a Vampire Weekend event, and it wasn't just for adoring fans. The quartet appeared alongside Jamaican poet and author Kwame Dawes at an event organized by Upstairs at the Square, a Barnes and Noble-sponsored series that brings writers and artists together.
But for Vampire Weekend, a band that has been both heralded and hated for their unique appropriation of African and Caribbean music, could perhaps see the night as a vindication of sorts. Among authors and thinkers, they could discuss and be discussed, intellectually. And they were applauded for being thinkers.
"It's really cool to hang with these guys. They're thinking people," said Dawes. "But they're happy as well. That doesn't always happen."
Dawes, born in Ghana but raised in Jamaica, was asked about what cultural appropriation meant, to which he responded by paraphrasing a Bob Marley interview.
"Bob was asked what he thought about a lot of people doing reggae versions of all kinds of things ... Bob said, 'Reggae no, Reggae for everybody.'"
The interview, conducted by journalist Katherine Lanpher, helped to contextualize why it is that Vampire Weekend make music that is perhaps not culturally a part of the band members' own personal experiences.
Rostam Batmanglij, keyboardist and producer, explained how his parents had left Iran after the revolution in 1979, and although he felt "deeply connected" with that country and its culture, he experienced it from the outside.
"That influenced me as a person and as a musician," he said, hinting at why it is Vampire Weekend samples from other cultures.
Dawes, who uses artists from Shakespeare to Rita Marley as inspiration in his own work, said music and art is never new, it is taken from other places, other people and "filtered" through the artists own personal experience.
"These guys are appropriating Paul Simon, who is appropriating South African music -- when does it end?," he said. "These guys play it right. This is them."
After that line, wide smiles spread across the faces of the bandmates who have the number one album in the country. Throughout the event, they performed four songs, each to riotous applause: 'Horchata,' the single from their new album, 'Contra;' 'White Sky,' also from Contra; and two major hits from their debut, 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' and 'Oxford Comma.' All were performed acoustically, which stripped them of the heavy production on the album and in the live show. They were, in a way, baring more than ever before.