Resistance's Many Beats

I WAS DELIGHTED to read the Richard Barnet and John Cavanagh article on pop music and its role in the age of globalization ("The Sound of Money," January 1994). All too often cultural critics dismiss the political significance of popular culture, particularly in its interaction with native artistic manifestations in the so-called Third World. The authors are insightful in interrogating the roles of the strictly commercial Madonna as well as that of the arguably sympathetic Paul Simon.

One unfortunate oversight in an otherwise excellent article was the absence of instances of resistance by cultural workers in the receiving communities. Since not all forms of cultural resistance take the form of narrow attachment to tradition but may sometimes use elements of several cultures—in a syncretic manner—to oppose or otherwise challenge imperial attempts to control, homogenize, and sanitize contradictions in the world, it is important to look under the surface of the world beat phenomena.

Musicians like Caetano Veloso—recently popularized by David Byrne’s compilation of Brazilian music—have been involved in "world beat" production for the last two decades. His political bite and insight have not been diminished by several years of exile. This is certainly the case of many others who continue creating, challenging the status quo. I found many examples of cultural resistance to political and cultural homogenizing in a book by Reebee Garafalo, Rockin’ the Boat (South End Press), but I am certain that there are many others not mentioned or overlooked.

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Sojourners Magazine April 1994
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