The Cultural Boycott

Editor’s Box from fRoots 215 (May 2001)
When I was an early teenager, the world was a lot larger and further away. To people of my age in the monochrome post-war horizons of the small seaside town where I grew up, America seemed alluring and romantic. We were dazzled by it. Blues, jazz, American folk, the still-fresh roots of rock’n’roll, the writings of Kerouac, the language of Lord Buckley, Bob Dylan! — all these things were hip, sophisticated, attractively different, had a depth of secret culture that we wanted to find a way into. I was in my mid-’20s before I learned how to not sing in a bad fake American accent, and I still wear Levis (but at least they’re made in Belgium, probably by immigrants who need the cash).

It’s all different now, of course. America has dumbed beyond belief, and the secret cultures are our own and those of all the other local communities around the world who have undergone cultural ethnic cleansing. Your children can hardly turn on any channel of TV without having American soaps, news, adverts, cartoons and films pounding at them. You can’t turn on the radio without hearing American music or local copies of it. Put on Top Of The Pops and every single song will be sung in an American accent, regardless of where the artist comes from. Go to most parts of the globe and turn on the radio and you’ll hear the same thing. Walk down the streets in most places on the planet and the same American corporate advertising will lure identically dressed zombies in backwards-facing American baseball caps into American chains to eat American junk food.

We Brits laugh in an ironic way (sniggering even more thay ‘they’ don’t understand irony) about how only 14% of Americans have passports, at how they have something called the World Series in a sport only they play, at how they think there’s a language called African and Britain is called England. But now it’s not funny any more. ‘They’ have a President who the majority didn’t vote for, who is simultaneously trying to re-start the Cold War, re-ignite the Middle East and Korea, fight with China and hold up two fingers to the rest of the world over all the resources the USA consumes and all the shit they throw into the atmosphere. It truly has become a rogue state, the Evil Empire …

I am also acutely aware that most of my American friends — and from what your emails tell us, probably most of our numerous American subscribers — don’t like this either. They didn’t vote for Dumbo, and are as offended by statements beginning “America says …” as we were by “Britain says …” under the Thatcher regime.

Things have to change. So this is what we’re doing for the cause in little fRoots. Obviously first and foremost we will continue to promote local musics from out there, from at home and around the world, be a resistance movement to US cultural colonialism. Where American music is concerned, it’s partial cultural boycott time. We will continue to cover — but not disproportionately to other parts of the world — local or regional musics: blues, Cajun, conjunto, Appalachian, musics of immigrant communities, musics made by current writers if they are rooted in those traditions or address the problem (and that doesn’t mean singing about bloody dolphins!). We will no longer give space to music that has no sense of roots, place or community: singer/ songwriters who are essentially playing self-centred acoustic rock music, corporate Nashville country, mindless blues/rock, amorphous music that could come from anywhere: the stuff the US musikbiz calls ‘folk’.

Of course it’s like being King Canute, but if we’re going to drown we can at least wave a bit.

Ian Anderson


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