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Raffi got me thinking about the politicization of diversity, and that's kinda weird.

Here's a weird one for you.

Stephanie and I have been playing a Raffi CD for Lulabelle every now and again.  (Thanks, Grandma!)  It's cycled in with all the other random not-intended-for-kids music we play for her, like VNV Nation or Janis Joplin or Folk Implosion.


I never actually listened to Raffi as a kid, so I was always under the impression that his style was the kind of overblown saccharine "Let's all brush our teeth!" energy-pop that makes most children's television unbearable once your age hits double digits.  I was surprised to find out that he's really just kind of this chill, gentle dude who wants to hang out and strum his guitar.

More than that, though, he likes to blend a variety of genres in his music.  Most of it is folk-driven, but the particular CD we have melds in bits of rock, blues, calypso, reggae, country, a capella, and whatever-the-hell-Bananaphone-is.  I'm always for some genre-bending, so I dug it.

But this got me off on a weird mental tangent about what it means to borrow from other cultures and other genres when you produce your own work.  Raffi, a white dude, co-opts elements of music that were invented and/or perfect by Latin- and African-Americans.  I don't necessarily see anything wrong with that, but I feel like this is the sort of topic that constantly ends up sparking outrage.

I can understand when somebody is upset by something like, say, the Beatles's cover of "Roll Over Beethoven" getting a ton of airtime while the original Chuck Berry version gets the shaft.  (Speaking of Beatles covers... knock it the hell off, radio stations.  The Beatles did some amazing stuff post-Help, but their covers are universally terrible.)  It's a huge tragedy when artists of color are overlooked or scorned for the sake of blander, more ethnically appealing knock-offs.

I can also understand why people sometimes get upset when white rappers like Eminem take themselves really seriously and pull record sales and attention away from black artists whose lives are more genuinely in sync with their music, because using the veneer of Thug Life as a marketing technique for bored white kids distracts us from the hard work of conquering the social ills black artists are trying to call attention to.

But what about somebody like Raffi?  Dude doesn't seem like he's trying to dilute the talent pool or exploit the hard work of others.  Just seems like a chill guy who heard some new music, said to himself, "Say, that sounds neat," and made some laid-back songs that little kids can use as a gateway to a more diverse collection of music.

I don't know.  Maybe I'm overthinking this.

I guess I'm feeling a little lost because I live in a country where every goddamned thing - even just basic scientific facts or medical necessities like vaccines - has to become politicized and turned into a source of vitriol.  Is there room left in the world to just get a little ear-hug from Raffi and enjoy the diversity of our world?

At least Lulabelle can in our house.  I wonder what it's like in everyone else's.

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