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Welcome to SeeDarkly Sunday DisCOVERies:
a weekly exploration of goth, industrial, & dark alternative cover songs!
First time here? Click here for details from first entry.

I find it difficult to criminalize "appropriation." The degree to which the term is overused as a cudgel against those so accused is repressive of art, expression, and common sense. The appreciation of art is already hugely subjective so anyone who experiences any original art they cherish being reinterpreted by another in a way they don't like is welcome to a negative opinion. But a negative opinion does not a criminal make. And not every reinterpretation is going to take into account every nuance of the original's history or cultural significance, if any. Today, I'm focusing on a cover by an artist who has been accused of "cultural appropriation" for it, but might more accurately be guilty of simply poor research and mis-crediting her sources:

Sexwitch - Ghoroobaa Ghashangan (Originally Gönül Dağı by Neşet Ertaş)

Sexwitch is a collaborative project from Natasha Khan from Bat For Lashes and the English indie-rock band, TOY. Last September they released a six-track album covering a multi-national array of psych and folk tracks from the 1970s. Most of the tracks, being from either Iran, Morocco, or Thailand, required translation and some poetic interpretation. They titled this track on the album, Ghoroobaa Ghashangan, and that is just one of the ways things may have gone wrong.
Shortly after the release of the album, an Afghan-American artist Zohra Atash, (from two projects: Religious to Damn and Azar Swan,) took some measure of offense at the album and accused Khan of misappropriation and cultural insensitivity. Atash called it "slapdash art" and noted a major discrepancy in the attribution of one of the covers. Sexwitch credits their cover of Ghoroobaa Ghashangan as the song by Iranian pop-singer Ramesh. This is among songs on a 2012 compilation album, Zendooni (Funk, Psychedelia And Pop From The Iranian Pre-Revolution Generation) found by Sexwitch's producer Dan Carey, who brought it to Khan's attention for the project. However, when investigating the "original" from that album Atash discovered that they weren't the same song and the song Sexwitch had really covered was Hamishe Tanha (found on the same compilation) by Iranian artist Pooneh.
But the origins go even further. Pooneh's track is actually a cover of Gönül Dağı written in 1971 by Turkish folk artist Neşet Ertaş and later popularized in the region as interpreted by Turkish rock musician Barış Manço.

So it's abundantly clear that Sexwitch didn't do their homework. Does that make them "culturally insensitive" or simply "negligent" in fully appreciating the depth in the meaning and history of these songs? In stated motivations, it's evident Khan found inspiration in their beauty and wanted to experiment with the sounds and share them, meaning no offense. Keep in mind, this is a largely underground artist with enough success to continue a career, but not so much as to be making millions from her somewhat better-known Bat For Lashes material, let alone this one-off side project. The question of the "rightness" or "wrongness" of the effort aside, what they produced was nonetheless darkly beautiful, electrifying, and spellbinding.
Her version of this track is unquestionably as they intended with their namesake: both witchy and sexy. While this project is not definitively "goth," it still has an inherent darkness and quality that parallels in various respects to artists like Qntal, Dead Can Dance, or Switchblade Symphony.
The sound is a modern Americanized derivative of the Eastern styles found in the version from which they drew, (itself fairly loyal to Manço's version,) and quite distant from the acoustic folk style of the actual original (below):

The Cover:

The Original:

Next week:
So if Zohra Atash had stones to throw out of her passion for the culture she feels Sexwitch's cover infringed on in some way, surely when she re-imagined the work of an artist that inspired her, she sought to honor its original meaning and intent without any personal deviation, right?
Well perhaps not "faithfully," but we'll explore the validity of calling such representations "appropriation" a little more next time with another dark cover of a pre-80's new wave classic.

Comments, suggestions, discussions, etc... welcome!

If you're in New England and want to dance to tracks that you find here, keep an eye on my schedule for details on where I spin next. ^_^

Explore the darkness,

Previous DisCOVERies

Aug 21 - Echo and the Bunnymen - People Are Strange (The Doors)
Aug 14 - Noblesse Oblige - Hotel California (Eagles)
Aug 07 - Combichrist - Gonna Make You Sweat (C+C Music Factory)
July 31 - Bella Morte - Never Let Me Down Again (Depeche Mode)
July 24 - Zeromancer - Send Me An Angel (Real Life)

Directory of All Previous DisCOVERies


seedarklyxero: SDXeroEye with glow (Default)
DJ Xero, Operative of SeeDarkly™

October 2017

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