Here’s a profile of Santigold that I wrote for the Voice a month or so ago. During our interview I asked her about her background in “global music,” as I had gone to an EMP panel that compared her use of kuduro and dancehall on “Big Mouth” to Shakira’s musical co-opting for the 2010 World Cup song “Waka Waka.” I discovered that she majored in West African hand drumming in college? Below are just-now transcribed excerpts that didn’t make it into the story:
On her background in “global music”:
I was a music major in college and I had to have an instrument and I’m not very good at instruments except for hand-drums. So I studied West African, Hatian, and Cuban drumming and I used to drum for dance classes. And I grew up listening to Fela Kuti since I was little. Ali Farka Toure and that kind of stuff. Also, I really like when pop music had world music influences, like Peter Gabriel or Talking Heads. Even, like, Toto.
We have this term, me and Amanda Blank in particular, we call people tourists. When they surf cultures. When they come in and are like “Today I am really into Brazilian music.” Or, “Today I’m really into African beats.” That shit is corny. Even pop stars in the past - in fashion and their image - when they’re like, “This is my Japanese outfit,” or “This is my Indian look with my bindi.” You know what I mean? I’m not cool with that.
The truth is that I’ve been listening to this kind of music since I was a little kid. I’m not one of those trend-chasers. That’s one thing that I read about myself that was negative, that I’m the same. Am I supposed change myself with technology or trends? Or am I supposed to make music that is me? I’ve consistently drawn from the influences that I always have and I think that’s what music-making is. Not jumping onto whatever’s “next.” That’s the best way to make music. It’s all about the integrity of the artist.
On being a role model:
I know that people are watching and with that goes a certain responsibility. At the same time, I feel like it’s unfair to put that on people. Someone asked me about Rihanna, how she said she’s not a role model. I’m like, it’s because she’s a fucking person and she’s young. She shouldn’t have to take on that pressure and be able to make mistakes. And when you make mistakes in public and people come down on you, it’s not all the way fair. You have to allow yourself to be human, and humans make mistakes. You have to be able to take risks and try new things without feeling like, “Oh my god, people are going to judge me.”
At the same time, I’m glad that I am who I am and that people see me as somebody who’s empowered. I know that there aren’t many people like that and I’m happy if I am that for anyone, especially young women. Cause everybody needs that and I had that. But, I don’t know, I don’t just use women as role models. HR from Bad Brains was like, OH MY GOD, my idol. He’s so sick. Salt N Pepa and MC Lyte too. I was kind of a tomboy growing up and was always like, “Man, girls can rap too, see?” I saw them killing it and was like, YEAH. Or, even the riot grrrl movement. I loved the grunge girl movement. I wish that kind of stuff would come back, not in a trendy way, then it seemed natural.