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Lean On: Major Lazer and Cultural Appropriation

September 11, 2015

‘Inspired by the people, culture and warmth we experienced on our recent tour’ – Major Lazer, Diplo & Dj Snake

So this song embodies everything “Hip hop and Henna”. The first thing I want to mention is the girl, MO. She leads what appear to us as ‘native’ south asians (they could well be american dancers, who really knows) in a belly-dancing type dance with bollywood hand movements and vigorous, awkward hip shaking. ‘We all need somebody to lean on’ Is a sentiment that can be applied to anyone, but when it’s a white woman (who fits western body standards) leading a group of mostly light skinned south asian women (every single one has a bindi.. this doesn’t seem normal but how would I know? Upon closer inspection I think MO has bindi’s on her cheeks as well?!!). They fit the western standard also – fit, somewhat pale. Anyway, when a white woman is leading a group of WoC in a dance saying, We all need somebody to lean on, it seems to reinforce concepts we’ve explored in the class – Indian women need to be ‘saved’ by strong American men, or that the south asians themselves need help, someone to lean on. This further perpetuates the idea that south asians can’t take care of themselves. It’s almost like a subconscious message to people that haven’t had their eyes opened to the experiences of south asians in America or orientalism in general.
at 1:15 we see the white singer, MO, in a hot tub covered in rose petals with Diplo. Around them are the dancers, who basically look like concubines the way they’re positioned in this scene.
Again, at 1:50 we see the white woman leading the south asian dancers. Why? If this is about cultural appreciation and not appropriation, why would the white lady be leading?

The members of the band – Diplo, DJ snake, Mo and what must be one of major lazer’s original DJ’s – All swipe a bus that has been painted paisley, intricate patterns, general replications of Indian art. We get a peek inside the bus and the men and MO are inside partying, the dancers are on top of the bus as it drives looking once more like props than the originators of this culture they were ‘inspired by’.

We learn absolutely nothing original about Indian culture from this video. We see the same cheap stereotypes played out over and over again.

Here’s something I found online Diplo said about the video and it’s making:
“When we toured there [in India] as Major Lazer, it was mind-blowing to see our fan-base and we wanted to incorporate the attitude and positive vibes into our video and just do something that embodies the essence of Major Lazer. Major Lazer has always been a culture mashup and to us, India feels like some kind of special creature with one foot in history and one firmly in the future.” 

*Edited to remove personal bias and false information as well as to add new, credited information.
(this is a learning process!!)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2015 1:18 pm

    Just to comment on that last paragraph, Major Lazer was created by Diplo and Switch, two white guys. So the idea that “they put a white guy in charge and he made them a whole bunch of money” isn’t true, and those two white guys were the ones that pursued Jamaican Dancehall music, and started, not sullied, the cool “cultural collaboration”.

    • September 12, 2015 1:25 pm

      Aw man what kinda ill informed dummy am I? sheesh thank u for informing me. embarrassing

      • September 12, 2015 1:28 pm

        No problem, pretty much agree with everything else though!

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