12 May 2022


Genre Fusion and Cultural Imperialism: How Pop Culture is Reshaping the World

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The non-western musical style involves different features that can be used to describe when incorporated other music. Non-western music was generally passed down from generation mostly through word of mouth with the voice being the essential instrument together with various devices. One of the significant features of non-western music is the emphasis on melody and rhythm. The music texture of non-western music can either be monophonic, homophonic, or polyphonic with both depending on the location (Estrella, 2018). The features of non-western music are associated with African music, Indian music, or Polynesian music. In the African musical style, the non-western features that are identified include drum playing, which is done by hand or using ticks. The other instruments in African music that are used to produce sound include flutes, musical bow, finger bells, trumpets, thumb piano, and xylophones. The African music is also characterized by a singing method known as "call and response" whereby one person leads in the singing of the song's phrase while a group of singers answers.

When it comes to Indian music, the notation is different compared to that of African. However, Indian music has similarities to African music as it also involves improvisation and vocal abilities. The musical instruments used in Indian music include drums, drone instruments known as tambura and the sitar. The Polynesian music is normally designated as chant-songs, which are vocal music chanted employing simple to intricate melodies. The playing of drums by the use of sticks and hands are used as the main instruments in Polynesian music. The Polynesian music rhythm is either slow or fast and feet stomping, and hand clapping are also used to emphasize the music.

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Music can be apprehended in a different culture or societal boundaries. Several musicians from western have been borrowing the non-western music style and combine with the western music style. The borrowing from non-western music has played a significant role in producing several masterpieces that represent the music fashion genre across the globe. According to research findings, the borrowing of western musicians from non-western music styles has improved creativity and evolution of a new music style that has created a great appeal for people of both societies. Some of the musicians that borrowed from non-western music style include German composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he copied the Turkish military compositions in his renowned "Turkish March" of 1778. Another composer, Georges Bizet from France, used Cuban habanera tune in his opera Carmen in 1875. The non-western music style borrowing from the United States Europe expanded since the 1920s, which saw Hawaiian music becoming the single most widespread genre of commercial music at that period in the US. In 960s, several recordings in the United States had musical features derived from distinct ethnic origins such as rock-and-roll-style. The British rock guitarist Eric Clapton is another musician that borrowed non-western music style. Clapton recorded reggae songs that had originated in Jamaica with an expression of the Afrocentric ideologies of West Indian Rastafarian faith.

The idea of incorporating non-western music style into western style by musicians was obtained through several approaches. One of the major sources of music borrowing is the difference in perceptiveness on the creation of music. Different perspectives about composition and improvisation based on a range of skills and experience enabled musicians to find ways in which they can incorporate both western and non-western music styles in the creation of music. With different people across the world interacting, musicians gained more access to non-western music styles improving their music borrowing. Another aspect that gave western musicians the idea to incorporate non-western style into their music is a transformation that was happening across the world in terms of urbanization and modernization (Manuel, n.d). The changes created by the transformation disrupted traditional attitudes, forms of artistic pathogenic, and lifestyles, which created new urban social groups that contained new musical proclivities. The spread of recording technology also played a significant role in creating the idea of incorporating non-western music style into western style. Recording technology, which gained popularity in the 1920s, presented new approaches to mass production and distribution of both local and foreign music enabling new musicians to combine western music style with non-western music.

Paul Simon’s "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" is compared to Kwela music to demonstrate how borrowing from non-western music style can be incorporated in a western-style (zetsusama23, 2009). Simon recorded Diamond his first song of the Graceland album, a week after inviting Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Rhythm section in New York for a night live show. The song which incorporates mbube style starts with Ladysmith singing without accompaniment and then Simons joins creating a call and response pattern between the solo vocal and the chorus, an African music style feature. In the song, isicathamiya characteristics that include a soft and smooth tone are provided by Ladysmith, which combines perfectly with the smooth vocal style of Simon. The Soweto Rhythm Section starts the second section of the song, whereby changing the style from mbube to mbaqanga . The characteristics of mbaqanga include call-and-response pattern, use of triadic harmonies, and a quite smooth transition. The instruments used in the song include the guitar, drums, and bass. Other features of non-western style in the song are Simon's complexity echoes that are full of irregular vocal phrasing. The flexibility of the song to accommodate both mbube style and mbaqanga style allows variance in vocal lines.

The time when Simon released the Graceland album, which also contained the song "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes," the United States had started gaining attention about the mistreatment of black South Africa. The album provided a more inside perspective for understanding the situation in South Africa. With Simon music expressing the South African culture, it played a significant role in expanding the culture of South Africa to the international audience (Denselow, 2012). The musical heritage style that Simon used in the song tends to enlighten the world and people in the United States concerning the atrocities of apartheid. Simon's album played a significant role in changing the lives of black South African community as the international community was able to recognize and come to an understanding about the apartheid struggle the black community had gone through. Simon's song remains a pillar of educating the western world about what the culture of South Africa is all about. The music also is recognized for aiding the world of the west to understand more about the oppressed nation through music. 

The Graceland album which involved songs with non-western music style incorporated an accessible look into black South African culture. With the album being the best way to do Americans to learn about apartheid, it offered an excellent opportunity for the selling of the collection. The album was quickly sold with more than two million copies being purchased in the United States. Simon was able to gain popularity as his album was arguably labeled as the best album of the year. The album popularity did not only remain in the United States as it was toping on the South African charts within a short period upon its release. The album made the biggest-selling international release since Thriller of Michael Jackson in South Africa with the selling of 150,000 copies. The song and generally the Graceland album saw the reputation of Simon uplifting and becoming one of the musicians in the world. Simon was not the only person that profited from the Graceland album. Ladysmith Black Mambazo become the first black South African group to receive airplay in a white radio singing a song with ethnic language. The album enhanced Ladysmith musical careers as entertainers and also as pioneers for the black liberation movement. 

In conclusion, the paper provides several features that non-western music style holds with the use of drums and the call-and-response being one of the most common. The paper also provides some of the musicians that did borrowing from non-western music style and reasons why they had the idea of borrowing and incorporating western-style and non-western style. The major aspect of the paper is describing Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" in terms of borrowing and incorporating the non-western style in the song. The paper also discusses some of the effects of Simon's Graceland album which includes the "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" song on contemporary culture, on Simon's reputation, and the reputation and profit gained by non-western musicians. Therefore, the non-western music style plays a significant role in "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" song and other Simon's songs in the Graceland album which is considered one of the world's greatest albums.


zetsusama23. (2009, June 9). Paul Simon ~ "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes." Youtube . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf4YyXVoWeA

Estrella, E. (2018, March 29). The Sounds of Non-Western Music of Africa, India and Polynesia. Live About . Retrieved from https://www.liveabout.com/non-western-music-2456842

Manuel, P. (n.d). Worldbeat . Retrieved from http://autocww.colorado.edu/~toldy2/E64ContentFiles/MusicAndTerms/worldbeat.htm

Denselow, R. (2012, April 19). Paul Simon's Graceland: the acclaim and the outrage. The Guardian . Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/apr/19/paul-simon-graceland-acclaim-outrage

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). Genre Fusion and Cultural Imperialism: How Pop Culture is Reshaping the World.


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