Above: Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend singer Ezra Koenig in a fan-created picture to accompany the merging of their two songs. Press “play” to experience the mash-up, and see below to hear each song alone.
This week Mirror80 spotlights ’80s music that was influenced and inspired by African rhythms. When listening to bands like Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Bow Wow Wow and Oingo Boingo, or to musicians like Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, it’s hard not to notice certain connections, especially of the percussive nature.
Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon
And now the music is back–bands like Vampire Weekend and Cut Copy are nodding to the African-inspired tunes of their predecessors. In fact, the song atthe top of this post (“Crazy White Love Sky”) is a recording of Paul Simon’s 1986 track “Crazy Love, Vol. II” combined with Vampire Weekend’s “White Sky” (from their new album Contra). From the mellow yet festive guitar to the contagious grooves, these Afropop-influenced songs have undeniable similarities. Check out each song below, beginning with Paul Simon:
If you haven’t already, click “play” at the top of this post for a brilliant mash-up of these two tracks and understand why an Afropop comeback was inevitable.
Let’s return to Vampire Weekend. In his New York Times article “Preppie Afro-Pop and Other Odd Blends,” Kelefa Sanneh notes Vampire Weekend fans’ tendency to connect the band to Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland, which features many South-African musicians. Sanneh writes, “It’s an inexact reference point, but an effective one, evoking 1980s nostalgia…and an unfussy approach to Afro-pop.”
He spotlights Vampire Weekend’s single “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (the title refers to a Congolese dance rhythm), noting how in the song, lead singer Ezra Koenig “name-checks the guy who helped make so-called world music a genre unto itself” in the line “This feels so unnatural/Peter Gabriel too.”
Vampire Weekend and Peter Gabriel
And now–the Vampire Weekend/Peter Gabriel connection…
First, check out the video for the song “The Rhythm of the Heat,” an intense track filled with Ghanaian drum beats, and one that Gabriel wrote about a trip to Africa taken by psychologist Carl Jung.
In now fast-forwarding to Vampire Weekend’s 2008 single “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” I’m not attempting to link the song with Gabriel’s track, but to set up the video at the end of this blog post! With that I give you the video below (don’t forget to listen for the undeniable Afropop influence and the line “But this feels so unnatural/Peter Gabriel too”):
Now you can hear Peter Gabriel singing his own name as he covers Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” This is a must-listen. Even if only to hear Gabriel croon, “And it feels so unnatural/to sing your own name.” We’re glad English electronic band Hot Chip provided the amazing instrumentation for this track:
Stay tuned for next week’s post, which will take a look at ’80s tribal fashion.
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