Swiss reggae band Lauwarm has run into a wall of complete idiocy: they were told to stop playing Jamaican reggae music because its white band-members were sporting dreadlocks and wearing bright coloured clothes.
Translated into English, their name means lukewarm or tepid, but – judging by their popularity in Switzerland – they are neither.
Yet, still, as they were playing a regular gig at the Brasserie Lorraine in Bern, some visitors got upset, and “several people” expressed “discomfort with the situation,” and, to make matters clear, they accused the Lauwarm of “cultural appropriation.”
If the shoe were put on the other leg, does it mean that nobody but the Swiss and the Tiroleans are allowed to yodel?
True, the band play Jamaican music while singing in Swiss dialect. To make sure everyone knows what kind of music they perform, they wear partly African ethnic clothing and dreadlocks.
It seems it was the costuming that got some visitors all riled up.
The Brasserie Lorraine management, seeing (and hearing) the uproar, decided to cancel the concert: the “cancel culture” and “woke” crowds know how to express themselves loudly enough to dim any debate.
In your typical Swiss polite manner, the Brasserie Lorraine management first discussed the matter with the band, before cancelling the show. They also apologised to “everyone for whom the concert had caused bad feelings.”
Still, the Brasserie Lorraine management had enough courage to issue a statement the very next day to say that “that members of the band or white people are not automatically racists.”
So, what was Lauwarm’s crime? Even though they themselves never experienced racism or colonialism, they still had the chutzpah to play Jamaican reggae music.
Classical musicians beware: how many of today’s performers have experienced the 18th century? And yet, they still do play Mozart with gusto, and to sold out houses.
The Brasserie Lorraine would resort to Facebook a couple of days later: “We would like to apologize to everyone who felt bad about the concert. We failed to deal with it enough in advance and to protect you. Our awareness gaps and the reaction of many guests to the cancellation of the concert have shown us once again that the topic is emotionally charged.”
This is called dancing between eggs.
Who were those critics?
Nobody has (as of yet) identified the politically correct crowd that could have got up and left if they didn’t like the Swiss version of Jamaican reggae, but Dominik Plumettaz, the band’s leader and singer, has been quoted as saying that the group had performed many times since it was formed a year ago but had never received complaints about appropriation.
“We were completely surprised,” Plumettaz said.
“When we played, there was a good atmosphere,” adding that during the break, the restaurant told them about the complaints.
“After that, we felt uncomfortable and decided to stop. Unfortunately, the critics did not come out publicly and we couldn’t have a conversation with them, which we regret,” he said.
Plumettaz had a point when he said that he understood that “some people are sensitive to this issue, but music thrives on the mixing of cultures.”
To drive the point home, the band went to their Instagram account, “We treat all cultures with respect, but we also stand by the music we play, our appearance and the way we are.”
A debate on topics like this is a must, the band said: “It’s important to us that we have this discussion – neutral and based on respect.”
The Brasserie Lorraine management are planning a panel discussion on the topic.
Swiss social media are now filled with debates about “cultural appropriation,” a non-issue like few others.
The debate, quote correctly, links the Brasserie Lorraine incident to “cancel culture” and “wokeness,” defining the former as dismissing controversial people and ideas by not giving them a platform, and the latter as awareness of social inequalities such as sexism and racism.
The Swiss Tages-Anzeiger newspaper had a better description: “The Black Lives Matter movement has taken hold of the youth here. For them, European colonialism is present, continues to work in the underbelly of society.
“The explosive thing is that here a white band is taken off stage in a majority white context. This is what wokeness looks like in Bern.”
The respected Encyclopaedia Britannica defines “Cultural Appropriation” as an exploitative, disrespectful or stereotypical adoption of foreign cultural techniques and symbols.
Others go further still: “cultural appropriation” happens when members of a usually white but in any case dominant culture use elements of a minority culture that they had systematically suppressed, such as Africans or Native Americans.
White and use Native American carnival costumes? Thief. White and wear dreadlocks? Thief.
Not the charge of cultural appropriation is anything new within the music industry.
Remember Elvis? Yes, that one, as in Presley: he stands accused of making money off songs sung by black composers whom otherwise were unheard of.
White rapper Eminem has raised a few cultural appropriation eyebrows, too, and so have the British reggae band UB40, whose white and black members are now filthy rich off pop versions of Jamaican classics.
Spanking the politically correct crowd in public would be a good first step to solving this issue.