Bow Wow Wow  

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Bow Wow Wow was a 1980s New Wave band organized by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1980 whose music is described as having an "African-derived drum sound".

Controversy

The degree to which Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, and other British bands of their time were influenced by rather than stole the music of native African nations and tribes such as the Royal Drummers of Burundi and the Zulus has been a matter of debate. It is thought that when Malcolm McLaren started to advise Adam and the Ants on the direction they should take, he gave the band (the instrumentalists who would eventually become Bow Wow Wow) a variety of recordings of World Music from which to draw inspiration. When the Ants dropped out to form Bow Wow Wow, Adam Ant took the recordings from the band's early work in this new direction in order to start his new incarnation of the Ants. This is how it ended up that both bands were making music influenced by the recordings offered by McLaren. Among the recordings was one entitled "Burundi Black". The story of "Burundi Black" and the origin of the "Burundi Beat" and the associated controversy is told in the following excerpt from a 1981 New York Times article by Robert Palmer:

"The original source of this tribal rhythm is a recording of 25 drummers, made in a village in the east African nation of Burundi by a team of French anthropologists. The recording was included in an album, Musique du Burundi, issued by the French Ocora label in 1968. It is impressively kinetic, but the rhythm patterns are not as complex as most African drumming; they are a relatively easy mark for pop pirates in search of plunder. During the early 70's, a British pop musician named Mike Steiphenson grafted an arrangement for guitars and keyboards onto the original recording from Burundi, and the result was Burundi Black, an album that sold more than 125,000 copies and made the British best-seller charts... Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, and several other bands have notched up an impressive string of British hits using the Burundi beat as a rhythmic foundation. But the Burundian drummers who made the original recording are not sharing in the profits. Nobody told them to copyright their traditional music, and trying to obtain copyright for a rhythm would be a difficult proposition in any case. -- nytimes.com


It has also been charged that Bow Wow Wow stole melodies from Zulu jive songs and Zulu pop songs and turned the original Zulu lyrics into English mondegreens. This is the charge made for the origin of the lines "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah! City All over Go Ape Crazy!" and "Golly, Golly, Go Buddy. Hey i-yai-yo."

In answer to this issue the afore quoted Times article offers the following somewhat in Bow Wow Wow's defense:

"It's [The 'Burundi Beat'] the driving force and most distinctive ingredient in much of Adam Ant's music and has been equally valuable to other British rockers. The fact that Adam and the Ants have used it to power fatuous celebrations of tribalism makes their borrowing even more distasteful. Pirates indeed.
Again, Bow Wow Wow is another matter. The group's rhythms are still influenced by the Burundian recording, but they are varied and flexible rather than slavishly imitative. And the Bow Wows have absorbed other rhythmic usages, including West African high life, Brazilian pop and conventional rock and roll. They seem to be able to synthesize their influences into appealing trash-pop as easily as they subvert Malcolm McLaren's image manipulation.}}

In an RCA radio promo vinyl recording, guitarist Matthew Ashman responds thusly:

"Well they do a lot of that sort of chanting in, uh, Africa, but it's not a direct rip off. It's just, uh, our interpretation of it really. A lot of the ideas are ours, and they're brand new, a lot of those chants. You know what I mean? They're not stolen from some poor tribe in Africa. It's just like the influence is there, and we'll use it. Yeah, it's just a good noise, isn't it? It's a good sound."




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bow Wow Wow" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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