If Coldplay’s Hymn for a Weekend were about cultures from East Africa to Assam, would it have been different? Probably not – they appropriated and mislabelled Asian cultures before. The video features religion prominently, it is set in Mumbai and then covers only 2 other Indian states. Coldplay uses Holi and Sadhus but also Kathakali and Bharatnatyam dancers, as if this is an advert for the tourism office of India. Then Beyoncé’s jewellery seems inspired from Ivorian Coast bridal face veils, the rest of that African attire is similar to North Indian bridal wear.
The timing of the release is inconsiderate and illustrates the disconnect Coldplay (and Bey) have with Indian cultures. In the aftermath of the suicide of Rohith Vemula, we can only expect to hear from certain people on this now, and not others – the most oppressed, whose views would be more important. I had heard of Coldplay and Yoncé and have equal unfamiliarity with their songs; I had never heard of Sonam Kapoor who, after googling, looks familiar. Bollywood* is not my culture but it’s almost all there is on TV that is non-white and subtitled. I watched 1.5 Chinese serials living in Mauritius, and I do catch Bolly movies (not in entirety) on TV and I don’t bother to know actors’ names or the film title. They’re always terrible, and I wasn’t even aware of the anti-blackness. Then it’s always some Kapoor or other; another Kapoor, Ekta, has been writing for TV since she’s 17 to make her own money and have a more luxurious life (kinda like Rihanna except EK has no talent so to speak**).
Now I know Sonam’s the highest paid Bollywood actress, so Coldplay, how much did you pay the poor children you featured? It seems all over Desi media that Sonam is the mystical muse, what then is Beyoncé? Was Bey alone not enough? Her voice is also central to this obviously. An Indian filmmaker shot this. Some complained about the name Rani but Bey was the protagonist in a film called Rani according to the script. The biggest problem is not Yoncé’s dress or mehndi-ed hands, the biggest issue is Coldplay using poverty and religion. The issue is the endorsement, of Coldplay BS by Yoncé and of the religion by Coldplay who has tons of white privilege and could have used it to critique what it is using as aesthetics but instead, it’s using poverty as additional aesthetics with the video not being a commentary on the link between this oppression and religion.
On many levels, from incense (there was incense, right? or it’s implied in the background) in the video being made by child labour in India. If they were fishermen’s children maybe they have to work too. Maybe Holi is the only day some of those children get to play but they got enslaved by Coldplay on that day I presume. Rih too, was guilty of appropriating while collaborating with Coldplay. I didn’t know that song or collab even existed. I don’t follow Beyoncé for wanting to encourage plant-based lifestyles or anything. I keep up to date via friends who are fans. There would be music videos at a gym I pretended to work at (as a desi in the Cape Colony, one can pretend to work (or gets mistaken for an employee in) many places, apparently we all look alike) or if I caught Bey on TV between other programming, I’d watch. I didn’t know what Coldplay looked like to be honest, their music never seemed good enough to bother. Coldplay’s trend of using Asian cultures and asking influential black women to join them is more problematic than any appropriation there, but there’s the endorsement of the Hindutva by everyone involved this time. Beyoncé knew she was helping Orientalism though she might be unaware of the rest. Coldplay otoh went to India and Chris Martin even worked with Oxfam India!
For Harriet has a piece. [Along the lines of what I’d been tweeting yesterday] A reply to it:
Jason Jeremias*** said “Operating under the umbrella of Western culture through the orientalist gaze erasing the diverse plurality of Indian culture and celebrating the Hindutva culture that is murdering Dalits, tribal peoples, and Muslims, you do. It’s a wavering on imperial imposition for the benefit of the so-called artist. The vast community may not benefit, but Beyonce does, and thus is appropriating.”
In a nutshell, except there is much unnecessary backlash on Bey. One may wonder if there is one good thing that can possibly come out of this video which is the potential of Yoncé to counter Bollywood’s colourism but they may have ruined it by featuring Sonam, and some are wondering what Yoncé is wearing on her face. Some are suggesting a Bollywood actress should’ve been featured instead of Yoncé, uhm, there was one already so do they mean another one lipsyncing to Mangeshkar’s voice? Wait, do they mean to Yoncé’s voice? That’s offensive. The aesthetics of voice is relevant. Bey’s cleavage is also being used to sell and/or enforce something and in the context of Hindutva’s war on Dalit women’s bodies (from popular culture to rape and murder) since this is a different setting, whoever made the decisions, she’s now partaking in this violence from the position of the Hindutva by uncritically featuring in this Coldplay song, not as herself. Hindutva maintains a caste system where white people are welcome to join the priestly caste and class, regardless of social class. It feeds off white supremacy.
Regardless of what you think of the video or my words, you want to read the context (hyperlinks): what Holi is actually celebrating (wherever) or whose India we are talking about. And some of the issues I have with Coldplay now, I also have them with MIA jsyk
*Once a friend asked for film recommendations, I’d watched 2 ok ones over 3 years – none were Bollywood (there is other Indian cinema, ideologically but also regionally) One was Dor, which is a 2006 remake of a 2004 Malayali film. Couldn’t they just dub it and add their songs? This kind of normalised thing ties in with colourism of that industry (and culture).
** I’ve watched a few of her soapies. I heard the highlight of her work was Tulsi’s portrayed realism, I had a glimpse during my vacation but Tulsi was still played by a young [who passes as old bc of sizeism] light-skinned, straight-haired and physically attractive person. Generally a curly-haired actress would be the villain, often Bengali women; and same trope for less-light skin in men (sometimes in women).
***Quoting white-passing men bc brown women I see are like (innacurary and misplaced anger perhaps) “I said this once @Kat Blaque and I’ll say it again:
So who’s profiting off this shit? The white british guy (really??) prancing around my people or the poor underprivileged kids they used to yet again portray India like some poor, third world country?
And Beyoncé is getting her Madonna on I see.
Not knowing what the fuck she’s doing with her hands, but “it looks sooo prettyy”!
End of the day, no matter how many natives they included in the video, those people won’t be seeing SHIT of that money.
Sonam Kapoor was seen for like 3 seconds in the video and she was all excited and shit like memsaahib threw her a cookie? My people need to get off white people’s d*cks. Especially the white American d*cks.
So when it comes to our clothes, mehndi, use of bright colors and all those pretty looking cultural aspects, people look and care? But they look the other way as soon as our social issues are being discussed? Fuck the fuck off.
Also, did anyone notice the misuse and mixing of cultural and religious customs? No? THEY DIDN’T EITHER BECAUSE THEY DON’T CARE. It just all looks soooo pretty!
Whenever we ourselves dress or practice our religion in western countries, it’s frowned upon or met with racist allegations. But when rich popstars do it, “it’s soooo edgyyy” and “OMG Yoncé looks sooo prettyyy”? F*ckouttahere.
I’m just gonna leave this here” — Aashna Devi to Love Life of an Asian Guy (where I also found the Yoncé mosaic). She posted the screegrab below and I did learn thanks to her that Coldplay is USian. So in this, I guess I knew Bey the most.