As one example of many that could be provided, let's consider the following website, focusing on a type of music now popular in New Caledonia, a group of Melanesian islands to the east of Australia: Kaneka: Constructing Identity Through Music. Of course the "construction of identity" is by now a well worn, academically sanctioned bit of postmodern jargon, through which just about any idea or practice can be justified.
Though relatively young as a style of music, Kaneka music incorporates centuries-old traditional musical influences, combining it with sounds of contemporary music to create a wholly distinct genre. Created by New Caledonian youths during the political struggles of the 1980s, Kaneka music was born of a desire to reclaim a cultural identity that had been threatened through years of colonial rule.Well. First of all, using the term "Kaneka music" already constitutes an offensive appropriation, since the genre in question is hardly representative of Kaneka music as a whole. Secondly, I don't hear anything in this music that incorporates "centuries-old traditional musical influences" in anything more than the most superficial manner. Thirdly, the reference to "contemporary music" is misleading, since what we actually hear in literally all these songs is not "contemporary music" but, very simply, American style pop-rock.
Moreover, this is not a "wholly distinct genre" at all, but just another instance of the same-old same-old pop-rock heard time and again in different languages but essentially the same form all over the world. It could not have been "created by New Caledonian youths" since there is nothing new in it to have been created -- though I don't doubt that certain New Caledonian youths, like youths all over the world, were tempted by the lure of rock stardom to defy their elders by putting together their own "garage bands". Finally, though it may indeed have been "born of a desire to reclaim a cultural identity that had been threatened through years of colonial rule," its effect has been to embrace the musical equivalent of neo-colonialism, by promoting the type of music, complete with Western harmonies, rhythm section, star system, etc., so aggressively exported by American media for many years.
Here's a youtube version of this type of "Kaneka music" as it appears on their site:
The claim that "Painstaking efforts were made to resurrect traditional melodies, rhythms and instruments" is misleading. The video opens with what sounds to me like a Christian hymn, possibly based on a traditional Kanak melody, but harmonized Western style, in the manner of any other hymn. In Polynesia this sort of thing came to be known as himene style -- more or less the same sort of singing can now be heard in literally every inhabited island of the Pacific.
What we hear next, predictably enough, is a typically rock-style percussion riff, sounding more like your typical American or British rock band than traditional Kanak drumming, followed by what we would expect from any old rhythm section anywhere in the world. If some traditional instruments are used, and if the melody contains some phrases vaguely reminiscent of traditional Kanak melos, the overall effect is that of the usual sort of heavily globalized "pop-rock" genre. Whatever traces of Kanek tradition that might be present are literally buried alive.
Here's another example of more or less the same type of abomination, labeled, of course, "MUSIQUE TRADITIONNELLE KANAK." Right!
For those of you curious as to what the truly traditional music of New Caledonia might sound like, I strongly recommend the CD New Caledonia: Kanak Dance and Music, which can be previewed here: http://www.allmusic.com/album/kanak-dance-music-from-new-caldonia-mw0000563949
Of course, the real thing may take some getting used to, but for me there is simply no comparison between the simple but genuine and the pretentious and phoney. I can't help but be reminded of Alan Lomax's words of extreme indignation, addressed to all those so earnestly and thoughtlessly trying to make more palatable the raw products of age-old traditions: "You are pissing in the stream."
. . . to be continued . . . .