The Mysterious ‘Sugarman’ and Music Censorship

This week during the BCM111 lecture on ‘Music and Resistance’ we viewed the documentary film ‘Searching for Sugarman’. Within the first five minutes I was intrigued by the mysterious tale of ‘Rodriguez’ and I needed to know more.

Rodriguez AKA Sixto Diaz Rodriguez is a Mexican-American folk musician whose music was popular mainly in South Africa in the 1970’s. You might not know of him but you’ve most likely heard his song ‘Sugarman’. It was remixed by Australian duo Yolanda be Cool (also known for the 2010 song ‘We No Speak Americano’) released in November 2014. The song peaked at number 14 in the Australian ARIA charts, in Australia this is the most recognition Rodriguez has received for his work and the song went platinum after sales exceeded 70,000 copies.

The Yolanda Be Cool ‘Sugarman’ Remix

The Original ‘Sugarman’ by Rodriguez

The  documentary watched in the lecture ‘Searching For Sugarman’ shows the efforts of two Rodriguez fans; Stephan ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew-Strydom in their search for truth about the musicians rumored death, who he really was and if he wasn’t dead what happened to him. After extensive searching including deeply looking into song lyrics the two find Rodriguez alive and well living in Detroit.

The documentary won several awards in 2013 awards season including a BAFTA for best documentary, an OSCAR for best documentary feature and the film also went on to win the World Cinema Special Jury Prize.

The film was made for the Sundance Film Festival, it was directed by a Swedish director, Malik Bendjelloul, produced by Swedish and British Men, detailing two South Africans journey in search for a Mexican-American songwriter. I personally think this makes the movie an excellent example of world cinema another topic we have covered in our BCM111 lectures over the past six weeks.

According to Stephan ‘Sugar’ Segerman Rodriguez’ album ‘Cold Fact’ also became the soundtrack to many South Africans lives in the mid 70’s, it became the anthem of the revolution and helped the South African citizens think differently about their situation.

When Rodriguez’ song ‘Sugarman was released in 1970 is was even banned from most radio stations in South Africa because of its references to drugs. Not only was the track put on the ‘avoid list’, as seen in the film some radio stations even went as far as to actually scratch the area of the vinyl where the song would be to assure that it really couldn’t be played.

Of course when word about this ban got out to the public is inevitably made the album more desirable in South Africa.

Just think, how many songs and albums that you listen to and hear on the radio each day today would be able to be played on the radio if the ban on certain songs was still in place?

Swear words and direct references to drugs and sex are still censored out of music on radios today, just think what it would be like if the censorship committee was still in place worldwide.


Coachella: The Cultural Appropration Festival

“Cultural appropriation” is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. Summer in America means ‘festival season’ and this includes The Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival held each year in the the Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. With festival season comes a whole lot of cultural appropriation and each year festival goers are decked out in faux leather, war paint, Native American Headdresses, Bindi’s and Kimonos just to name a few.

One of the most popular ‘fashions’ and biggest acts of cultural appropriation at Coachella is the Native American Headdress.


Traditionally the Native Headdress is a very important part of the Native American Culture, typically made of beautiful bird feathers, it is more symbolic than anything else, but not anyone within the tribe could wear the headdress. It was reserved for the most powerful, well respected and influential member of the tribe. Each time this member of the tribe committed a brave act, a feather was added to the headdress. This meant that the more feathers on the headdress the more powerful the wearer.  Non-native wearers seem to be unaware of the headdresses heritage and the offense it causes to Natives when they are worn.

Jessica R. Metcalfe, creator of Native American blog and boutique Beyond Buckskin stated “The headdress is a sacred, important symbol to us. And it’s still a tradition that is practiced in our communities… Whenever you have celebrities or major companies misusing the sacred headdress, that is a direct way of destroying our culture.”

Another example of cultural appropriation at Coachella would be the wearing of the Bindi. #reclaimthebindi is a campaign started by anonymous women aiming to educate, empower and create culture appreciation. The campaign was started coincidentally at the same time as festival season started and Hindu and South Asian women posted selfies online using the hashtag #reclaimthebindi to fight back against the cultural appropriation and show the world that their culture is more than just a fashion statement.

The Bindi since ancient times has been the visually fascinating in all form of body decoration in India. The word Bindi is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Bindu’ and suggests the mystic third eye of a person. The Bindi was originally a insignia of a married woman and today many Hindi women wear a Bindi because of its origins based on Indian mythology.

The positioning of the Bindi alone is significant, the area between the eyebrows is said to be the seat of latent wisdom. Traditionally the Bindi is a red dot but can feature jewels. These are the types of Bindi’s worn by many celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, both of these celebrities stirred up controversy after wearing the Bindi.

Overall I feel that cultural appropriation is a negative thing, these traditions and culture are sacred and in cases such as The Coachella Music Festival, the non-native wearers of these cultural ‘fashions’ are simply wearing them for the fashion statement.

So what are your thoughts on cultural appropriation? Is it okay? Should Coachella and other music festivals put a dress code in place to prevent cultural appropriation?