Ok all, prepare your minds and hearts for a bit of a rant. After being in South Africa for two months, I wonder if Americans fully understand the pervasiveness of American popular (pop) culture globally. What do I mean? Well I’ll bet, and I’m not a betting person, that you can walk up to any kid in South Africa and start singing the “Watch Me” song and they will begin singing with you. Now every single South African kid may not know that song but most of them probably do, even kids in rural areas. Why you ask? Because American pop culture is everywhere! I was shocked when my Colored (in South Africa “Colored” is a race so, chill politically correct people, I got this) host parents started playing R&B artists Joe, BoyzIIMen and Brandy. I was like, what do they know about that?! My Colored homestay parents’ friend even remarked about how anytime John Legend, Rihanna, or Michael Jackson came to Durban the stadiums were packed. Yet, in that same conversation I could not think of one South African artist that I knew before coming to South Africa. Not one! Now I know a few but I still know only 5 South African artists and that’s after being here for two months.
With the monopoly America has on global pop culture, one has to congratulate any international artist that Americans know, because when Americans know you, that’s when you’ve made it. I know a few people in the U.S. trying to make it into the music industry and the more I’m in South Africa the more I understand the appeal. If you make it into the U.S. mainstream then you, automatically have an international fan base. I mean so international that kids who barely have running water, know your songs. The gravity of that fact is insane.
Another food for thought is how hard it must be for local South African artist to make it globally. If an artist is South African famous, they can walk around the streets of America with no problem because being South African famous does not equate to American famous. Whereas if Kanye West or Beyoncé stroll into Durban, everyone and their mama is going to want to get a picture with them. And to an extent with the pervasiveness of American pop culture, even if you are South African famous you might not be South African famous that is to say being famous in Durban doesn’t mean you are famous in Jozi aka Johannesburg. As a local South African artist where do you fit? Because, to be honest, even the rejects of America have a place at the international table from music to movies even TV shows, for example, I’ve seen a few Black sitcoms that I use to watch years ago, on TV running as current series instead of re-runs. I’m not ranting like this to have a completely let’s critique America fest. All I want to say is that Americans need to fully grasp the weight of our reach. Ok, America has a monopoly on pop culture, so what are we going to do about it? Our influence is insane and I think we take it too lightly. We shouldn’t. We should be using that influence for good as often as we can. To be fair people do, some celebrities are great philanthropist. But we can always do more and be conscious of what we are sending out to the rest of the world. That’s all I’m saying.