Beyond Genre: Black Elements in Radiohead’s “Bloom” Or Black Music/White Music, What’s the Difference?


Today’s music scene, rather the industrial marketing mechanisms orchestrating the music scene, perpetuates segregation in music. However, such marketing belies the more permeable boundaries between genres or that elements of “black” music still exist in rock or that “white” elements exist in hip hop. One example of black musical elements in a “rock” song is Radiohead’s “Bloom,” the first track from The King of Limbs (TKOL) released in 2011. Any Radiohead fan can assert that part of the band’s popular and critical appeal is their ability to layer sound, creating textured musical experiences. This architectural sound is taken a step further in “Bloom” which has a West African inspired rhythmic arrangement with an anchoring beat at the core and an overlaying of related beats and rhythms. Not only does this destabilize boundaries maintained by the marketing machine of the music industry, but it also raises some interesting cross cultural possibilities as to how the song might function. For example, given the multiple functions of West African music as political/social/spiritual productions, what insights might one gain by analyzing “Bloom” as a spiritual/psychic experience, especially from an African world view? This paper will examine the structure of “Bloom” using J.H. Kwabena Nketia’s explanation of West African composition theory and explore the spiritual experience of “Bloom” using Wole Soyinka’s theory of the “fourth stage” and the Bantu philosophy of vital force to illustrate the artificialness of the categories into which we place music and cultures.

Author Information
Kela Nnarka Francis, Independent Researcher, Trinidad and Tobago

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2015
Stream: Arts - Performing Arts Practices: Theater

This paper is part of the ECAH2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon