Alexander Ghedi Weheliye is Malcolm S. Forbes Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and author of
New Waves, Shifting Terrains: Prince's and David Bowie's Transatlantic Crossovers
2023. "New Waves, Shifting Terrains: Prince's and David Bowie's Transatlantic Crossovers", Feenin: R&B Music and the Materiality of BlackFem Voices and Technology, Alexander Ghedi Weheliye
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This chapter looks back to the 1980s, to the transatlantic postdisco moment that would a few years later lead to the creation of house music in Chicago and techno music in Detroit. In this epoch there was a spirited but clearly not unproblematic “exchange” between musical cultures in the United Kingdom (synthpop), continental Europe (Euro-disco), and the United States (R&B/funk) in which Europeans would emulate and appropriate Black US sounds, and then, finally, Black US artists would reappropriate these sounds now supposedly baptized in exclusively culturally alabastrine waters. Prince’s 1980s career offers one very prominent example of precisely this tendency in how he and his collaborators made use of musical and visual tropes associated with white Europeanness, translating them to Black American musical and cultural idioms.