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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: April 2020

‘Man in the Mirror’ The Issue of Appropriation in the Exchange between African & African American Popular Cultures

Summary

Michael as a human being had everything it takes to be a superstar and every step he made was so unique and enticing that everybody knew that he was incredible and that is what I am too & Everything about Michael is me & People are saying that I look and dress like him & and that I could actually be a replacement for him, though coming from Africa; his ancestral home. (Njoku 2013)

In June 2009, Nigerian performer and Michael Jackson Impersonator Walko Chilko, or Michael Eze Chikaria, was devastated when he got the news of Michael Jackson's death. Chikaria's whole persona had been modelled to replicate the legendary pop artist, from his bleached skin and his chemically straightened hair to his ethereal voice and distinct dance moves. Indeed, Chikaria had presented himself as a blurred, distorted, mirror image of Michael Jackson, from circa 1985. The extent to which Jackson impacted Chikaria and millions of Africans throughout the 1980s and 1990s cannot be overstated. Jackson's music and performances set an important precedent for twenty-first-century African American artistes who are extremely popular in Africa and are now booking shows in different African countries, charging top dollar for their concert tickets. For decades, African audiences were mesmerized and inspired by African American artistes.

More than anywhere else in the world, African American music and culture finds a comfortable home in the motherland. Black music is perhaps one of the best examples of what Paul Gilroy would call ‘a circulation of ideas’ in the Black Atlantic (Gilroy 1993: 4). The notion of give and take is exemplified in the music from America that has returned to the place from whence it came and young people have recognized the familiar beats, the energy, the approach to improvisation, and the close connection to audience and community in the performance. Therefore, across different African countries, each generation has been attracted to and inspired by African American music. As a result, they have adopted and adapted it, customized it in some instances, and created a new version of African American music. Other cultures have done the same.