June 29, 2010

Most racist musical group ever?

If you though the Indian chief in the Village People was bad, here's an entire band comprised of stupid stereotypes:

Forget the cowboys, meet the Indians... Just over three decades ago a young country and Irish band were looking for a gimmick to capture the imagination of the huge Irish public who were filling the dance halls listening to their favourite showbands, and country and Irish bands. They had the talent but something extra was needed to draw the attention of the Irish music media.

Someone suggested that Ireland had enough cowboys in the music business but that it was desperately short of Indians, and so The Indians were born. And from day one the visual aspect of authentic Red Indian outfits complete with full war paint guaranteed a sight on stage that could not be ignored.
Whoever wrote this article obviously doesn't know the meaning of "authentic." Onward:The latest line up of The Indians includes: Stephen Proctor, who assumes the stage name Big Chief White Cloud; band leader Eamon Keane is Sitting Bull on keyboards, accordion and lead vocals; bass guitarist and lead vocalist Brian Woodfull is also known as Crazy Horse, perhaps due to the nightly exposure of a bare rump during his act; the lead guitarist is Tommy Hopkins, also known as Dull Knife; and new member Kevin McKeown is on percussion and lead vocals, now happily signing himself Long Arrow.Coincidentally, the band was known as Casino for six years before it became the Indians:

All About The Casino/Indians Showband (1964-Present)  [includes dozens of stereotypical photos]

The Indians--Ireland's Top Showband  [official website]

The Indians Showband--"Son Don't Go Near The Indians"

Comment:  Way to honor Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse...by doing the Wigwam Wiggle with your bare butt. I'm sure their descendants appreciate it.

I probably could spend hours deconstructing this stereotypical band and its stereotypical songs. But let's jump to the bottom line: most racist musical group ever?

Imagine if the musicians dressed up in blackface, donned grass skirts and bones through their noses, and called themselves the Spearchuckers. That band would be exactly as offensive and harmful as this band is.

Ever wonder where the European hobbyists who imitate Plains Indians get their ideas from? Now you know: The Irish Indians band.

More fun with stereotypes

But wait...don't change the channel. Now that you've heard the Indians, there's more!

Coming up next on the Newspaper Rock Variety Hour: The Slant-Eyes sing their hit Ding Dong, the Ching-Chong Song. The Wetbacks sing their hit Frito Bandito and His Spicy Señorita. And the Greedy Jews sing their hit Don't Heckle My Shekels, Mr. Jekyll.

Next week, the Spearchuckers will be back with their hits Bling and Crack and Baby Makes Three and Fried Chicken Finger-Lickin' Lip-Smackin' Good. And be sure not to miss the debut of the Eye-Talians and their smash singles We Will Wop You (Upside the Head) and Mafioso Mama, Your Gun Goes O-Bama.

Anybody not get the point yet? I could go on....

How this posting originated

A British woman--a lecturer in religious studies at the University of Winchester--brought the Indians to my attention. She asked what she could do to get rid of the stereotypes. My response to that:

With the costumes and all, the band appears to be heavily invested in the "Indians" name. They've been using it it for 40 years. I doubt they'll change it just because real Indians don't like it.

We already know how they'd justify themselves. "Harmless fun"..."just a joke"..."no offense intended"..."we respect Indians"..."Indians love us"..."you're being hyper-sensitive"..."don't be so PC"...etc. In other words, a Dudesons-style minstrel-show defense. As long as they say they're "honoring" or "satirizing" Indians--I'm not sure what the difference is--that excuses any mockery.

As I told her, I think you'd have to undertake a long-term campaign to cajole them. Create a blog and write about them, start a Facebook group and solicit members, write letters to the media, maybe even stage protests at concerts. If they have sponsors or advertisers, threaten to boycott them. If enough people join you, the band may feel pressured to change.

But I'm guessing it won't happen until the original band members retire or die. Hitting them when they're in transition may be a good bet. They may be willing to reconsider their shtick then.

For more on non-Natives doing "Indian" songs, see Oldfield's Sentinel and Italian Dance of the Indians.

Below:  Woo-woo, it's the Indians! Be sure to get the band with the "authentic" tomahawk, feather, and teepee in its logo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Imagine if the musicians dressed up in blackface, donned grass skirts and bones through their noses, and called themselves the Spearchuckers. That band would be exactly as offensive and harmful as this band is."

I defy you to go on the streets of Oklahoma City and yell "Indian" at the top of your lungs. Then do the same with "Spearchucker". My guess is at that point, you will realize that it's not the same.