Garrick B. asked us to post about the video for “Sing,” the official song of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebration. Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the song. They then traveled throughout the Commonwealth of Nations to find over 200 singers and musicians to perform it, in order to include a variety of musical styles in the recording.

The video features scenes depicting the recording of the song. Garrick felt that the presentation of different racial groups reproduces ideas of pre-modern non-Whites. London and other major cities in the Commonwealth are quite racially and ethnically diverse. However, the video largely features individuals with darker skin in shots that present them outdoors, either in rural communities or in natural environments such as forests, and often in clothing that marks them as non-Western. I can’t embed the video (you can see it at contactmusic), but here some screencaps:

In one case we do see light-skinned individuals in what we might consider “traditional” clothing — four men in Scottish kilts, playing bagpipes. However, the setting chosen to record them is a manicured stadium:

Compare that to these scene, in which Barlow is “attacked” by a group in loincloths and spears:

Placing the kilt-clad Scots in an arena marks them as performers, not as pre-modern individuals who have somehow been discovered in their natural state. Nairobi also has stadiums, manicured lawns, and professional recording studios, though the scenes shot there feature backgrounds of the outdoors or of slums. While the intent of the imagery in the video was presumably to represent a diverse, though ultimately unified and happy, Commonwealth, the choices about the presentation of musicians echo a racialized vision of the urban/modern and the rural/traditional.


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