Thursday, December 4, 2008

Choosing Your Tribe

I follow Suzanne Vega pretty closely. She is one of my favorite musicians. Yesterday, she posted an article on They New York Times' Measure for Measure blog. In it she talks about her background, her heritage, and its connection to her music.

Which Side Are You On?:

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was raised in a half-Puerto Rican family and spent five years in East Harlem as a young child. At some point, when I was about 9 years old, I learned that my birth father was actually English-Scottish-Irish. Or white, as we used to say in my old neighborhood. Actually, anybody looking at me could probably tell that this was the case, but I felt I was the last to know, partly because I was treated by my Puerto Rican abuelita and my aunt and uncle as one of their own. I was proud, and still am proud, to be a Vega.

She talks about music identifying which tribe we've chosen to belong to. (She gives examples such as "goth, emo, hippie, punk, folk, alternative".) In general, it's a fascinating post.

It gets especially interesting as she includes a recording a song demo, a song that has never before come out, that she hasn't played for audiences. Given her background, it is probably no surprise that the song resonated for me, especially the first verse and the chorus:

"Daddy Is White (By Suzanne Vega, 2007)"

I am an average white girl who comes from Upper Manhattan.
And I am totally white, but I was raised half Latin.
This caused me some problems among my friends and my foes,
Cause when you look into my face, it’s clear what everybody else knows:

My daddy is white.
So I must be white too.
When you look into the mirror, what
Comes looking back at you?

If your daddy is white,
You must be white too.
When you look into the mirror
what comes looking back at you?

If you click on the link for the post (above), you can listen to the song yourself.

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