A debate about cultural appropriation is raging on the Internet, and Bruno Mars is at the centre of it.
At issue is the question of whether the 32-year-old Grammy winner is a cultural appropriator, as his hits have been inspired by various African-American musical genres while his heritage is a mixture of Filipino, Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi Jewish.
Stevie Wonder came out in defence of Mars, telling TMZ, “Here’s the thing, God created music for all of us to enjoy. So we cannot limit ourselves by people’s fears and insecurities.”
“He’s a great talent, so all the other stuff is just bullshit,” the musician continued. “He was inspired by great musicians and great artists and songwriters. So that’s good.”
Discussion of Mars’ alleged cultural appropriation went viral thanks to comments made by writer Seren Sensei in a YouTube video (above) focusing on the topic.
“Bruno Mars 100 percent is a cultural appropriator,” she said in a roundtable discussion for Grapevine. “He is not black, at all, and he plays up his racial ambiguity to cross genres.”
“What Bruno Mars does, is he takes pre-existing work and he just completely, word-for-word recreates it, extrapolates it,” she continued, listing Mars’ musical influences from genres such as R&B, funk, soul, and hip-hop. “He does not create it, he does not improve upon it, he does not make it better. He’s a karaoke singer, he’s a wedding singer, he’s the person you hire to do Michael Jackson and Prince covers.”
Sensei added: “Bruno Mars has an Album of the Year Grammy and Prince never won an Album of the Year Grammy. The issue is we want our black culture from non-black bodies.”
Mars’ fans, however, took exception to Sensei’s opinion and clapped back via Twitter: