There’s kitsch and there’s shit. This is neither. It’s inaccurate. And that’s what stings. There’s no harm in you doing a cover version of my favourite Bollywood song. There’s little harm in you changing the pitch of it and singing it an octave higher than it should be because some of the notes must be hard to reach. There’s probably not even much harm in your being backed by a school band-esque ragtag collection of hippies with recorders and a cheeseboard-style variety of costumes. There’s the banana, the grasshopper, the tree and the World War One veteran. That’s all fine. I can deal with all that because I understand the rules of kitsch. I understand that sometimes you must see some things presented in a new light with the focus being on their cheesiness and how fun it is. That’s fine.
But when you dance, and you do Arabic dancing, you wave your arms about like you’re summoning a genie, you writhe your hips like it’s a Middle Eastern bellydance, you walk like an Egyptian, I realise that you have no clue about the difference between different brown peoples.
We’re all an amorphous mess of mysticism and Orientalism.
And that is cultural misappropriation.