Coldplay and Beyonce’s “Hymn for the Weekend” music video is being deemed controversial for its depiction of Indian and Hindu culture.
The musical group, Coldplay’s video for their “Hymn for the Weekend” song is already making waves in the media regarding “cultural appreciation of Indian religion.” The song is featured on the group’s latest album, A Head Full of Dreams. The R&B diva, Beyonce is featured on the song. The music video itself essentially displays beautiful cinematography, yet the imagery it contains is also unchained from the senses of social and religious significance.
Over the past few years, Indian culture has made its way into a variety of music videos by artists such as Major Lazer, MIA, and Iggy Azalea, to name a few. In these music videos, the western artists appear to be having a really fun and enjoyable time, whilst the Indians are seen in the background and dancers and video set décor.
These videos, right along with the Coldplay video, continue a dubious and ongoing tradition of portraying the country of India as essentially a backdrop for western enjoyment and enlightenment. The song “Hymn For The Weekend” combines religious and cultural practices and commodifies them into a conventional, yet beautiful message of illusory solidarity.
But these music videos convey culture to watchers who won’t ever have the opportunity to visit any of these exotic landmarks nor understand that even though hennaed hands appear to be beautiful, they actually have a religious and social significance.
Another major issue of the music video is the fact that it essentially depicts religious practices. It portrays a child dressed up to look like Lord Shiva, priests appearing in saffron robes, a sadhu balances on a tightrope. But what is the purpose of these elements? For those with little or no knowledge of Hinduism or India, the video’s depictions of numerous religious practices dissect their true meaning and become simple “video entertainment.
Coldplay performed the song during the halftime show of this year’s Super Bowl. Although the band’s equipment was decorated, Coldplay mostly ditched the religious imagery in favor of a bright rainbow motif during their Super Bowl performance. The closing shot of the halftime show was a pro-marriage multi-colored “Believe in Love” message sprawled out in the bleachers. Coldplay elected to give their new song a unique visual cue of sorts, instead of trying to turn the event into a religious centenary and Bollywood festival during the halftime show.