Sean Tillmann who is also known as Har Mar Superstar was called out by producer Afrokeys earlier this year for cultural appropriation. The incident that was called upon was Tillmann’s tribute to legendary singer and songwriter Sam Cooke while on tour. Cooke has commonly been referred to as the King of Soul and has an important place in music history.
Tillmann’s alter ego of Har Mar Superstar has gained popularity in the independent music community with his influences of R&B and pop. He and Afrokeys began feuding on Twitter over the appropriation but then decided to meet face to face and settle the dispute reasonably by educating each other on their own backgrounds.
After the meeting Tillmann decided to donate $4,000 of the proceeds from the Cooke tributes to organizations. Tillmann wrote, “I’m Sean Tillmann, and I tour under the name Har Mar Superstar. Earlier this year I was asked to play at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, and I took it as a perfect opportunity to do a tribute set to my one of my favorite singer/ songwriters, Sam Cooke. I was careful to pick only the pop and love songs from his catalog out of respect for the cultural implications I may raise if I had performed his protest and/ or gospel material. The show was a runaway hit and became a national tour due to demand from fans and venues across the US.”
“As the tour progressed I started receiving some criticism back home from a fellow musician who believed my show to be an act of appropriation of black culture. The nature of the tweets/ posts were hostile toward me from the beginning, and we both, regrettably behaved childishly online. The whole situation spun out in a way neither of us would have imagined, and eventually we met face to face to have a difficult but necessary discussion. We realized that we may never see eye to eye on the issue, but in the light of day, through listening to each other and attempting to understand where each other was coming from, we are very similar people. Our discussion was incredibly enlightening.”
As we discussed race, privilege, and systemic injustice within our own music community and beyond here in Minneapolis I felt my eyes being opened. Every day is a learning opportunity, and I decided to donate a large portion of my tour proceeds, $4000 in total to be exact, to 4 different organizations in the Twin Cities that will foster education and music opportunities within the African American community. Through this process it dawned on me that maybe the hundreds of people who got involved in the discussion could help too, so I set up this GoFundMe as an opportunity to chip in and hopefully match (triple? quadruple?) my donation for maximum impact.”
I’ve been smiling from ear to ear all day. My face hurts. Props to @harmarsuperstar for taking REAL action. This is beautiful!
— Afrokeys (@afrokeys) July 5, 2018