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Halloo! When I found out I could go to med school with a Humanities degree with an Ethnomusicology emphasis, I almost peed myself. Here's to me holding it in.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Intercultural Music, or a New Music Culture?

Put this song on while you read this: http://grooveshark.com/s/Ever+So+Lonely/2vKkRL?src=5

Consider Sheila Chandra's 1982 top ten hit 'Ever
So Lonely' with the band 'Monsoon'. At a time
when positive representations of Asians in the
media were few and far between, not only was it
remarkable that a top ten hit should emerge whose

vocals were sung over a classical Indian drone
carried along by a sitar and tabla raga, all of which
was augmented by a pop riff played on synthesizers
and electric guitars. As Chandra herself remembers
the song was remarkable for other reasons:

I mean the amazing thing about that record is that in
the middle all the other synth instruments are pulled
out and in the middle eight, people on the dance floor
are essentially dancing to a classical raga, and they've
got so used to the cross rhythms that that's what
they're dancing to and they don't think twice about
it. And that was the really subversive thing. (Sheila
Chandra in The Southbank Show)

Certainly Sheila Chandra never regarded 'Ever So
Lonely's' chart success as 'success' in itself. For
her, the real success was the song's ability to get
listeners dancing to what was essentially a basic
Indian raga. If British-Asian dance music is able to
renegotiate the colour-coded reifications that pervade
British popular culture, then this type of dance is
certainly a form of postmodern resistance: all the
more canny because dancers are unaware of how
their dance blurs boundaries, of how they dance
to the tune of the snake charmer's un-namable
pastiche. That Sheila Chandra's audience, and many
of those at Talvin Singh's 'Anokha', may have been
white and middle class only adds to the sweetness
of that 'success'.

From "The World Is Sound? Geography, Musicology and British-Asian Soundscapes" by Tariq Jazeel, Source: Area, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Sep., 2005), pp. 233-241 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Sometimes, if you want to introduce someone to something that to you is precious, it needs to be packaged in a way that is precious to the someone you are introducing it to.

I wonder what it would feel like if I were dropped into an alien culture with ideas of music radically different from what I grew up with. I wonder what it would feel like if, all of a sudden, I was able to write a song with one of the alien culture's music groups where I was able to inject some good ol' blues or rock into their popular music of the day. Is this kind of thing going on in the Tibetan diaspora? Are aspects of Tibetan music making their way into pop music production in the refugee community? And would it constitute simply intercultural music, or would it evolve as a new kind of music altogether?

1 comment:

  1. My little introduction to her was quite the experience. On the note of your project, it's so interesting to think about all our different styles of music. I was reading one of the other field study blogs the other day and read a story someone told about some man in the middle of a dessert on a camel or something and that night he got out his phone and played some popular rock or hip hop song that I didn't know but I'm guessing is mainstream popular here in America and apparently off in some far off dessert where it seems so out of place, but maybe it's just that our schema of certain places of the world is off because we get this almost idealized kind of view or very particular view of it and forget what influence certain media and technology has had and how global our world is becoming even in what we would consider remote locations. That makes this change in music through the generations and combining of cultures in music forms very interesting. Anyway, that was long. I'm excited to learn more about your project as it goes along.