Thursday, October 24, 2013

World music

Most people are comfortable with music in their own language, regardless of where the musician(s) come from. That's understandable. We like that we can...understand, especially without too much/any effort on our part. Thinking about music? Not really within the realm of most (American) people's experience. It's different in polyglot societies, I think, where more than one language can be heard on the radio waves or found in local mp3 downloads.

Do music stores still exist? Or would I be dating myself again?

Anyway, my problem is that I love languages and maybe two-thirds of the music I listen to comes from languages I've been exposed to in the classroom or elsewhere, but not typically in everyday life. I like German and Japanese music and music from Africa. Not the silly-ass ogling of other cultures prepackaged world music. Popular music from those languages/regions.

Can I understand it? The German, yeah, for the most part. The Japanese, only a few words. The multilingual slurry from Africa...uh, no, but I still like it, and I have looked up some of the lyrics to get the gist. It's wonderful to live in the age of Internet. When I understand a word or phrase from the latter two music source languages, I actually get a thrill, like what I imagine (and only imagine, I promise) a cocaine user gets from taking a line. It's powerful.

Why don't other people experience that? Or would they if they ever gave world music a chance?

I guess part of it is that this isn't what music is for. It's for entertainment, not ... what? Education? Enlightenment? Music was for mind-expansion at one time (hullo, 1960s), but I don't think this is what they meant.

Even people learning (of their own free will) another language don't seem, in my experience, to derive enjoyment from their second-language's music. That really stymies me. How can someone enjoy learning Spanish, but eschew listening to any Spanish music? For example.

To be fair, they don't seem to enjoy poetry either. Conversational language learners...may not have the sensibilities necessary for music or reading? I don't know. I learned German because it was required. I loved it because of a lot of weird little things that when pieced together make something. Not crazy about the poetry. The music does something for me that's between healing/soothing and awakening. Love that. To everyone else, German music is comprised of dead composers, beer hall songs, and one-hit wonders.

If you find yourself puzzling over whether or not you could ever love world music, as described above, I suggest going to Amazon and perusing their mp3 selection. You don't have to buy; just listen to snippets of songs and see how you feel. If you need some recommendations for artists to start with, recall that German is my primary love, and start with these guys: Peter Maffay, Matthias Reim, and Falco. If you can find a copy of Falco's Der Egoist, it's worth a listen.

Peter Maffay himself is a lover of world music and has collaborated with artists from many other countries. Search for his Begegnung albums. Many of these are very good.

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