Local Beats and Global Sounds

By Molly Laubernds. Ms. Laubernds is a student in Denise Rotavera-Krain’s FYS Class: Questions of Identity Through World Music

The article Transnational Musics and Cultural Authenticity: Between Global Beats and Local Sounds by Hugh Lovatt, analyzes the effects of globalization and cultural developments through world music in great detail. Music is starting to play a larger role in society with the development of different media outlets and the ability to travel more often. This essay will show how cultural brokers attempt to homoginize local music through de-localization as well as how local markets try to heterogenize music through cultural localization. I think that the outcome is a hybrid type of music that incorporates different types of Western sounds as well as local sound clips.

With the spread of Western music throughout different cultures came the incorporation of local music into Western style songs. Many up and coming Eastern artists have recently appeared in performances alongside American artists and bands. “Western singer Cheb Mami provided backing vocals in Sting’s ‘Desert Rose,’” he was given this opportunity because many Western artists wanted to dominate, localize, and naturalize their own music. With the development of the mixed and hybrid music came the development of mixed albums. The albums were created to reach the sub-genres within the different types of music thus allowing more diversity for the buyer.  Although albums claim to be becoming more diverse, with the development of Western cultural songs the local tunes are losing their roots. No longer is Sufi music authentic or spiritual.

With the development of media outlets the small venues that Sufi performances once took place in were a thing of the past. Now Sufi music is performed in large concert theatres across the world. Western behaviors have been imposed on their culture and have taken out the spiritual aspect of Sufi music in order to make a profit. Western consumers are “presented with the complete commidification of musical performances for the benefit of Western consumption,” which means that in order to make a greater profit Sufi ensembles are willing to compromise spiritual and historical values. Although Sufi music is losing their originality there has been a large development of world fushion music that has lead to an intense hybridization of music. The new hybrid mixes provide a unique sound and a new transnational identity.

With further development of the hybrid music also comes considerable difficulty from a cultural stand point when blending the different styles together. A once banned rap culture is now  amongst the most popular three genres listened and performed by Arab youth. “This shift in musical tastes is widely seen as marking the first time that the Middle-East youths no longer consume the same music as older generations,” this is very true however, extremly popular local artists still remain a source of inspiration for youth today. It is wrong to say that the different musical sides East/West are diverging when in fact the two are slowly converging.

I think that the outcome of the fushion of Eastern and Western music is a hybrid type of music that incorporates different types of Western sounds as well as local sound clips. Because of the varying sounds and music styles many different people from different age groups, cultural status, and gender are all able to relate to the new music in some way. I believe that this co-development of the two styles of music is a positive thing that is helping to merge the divide between the two cultures.

World Music: Changing and Staying the Same

By John Mulvihill. Mr. Mulvihill is a student in Denise Rotavera-Krain’s FYS Class: Questions of Identity Through World Music.

It can be easy to become trapped in a “safety net” and be stuck in one’s own personal world. A good way to learn about the world is by simply listening to the music of other cultures. Music from other cultures and other parts of the world show how things change and how they sometimes stay the same.

In the western world, music which comes from outside it has come to be known as “world music.” This, of course, is generalizing a multitude of musical genres into one. Yet, the western world is still a large consumer of the world music genre and has greatly expanded the market for it. Western artists such as Madonna, Sting, and George Harrison had started using different sounds from different types of world music in their own songs. This has promoted different types of world music. Yet, they are not the only people who have brought different types of music to a western audience. Groups from across the seas have decided to promote their music to western audiences. A prime example of this is al-Kindi ensemble. “This Syrian based group markets itself to global audiences as an authentic Sufi ensemble and by relaying on Western notions of the sacred and in the Orient the al-Kindi Ensemble has been able to inscribe itself within the global sub-genre of ‘spiritual music’.” (Lovatt, 5)

Despite the fact that their music is constructed for, and consumed by foreign audiences, the al-Kindi Ensemble have nonetheless succeeded in constructing a globally accepted idea of authentic Mawlawiya music by becoming one of Syria’s most famous orchestras. Yet not all examples of world music are like this. Music of other cultures has changed along with the times and technology. Many types of world music have taken a more serious tone, and some of the governments of  respective countries have tried to stop that. In fact, many artist singers had to endure repeated criticism, censorship and even persecution. An example of this is Raï music. Perhaps the biggest source of local criticism that Raï faced were its lyrics which flouted many of the traditional values present in conservative Arab Society. “Raï songs openly discussed subjects traditionally considered off limits, such as prostitution, alcohol, forbidden love and sex, leading to strong criticism from conservatives and repeated violence against Raï artists.” (Lovatt, 9) There were even killings of some artists, such as the assassination of Cheb Hasni in 1994.

World music shows that the world is both static and dynamic. Some types of music change over time and others continue on as they always have been. I feel happy about the fact that the Western World (especially the United States) is learning more and more about different types of world music. Even if this has caused violence in some areas, it is a good thing that people are expressing themselves in new ways and old. The new forms of world music help attract a younger generation, and the old keep more mature generation’s attention. When different people from different parts of the world can come together and enjoy the same thing, it truly is beautiful.

The Rough Guide to Sufi Music

Sufi music varies substantially across the world in terms of form. However, from LA to Kolkata or from Turkey to Senegal or South Africa, the poetry embeded in the songs has a universal message. In many ways, whatever the form, we are yearning to be closer to the Divine. If you want to purchase some of this music, here is one place you can get some Sufi music.

In this Rough Guide CD, one interesting musician is Moudou Gaye. Modou is from Senegal. He plays the “hang”, a metallic percussion instrument physically related to the steelpan. He uses this instrument to “cross borders instead of a passport…Modou tries out these new tonalities in improvised concerts and meetings with musicians. While singing Sufi poems with ephemeral jazz bands, Modou takes us into his “Soufi Jazz” universe where languages, instruments and cultures mix amongst each other. A remarkable person, he draws the East and the West closer together, thanks to his unique and witty music.” (Virtual Womex). Here are examples of him playing.