Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Travel Tuesdays: World Music

"Cultures are very powerful forces. We get used to being  certain ways. The music you grow up with becomes deeply a part of who you are and your identity. It takes a desire to learn and communicate with others in order to adjust to the sounds of another culture's music."

-Michael Tenzer, Ethnomusicologist as heard  on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook 'The Roots of World Music' February 22, 2010

Before setting out on a trip, I like to learn something about the place I'll be visiting. I especially enjoy listening to music from the country I'll visit. In the past I had to search high and low to find good world music. Nowadays, this task is easier than ever with music from nearly ever part of the globe available for purchase on CD, from iTunes, or on YouTube.

Back in the mid-nineties, I was the local coordinator for a group of exchange students from France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Morocco. One day, while out on a field trip with the students, I saw a CD of traditional Moroccan music called Morocco: Crossroads of Time. I was already interested in world music by that time, but I was uncertain if the music I was getting was authentic. On this day, I had a great opportunity. I asked Mehdi, a student from Casablanca, Morocco (the same man I mentioned in my Travel Tuesdays: Morocco post) to listen and give me his opinion. When he started singing along, I knew I had the real thing.  I purchased the CD.

In June of 2001, shortly before our trip to Morocco, I prepared a Moroccan meal for my husband and the friends we'd be traveling with. I played the CD while we ate dinner. We shared a meal, prepared for our trip, and allowed the music to transport us to Morocco. Later, while in a medina in Morocco, I noted my familiarity with some of the sounds I was hearing because I had listened to "Ambient Sounds" (at Marrakesh Medina).

For those of you who are unable to travel, music offers another way to expose your children to different cultures. In my classroom (and now in my home) I played music from all over the globe. In the beginning, some students would make faces or mock the unfamiliar sounds. After a year in my classroom, however, those different styles of music seemed more common place and the mocking had stopped.

My kids have listened to world music since birth. We started with world lullabies and moved on from there. I'll never forget the day my then 4 year old son asked me to change the music I was playing in the car. He asked, "Will you play the Arabic one?" My kids' current favorite world music is "Basement Bangra." I love that my children listen to all kinds of music with the same open-ness. With a little exposure, your kids will, too.

Unlike the adults I believe Michael Tenzer was referencing in the quotation that opens this post, children are far more open and adaptable to new sounds. I believe Mr. Tenzer is correct about adults. We need to work harder to acquaint our ears to unfamiliar sounds and eventually learn to appreciate them. Kids make that leap far more quickly.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting examples of my favorite world music on my "Michelle Cusolito, Writer" Facebook page. If you haven't "liked" my page, yet, please consider doing so. Just click the "like" button on the right side bar.

What's your favorite world music? Please share it in the comments.

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