July 23, 2012     Tori Cook

Music: An International Language


Music is an international experience, one which can help enhance your cultural understanding.  I personally love exploring and experiencing new music and wanted to share some facts on my favorite world music.  Check out some of these influential musical areas, whether it be YouTube or traveling to the area and experiencing it in-person!


“I’ve got rhythm!”

The vast continent of Africa represents a wide range of cultures with many different musical traditions.  From one end of Africa to the other, the musical styles will sound dissimilar. But the one thing you can count on in all styles of African music: rhythm!

African music is percussive in nature, using a variety of African-made drums, rattles, bells, and marimbas accompanying a prominent vocal line.  You may be surprised to find other stringed and wind instruments coming into play as well.


Latin America
“You can dance, if you want to!”

Latin American genres, influenced by the strong percussive traditions of Africa, focus on dance.

Common genres include the flamenco, samba, rumba, and salsa. My personal favorite: the Argentinean Tango!  With its close embrace and improvisational freedom, it can make for a very exciting dance to watch and to learn.

Maybe check out a local dance studio this week and learn the basic steps to a Latin dance of your choice!


“We’re all in the mood for a melody”

As a vocalist, it’s no wonder that Carnatic music in India appeals to me, with its strong emphasis on vocal melodic lines and improvisation. Very different from Western Classical music, this style of music has over 300 commonly-used ragas (or scales) in their music today. I would hate to have to study that in music theory!

The more classical form of Indian tradition is Hindustani music, a spiritual form known as “a gift bestowed to man” according to Hindu mythology and influenced by ancient classical forms dating back to 1000 B.C.


“Hit Me With Your Best Shot!”

Japan is highly influenced by Western Classical music but still has traditional forms of music lingering in the homes of its residents today; the oldest forms being shōmyō and gagaku.

Though these reflect Japan’s historical traditions, I am more influenced by the Japanese masterpiece: karaoke! Karaoke bars have infiltrated the world and are sometimes viewed as a fun way to embarrass your friends on a night out, but you may be surprised to hear that karaoke is part of the daily life of many Japanese residents.  With Japan’s songs in daily routine, it’s no wonder why Japan is the largest music market in the world!


New York
“I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps”

New York, New York: A melting-pot of nations, influenced by various traditions and styles, and typically known as the center of the American music industry.  It is home to many styles of music, but the ones that spring to mind are jazz, rock, blues and musical theater.  With a Broadway district that other cities can only dream of, you can catch a show any night of the year here!

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