Eat Pray Bali

In reading Eat Pray Love, I thought Bali was a place rich with a religious, musical and traditional culture. What I didn’t know before reading the Harnish article was that these words are synonymous in the Balinese language and cannot be parsed apart. this is highly fascinating to me because of the way it conveys an idea about music- that music is of tradition, art and religion all at one time. Eat Pray Love addresses the religiosity of the culture but does not show the deep seated notion of all of these terms coming together to make up a whole.

The idea that cultural tourism was used to attract Western outsiders to come visit Bali is also interesting. The Balinese government used pictures of naked breasted women to show the “seduction and viability” of the Balinese. I think this can be applied to the book Eat Pray Love because the main character, Elizabeth goes to Bali to “discover herself” and to be more connected with her body. So it seems as though the culture has been transmitted to Westerners in a mostly accurate way but the question lies in whether the culture has changed its focus towards Westerners ideals of what Bali should be in order to promote tourism.

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Influences

I wanted to discuss the phenomenon where shortly after the Okinawan performers came onto the Japanese music scene, the Japanese musicians began to incorporate Okinawan elements into their own music. In 1911, Sonoyama Tamihei, a Japenese composer, published “a set of piano variations on the Okinawan song ‘Nubui Kuduchi’, which he had heard during a two-year teaching assignment in Okinawa,” (Mishima 2008 a and b). This ethnoscape of multiple cultures and peoples interacting with each other is just as interesting as the influence of R and B on dub and reggae, which we studied earlier in the term.

I am interested in the Okinawan influence on Japanese music because of the folksiness to it- folk music is inherently about a peoples’ past and thus it is interesting that a different group of people would inherit that past and make it their own. Two themes, the exotic nature of southern islands and American influence on the cultures, are prevalent in both types of music which tie the two together. I think its interesting that different cultures had similar impacts on both the Japanese and Okinawan people.

Slavery and Cuba

I am writing about the slave trade from Africa to Cuba because of its influence on the music there. According to Sublette, Havana had a bigger music scene from “the early days of Spanish Colonization of the New world” than “the rest of the Antilles put together.” However, Sublette doesn’t delve into this point right afterwards but rather goes into the similarities and differences in African American and Afro-Cuban music (probably because of the slave trades influence on both America and Cuba), citing, “call and response, importance of rhythm, and spirit possession.”

I was interested in these three aspects because of how they related to other music we have studied in the call and response aspect and in the importance of rhythm. Though I’ll admit I don’t always understand the direct references to rhythm and beats, I will say that I’ve recognized that the patterns in rhythm are very crucial to the definition of types of music. I wish the author had gone into a deeper analysis of how the slave trade affected music though- of how slaves brought their regional musicality together into a cohesive sound.

 

Fair Play

This post is about the Fair reading. I found it easy to read and to understand, as well as relatable to a degree. Obviously I have never had the government make me wear a uniform if I was in a band and make me sing about nationalism, but I understand the freeing powers of music. Growing up in a very musical family has taught me to free my mind through both the practice and listening of music, and without that I feel like my life would have lacked the richness that it has had so far.

The Fair reading touches on some points about how taarab music is strongly tied to freedom, particularly women’s rights and livelihoods. One woman said that it was the thing she most looked forward to in the day, which I can understand after going to many concerts and having them be the highlight of my week. I guess the main point I wanted to make in this post is that I really liked the discussion of how music can be freeing, particularly for women, because it was understandable in a sociopolitical context.

Divided Spaces

The main point I got from the Shian reading was that the different social spaces that bands could play emphasized a certain kind of audience, reception and status. The audience at say, The Meridian Hotel is, according to Shian, quite different from that of a local club where they charge between $2.50-$5 US dollars. There also is a difference in reception, the people at a certain hotel didn’t even dance, the music was just there for entertainment during a buffet dinner. And their status by playing at each of these places was highly socially constructed as in the bands themselves had an idea of what it meant to play at a certain place and the place had an idea of status and where it fell in the rankings as well.

This seems to reflect similarly to the USA places of listening to music, for example the Hollywood bowl is a very different venue than the Los Angeles House of Blues or the Mondrian hotel. However, the author did not talk about the equalizing effect that recordings have on music. Anybody can pick up any recording pretty much, in the USA at least, which reflects a kind of musical democracy that makes the audience, reception and status of the venue all not matter as much as the band themselves. I wish the author had explored this pathway a little more because I wonder if it is different in Dakar/Africa as it is in the USA.

Tunes and Tones vs. Culture and Crises

I am referring in this post specifically to the conclusion of the Journal of the American Musiological Society paper by Agawu, because I found his paper particularly difficult to read. I played the flute for nine years and come from a musical family but I still had a very tough time struggling through his in depth analysis of African music. It was as if his paper were meant for someone hearing the music at the same time as reading (as well as for a person with much more knowledge on beats and their “politics” than myself).

I believe that the sentence, “exercise greater self awareness in assigning attributes to African rhythm, be they of structural or cultural cast,” is a fantastic one- its what we are doing in class. But at the same time I think that he could have tied his highly analytical structural elements back to culture and socio-political context much more than he did in order to reach a broader audience. Then again, maybe he didn’t want to reach a broader audience and was satisfied with the scope of his material as it is today. Overall, I would have liked more context but I understand why he left it out.

London to Brazil

Crook’s article brings up the very interesting point of how “outsider” music was percieved by American watchers, though he only briefly touches on this point. Still, the fact that he says that MTV and SNL watchers thought of Olodum merely as “an exotic robe draped around Paul Simon” and were not in fact interested in the highly political context and the social context from which it sprang is interesting. Did they not care or were they just not well informed enough? The fact that there was an international music office in London would make you think that the musicians would have enough publicity to convey their issues to a broader audience.

However, Crook says that, “unfortunately, collaborations with pop stars like Paul Simon have provided little opportunity for groups like Olodum to express their version of culture as resistance and as part of the struggle against racial discrimination in Brazil and in the world.” In fact, the cover of Reflexu’s’s album, Da Mae Africa, looks like it could have been a black 80’s American pop band, not a tribal, “to the roots” band focused on cultural symbolism and political change. My question for Crook is whether they have since received such recognition within Brazil and Africa and whether the social context has changed because of the music any more than when he wrote the article initially.