Diaspora Versus Division Britton-René Collins | 1004575783 Introduction to Music & Society HMU111 Dr.
Vanessa Thacker 11/30/2017 In this paper I examine the role that movement and migration play on the effectiveness and reception of music. Most everywhere in North America and across the globe, there is a wide-spread issue of division that stems from not embracing each other’s differences that has been tolerated for too long. The issue I speak of is the cultural divide, which is the very root of all war, segregation, and effects generation upon generation to seclusion from other cultures. It is of upmost importance that we stop ignoring and tackle this issue so that future generations can live peacefully together, needing not to initiate war, persecute others, or oppress those one may deem “beneath” themselves. How then, in choosing to accept the cultural divide as a real and threatening issue, can we overcome this challenge and learn to be accepting of each other’s differences? Shouldn’t we all be able to live harmoniously together? The objective of my research is to determine the effects that diaspora in music has on a divided humankind.
To accomplish this, I will first identify a solution for disjunction that can unite communities, cultures, and the whole world together. Secondly, I will redefine the role that diaspora plays in the contribution of music to a society, and lastly, I will prove whether or not introducing music to a new society through diaspora is enough to overcome hate, division, and war. Music is a powerful and relevant vehicle for change due to its everchanging diverse and inclusive nature, and should be used as a tool for mending the cultural divide. In searching for an applicable solution for disjunction that induces unity, this should be approached by identifying something that all communities already share, and in this case and for the sake of this paper, I have appointed music. Not because I believe that music is the only solution, but because every culture has their own music and historically, different genre’s and sub-genres of music have managed to be integrated into different cultures as people migrated, taking their music along with them and sharing it with the people of other lands, effectively encouraging multi-cultural communication and reducing the prospects of a cultural divide. In particular, the sonic, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual capabilities of music combine in powerful ways to engage memory, to arouse aspiration, to evoke community, and to define identity in new geo-cultural contexts (Habib, Kenneth) And other than the pure fact that music can unite us by being something that every culture adapts into their lifestyles in some way or another (whether for entertainment or ritual purposes), music has long been used to derail hate and teach us to coexist and love one another despite our many differences. This I will prove with a few examples, including one of my own experience witnessing music bringing a divided community together.
Over fall reading week, I was privileged with the opportunity to attend a performance by the world-renowned touring band “CrossCurents.” This group portrays the very essence of togetherness, made up of musicians from different parts of the world working together, and the name in and of itself reflects unity. It only makes sense that such a project would be the product of famous tabla player Zakir Hussain, who is well-known for his constant explorations in and influence on music from around the world. The influence of Indian classical music on jazz is widely known. Less known, however, is the influence of jazz on the popular music of India. Jazz first came to India by way of the Hollywood musicals and quickly influenced the music of India’s burgeoning film industry. The improvisational nature of jazz was familiar to Indian composers and musicians, who found a way to incorporate jazz harmonies and chord progressions into their work. As a few decades passed, and as the West was enjoying the inspiration of Indian classical music, certain musicians came to influence popular music in India and through diaspora introduced the music of their cultures to other cultures, uniting people from across the globe together.
And for the purpose of this paper, I would like to point out that the use of the word diaspora has proliferated in the last decade, its meaning stretched in various directions. (Brubaker 1) In its most general and fundamental sense, diaspora concerns a triadic relation – between a group of people, a host country and a homeland – but the character of this relation and the meaning of its parts are contested. (Lidskog) And noting this, I can now move on in sharing my experience witnessing CrossCurrents. Of any musical performance I have ever attended, CrossCurrents was the most inclusive, interactive, and cathartic that I have experienced thus far in my life. This is important because the event took place in my hometown; Gainesville, Florida, United States, in a small and a very opinionated community where there is little diversity and grasp on the true meaning of togetherness, in a country where division and segregation are (and have been) very prominent.
Because of the unfortunate culture of my hometown, along with my lack of knowledge for the true nature of diaspora at the time, I was expecting not too many people to be in attendance for the performance, despite the fact that the group is a mixture of both Hindustani (Indian) and Jazz (American) music. I was then surprised to find a larger than anticipated line-up for parking and at the ticket booth. The biggest shock of all, however, was to find that the auditorium was sold-out, and not just by people from within my community; it was sold-out with people from all around the world. I had the pleasure of being seat beside a lovely couple that informed me they had traveled all the way from Morocco just to see CrossCurrents, and it was the first time that I personally had ever known of anyone traveling from across the globe to my small community, and all for a music performance. Already then, before the performance even started, I realized that I had never fully grasped the impact that diasporic music could have on a small community. Now, exactly what impact did the music have? It challenged my community to be civil and look past each other’s differences.
For a moment, everyone could just experience the music with one accord, caring not what race the person seated next to them was, nor their religion or walk of life. The result was a variety of different races, genders and cultures all coexisting together in a community where that is abnormal. I also observed that no one had their phone out during the event, which I (considering the usual culture of modern western society) interpreted as a sign of respect, a reaction that applied an understanding of the existing cultural boundaries, which reduce possibilities of a cultural divide. It was quite easy to perceive, particularly throughout the performance, that the music wasn’t just intended for lovers of Jazz or Hindustani music.
Rather, it was meant for all people, despite whatever amount of knowledge they might have had for the music. “It is far less important to understand this music on a technical level than it is to simply open one’s heart and listen. One will understand all that one needs to know: that this is beautiful, calming, healing music that awakens the senses and stimulates the body, mind, and soul.” (Lavezzoli 42) Being diasporic myself now, I have experienced firsthand opening my heart to new cultural ideas without fully understanding the history behind them. The members of CrossCurrents–Zakir Hussain, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Shankar Mahadevan, Louiz Banks, Sanjay Divecha and Gino Banks–are all from different walks of life and backgrounds, yet they manage to together create beautiful sounds and experiences, work harmoniously, and mend a broken community. “It is quite wonderful to be here and share our music, which balances the soul, distracts us from life’s unkindness and tragedies with a gentleness at times where we need it the most”, Hussain said during a brief intermission. His words lead me back to the question: Is introducing music to a new region through diaspora enough to overcome hate, division, and war? Let’s look at world-acclaimed pianist Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn Jr., someone whom I believe is a perfect example of diasporic music defying hate, division and war.
Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow during the Cold war in 1958, and it was shocking that a 23-year-old American would become an adored celebrity in Russia during a time where tension between the United States and the Soviet Union (Pre-Dissolution) had steadily been rising. The moment the young American with the shock of flaxen curls sat before the piano, a powerful new weapon exploded across the Soviet Union. That weapon was love: one man’s love for music, which ignited an impassioned love affair between him and an entire nation. (Cliff) Tense political climate made Cliburn’s success all the more remarkable (Isacoff 295). Cliburn proved that through diasporic music, we as humans can embrace our similarities rather than be blinded by our differences. Is it safe to confirm then, that music has the ability to produce significant change? Musician and personality Henry Rollins, during an interview, rejected the idea of music as a powerful vehicle for change.
“If a song or an artist could stop a war, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley would have,” he says of the limitations of music. Rollins did however acknowledge the, as he described it, “small change” that music can produce. He accepts that artists and musicians can raise awareness, but believes they can only effect large-scale change to a certain degree. And although Rollins has a valid point (as seen in the case of Van Cliburn, who didn’t “end” the Cold War, but rather played a role in “thawing” the division through both diaspora and his talent), I argue that music as a tool for change is still developing and being discovered. Diasporic condition and the processes and concepts that have become absorbed into its ever-broadening semantic field have been an important area of research for musicologists and ethnomusicologists since the 1980s at least (Alajaji), and thus we don’t yet know its full potential. Without knowing its full potential, it is not relevant to answer “yes it can” or “no it cannot”. Rather, it is important to experiment with music in different cultures, through diaspora, to discover if there can be any long-term effects in building stronger and more welcoming societies. Without experimentation we may never know if music is enough to end a war, and we may never discover music’s full potential until we learn to accept just how powerful it actually is.
However, we can now say clearly, through my argument, analysis, and contextualized proof, that music can bring communities together and effectively end feud, hate, and division. All of which are prevalent assets in war. And being that this is the case, it is then valid to say that music has the potential to end war, making it a very powerful and relevant vehicle for change. Although Rollins admits that he is not convinced, he makes a very clear statement that nearly everybody can agree with: “You don’t have to change the world to change somebody’s world.” Change is change, whether small-scale or large-scale, and I believe that groups like CrossCurrents who promote innovation and evolution are overall highly-regarded in society. The general reception from my community following the event was that of appreciation for CrossCurrents participating in the music of our culture. The group magnified and preserved the music of our culture by way of innovation and preservation, highlighting our societies ability to change and adapt to the world around us, encouraging us to embrace the old and accept the new. The diaspora and music of CrossCurrents displayed to my community, through its harmonious diversity, just how beautiful that integrating different cultures into our lives can truly be once we reject the dogma and simply open our hearts.
Works Cited Alajaji, Sylvia “Diaspora.”. : . obo.
Date Accessed 27 Nov. 2017
“The ‘Diaspora’ Diaspora.” Ethnic & Racial Studies, vol. 28, no. 1, Jan. 2005, pp. 1-19.
EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/0141987042000289997. http://web.a.
library.utoronto.ca/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0=4bfa912b-2fe4-4a1a-b9ee-1af089c44b5d%40sessionmgr4008=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=15902093=i3h “Cliburn Competition History”: https://www.cliburn.org/cliburn-competition-history/ Cliff, Nigel.
“Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story: How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War” Harper Perennial, 2017 Gots, Jason “Henry Rollins: Music is powerful, but it Can’t stop a War” http://bigthink.com/think-tank/henry-rollins-music-is-powerful-but-it-cant-stop-a-war Habib, Kenneth. “Diaspora.” Grove Music Online.
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“The Dawn of Indian Music in the West” Continuum, 2007 Lidskog, Rolf. “The role of music in ethnic identity formation in diaspora: a research review” International Social Science Journal, 2017 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/issj.12091/full