The Lingua franca of world tunes


 Many people in the KO community immensely enjoy listening to music from outside of their home country, as it spurs their desire to learn more about different cultures, foreign linguistics, and contains that quirky and energetic danceable rhythm. Many Wyverns of Kingswood Oxford believe that music, just like international food, is a classical part of what defines their cultural portfolio, and by listening to music from all parts of the world, they believe people become more empathetic to one another’s experiences and beliefs. 

Students and faculty at KO love the idea that through listening to music from around the globe, they understand the theological backgrounds of different countries, their geography, their historical sites, their famous musicians, and how music in that country has evolved since ancient times. Many countries from around the world contain their own variations of music from the United States, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, the Swahili and Kikongo regions of Africa,  Japan, South Korea, to Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. 

I took the opportunity to speak to a wide range of sources in the Kingswood Oxford community to ascertain their love for music from every nook n’ cranny of the globe. It instills jovialness in people and unifies them in inclusive ways. Moreover, it is something that the Wyverns believe brings about the representation of their national lineages.

Freshman Sydney Parker spoke about how North American music pertains to her culture. “In North America, world music has brought more people together, the most common type being Korean Pop,’’ Sydney stated. “Trying to understand the place those people come from, their favorite artist, learning more about their life, by doing that you are learning more about culture which effects the culture of the United States.’’ 

Furthermore, Sydney finds western classical music of the 17th century and of the baroque era which utilizes the violin to be her favorite. At times, she will also listen to Indian raga music, heavy metal, or Chinese guzheng music. 

In Sydney’s opinion, world music is not relatively new in regards to its popularity as it has been listened to by millions of people over decades. “Since caveman times, the end of Neanderthals, it’s been a part of human development because even in those times, because we got out of caves, they were throwing rocks, creating rhythms, to invoke a kind of creativity,’’ she said in a low voice. “It’s used in Christianity and different rituals, it helps in what deity they believe in and their religion.’’ 

Additionally, Sydney spoke of how world music represents different countries and how it is distinguishable from different countries. Specifically, Sydney compared and contrasted two historical musicians, Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini and German theater director and composer, Richard Wagner. This emphasized her point of how music in different countries can be distinguished by their musical artists. “If you listen to music from one nation and compare it to another, Paganini and Wagner, Wagner lived in Germany, Paganini lived in Italy,’’ Sydney commented. “They have different compositional styles, Wagner’s pieces keep the same flow, you can tell that Paganini had elongated fingers.’’ 

I moved on to speak to English Department Chair and teacher, Catherine Schieffelin who spoke of her favorite type of music with bursts of energy and satisfaction. Particularly, she finds Irish music to resonate the most with her and one which she finds the most relatable as her main family line originates from Ireland and she spent a lot of time studying in Ireland. “I love Ireland, I am very Irish,’’ Ms. Schieffelin delivered with a bright grin and a snicker. “I studied abroad in Ireland my junior year in college, I love the culture, literature, and music.’’ 

Ms. Schieffelin then spoke of her favorite Irish musical bands which she has been listening to for an extensive period of time. “I have been listening to Irish music for a long time, jigs and reels, the Chieftains, I love the Pogues, the original Celtic punk band,’’ she said. “The Dropkick Murphys are really influenced by the Pogues, I’m really into Van Morrison who is not so pigeon-holed in Irish music, but someone I love who has Irish roots.’’ 

In the eyes of Ms. Schieffelin, she finds Irish music to be prevalent in her life because of its rhythm, lyrics, and robust instrumentation. “What I love about Irish music is the storytelling in the lyrics, the use of traditional instruments, the harp, banjo, and the fiddle and tin whistle.’’ Ms. Schieffelin stated at last.  

While Sydney and Ms. Schieffelin emphasized their love for world music from sections of Europe, Chinese teacher Jing Wang found music from the United States, specifically country, to be her favorite. When Ms. Wang envisions country music, she pictures the American midwest and a cowboy-esque environment. “It presents the country lifestyle and how people live,’’ Ms. Wang remarked gleefully. “Country music reminds me of people who move to the west and cowboys, relaxing by the countryside.’’ 

In addition, Ms. Wang believes that country music is popular in the ways that it resembles jazz and blues music. It is a way for people to release stress and pressure. She admires those who were born and raised in the countryside, ever since she was a child. “Because my grandparents were living in the countryside when I was little,’’ Ms. Wang said, “I would visit them with my cousins, I would fish in ponds and creeks, climb on trees, catch birds, and country music really reminds me of those unforgettable memories.’’ 

As I mulled over my conversation with Ms. Wang, I headed off to speak with my last interviewee, freshman Yudian Ma. Yudian agreed with Ms. Wang in regards to that he favors music originating from the U.S., as he enjoys hip-hop and has been listening to it for three years. When listening to hip-hop, he looks for a series of rhymes and rhythms in the music. “Rhythm has movements, climax, and introductions,” Yudian said. 

KO’s love of global music symbolizes the collection of differences and the understanding of different cultures through tunes. “Traditional Chinese music helps me understand different peoples’ cultures and my culture. I always learned it through music.’’ Sydney noted with a breath of exhilaration. Ms. Schieffelin agreed. “I love that some contemporary music I listen to is rooted in some of the instrumentation and conventions of very traditional songs,’’ Ms. Schieffelin said with pride. “The Pogues are a group that alters the traditional sound and radicalize it, I love the marriage between those things.’’

Not to mention, some Wyverns are searching to discover different types of music to diversify their musical tastes. “I am trying to listen to other music such as country music,’’ Yudian delivered in a quiet voice. Sydney had the final say in it all. “I will be playing with the West Hartford Orchestra as a violinist,’’ she said. “It is always incredible to see if I can get a similar sound from my instrument from different cultures.’’ 

For humankind, the love of  music from around the world is something that has and always will be a major defining aspect of our cultural heritage and our nations. It is a way for us to come to respect the refined traditions of the world and find similarities and commonalities between us.