Started reading the November issue of Songlines
on the train last night. A great resource for new music from around the world. Again, I think it’s so funny that the genre is called world music, as in, anything that’s non-American. Well, the U.S. has the World Series, I guess it’s all along the same lines. People with grandiose ideas about themselves.
In that light, I also was excited (and amused) to read the following. It was a “special report” entitled One Nation Under Many Grooves
written by Nigel Williamson about world music coming from the United States.
Here’s his lede:
“In recent issues of Songlines
, we’ve increasingly found ourselves writing about world music coming out of the US. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon—but suddenly it seem that American world music acts are everywhere.”
Williamson goes on to say, “In a way, this burst of multicultural, pluralist creativity should hardly come as a surprise, for the US is a nation of people who originally came from somewhere else. Yet, paradoxically, it has long behaved like the most parochial country in the world, where only a tiny percentage of the population even has a passport. At best it has appeared indifferent and isolationist and at worst openly hostile to cultures other than its own. This has been particularly evident in music, where American audiences have proved strongly resistant toward sound emanating from beyond the English-speaking world. Forty years ago Marshall McCluhan defined the modern world as a ‘global village,’ a concept [that] it’s not hard to conclude that the US interpreted as an opportunity to impose its own narrowly defined cultural hegemony on the rest of the planet, rather than an opportunity to embrace other cultures.
“The pressures upon immigrants to conform to a homogeneous notion of what constitutes being ‘all-American’ are powerful and intense. For generations it has seemed that new arrivals are institutionally encouraged to forget the “primitive” culture they left behind and proven themselves as “true Americans” by embracing the values of the land of Coca-Cola without question.”
Wow. That’s really good U.S.-bashing. I particularly liked the line about ..”the land of Coca-Cola.” That is kind of funny.
And, sadly so much of it is true. To a point.
Like so many opinions like this one, you have to take it with a grain of salt. After all, I’m American and I found Songlines
because I was interested and excited about growing as a musician, artist, and just generally finding new music to enjoy and to enrich my life, and the lives of those close to me. Just this morning I sent Sue off to work, putting a Songlines
’ CD in her hand to check out on her commute.
Nor do I support the current administration, and I deplore what it has done not just in Iraq but throughout the world and to the U.S.’s position in the world. There are others like me in the United States. Not a lot, I hate to say. While there is little support for the war, there is a tendency for Americans not to understand how the rest of the world feels about them and their country. I, most times, feel like a stranger in a strange land here, but that has more to do with me. I’d probably feel different and on the fringe even at a “World Music” event. It’s just the quirky nature of my life and my personality.
I didn’t know that only a tiny percentage of the population has a passport, nor do I know if it’s even true. If it is true that’s an interesting fact. Yes, I’ve heard Americans say, why go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower if you can see it in Disney World. Yes, statements like that make me cringe, too. But, both my kids have had passports since they were little. My oldest had one when she was six months old. But just to be fair, your typical American hasn’t really had the need for a passport like a person would in Europe, where countries are as small and close together as our states. Until 9/11, you didn’t need one to go to a lot of the nearby places Americans traveled, from Canada to the Caribbean islands.
A lot of Americans do tend to embrace the shallow pop culture, and not just in music. Their tastes run the gamut of low-brow movies, television shows, and books, But percentage-wise, how many intelligent, intellectual people are there in any country? The thing so many non-American don’t get is just how big this country really is. England is roughly the same size as the state of Louisiana, the U.S’s 31st largest state. Everything about the U.S. is big, and sadly, the negatives get enlarged as much as the positives.
And please show me the country that readily assimilates any outside culture. Good Lord, exactly how many civil wars are going on right at this moment? Personally, I love to learn about new cultures—everything from their food to their music. But I think the tendency not to embrace new cultures is more human than American.
A long, long time ago, I was one of those American backpackers who descended on the European continent, only then I hated being American at the time. I was embarrassed. If you think this was during George Bush’s father’s regime, guess again. Ford was in the White House, and the U.S. had just been floored by Vietnam and Watergate.
Since then I’ve grown to be proud of being an American. As of late, I’ve discovered and dove into American country music, not the corporate product out of Nashville, but the stuff coming out of East Texas and Louisiana. That’s how I came to have Songlines
in my lap on the train ride home last night. You know, World Music ain’t nothing more than country music, without the twang, that is. As I blogged yesterday, it’s just music that celebrates what happens between the time we are born and the time we die.
Labels: Action Bob Markle, actionbobmarkle, John Greiner-Ferris, Songlines