When I talk about Turkish rock or J-pop, my interlocutor usually gives me a puzzled look.
However, thanks to the internet, a constantly growing audience is discovering music from all around the world. Music fans looking for something different, second generation immigrants, anime or Bollywood fans find online a community ready to initiate them to new sounds. The unique asset of YouTube and of the other websites dedicated to the reproduction of music is that they offer the possibility to every artist, professional or amateur, to find an audience. At the same time the users, in varied degrees of decency, exchange opinions, ideas, preferences and news regarding their favourite musicians.
“Because the untested and foreign/people can’t stand” wrote Odysseas Elytis in his famous poem “The Monogram”. Indeed, I have heard many friends and acquaintances complaining that this or that language sounds “foreign” and “jarring” to their ears. Is that though an issue of familiarization? This is at least what I can assume judging from my own private journey in the world of music.
A few days ago I saw “Trishna”. If you have a chance go and see it. It tells the story of two young Indians in love who belong to a different social class. The most beautiful part of the film is definitely the scene presenting the couple’s private moments, with the wonderful song Lagan Lagi Re playing in the background. It doesn’t matter that the only word I know in Hindi is “pani” (water). I still manage to feel the beauty of the song and the love dripping from the singer’s every word.
Another song that had hunted me for months was Kuroi Namida (“black tears”) sang by Anna Tsuchiya, which was featured in the end credits of the anime Nana. Even if the listener isn’t familiar with the story of the tragic love between the protagonists Nana and Ren, he can easily sense the passion and the lament in the singer’s voice.
Equally intense feelings I had felt when I first listened to Cevapsiz Sorular (“unanswered questions”) by maNga, a band that I had discovered while covering the Eurovision 2010. I could recognise that the song talked about a painful break-up which had left the singer desperate, trying to realise what happened and how life would be from then on. Certain feelings don’t need to be translated.
I am not just randomly referring to songs about love. Some listeners may believe that in order for love to be felt one needs to sing it, to scream it, to cry and laugh with the word on the tip of his tongue. Would that change if instead of “eros” or at least “love”, “amour”, “amor” or “amore” (words we had heard so many times that they feel like they belong to our vocabulary) we heard “ai (愛)”, “pyaar” (प्यार) or “hub” (حب)? Wouldn’t it be possible to identify with the singer, feel the rage, the passion and the love in his voice?
The truth is that every language, just like every genre or even ever song, can be listened to more pleasantly under specific circumstances, unique to each listener. For example, I listen to Nikos Papazoglou at three o’clock at night when I feel the need for somebody to whisper in my headphones: “The heart is breaking tonight with the Baglamadaki“. I listen to System of a Down when the tube is overcrowded and immobilized like a sardine in the can I can only resort to headbanging. I listen to Nansi Ajram when my heart is longing for companionship. To forget for just a little bit the world of people I let Chavela Vargas to sing Paloma Negra (“black dove”) and to crush my defences with her heartbreaking voice.
In a country experiencing collective depression people tend to take a quick look around and then return to what they know, raise walls and hide their fears behind national symbols that offer a sense of comfort and protection. Nevertheless, there is a world out there that keeps on living, keeps on fighting, keeps on creating and keeps on calling us to experience it. It is a colourful mosaic of sounds, ideas and feelings that starts from our door and reaches the depths of Asia, the heights of South America, the deserts of Africa and the reefs of Oceania. Every sound opens up new paths, not only musical, but also spiritual. It reaches out a hand and urges us to explore a different way of understanding life. Will we follow?
- The article was originally posted in Music Corner.