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Africa is a continent with an extremely rich history, for the extensive culture and customary practices originated centuries ago and are still prevalent to this day. According to the Shona people in Zimbabwe, rituals such as the Bira are indispensable aspects of their lives, and instruments such as the mbira and hosho supply music for these traditional events. During the 19th century, when British colonizers and missionaries arrived in Zimbabwe, there was a noticeable change in the musical traditions of the country. During the October 20th lecture, we learned about how indigenous instruments and cosmopolitan styles blended cohesively. This reminded me of all the countries that have been colonized in the past, and how it led to musical amalgamations of completely contrasting cultures. India was an area that held a particular resemblance to Zimbabwe, they were both colonized by the British, and indigenous citizens eventually transformed their musical tastes towards a mixture of traditional and modern.

In India, there were traditional instruments such as the sitar, tambura, and tabla, which were present in Hindustani pieces such as “Medium and Fast Gats in Raga Yaman.” However, many songs evolved from these conventional styles, producing new forms of music. When we listened to Indian popular music on October 3rd, it was apparent that traditional pieces became more westernized but still retained some of its original instruments. This especially applies to the Bhangra, where a dhol can be seen in the music videos, but the style is much more upbeat and “pop-sounding.” In addition to the preservation of indigenous instruments, new techniques, such as the use of synthesizers, are included in the songs. The use of synthesizers is especially clear in pieces such as “Chaiyya-Chaiiya” and “Kudi Kudi.”

Likewise, in Zimbabwe, mbira music became more modernized by the 1950s when performers added dance-drumming and acoustic guitars to classical mbira pieces. The famous Thomas Mapfumo was renowned for his ability to integrate ancient and modern elements. When I listened to Mapfumo’s version of “Nyamaropa,” and compared it with the Mhuri Ye Kwa Rwizi Ensemble, there was a clear distinction between the guitars, but the mbria and hosho were still audible in both pieces.

In many countries, music is used to make a political statement, but these messages are more evident in Shona music than in Bollywood music. Amidst the political turmoil between the ZAPU and ZANU parties, a new form of guitar-band music was created, where “the best aspects of local indigenous lifeways blends with the modern” (Participatory, Presentational, and High Fidelity Music in Zimbabwe 148). It is accurate to say that without colonization, a capitalist-cosmopolitan lifestyle, resistance to white government, and the whole chain of events would not have occurred. Most importantly, middle-class black nationalists utilized a blend of both traditional and cosmopolitan lifestyles to promote nationalism. Citizens of India, on the other hand, viewed music more as a form of entertainment than a nationalist movement. In the article, “Ghazals to Bhangra in Great Britain,” Banjeri indicates that music is simply a way to enjoy oneself when she states, “Bhangra is not about politics, it is about having a good time in true, boisterous Punjabi fashion” (212). These differences can perhaps be attributed to the authors’ personal experiences. Banjeri was writing from the perspective as an overseas Indian, while the mbira article analyzed the cause and effects of historical events.

From a personal standpoint, I can see the difficulties of identifying the difference between “traditional” and “modern.” Oftentimes, the dividing line between these two terms is quite ambiguous. Growing up, our family stressed the importance of classical music, in fact, my mother refused to listen to anything other than music written by classical composers and only considered classical music to be truly traditional. While I received weekly piano lessons from supposedly prominent teachers, I was also introduced to a wide variety styles different than what I was originally taught. These new styles were considered to be modernized, since it was not until middle school when our classmates started listening to the radio religiously and began the whole process of sharing and burning CDs. At first, everything seemed so foreign, because I spent the past five years sitting in front of a piano, scrutinizing over every detail on sheet music. I eventually realized that songs of many different genres are really enjoyable, and the exposure to various musical styles were extremely beneficial. I could analyze music more clearly once everything blended together, and it allowed me to see the larger picture of the musical world.

Music changes and evolves, whether it’s caused by direct contact among dissimilar groups or by personal revelation. In most circumstances, exposure to contemporary ideas creates a mixture between original and modernized ways. Traditional styles are never replaced by novelty, it fuses concepts together to generate new forms of music. These innovative styles are often appreciated by many, and will most likely remain an integral part of a cultural and historical identity.
5/22/2011 10:24:33 PM
Hey, that's the graetest! So with ll this brain power AWHFY?
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