We had a song to sing in one of my elementary school music classes. The chorus was “What Would The World Be Like Without Music”? The song used to drive me nuts, because ten year old me thought it was trite. Of course, today, it brings a big smile to my face and reminds me of how true and simple this fact is.
Lately, in the past week especially, the state of the world has been upsetting me more than usual. I’m glad that I have friends and family to vent these frustrations to, but it all feels rather helpless. When nations are feeling threatened, scared, and defiant, perhaps on the defense and anxiety ridden in of itself, it becomes so black and white.
Instead of focusing on the anger and hurtful comments I have seen via articles online that have focused on current events and other cultures, I thought it might be fitting to focus on music from other parts of the world, or music that has brought awareness to other parts of the world.
This is by no means going to be a full list, just pieces that have caught my attention and stuck with me over the years. Please feel free to introduce me to some more!
Tan Dun, ‘Farewell’
This piece was composed for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and also utilizes the work of Yo-Yo Ma. A music professor I had in college, Fredericka King, introduced me to this piece and the erhu. The erhu is what makes this piece especially moving to me, but either way I would highly recommend visiting his site to hear more compositions by Tan Dun. He has some interesting stuff listed under ‘visual music’ as well.
You can listen to ‘Farewell‘ here.
Fiddler on the Roof
Ok, I know it’s a musical and it’s fiction but the music is excellent and the topics are real and important.
After being involved in our high school production of Fiddler on the Roof, already one of my favorite musicals, I guess I was still thinking about it years later when I centered one of my college research papers on the topics of faith, tradition, and intermarriage in Fiddler on the Roof.
I’m glad our high school theater director decided to do this play. I think some students were uncomfortable with some scenes, but there is a point to that. I was surprised that some students were not familiar with Jewish culture, but I hope this helped at least somewhat to open someone’s mind.
Despite all that, this show has a social statement and tackles issues that people can relate to no matter what religion or culture you fall into.
Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick worked as music/lyric contributors to Joseph Stein’s book for Fiddler. I love the blend of the traditional sound with the musical theater style of the time. I am a sucker for strings as well, so the fiddle just wins. The “Chava Sequence” gets me every time.
However. This leads me to klezmer music. You’ve never listened to klezmer? Get out of town! Get ready for some clarinet.
Edith Piaf, Adieu Mon Coeur
No, not La Vie En Rose, which is a good one. But this song starts and I feel somber, then as it goes along it gets brighter, and then glides away.
I was going to add the song “Ne Me Quitte Pas” but didn’t want to be a total Debbie Downer. However, I just mentioned it, so…check it out! Made famous by Jacques Brel.
Googoosh just kicks a lot of butt. She sees a butt. She kicks it. Metaphorically/musically.
This is just one of my favorite songs by her, but there are many. It’s slightly dated in style, but again I love the combo of traditional with more modern sounds (this is not from this decade).
If you don’t know about Googoosh’s journey, check it out here!
Unfortunately it’s midnight and I’m typing this with one eyeball open because I am past sleepy. My apologies for this being such a short list!
From wonderful performers like Meital and Elisapie, who have been featured here, to others I have not yet mentioned, I at least hope this is a starting point. And I would love to hear from others about music they recommend from other places around the world.
I was prompted to write this after thinking about the current conflicts and threats we see on the news, and a tweet from Alec Baldwin scrolled across my screen: ‘ Music is everything’.
And that’s when the elementary school song kicked in.
Good night, Bonsoir, Guten nacht, Shab bekhair!