going glocal: a translocal approach to music education part one

album cover to gabriel's passion

One of my first memorable encounters with “world music” was through Passion, Peter Gabriel’s , soundtrack to “The Last Temptation of Christ.”   Like other musicians and listeners of my generation, Gabriel’s album opened our young, susceptible minds and hearts to “the music of the East”.  The music  was a magical amalgamation; passionate singing,  meditative and peaceful evocations through gentle dissonance, exotic sounding flutes and drums tempered with effects and reverb,  all of which was woven together by Gabriel’s refined pop sensibilities. For some of us, Passion served as the perfect portal to another world or time. It connected to an illusive place within ourselves that seemed to forge a connection with an ancestral other.  Above all it inspired a whole generation of young musicians and music lovers to further explore the roots and sources from which Passion was inspired.

If we move past the romanticism of the experience however, and examine the social and cultural subtleties, we will find that the larger implications of Passion are more complex.  Peter Gabriel along with several of his popular music contemporaries such as Paul Simon (Graceland) and Mickey Hart (Planet Drum, Drumming at the Edge of Magic) have all been subject to criticism for their cross-cultural musical endeavors; not necessarily for the music’s musical quality or integrity, but rather for the ethical dimensions of their work (Rogers 1999).

Throughout this paper, I will address this question in three different parts.  The first section will discuss how those involved in the production of music and marketing of “world music” have helped perpetuate an exoticization or romanticizing of other cultures (i.e. the Other).  In the next section we will look at how consumers and listeners perceive “world music.” This will tie in directly to a discussion of economic flow regarding the exploitation of non-western musicians and cultures.  Finally I will conclude with the presentation of contemporary theory and solutions to break outside the cycle of “Us and Them” thinking that perpetuates the “world music” mold or descriptor.


Peter Gabriel :: Mickey Hart

If we look at this promotional video for Passion (ecallendar 2007), Peter Gabriel speaks with deep respect for the musicians who contributed to his album.  He talks about the experience of Indian and Pakistani musicians working side by side in the studio and the power of that moment.  Mr. Gabriel has even started a record label that celebrates and supports artists from every corner of  the world (Real World Records).  He has co-founded WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), a major international global music festival. He is intensely involved in human rights and was even awarded recognition from the Nobel Peace Laureates (dPA German Press Agency 2006).   Examining the liner notes of Passion every musician is credited and in two instances shares the writing credits.   Furthermore, each participant gave their full consent for the music to be used and were paid as studio musicians.

Still, the album “exoticizes the Other.” From the practically trademarked Gabriel “gated drum” sound to the reverb-laden voices and low drone synths, Passion does evoke a sense of exoticness.  But what does that mean? Do we assign a right and wrong to this practice?  Is loving this album any different than loving a landmark Beatles album that may transport the listener to another place?  Is it okay for the exoticization to occur when placed within the greater context of “giving back” or celebrating and supporting these artists from North Africa, Asia and Middle East?  If Gabriel demonstrates a solid understanding  of the musical cultures from which he features or borrows, does that make it okay for Passion to sound exotic?  What if he doesn’t have a firm understanding?  These questions can go on and on.   There is no “line in the sand” that once an artist passes we can confirm that they have exploited the Other.  There are 101 gray areas between what is easily considered exploitation and what is not.


Mickey Hart approaches his work with an almost evangelical sense.   In an interview on National Geographic’s television music series, GeoSessions, Hart explains (in a rather breathless and slightly anxious way) why he is documenting and performing world music:

“I am a desperate man.  I love music, I am a music lover . . . . . you see I don’t have a choice. See,  I’m coded for this. This is part of my DNA.  You know that your not re-creating, your creating.  You’re in a creational moment.  That’s what artists are all about . . .supposed to be the mirrors of society.  Mirroring your self, your own inner feelings, things that feel down here are coming up and changing a spirit into a form” (GeoSessions 2009).

In the early 1990s Mr. Hart  partnered with The American Folklife Center to launch, The Endangered Music Project (EMP), The project’s mission to preserve and document aging and lost recordings seems vital and well meaning.  The EMP website provides a rationale and overview of their work:

“Our new technologies are part of a powerful civilization which is rapidly transforming the world around us. It changes the environment, often in ways that endanger the delicate ecological balance nature has wrought over the millennia. It also brings radical change to other cultures… Sometimes that change is empowering. But all too often it endangers precious human ways of life, just as surely as it endangers the environment within which those ways of life flourish…. This series is dedicated to the hope that with education, empathy, and assistance, imperiled cultures can survive. Proceeds from the project will be used to support the performers and their cultures and to produce future releases.”

— Mickey Hart and Alan Jabbour, Director/American Folklife Center

Gamelan scholar and ethnomusicologist Jody Diamond,  was initially asked to assist with the curation as a consultant on one of the first projects for the EMP, Music for the Gods: The Fahnestock South Sea Expedition, Indonesia. Despite the noble ambitions and prestige of the EMP, Diamond  turned down the offer.  (J. Diamond, Goddard College Gamelan Performance Class, Spring 1995).  Ms. Diamond articulated  the inherent threat and potential damage of Hart’s project to an undergraduate Javanese Gamelan class that  I was enrolled in.

album cover to music of the gods

Some of us were in the class because we had been drawn to the sound of the Other through western generated media such as Passion, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, etc.  For others in the class it was simply about a curiosity to understand and perform

gamelan music.  For the most part we were all progressive thinkers interested in “doing right.”  Nonetheless, Jody’s observations on the EMP were jarring to some and eye-opening  to the rest of us.  Among her comments, she raised the question of commodification:  Who will benefit economically from these recordings?  There is no way in which the proceeds can be directed back to those recorded on the album.  She showed us the CD cover

, which given the romanticized sepia tones filtered onto the image, could have been taken last week or 50 years ago,.  Finally, she pointed out the implications of the series title itself, “The Endangered Music Project.”  While I am paraphrasing, her point more or less was that Indonesian music is in no uncertain terms endangered. There is a wealth of traditional and modern music performed in  both Bali and Java.  The only thing that is endangered were the aging aluminum discs containing the Fahnestock brothers’ recordings.

In further researching the Fahnestock brothers for this paper, I am compelled to wonder about how the actual recordings took place.  The liner notes for the recording state that over two miles of insulated microphone cabling was used so that the recording equipment and engineers could safely remain aboard the boat.  Given the fact that the Fahnestock’s were commissioned by President Roosevelt to spy on the Indonesians and South Pacific Islanders,  it is only natural to wonder about the recording process and the ethics the Fahnestocks’ did or did not undertake.

Mickey Hart’s own narrative for the  liner notes read with a good deal of self-importance and pride:

“Music for the Gods, the Fahnstock Expedition was one of my Endangered Music Project recordings that I curated and released on the World Series for Rykodisc in the 90’s.  The Fahnstocks were recording the Indonesian archipelago in 1939-1940 as spies for President Roosevelt. He was searching for information about his great uncle’s adventures in Indonesia. This is a fantastic story. I found this collection at the Library of Congress and digitized it, not really knowing the far-reaching implications that were to arise from its rediscovery. When I visited Bali about 4 years ago I brought my recording equipment with me.

I was on the track of the rarest of gamelon (sic) music, the iron gamelon sic).

When I arrived in Bali, I went to the Institute for Music in Denpasar and met with Pak Dibia the leading ethnomusicologist on the peninsula.  He was the most knowledgeable ethno on gamelon (sic) and all of its sub-sets. I asked him if he would give me five of the most important works or examples of gamelon (sic) music that he knew of. He handed me five recordings; one of them was Music for the Gods. He was not aware that I curated and produced this CD. So this music had made the round trip; it had worked its way bac-war gamelon (sic). This music was long forgotten, but was now being played by the many large ensembles scattered across the island. We were all overjoyed by this discovery and I was from then on treated like family wherever I went. They were given back their greatest treasure that the war ripped away from them and they saw it in those terms. It was like a prisoner of war or a long lost relative that had returned from battle”  (Hart 1993).


While I applaud and am inspired by the passion within Mickey Hart’s musicological efforts, I am  simultaneously appalled and cautious for the same reasons.  His enthusiasm and ability to reach into the mythical spirit of music is infectious, but also dangerous.  It is too easy to be swayed by his romanticism and one dimensional perspective.  Hart’s website describes his book Drumming at the Edge of Magic as follows: (Hart 1990).

“Hart tells the compelling story of his quest to unlock the power, myths and legends of percussion. Part autobiography and personal memoir, Hart vividly accounts how from the beginning of time humanity has celebrated, buried the dead, gone to war, married and worshipped to the sound of drums, gongs, and rattles.” (www.mickeyhart.net 2004).

With a quasi-Indiana Jones approach to ethnomusicology, Hart’s (and his publicists’) use of language such as “ .  .  . quest to unlock the power, myths and legends of percussion”  are powerful evocations.  When placed in tandem with Drumming at the Edge of Magic’s pervasive use of photography (deliberately altered into sepia hues), the reader is drawn into Hart’s mythical journey to the Other-world.

Hart’s efforts do draw us in.  His words spark excitement and passion about both historical and new music. His approach is just the kind of attention grabber that would draw students in to the worlds of music.  Yet, we know that his work comes with a cost.  Through a self-aggrandizing approach, non-westerners are relegated to a mystical Other who become fair game as subjects to a quest for musical treasure.  Of course, this is the exact opposite effect a teacher would want to impart to her/his students.


Even if we existed in an ideal world in which Western musicians creating world music/world beat was a result of integrity and a mutual exchange of ideas, it would still be necessary to examine how we as Americans process and consume music.  Specifically in regards to how we experience what our construct of what global music means.

For a moment, let’s imagine a Western artist who approaches any cross cultural musical collaboration with ethical integrity, and possesses  enough understanding of the involved musical cultures to articulate a well developed musical product that has the ability to inspire and move listeners.  Let’s also assume for a moment, that we can accept this work as non-exploitive.   For the sake of this argument,  this music could be from Peter Gabriel, 35th Parallel or even Panjabi MC.

In this unlikely “non-gray” scenario, perhaps the only remaining variable is the audience.   And that is the clincher because as we will see below, once out of the hands of the artist (or its home culture) there is a broad set of possible understandings and listening experiences that can occur.   Therefore, in Passion one listener may interpret a transcendent exotic experience due to a lack of cultural music understanding and perhaps even finds the music to be “wonderfully primitive”, while the cultural marxist is aghast and the person in between simply enjoys it and wants to learn more.

These questions have been batted around by many ethnomusicologists, musicians and cultural critics for several decades now (Marshall, W. 2009), for some the debate is fresh and for some overdone and tired.  Whether this debate is tired or not, it is still essential, particularly in regards to the role that “global music” will play in 21st century music education.  Even though academics and thoughtful people have considered the cultural and economic implications of “world music” and some readers or listeners have developed a heightened sensitivity to notions of authenticity, there are still loads of musicians and listeners in the world who have not thought deeply on these issues at all.

On a recent airing of WBUR’s  call-in show  On Point with Tom Ashbrook (2010), the topic of discussion was “The Roots of World Music.” Ashbrook’s guests were noted ethnomusicologists Simha Arom and Michael Tenzer.   While discussing the hindewhu technique ( an alternation of singing and blowing into a papaya stem whistle) of the BaBenzélé pygmies of Central Africa a caller, DJ K, had this to say:

DJ K:  “ . . . . . I am a DJ, first let me just say, I was just taken by that previous melody.  It was breathtaking . . .  I am a DJ . . . . taking it from a kind of modern aspect . . . electronic music nowadays actually has kind of a tantric element because of something we call binaural

beats . . . how there is a drum beat in a lot of primal music, there are four beats   boom, boom, boom, boom . . . there were (sic) a lot of tribal music that could ensue a feeling of excitement that could put the listener into a trance, what we call a Goa trance . . a  very, very, very tribal, primal feel to it . . . . “ (Ashbrook 2010)

In response to the caller Michael Tenzer replies:   “. . . . . the idea that trance music and some kinds of modern electronic music combine different rhythms in a way that creates patterns that repeats  . . . . and gets people into a certain frame of mind  . . . you do have that in African music in some ways.”

On one hand it is easy to imagine Tenzer and Arom rolling their eyes in the studio while listening to the caller’s potpourri polyglot.  Yet, Tenzer’s response was civil and elucidates the caller’s question.   Despite Tenzer’s polite response, DJ K comments are a quintessential (bordering on cliché) example of the western cultural and musical tourist.  In less than 30 seconds he demonstrates the westerner’s ability to lump several quite distinct cultures into a singular Other.  Starting with the the music that prompted his call (the BaBenzélé whistle singing hindewhu) to a misreference of tantra ( adherence to Buddhist and Hindu texts through meditation and yoga), to a psychedelically influenced music that people used to party to on the beaches of Goa, India, DJ K comments indicate that in some way a four-on-the-floor thumping has a  “very, very, very tribal, primal feel” and therefore is connected to the “African.”  It should also be noted that the audio example of the hindewhu contained no drums or percussion.  In fact, the sample is ternary, not binary, despite a deceptive pulse seemingly indicating a 2 and 4 feel.

DJ K  lack of descriptive language other than the use of “primal” and “tribal” simultaneously illustrates how simple it is for a westerner to invoke “the tribe” as well as a pervasive lack of cultural and global understanding.   DJ K is not alone.  He  represents an American capacity to weave together a customized perception of non-western music as being spiritually heightened, tribal or primitive.

In the interest of not sounding too snarky, I do not directly blame poor DJ K or others like him. Even Tom Ashbrook, a good friend of Michael Tenzer and supposedly enlightened radio host made a seemingly benign statement that pegged him in the same camp as DJ K.  Mr. Arom described how he traveled back to the same BaBenzélé encampment many years later to ask those playing the hindewhu to clap where they felt the beat when performing the technique (due to its elusive rhythmic feel).   Ashbrook’s comment to this story was:  “Did that clap give you the secret code?”  Even when you allow for a modicum of dramatic commentary from the radio host, this comment nonetheless continues to illustrate a sense of the exotic and is reminiscent of Mickey Hart’s Indiana Jones sentiment of musical quests and unlocking myths.

Both Ashbrook and DJ K represent just a stitch in the fabric of a long history of cultural absorption and consumption.  This scenario clearly supports the call to public schools and music educators for quality international music education.

What is it about the Pygmies?   ::

Whether they know it or not, (or even care) the Pygmies and their music seem to surface on a regular basis in the world music debate.  This is mostly due to the fact that Westerners have continually  approximated and appropriated, or simply have been inspired by their music over the last 40 years.  As a result they  been the subject of ethnomusicological discourse surrounding the use and commodification of their music, particularly the hindewhu (Feld 1996).

The classic opener of “Watermelon Man” on Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters (1973) album is a hindewhu replication on beer bottle by percussionist Bill Summers

.  Twenty one years later, Madonna releases Bedtime Stories (1994) and Jon Pareles’ review of the album for the International Herald Tribune (1994) refers to the “pygmylike (sic) hoots”  on the song “Sanctuary” which in fact is a 1 bar sample of Hancock’s Head Hunters “Watermelon Man.” Thus a sample of a metrically altered replication.

When this phenomenon came up during the On Point broadcast, Tom Ashbrook asks Simha Arom,  “Is this exploitation to you, or are you happy to have it spread into pop music?” (ibid)   Mr.  Arom, who incidentally was the ethnomusicologist who recorded this very same hindewhu performance that inspired Bill Summers’ performance on Head Hunters,  replied  “I don’t see any benefit to anyone in this.”  Arom felt that the BaBenzélé music stands up on its own and does not need to be sampled in order to be appreciated by a larger audience.

In 2003 Arom helped produce a polyphonic and polyrhythmic themed concert in London that featured the works of Steve Reich and Gyorgy Ligeti, (two composers who have claimed inspiration by Pygmy and other African music) and even the Aka Pygmies (Ivry 2009).  It is interesting to note Arom’s support for such a concert, compared to his apparent disapproval of its use in sampling.  In the larger perspective, with regard to international creative flow and exchange, this is a significant point.  This concert had a direct musical connection to the musical attributes of Pygmy music, celebrated their musical influence and showcased the Aka.  This is a far cry from Madonna (or more likely her producer) sampling a loop from a Herbie Hancock album that is presenting an approximation of the hindewhu.

An argument could be made that Hancock and Madonna should be either licensing or paying a royalty to the BaBenzélé.  But technically it is Arom who most likely holds some type of copyright to the original hindewhu recording and therefore holds no legal claim to the Madonna sample of Bill Summers’ coke bottle hindewhu variation.

Despite all of this, the hindewhu is a musical technique, it would be akin to licensing the rights to perform a conga tumbao pattern on a pop or funk album.

Steven Feld did approach Herbie Hancock in 1985 to see if he felt any “legal or moral concern surrounding the hindewhu copy on Head Hunters” (Feld 1996).  Hancock’s reply to him was:

“You see, you’ve got to understand, this is a brothers kind of thing, you know, a thing for brothers to work out.  I mean, I don’t actually need to go over there to talk to them, I could do it I but I know it’s OK  ‘cause its just a brothers kind of thing.”

According to Feld, Hancock’s comment is based on the African American “ethic and aesthetic of oral tradition recycling” (ibid).   Be that as it may,  one final piece to the Pygmie paradigm is the role and responsibility of the ethnomusicologist.  As Feld points out, the original Arom recordings (which were made with every intention of goodwill to honor and preserve the rich musical traditions of the BaBenzélé) are now being sampled, modified, imitated and re-interpreted on an increasingly rapid basis.  For better or worse, these recordings exist and are now “out there” in the digital world and because of that an entire wave of musical activity has been sparked.  Feld eloquently captures the ethnomusicologists dilemma in Pygmy Pop (ibid):

“Like aesthetic mimesis, anthropology or ethnomusicology’s own involves an erotic embrace of the other framed by the negative potential of dominating love”  (Feld 1996 pg 17).

Ironically there have even been cultural appropriations of the Pygmies through music that wasn’t even made by the Pygmies.  In 1992 the electronic musical duo Deep Forest released an album that contained ambient electronic mixes using samples of Pygmie music.   One the albums most successful tracks was of a lullaby (“Forest Lullaby”) that many simply assumed was Pygmie-based. It was in fact a Baegu lullaby sung by woman named Afunakwa from the Solomon Islands. (Feld 1996, 2000).  Harvard researcher, Ethan Zuckerman, humorously sums it up as such:

“Most listeners to “Sweet Lullaby” assumed the vocal was a melody from one of the pygmy tribes of Central Africa. The first track of the Deep Forest album features the vocal: “Somewhere, deep in the jungle, are living some little men and women. They are our past. And, maybe… Maybe they are our future”

While pygmies may be our future, they’re not the vocalists responsible for “Sweet Lullaby” (Zuckerman 2004).

Other People’s Money   ::

Deep Forest may represent what may be the grossest example of Western exploitation of cultural music.  As mentioned above their cut “Forest Lullaby” actually uses a sample of singing from an ethnomusicologists recording of a Baegu woman named  Afunakwa singing a lullaby called Rorogwela.  Deep Forest mixes in some synths, effects processing and beats and have an instant hit.  A huge hit that has sold over 4 million copies.  (Feld 2000).  As Zuckerman (2004) states, there is no indication that Afunakwa or her descendants have received any type of royalties or compensation.  While the Deep Forest entry on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Forest)  states that a portion of proceeds go to the Pygmies and a variety of other charities, there is no mention of the Baegu, Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands.  To make maters worse, Lullaby has been licensed and remixed dozens of times and thus has made even more money for  everyone from Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garabek to The Body Shop.

On a final note regarding Rorogwela: Matt Harding of “Where In The Hell Is Matt?” internet fame originally used “Forest Lullaby” as the theme song to his inaugural youtube video of “him dancing badly across the planet” (Harding).  Upon finding out about the whole Deep Forest debacle, he pulled the audio and as a means of making amends traveled to the Solomon Islands to see if he could pay back a debt as well as research into Afunakwa (sadly, now deceased) and her family.   Although he made some headway by talking and meeting with Afunakwa’s nephew, Matt Harding was unable to meet Afunakwa’s son due to travel limitations.  He has promised to visit again and make a follow up video.  As one watches the video of Matt interviewing the nephew the contrast between their living circumstances and the opulence of what is the Deep Forest profits are huge and disquieting.


Paul Simon’s work on Graceland is a different story although not without questionable business practices.  The process in which Graceland came into being is questionable from an ethical standpoint.  The recording process involved a variety of song writing approaches.  In the  piece “Homeless”, (as highlighted in the liner notes to Graceland), there is great deal of collaboration and the writing credits are given to both Simon and Joseph Shabalala, the leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. For a majority of the Graceland tracks the South African musicians  (as well as the band Los Lobos) were paid for studio time while Simon selectively claimed sole writing credits (read future royalties) despite a collaborative composing effort with the South African studio musicians.  (Davis 1987).

In a John Davis (Austin American Statesman 1987) interview with Cesar Rosass of Los Lobos, we get a clearer picture about what this process looked like:

“Los Lobos’s Cesar Rosas describes the disjunctions between Simon’s

expectations and those of the band: When [Simon] approached  us he was already into this, he had been to South Africa. We expected him to have a song for us to interpret when we met him in Los Angeles, but he said, “You guys just play,” and we said “Play what?” We just worked up a bunch of stuff that he eventually got a song out of, and that was it…. I think there was a little lack of communication early on. You get involved in the situation, and all we’re supposed to worry about is the creative part… we felt a little detached from the finished piece; we didn’t have any real involvement in it” (Davis 1987).

Andrew Goodwin and Joe Gore (1990)  present this tension at it’s most basic level in their article, “World Beat and the Cultural Imperialism Debate:”

“Does World Beat music constitute a form of cultural exploitation, in which Western musicians use their economic power to steal music from their less fortunate Third World counterparts?” (1990)

In an interview with Fred Wei-han Ho, for the book Sounding Off! Music as Subversion/Resistance/Revolution, percussionist Royal Hartigan argues that in most cases World Beat music  is indeed cultural exploitation (1994).  Hartigan outlines an approach to learning cultural music in four dimensions (ibid. pg 332):

    • ONE: He believes that one must study the music of another culture deeply to the extent of living and learning amongst them for a long time.
    • TWO: A student must demonstrate a deep commitment through “working your heart out to play [the music]” to a level at which you prove your integrity and are accepted by the masters of that musical tradition. Only then can “you feel good about what you are doing.”
    • THREE:  Only perform the music if you have already done so with “an ensemble of that culture” under the leadership of a master of that musical culture.
    • FOUR:  Be willing to share any compensation you make through another culture’s music with either your teacher(s) or somebody from that culture. (Wei-han Ho, Hartigan 1994)

Drummer, Stewart Copleand’s response to this debate (with regards to his album and 60 minute video The Rhythmatist [1985]) is that music is not a resource that can be depleted such as “diamonds or minerals  and therefore can not be exploited (Goodwin, Gore 1990).   Goodwin and Gore counter that “exploitation is based on the fact that Western musicians “cash in” on indigenous cultural traditions without offering adequate recompense” (ibid).

Interviews with Copeland (6bronco9 1985) at the time of  release of The Rhythmatist shed some light on the issue.  Aside from playing a drum kit in a cage festooned with raw meat for hungry lions in the savannah and chasing giraffes on horseback,  his comments about exploring “the dark continent” and  seeking out Pygmies who have never seen white people are steeped in white privilege if not out-right racism.

Still is The Rhymatist exploitative?  By Royal Hartigan’s standards it most certainly is.  The album/video was a commodified product making use of African music that does not give back financially to the people being commodified.

But how is that different than a group of Vermonters playing the music of Fela Kuti (MOP 2009)? Or Bjork performing an original song backed up by a Javanese Gamelan, Tabla Player and Tuba (herbertvs 2007)?  Critically speaking all three of the above mentioned musical projects fail by Royal Hartigan’s four standards.  Yet there is a distinct difference between all three.  Both Copeland and Bjork are certainly cashing in on their projects, while Movement Of The People is a project that either loses money or pays for musicians’ gas money.  In all three cases though, none of the musicians have lived amongst the respective music cultures for an extended period of time.

Movement Of The People performs the music of Fela Kuti.  Fela’s afrobeat music is a product of traditional Yoruban music and the music of American soul and James Brown.  James Brown’s music is a product of the African American musical experience which of course has its roots in African music.

The cycle and flow is bi-directional.  Furthermore, for the music to be exploitable would necessitate that Fela’s music be a purely traditional artistic product, (such as traditional Yoruban music).

Bjork’s use of gamelan, tabla and tuba certainly reflects a more cosmopolitan post-modern stance (Faulhaber 2008).  While this performance was for a major media outlet such as MTV, the integrity of the artistic output is distinctly original and a product of a global culture. To insist that gamelan music or tabla only be played in traditional situations would be imperialist and nostalgic in itself.  Both Bjork and Fela’s music represents the confluence of mutually shared global creative forces.

Contemporary ethnomusicologist,  electronic musician, “rapper-ternt blogger”  Wayne Marshall presents a case for a new paradigm for ‘’world music’’ on his blog wayne&wax:

“In what we might call “trad” “world music” discourse (e.g., deriving largely from the marketing attempts of the 80s and 90s) — the language and images and ideas mediating the explorations of Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Ry Cooder, as well as such record labels as Rough Guide and Putumayo — authenticity is often conferred onto the traditional, the pristine, the timeless, the exotic, that which has been untainted by capitalism, by Western cultural imperialism more generally, etc. Whereas the recent movements on the music blogosphere that I am thinking of tend to do the opposite: never mind these false ideas about purity, they seem to say, we want our global crunk, we want hybrids and fusions, we want mirror-mirror reflections and refractions of New World and Old World, North and South, East and West, we want music concerned with the future as much as (or more than) the past, we want drum machines and synthesizers and samples, for the local is always (trans)local and the global is (always already) here” (Marshall May 24 2007).

Marshall has used several different terms to describe this new approach to thinking about “world music,” which include nu whirl, music, world 2.0,  and translocal music.  Regardless of labels, the point is that in some circles, music making is a relationship of reciprocity, and mutual exchange that simultaneously occurs on a local and global levels and that is why I am attracted the term translocal in regards to education.

Translocal teaches one how to be a local and global citizen all at once without sacrificing one for the other.  As Marshall points out, this can also incorporate both the past, present at future synchronously in a non- linear yet holistic way.

Jody Diamond travelled in the late 80’s to Indonesia as a Fulbright Scholar.   In her researched she worked closely with Javanese composers and musicians deeply engaged in new music.  Upon returning to the United States and  delivering a paper on the musical concepts and thinking of Javanese composers Ms. Diamond was approached by a graduate student in ethnomusicology who commented:

“This sounds like a performance piece from New York! Isn’t this just Western influence?”

Perhaps meaning, “They don’t come up with ideas like that on their own, do they?”

Diamond went to explain in her influential essay “There Is No They There” (Diamond 1990) that:

“Sadra’s concepts, and the experimental work of other
Indonesian artists, are not just Western influence. The ideas fit with and
flow from existing traditional systems interacting with an evolving world
whose citizens are in increasingly better communication.  Sadra’s inspiration does not arise from imitation of outside forces, but from an artist’s awareness of the world and of an increasing range of ways to express that awareness. (Diamond 1990).


Despite a long history of musical and cultural exploitation including the most recent “work” by Deep Forest, I actually feel more confident in the overall progress and climate of the international music community.  Artists are becoming increasingly independent and thus are able to work outside of the industry bubble(s).   Ethnomusicologists are becoming increasingly aware of their roles and as a result are negotiating the territory with a more enlightened approach.  The global music community is beginning to exercise a translocal -transculturalism mindset,  moving us a way from an “Us” and “Them” framework of thinking.  As this trend continues and we as a human race begin to blur our notions of borders and nations, while preserving and honoring what is so rich in our musical diversity, so will our ability to transcend labels  and move beyond notions of exotic, exploitation and genre descriptors.



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Davis, John (1987) “Los Lobos Go Uncredited for Work on ‘Graceland.’

“Austin American-Statesman  (Austin) 24 April.

Diamond J. (1990) “There is No They There.” MusicWorks 47.  Summer 1990. pp 12 – 23.

ecallender, (2007, January 23). Peter Gabriel Passion Album [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5Ya60GWt44

Faulhaber, E.F, (2008).   Communicator Between Worlds, Bjork Reaches the Binaries    Graduate college of Bowling Green.  pg 43.

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About saturnpeoplesounds

As a trumpeter, composer, arranger and band leader, multi-instrumentalist Brian Boyes has worked in Vermont for the past 16 years. As a member of a variety of award wining ensembles including the national touring jazz-funk act, viperHouse, he has been recognized for his soulful and intense approach to his trumpet. Under his leadership the group TALA was recognized internationally for its hybrid blend of world music and jazz. Tala was a featured act of both the Flynn Space Vermont Artist Series and the Discover Jazz Festival. He also works with The 35th Parallel Mediterrasian Jazz Ensemble. As an educator Brian Boyes has twice received special recognition from the Vermont Arts Alliance for his unique and creative approach to music education at Cabot School. He has shared the stage with artists such as Lester Bowie, Trey Anastasio, John Sinclair, Jody Diamond, Josh Roseman, Michael Ray, and Marshall Allen. He currently co-leads and plays trumpet with Movement Of The People: The Fela Kuti Project.
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3 Responses to going glocal: a translocal approach to music education part one

  1. Pingback: Galang(ss): Gateway dr*g to World 2.0 Music Edu? | cabotarts

  2. My take on the “world music” thing is that it is not a genre, but a philosophy. There is no such thing as a “world music artist,” but there is such thing as a “world music fan, DJ, concert presenters, agent, educator, etc.” Everyone is a curator of the music they ingest and share with others (even if not in professional form). If you have a global perspective, than it’s a world music perspective. If you track that rock drums have cymbals from Turkey (or China), that guitars come from lutes, that rock chord progressions come from the Blues which come from field hollers which come from Africa… If you recognize these global connections and seek them out, than it’s a world music perspective. If you have an education program or concert series that integrates a global perspective… The term MAYBE makes sense. From a marketing perspective, calling it “world music” sometimes works, sometimes backfires; is usually inaccurate. More important is that the world is getting smaller and crossing cultures from music to audience, from instructor to student, from band member to band member is inevitably going to increase. Marketing of global music as global music will be less and less of an issue as it will be innate to our shared culture.

    • Dimitri – thanks for your comment. I like your distinction between world music as a genre and philosophy. Its a lens that I hadn’t considered. You are right on about the cross cultural lineage of music (cymbals, rock chords, field hollers, etc . . . ).

      The going glocal post is definitely part one. It was my attempt to establish a framework of thinking that would help me to find an ethical approach to teaching different musical traditions in school (from jazz – to gamelan). So part one was all about looking at the past . . . what did the market do to shape our thinking and how do we move beyond that conditioning to a more honest place. Part two needs to be about the way education can specifically move on this.

      In regards to education, the essence of what I still need to articulate is that through the process of learning music from a variety of cultures (including euro/american) there is an opportunity to transcend the “us and them” thing through a translocal approach to learning music. In that process we (students and teachers) can see ourselves as participant-producers of the above mentioned cross cultural lineage of music rather than just consumers.

      But there is one more essential step: while learning and playing “world music” students need to engage in some critical thinking about the history of musical appropriation and what that means to them – regardless of where they come from, be it kids in Oklahoma playing jazz, kids in urban Chicago playing Sousa, kids in Vermont playing Javanese Gamelan or kids in Indonesia making hip-hop (or some remix of all of the above). This kind of meta-cognitive learning process presents an opportunity to understand one’s self in the historical context of the world musical exchange while jumping through the World 2.0 portal. There is no changing the past – Stuart Copeland still chased giraffes in Africa, Deep Forest still made (makes?) millions off of Rorogwela – but Wayne Marshall’s World 2.0 provides a window for music education to jump through and nurture global musicians. Perhaps this means that a translocal approach to music ed. can teach us how to be a local and global citizen all at once without sacrificing one for the other.

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