Writing about World Music

Section F, Fall 2016

Author: brbourgeois

The Ville

For my field report I attended some church services at Jonahville African Methodist Episcopalian Zion Church. The music experience there is very different than what I am used to. I attend a very traditional Episcopalian church back home in Texas. We have a strict order of service with all our hymns preplanned and posted in the service program. Our only instrument for most services is a large organ and our choir is very formal and consists of about ten people. Music does not play near as large of a role at my church. At Jonahville, a lot of the music appears impromptu, they have a three person band with a large choir, and music is extremely prominent.

Music plays a huge role at The Ville. It takes up more than half the over two hour service even. Songs of praise each lasts a good few minutes with some extending as long as people will keep singing or until the pastor cuts them off. The band consists of three members: a guitarist, a drummer, and a keyboardist. The choir seemed to grow as the service went on and swelled to over twenty people of all ages and genders at one point. As songs began to play the congregation would instantly recognize them and join in. They have hymnals at Jonahville but they are rarely picked up. Everyone just seems to know all the songs by heart. It would take me a few verses in before I would catch on to the words, but I would stand up and clap along regardless. Also people in the pews would stand to dance or raise their hands in praise as they pleased. There was no instruction to rise or sit for certain songs. Throughout the service, the energy was abundant and contagious all across the sanctuary. It was certainly hard for me to stand still during the worship.

Contrasting that with what I am used to made me wonder if there is some sort of middle ground offered. At my church, we sit and stand as directed (I call this pew aerobics) and read out of hymnbooks to sing. The music is very pleasant, but the energy and excitement feels rather low. At Jonahville, the music is blaring and everyone is up and moving for the vast majority of the songs. There is a certain excitement that comes with every song, but it can be a bit much for someone who is not used to taking part in that in the early hours of Sunday morning.

 

Workout Jams

My original project 3 proposal didn’t go as planned. I was now faced with the tough question, what do I do? I thought I had it all figured out, but ended up empty handed. During our peer critiques last week, my group and I brainstormed some subjects I could possibly study for the final project. Although I did not end up choosing it, I found the topic of workout music very intriguing. I’m in the weight room a good amount for football and even though I’m not doing my project on the topic, I couldn’t help but notice the kinds of music being played the past few workouts.

Just over the past week I pinpointed three genres in particular: country, rap, and EDM. Typically the selections in each genre tend to lean towards more fast paced songs for obvious reasons. The most interesting part though, is it appears that the more people in the weight room at once the more aggressive the song choices are. During my Tuesday lift, which is the smallest group, country music is often played. On the other hand, solely hip-hop and dubstep is played during my Sunday lift which involves half the team.

My theory behind this is that people in workout mode are generally influenced to operate at the pace of the music surrounding them. Particularly when dubstep is played, I can easily find myself lifting to the rhythm of the song. Therefore it is more pertinent to have faster more aggressive music playing when larger groups are present to speed up the overall operation of the lift. When smaller groups are present there is less a need to have music playing with the intent of speeding things up because of the preexisting lack of traffic in the room.

Live

I’ve noticed that over the past few years I have come to particularly enjoy the music of certain artists after experiencing them in person.  After seeing someone live in concert, I tend to listen to their music so much more than I previously had. It appears to be a consistent trend starting with Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour back in eighth grade and most recently Rae Sremmurd performing a free concert at the University of Houston last year. It has also happened with a couple other artists along the way.

My good friend from school had invited me to see the Jay-Z and Kanye West concert at the Houston Toyota Center with him. Of course I knew of these artists and previously heard and liked their music, but I had never religiously listened to either of their music let alone their collaboration album.  I only knew their most famous songs from the album at first, but after experiencing Watch the Throne for myself, everything changed. I learned to love that whole album and to this day I still think it’s one of the best complete pieces of work Kanye West has put out. That’s an awfully biased opinion, but every time I hear a song from the album, It just brings me right back to their encore performance of playing the same song four times in a row and the whole stadium going nuts. They even released a music video filmed at the Houston concert for their most popular song off that album.

It’s the same thing with the Rae Sremmurd concert I saw last year at UH. I knew so little about this music group that I thought Rae Sremmurd was just one person. I was shocked to find out they’re a duo. I only knew about two or three songs from them but regardless I wasn’t going to pass up a free concert. The concert was a lot of fun, full of energy, and my friends and I had a great time. I instantly became a fan. Shortly after that experience I started listening to this music group a lot and also started following their careers. I began eagerly awaiting SremmLife 2 which came out this past summer.

What got me thinking about this subject was that I stumbled upon a song by Flosstradamus the other day as I was going through Spotify. He was the first show I ever saw at a music festival. After rediscovering this artist, I quickly found myself blasting his music throughout my dorm room and have continued to do so for the past few days. It must be the nostalgia.

Baile Funk

It’s a funny thing how quickly music can bond people. I had met someone for the first time one night at a party. He, João, was an exchange student from Brazil living with a friend of mine and attending our high school. I had also just recently watched the episode of Viceland’s amazing show Noisey exploring Brazil’s newly emerging music scene known as baile funk. When I asked him if he listened to any of the musical artists the show covered, his eyes lit up. João was shocked that anyone in America knew about these guys and was so happy to hear their names. I quickly proceeded to grab the aux chord, plug in my phone, and play some baile funk jams. He and I were singing along and having a blast while the rest of the party questioned why music in Portuguese was blasting throughout the house. My phone was unplugged before the song even got a minute in, but João and I became instant friends at the moment. Music has the ability to bridge cultures and connect people like no other.

The TV show Noisey is “a first-hand look into the cultures and artists behind some of the world’s most compelling music scenes” according to their website. It is extremely fun to watch. One of the most amazing things about the show is how quickly the reporter gets to know the artists and how much the love for music bridges any cultural gaps that may be present. The reporter, Zach Goldbaum, who is an awkward white guy from Maryland, spends days in Compton with various Blood gang members and affiliates for one episode of his show. Someone who otherwise would have no business being in this area is welcomed there for music’s sake.

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This picture is a screenshot from “Bompton” that perfectly captures a group of people bonding over music. The whole episode is on YouTube if anyone cares to watch it.

H-Town

I was getting dressed and ready to leave the locker room when all of the sudden a song came blasting  from the speakers that put me right back home in Houston, Texas.  My hands instinctually formed the shape of an “H”as I rapped along to every word . I never expected someone out here in North Carolina to be playing a rap song from a lesser known Houston artist, released over a decade ago, on the locker room aux chord.  Hearing the music of my hometown being played anywhere makes me extremely happy and this was the first time since leaving Houston that’d I’d heard anyone but myself play a Swishahouse track.

I’m a huge fan of many local hip-hop musicians from my city. I find it funny how often I’d hear particular artists back home, but now that I’ve moved away it seems like few to no one knows about them. I have only lived in Houston my whole life so I just assumed everyone knew who these artists were, when in reality they were all mostly local stars. One of my favorite rappers, Maxo Kream, though is having his first national tour coming up later this year, with three shows in North Carolina alone. I unfortunately have football obligations on all of those dates. Good thing I already saw him this past summer.

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When I’m jamming to my own tunes I tend to play a lot of Houston rap. One thing in particular that listening to my hometown music does is make me feel at home. I’m a good ways away, but music can definitely bring me back in a sense.

Pure Excitement

I’ve been waiting in the hot sun for four hours already, seeing band after band that I care little about, and it has all come down to this. I look behind me and see an endless crowd of people at least fifty thousand deep. We fought our way all the way up to the gate and now it’s time for the moment everyone has been waiting for.

Listening to the radio one afternoon I heard that the lineup for New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival had just been announced. I didn’t think much of it at first, but my dad grew up in New Orleans and frequented the festival so I figured I’d check it out. I goggled the lineup right when I got home and was not disappointed one bit. My all time favorite rock band, Pearl Jam, was headlining one of the nights! I had missed them performing in Texas two years earlier and I was not going to miss them this time around. I have seen many amazing musicians over the past few years, but crossing Pearl Jam off my bucket list was an amazing feeling. I told my dad that if I saw Pearl Jam live at least once I’d be able to die happy. The next day we called up my uncle, who still lives in New Orleans, to see if he was going this year, he said of course and he’d love for us to join him. I was thrilled to drive down to New Orleans that weekend, visit some family, and most of all to see one of the greatest rock bands (in my own opinion the greatest) to emerge out of the 1990s grunge scene.

Jazz Fest was very different from any musical experience I had previously had. This was an older, less rowdy crowd than I was used to. Nonetheless when PJ came on stage I was jumping up and down belting out every word to the songs. They opened up the set with State of Love and Trust, and I could not have been happier! Music does crazy things to our emotions and experiencing a favorite band in person is an unexplainable feeling. I felt enveloped in the spirit and vigor of the musicians and also in the sounds radiating from the stage. I was completely lost in the music. I would occasionally glance over at my dad and uncle and gauge their involvement in this musical experience. My uncle was moving to the best and singing along every now and then. My dad on the other hand was rather still and quiet. Granted he was only there because of me, It’s just funny how the experience of a concert differs for everyone.

Brand New Experience

I used to only play my guitar alone, in my room, and away from any sort of criticism. That quickly changed one night when I was volunteered to play at my high school’s Young Life club. At the conclusion of club one night we were notified that our usual guitarist would not be able to attend the next meeting and they needed someone to step up and fill the role. I sheepishly hid in the back and didn’t say a word. My good friend, also the student president of our Young Life, had a different idea. She stood up and yelled, “Brian can do it!” And that was that. Next thing you know I had a list of five songs I needed to learn how to play and only a week to do so. I was scared, but didn’t want to let anyone down so I happily accepted the role and locked in. I had not even been playing guitar for a full year yet, and here I was about to play in front of a big crowd.

Thanks to YouTube learning the songs was not too difficult. I practiced plenty though in fear of messing up. A week later the big day arrived and I was ready to go have some fun. It was such a cool experience having everyone singing along with and dancing together to the chords I strummed. I rocked it that night. From then on I was Lamar Young Life’s relief guitarist and was invited back to play again later in the year. They only ended up needing me for one other night, but it was satisfying to know that I at least had that role. Also, I owe my friend a huge thank you for helping me overcome a fear of mine. I have played in front of people plenty of times since then and even once on a busy street corner with a flipped over cowboy hat at my feet as a self-conducted social experiment.

FYL

I left the electric guitar back home and stuck with merely my acoustic for dorm etiquette reasons, but I cannot wait to get back home, turn the amp up to ten, and have my whole house booming. There’s nothing like that feeling of getting lost in the music you are playing. I do love playing music, but everything I have learned is from YouTube tutorials. I cannot read sheet music and I do not know a whole lot of musical vocabulary, but one thing I do know is that music is a beautiful thing that enriches our lives regardless. It brings us to different places, teaches us new ideas, and touches our souls.

I am pumped to be taking this class. When I came across this option on the course catalog I did not even read the rest of them. I added it to my WebTree instantly. I love music and am awfully excited to be exploring it on so many new levels with all you guys this year.