Writing about World Music

Davidson College, Fall 2015

Author: cacacicedo

Televised Singing Contests

Every Sunday night a televised singing contest makes its appearance on one of the main channels. Shows like American Idol, The Voice, X Factor, and many, many more come on to show the U.S. who some of the best singers in the country are. Other countries have their own versions of these competitions, but the U.S. has the most televised singing contests.

The shows range in different variations of competitions. Some allow private auditions, others public. The size of the crowd varies, and even the audition itself can vary. A fairly recent show called Killer Karaoke even features singers who have to compete while accomplishing their fears. All of the competitions feature famous guest judges, normally singers, who can help the competitors learn how to better their voices. Although some of these singing shows are fun to watch, I often ponder the rules of the competition.

For the majority of the people who audition, I believe they sound amazing. All the competitors sing their hearts out, and almost all of them sound amazing. I find it difficult on how the judges decide who continues onto the next round and who goes home. In the competitions, it eventually reaches a point where they let “America” decide who continues onto the next round. People can vote on their favorite singers to continue, and eventually, the person with the most votes wins the competition.

Although few people who end up winning become internationally famous and AMA winners, the competitions aren’t futile. It is an experience where you can learn how to sing better and interact on stage during performance. Many people who get kicked off the show during the earlier stages of the competition come back the next season to retest their luck. Many famous singers have come out of the competitions and, obviously, become successful. Some performers include One Direction from the X Factor, Jennifer Hudson from American Idol, Miranda Lambert from Nashville Star, Kelly Clarkson from American Idol, Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent, Carrie Underwood from American Idol, Pentatonix from The Sing-Off, and Adam Lambert from American Idol. (Just to name a few.) A USA Today article discussed the failure of singing shows to create famous performers.


The singing competitions have gained success in televised views. You can go on youtube and look up the competitions auditions and there will be tons of views. Also, many people put together compilations of the best and the worst auditions. Whichever program had the first televised singing competition started a trend that continues even today; still, new contests are popping up but with different rules and concepts.


EDM, or electronic dance music, has become extremely popular in modern times, especially with the invention of new devices that can create the electronic sounds. Upon researching some information on how exactly EDM is made, I came across some knowledge regarding the origins of EDM and why it “pumps up” people.

Before the invention of the technology artists use now to create EDM, the only other time humans came across similar sounds were during natural disasters. When thunder struck or an earthquake shook the ground, sounds were produced that are similar to electronic sounds. Natural disasters can cause humans to become scared, boosting their adrenaline levels. Therefore, some people conclude that since EDM has similar bass sounds to natural disasters, it increases the level of adrenaline in humans like how natural disasters would. Of coarse, there is no scientific evidence supporting this hypothesis, but it is a cool concept to think about.

Back to EDM in the present age, the music is created by the invention of speakers that can project different bass frequencies, thus producing different sounds that can come together and form a beat. EDM is not the most popular form of music currently, but its demand is increasing. Concerts such as Ultra are becoming more trendy to help bring money into cities. Also, many top-40 artists are collaborating with electronic dance musicians to create different types of music that can appeal to more listeners.

Many EDM artists are known across the globe for their unnatural twist on music. Musicians perform their concerts on large stages, messing around with their computer and a few other devices. Also, many different dancers and light shows can be infused into the concert to help make the performance a better experience for the audience. Many different electronic dance musicians include Calvin Harris, Avicci, Tiesto, and Skrillex. Some of my favorite EDM songs are “You’re On” by Madeon ft.Kyan and “Raindrops (Radio Edit)” by SNBRN.

“Electronic Dance Music.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2015.

A New Type of Music

During the very long fall break Davidson gave us two weeks ago, I went home. I enjoyed a luxury that I don’t have at college: driving by myself. While I was driving anywhere I could to maximize the time I had home, I decided to flip through some of the radio stations. I heard the same songs I hear everywhere else, each genre containing a certain quality that is similar to most other songs in the same genre. And then, I came across a song on the hip-hop station called “That’s My Best Friend” by Tokyo Vanity.

Originally, I thought the song was a parody or a more comic song like the 2011 hit “Friday” by Rebecca Black. “That’s My Best Friend” is a repetitive song that contains the voice of Tokyo Vanity. (Her real name, if that isn’t it, cannot be found.) Tokyo basically talks throughout the whole song, speeding up her rhythm in certain verses and slowing it back down to a beat in the chorus. Tokyo’s song supports her best friend’s actions the whole time, and the meaning of the song is evident by the lyrics, if not the music video.

What caught me off guard about this song was the differentiation from other songs in the hip-hop/rap genre. Tokyo’s voice isn’t quite as fluent at rapping as other artists like Drake (shoutout to the hotline bling music video), Big Sean, and Kendrick Lamar are. Nonetheless, “That’s My Best Friend” has been stuck in my head for the past 2 days. Tokyo and her producers succeeded at making a song that will be remembered. You can check out the music video below (if the link works properly this time), but be cautious of the warning.

WARNING: This video contains content that may be inappropriate to viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

School Rivalry Music Video

I understand that as freshman in college, we do not need to discuss our high school past, but a recent post from my high school’s rival hit my roots as hard as hurricane Joaquin will hit this campus.

Before Davidson, I attended a day/boarding school in Chattanooga, TN called Baylor. We were founded in 1893, and soon after, a similar school was founded in 1905 called McCallie. Being the only boarding schools and at the time, all male military academies in Chattanooga, Baylor and McCallie would constantly compete against one another academically and athletically. As I’m sure you can already understand, our 100+ year rivalry has caused aggressive spirit and pride in our school communities. Therefore, whenever the annual Baylor McCallie football game would come around, everyone would start supporting their school a week in advance.

School support came through the hanging of flags across the city, paint all over car windows, a week of  dressing up before the game, and this year, a music video declaring who will win the game on Friday. Promoting spirit, McCallie created a cover of “Run This Town” by Jay-Z and Rihanna. They remixed the lyrics of the songs, declaring how much better they are then their rivals, Baylor. Well produced and extremely creative, the music video features many different artists who rap along to the rhythm of the music. The video is meant to support the expected success of McCallie  and, more importantly, to infuriate Baylor students. Reaching national recognition, the music video made the football fields and stands more heated than normal on Friday night.

Even though McCallie propagated their team better than Baylor, Baylor still took the win 38-14. Go Big Red!

You can check out McCallie’s video below.

The Modernization of Religious Teachings

As technology continues to develop and new things are invented, the world slowly advances with the people. Many things have changed within the last century like the invention of telephones and computers, social concepts, music, and religious teachings. In “Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening, and Modernity”, Charles Hirschkind discusses the different advancements in religious teachings regarding the changes culturally, politically, and socially.

Politics has changed and created a new path for religious beliefs that is different from past traditions. The most noticeable changes Hirschkind discusses are the teachings of the Qur’an. Originally, the Qur’an focused less on the different teachings or sermons and more on the listeners. It was the job of the listeners to understand and trust the Qur’an, and the khatib only told the listener God’s word. However, as time started to advance, the importance of learning the Qur’an fell on the teacher. If God’s word was not properly taught or influential enough to move the listener, than the teacher was at fault. Eventually, the teachers learned how to influence the listeners into trusting and believing the Qur’an. The state saw the persuasion of the teachers as a control mechanism, and they took advantage.

The state changed the sermons from being a teaching about values to an insurance for government abidance. They started to control the speeches so they would not go against the policies of the state. The sermons encouraged obedience to state authority.  Hirschkind wrote,”…the khatib now deploys a morally neutral art of rhetorical manipulation, instilling in his audience the opinions and attitudes that will constitute modern Egyptians..,” (140).  Basically, the mosques turned into areas of control and supervision of the citizens by the government.

The social advancements of media also changed the way sermons were taught. Speeches about the Qur’an were told over the radio, and music was a way to proclaim ones faith. Essentially, the largest change focusing on the teachings of the Qur’an came via cassettes. Khutaba would put their sermons on the cassette tapes and would sell them to the people. The sermons still acted as a practice for people to listen to proper moral actions, but anyone could listen to the sermons anywhere. Another change was the sudden rise in fame for some khutaba. Certain khutaba were known to have the best sermon speeches, and they grew in popularity and became “stars”.

The modernization of the sermons on cassette tapes reminded me of the modernization of Sufism music. In “World Music: A Very Short Introduction”, Philip V. Bohlman discussed the spread of Sufism music globally and how it “…is advertised, marketed, and consumed as popular music,” (19). Similar to how sermons were placed on cassette tapes, Sufism music was sold in record shops on CDS.

The modernization of religious teachings and religious music has transformed the different ways people can practice and get involved in religious functions. Some transformations have been positive like the expansion of ways people can listen to teachings and music whereas other transformations have been negative such as the political pressures placed on teachings. Will modernization continue to hurt or help religions?



Bohlman, Philip Vilas. World Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

Erlmann, Veit. “Hearing Modernity: Egypt, Islam, and the Pious Ear.” Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening and Modernity. New York (NY): Berg, 2004. Print.

Sia Elastic Heart

What started out as a simple music video Sia used to address her emotions turned into one of the most controversial discussions in 2014. The choice of actors and costumes and the scenario confused many viewers into believing that the video was completely inappropriate.

Shia LaBeouf, age 28, and Maddie Ziegler, age 12, were the two actors who starred in “Elastic Heart”. During the video, which you should find attached below, both actors danced dramatically in nude leotards. Upon reviewing the video, many viewers saw the interactions between the actors as inappropriate. One fan expressed in a social media message that the video “Smacks of child molestation #pervert #unacceptable #childabuse…Explain please!” While the discomfort of fans continued to grow, Sia tweeted an apology saying, “I anticipated some ‘pedophilia!!!’ cries for this video… All I can say is Maddie and Shia are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring ‘Sia’ self states.” But what did Sia really intend the video to be about?

In an interview from the Youtube channel DanceOn, Sia explains her actions for the music video. The song “Elastic Heart” is supposed to represent the constant warring states of two different characteristics in her head. Maddie represents the more child-like side of Sia, while Shia acts like the conscience. Both actors are wearing nude because they are the same person, and they are trapped inside a cage because the cage represents the skull or the brain. The intricate dance moves are the different interactions between the characteristics, trying to become one and at peace with one another.

After fully understanding the content of the video, I believe there is nothing wrong with the choices Sia made for the visual production of her music, however, some people still believe Sia’s video is inappropriate. Did Sia make an error by releasing a controversial music video?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWZGAExj-es&w=560&h=315]

All of the websites I used to learn information for this blog is cited below:

Grow, Kory. “Sia Apologizes for Controversial ‘Elastic Heart’ Video With Shia LaBeouf.” Rolling Stone. 08 Jan. 2015. Web. 05 Sept. 2015.

Inocencio, Marc. “Sia, Maddie Ziegler, Shia LaBeouf Talk Controversial ‘Elastic Heart’ Video.” Ryan Seacrest.  21 Jan. 2015. Web. 05 Sept. 2015.