Writing about World Music

Davidson College, Fall 2015

Author: memaglasang

Observations and Analysis

When conducting “field work” during ethnographic research, interviews with musicians are a vital part of “data collection” that ethnomusicologists must conduct.  It provides insight on what we observe from an outsider’s perspective.  These interviews answer the questions that pop up in our minds when observing the culture and music in front of us.  It is a social interaction between the researcher and the practitioner, an exchange of ideas that results in the recording of the researchers findings.  This is a limitation that researchers of ethnomusicology must consider.  We are limited by what we observe and what we interpret and analyze in the “thick descriptions” that we write.  Of course, this limitation is acknowledged but it is that very acknowledgement of uncertainty in the findings of researchers that is the basis of the difficulty of building up from the ideas of others.  This uncertainty is circumvented through the extensive observations made by researchers, usually culminating in years worth of observations about a certain ethnomusicological topic.   It is through this extensive and well-documented process that provides the validity of any assumptions, connections, generalizations made by ethnomusicological writers.  Through experience, proximity, and social relationships, ethnomusicologists provide the observations and analysis that convey knowledge on to those  that seek to unravel the cultures of music.

SadBoys 2001

The SadBoys crew consists of Yung Lean the rapper, and his two producers: Yung Sherman and Yung Gud.  They are a rap group based in Sweden and they are taking over the indie rap world.  Here is a little clip of a classic Yung Lean song to let you get the feel of their music.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMgkt9jdjTU&w=560&h=315]

The song is “Kyoto” and in the video it features the SadBoys Crew as well as their associates Gravity Boys.  Yung Lean offers lyrical anomalies that he considers “e m o t i o n a l” which gives inspiration to their crew name.  This is exemplified through lyrics like ” S A D B O Y S see me in the club with it tatted on my chest” which shows his devotion to his crew and his determination to succeed within the rap game.  Yung Gud and Yung Sherman produce unique tracks and beats that are quite underrated and often go unnoticed.  The intricacies of their beats often go unnoticed and it is a shame that such talented producers are not getting the attention that they deserve.  However, they have a huge internet following almost rivaling that of Lil B, praising their unique music style and swearing by them.  I personally am I fan of their music, as I feel that most of their songs involve putting in raw emotion into their tracks.  When you listen to Yung Lean, you are taken into the SadBoys world for the duration of the songs and you will feel the complete e m o t i o n a l developments of each line.  He has been quiet for the passed few months after his Unknown Memory tour, but has come back with a huge bang with his new song “Hoover.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jDiAcqbO0c&w=560&h=315]

Lil B

Before saying anything let me show you guys a clip first…

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8u6EodZseg&w=560&h=315]

Now the rapper from the video above is known is Lil B, the Based God.  He is an independent rapper, without any of the traditional marks of success that rappers are usually measured by.  He has no grammys, record deals, or Late Show appearances, but the one thing he does have is prestige.  He is renowned within the musical world by artists everywhere as he embodies the extremes of what a rapper looks like.  Even his songs satirically embody the concept of what rap music is.  He is symbolic representation of the excesses of rap, evidenced by his over the top music videos and song lyrics.  There is a brilliant simplicity to all of his songs, and he plays his desired character to the perfect degree.  He has hordes of devoted fans, zealously praising the Based God and defending his legacy with a ferocity that can rival any mainstream fan base.  He himself has stated that he has released over two-thousand songs, and in 2011 he released a mix tape that had 676 tracks on it.  This is a testament to the hard work and dedication he puts forth to achieve the title of Based God.

Now I’ll leave you with his crowning achievement…Be warned however it is not for the faint of heart.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq-jPa2-gdE&w=560&h=315]


Concert Experience: Of Monsters and Men

Initially, I had little hope of going on the Of Monsters and Men (Omam) concert because I was the very last person on the waiting list for the tickets provided by Cat Excursion, but when I got the email that said that Davidson had purchased more tickets to cover the huge interest in the concert and I had a spot I was ecstatic.  I only knew a few of Omam’s songs but I knew their unique sound and dynamic duo of their two lead singers would be a truly sublime listening experience.

Davidson provided two buses to take the students to the North Carolina Music Factory where we were provided lawn tickets–which is my forte seating section.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere and it was definitely an older crowd where most of the attendees where around the ages of 30-35.  Davidson probably provided the most teenagers for the event.  Omam had a Swedish band called Amazon open for them which set the mood with thundering drums and distinctly Swedish songs that the crowd enjoyed.  There was a bit of a wait for the main event to start, but when it did the crowd roared with excitement.  Omam played masterfully and enthusiastically, even breaking a few guitar strings on the way.   The concert has made me a permanent fan, admiring their unique sound and persistent energy throughout the entire show.  I’ll leave you with my favorite song from them.

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


The west coast has brought on another wave of music, complete with aggressive beats and grandiose personas.   The California culture has been known to bring about legendary rappers like Tupac, Dre, and N.W.A. and its underground scene is loaded with fresh, new, talented faces.  George Watsky, known as Watsky in the rap game, is a rapper from San Francisco who is a beautiful lyricist with truckloads of talent.  His raps cover a wide range of topics from rich girls to building cardboard castles, all loaded with metaphors that cover a plethora of themes from love, inspiration, to financial hardships.  For example, “Send in the Sun” covers the topic of suicide, and the impact it has on the people around them.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzShjY53RD8&w=560&h=315]

He compares the sudden death of a person through suicide with the supernova of a star, cleverly putting forth other metaphors related to the galaxy and human lives.  His talent is also apparent with the speed and dexterity he raps his lyrics.  He manages to spit out clever quips while remaining completely coherent to the listener.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeW2vHkXwVE&w=560&h=315]

He is one of my favorite rappers because of his unparalleled talent, clever lyricism, and he was featured on Ellen–twice.



In “The Tearful Public Sphere: Turkey’s ‘Sun of Art,’ Zeki Muren,” Martin Stokes brings us to the heart of the Turkish media where popular figures are brought into a scene where modernist ideals are starting to dominate, but the strings of sentimentalism still have a hold on the mindset of the public. It is a clear time for transition in Turkey where reform is prevalent with a push for progressivism and secularism, but while the desire for “universalism” is there, religion and gender roles are still prevalent within their society (Stokes). It is most prevalent in the fame of Zeki Muren where he embodied “gender ambiguity and deviance,” and contrasted the heteronormative views of the republicans at the time while simultaneously being household name (Stokes).
Zeki Muren was a prominent singer, composer, and film star that “cultivated an image of decorum and respectability” (Stokes). He was a public figure that pushed forth these ideals, resulting in the inability of his critics to oust him based on any subject within moral grounds. His outstanding moral character allowed him to bring about “intimacy” into the public light without being considered a figure of moral “outsidership” (Stokes). He was a homosexual man which was a fact that was considered “unremarkable” by the Turkish population which was complete falsehood, because of the efforts to “heterosexualize” the image of the late Zeki Muren (Stokes). There is hypocrisy in claiming to be a society aiming for universalism then disregarding the long term relationship held between Muren and his long-term male partner Fahrettin Arslan. To have one of the most prominent personas be homosexual was too much for some, but they could not deny his presence so in their minds they began to focus on his more heterosexual affairs. Stokes utilizes this movement to heterosexualize Muren to portray the friction in the movement towards universalism that Turkey desires.
This friction is common within period of transition within any society. There will always be conservative feelings within a portion of the population where radical change is looming. For instance, sexuality and gender roles are still prevalent topics within the United States. When the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, there were portions of the population that were not in agreement with this ruling. This is just the friction associated with any form of change. There will always be an opposing side to any argument, but progress, over time, will always be made.

Homework and Music

A common trend that I have witnessed after getting my fair share of library hours is that a large amount of students listen to music while studying or doing homework.  I asked a few people if they felt that it improved their concentration or helped them focus on the task at hand.  One interesting answer was from a friend who listened to very upbeat songs and she claimed that it made her work faster.  I mused on the idea of her typing to the blistering pace of

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX-6f88Bif4&w=560&h=315]

and finishing her essay in no time.  Some students require absolute silence however, opting for the basement of the library to maximize their productivity.  I myself prefer softer music with no lyrics to relax my mind and lull myself into the homework grind.  If a song has lyrics I usually find myself singing along taking me away from my work, but breaks where you lose yourself to a sea of underground rap songs are incredibly relaxing.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwTmJ9KptfI&w=560&h=315]

It is all in the balance of relaxation of productivity to keep us sane through our journey at Davidson. So, I’m curious what do you guys listen to?

Concert Experience: Nicki

It’s a typical Miami afternoon–200 percent humidity, the metro’s air conditioning unit is in shambles, and Spanish music is blasting from the headphones of the stranger sitting next to me. We had just come from the beach the day before, freshly sunburned, ready to lose ourselves to the magic of Nicki Minaj and her crew. We had tickets for the “grass section,” meaning we had the privilege of standing on the lawn straddling the real seats.  There was a certain surreal atmosphere tied to being surrounded by a sea of short-shorts and crop tops.  The crowd was energized as the opening acts began and then impatient as they concluded, waiting for Nicki Minaj to take the stage.  It was a little over two hours later that she finally appeared.

Despite the initial electric atmosphere brought upon by adoring fans, being two hours late will instill a certain level of restlessness within the crowd.  Plagued by numerous technical difficulties, the magic of being “there” wore off almost instantaneously.  We were all of a sudden very conscious of the humid, musky, and crowded situation we were in.  We tried our best to catch glimpses of the show between towering heads, but to no avail.  Of what little we saw of her, she seemed a little lethargic.  For example in the video linked below she let her song play while she walked around and just waved at the crowd.  The concert concluded and we were somewhat disappointed, but we just chalked it up to being in the “grass section.”


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIv06elRukA&w=560&h=315]


Sam Smith right next door pulled off an amazing performance though.