What is it about music? It makes me feel good. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
I went to a show last night, first time I had seen live music in a while. I can see in my thoughts how my happiness unfolded: at first, it was kitschy. Older men, basically a standard five piece outfit: a drum kit, a synthesizer, guitar, bass, and the vocalist had a hand drum; only they added a guy who can play the saz and the oud, and they called it traditional music. And even I could tell the singer’s pronunciation was terrible, whether he was singing in Armenian, Turkish, or Arabic, and didn’t they even realize the differences between the traditions? The dancers on the floor in front of them, so pretentious! What did they imagine they were doing? I was, in a word, defensive. Over-critical.
But: could have been the low light, the heat, the noise, could have been the girl with the beautiful tattooed arms dancing near me, my mood changed. I started thinking: After all, well aren’t they singing traditional songs, with traditional melodies and lyrics? So what if they are using different instrumentation, if they westernize it. What’s the big deal, and where’s the gain for the purist. They had good energy, people were enjoying themselves. It was good to hear the melodies, and when they played Western rock, it was good to hear it transformed this way.
Music is all about change, and variation. Alteration and identity, their marriage and the conflict between them: isn’t that what makes a melody or a harmony. A tune is a thing that unfolds, changes over time while remaning the same; and a harmony is differences that added together make a whole.
I don’t think Oidupaa’s music is less authentically Tuvan because he uses a Russian bayan instead of an igil, e.g:
Exactly the opposite; and his singing style, which sounds like no other Tuvan’s, sounds all the more Tuvan for that reason. More to the point, don’t I admire Erkin Koray and Sezen Aksu for exactly the same kind of fusion as this group was making? Only done from the other end. Sure: it might have seemed less authentic. But things always look less real close up, exactly because they’re more real. And anyway, no one is expecting these guys to be world-class musicians. And the dancing was good, and I woke up happy and humming.