Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Musical Musings - Genres and Uniforms


Do you feel that your favorite type of music defines who you are? It's OK if you do--there's something to be said about sticking to one path in life.


The reason I ask is, I've never even had a chance to identify with just one genre. I was supposed to grow up to become a Classical pianist if my mother had had her way with me. Unfortunately for her, I loved every other form of music too much. I've rocked with the best of the rockers when I was a metalhead (yes, I went through the "this music is me" phase and no one can hear me belt out a song and tell me I'm not a real rocker). At the same time, I was gigging in a jazz band singing Thelonious Monk tunes and in an R&B band backing up Robin S. I've had to learn all styles as a freelance singer in NY, and it's been an enriching experience for me but it's also made me feel different in contrast to people around me who could say "Well, I'm into this so I'm that" and take the advice of peers or fashion magazines that tell them just what to wear because they're exactly that. Example: "You're a Punk! Black and white stripes with combat boots and pink hair are so YOU.". But in growing up I knew other musicians who felt as I did who, even if they closely identified with one type of music, at least would never put down or ignore the rest because we loved to play. I suppose we dressed a bit weird, too.

Having a favorite style is fine as long as society doesn't get polarized as a result. But as we can witness from how segregated the radio stations are in the US (where unlike in other countries where you hear a plethora of genres on one station, you have different stations for different genres which are marketed to particular demographics--listen to their sponsored ads and you can "see" the images they're pushing), it always ends up dividing people in the real world. If people were more accustomed to hearing different types of music or if they could just know that there are other types of music out there than what's on their radio or TV, would it make a difference in our world? What would happen if we stopped catering to this system and just started making music for ourselves which might be more fusion-y than what people are comfortable with? If we put variety to the forefront instead of the same few types of music packaged with the same images all the time, all the time, all the time, feeding dangerous and ignorant generalizations about people to the young, would we be one step closer to promoting peace?

I would defend the existence of Rock, Soul, Jazz, pretty much all genres of music that I love. I also wouldn't try to stop their evolution by controlling how a new generation of musicians interpret our world in sound. We all must grow. I am Music, not a stereotype.