This Festival again reminds us of the great diversity of music that exists. This diversity is to be treasured.
Watching Le Trio Joubran’s workshop, they had us clapping in 10/8 rhythm: that’s a beat on 1, 6 and 7 of a count to 10. And then the vocals and oud came in on a familiar melody around that time signature.
Yet there’s a disturbing trend to impose a danceable 4/4 beat over that diversity. Yes, we can introduce people to cultures and styles – but only if we can dance to them with the limited rhythms that western pop and rock have accustomed us to. Unfortunately, this both reduces and robs the fantastic diversity to the lowest common denominator. That’s often referred to as the hegemony of western culture.
In thinking about this, I went back to some old texts: Fanon on Colonialism. I could start to see the parallels, as cultures are taken over and shaped to the form of the colonialist. And, as has been pointed out, this both reinforces our ignorant safety, but also has a profound effect on the colonised culture. For not only is the complex and diverse not marketable, but it is marginalised and changes within its own cultural context. It is devalued … and on the slope to vanishing. Oh, we might drop a sample into our set; we might throw in an exotic instrument for a moment, to tease and entice. As long as we can still dance to it. The insistent beat surges from the stage, from the DJ mix, from the car windows.
The diversity vanishes. Colonialism both economically and culturally appropriates, and turns brilliance to pap.
Yet, within that bleak landscape, the seeds of resistance remain. And the gleam through in many moments at WOMADelaide 2012.
The question is: do we want to hear them? Or do we want to side with the musical colonialism of the insistent and hegemonic beat?