“Travellers had commented on exotic song and dance since Tacitus remarked on the Germans. Prior to Burney, however, the pursuit of musical knowledge was not in itself a motivation for travel. His journeys, including an earlier one to France and Italy in 1770, pioneered a new genre, the specialized musical travelogue. With this came a related set of epistemological claims about the capacity of travel writing to convey knowledge about music. Conducting a sociological study of music before sociology, Burney ascribed indexical status to music by asking who and what music was for, what it did, and what this in turn signified about society at large.”(Vanessa Agnew. Enlightenment RPHEUS: The Power of Music in Other Worlds)
If early travel writers had never documented how music was significantly different depending on the geographical region, the fusion of musical heritage and culture of diverse communities would certainly have taken longer to merge. Music has a hidden strength in identifying and capturing a specific memory that had perhaps been forgotten, until a song vividly retraces a specific moment and place. The weather, what mood you were in, and the people you were with can last as an eternal musical image. The fact that musicians tend to travel and non musicians also travel implies a relationship that exists between the two that is formed by an emotional bond.
Promenading along the path that runs parallel to Port Vell in Barcelona and bumping into a Jamaican fellow listening to ‘Buffalo Soldier’ by Bob Marley on repeat; claiming it was his favourite song, yet still not knowing the lyrics, and trying to sell me and my friend mojitos which clearly he had already consumed. Every time I listen to this song an image of this man pops into my head and I see him zigzagging away down the boardwalk, and remembering it was a brisk night where a mojito definitely would of warmed me up.
In countries where English isn’t their native language, English music has a tendency to be uncensored on the radio and this was apparent in Corfu. A Jennifer Lopez song with a humorous and offensive lyric was blaring out the speakers by the hotel pool around lunchtime. As I watched I saw a mother relaxing on her lilo woken by this lyric and began splashing towards her children to cover their ears. This memory I now associate with every Jennifer Lopez song.
Specific regions are characterised by their own music genres which enhances the concept of travelling to a place can appear as a certain style of music. Taking America as an example, where blues and later jazz music was first developed in the New Orleans,Louisiana area back in 1900. Louisiana has been influenced by its musical heritage; from the likes of Blues legend B.B King, and the founder of jazz, Louis Armstrong. Travelling through this area it is hard to picture any other breed of music. The Brooklyn area on the east coast, and Los Angeles on the west was the birthplace of rap music with legends such as Tupac, Biggie Smalls, and Jay-Z who deploy the image of a Black African American hustling on the streets, and performing rap battles as a way to begin the classic ‘rags to riches’ quest.
Travelling into South America, visualised by Latin music and the image of old men playing dominoes, smoking cigars, and sipping tequila is the postcard reflection of what Latin culture entails of a slow pace lifestyle, and the relaxing rhythms that help overcome the searing heat. A traveller’s music play list must therefore incorporate the music culture of a place visited to create a true memory that reflects perfectly a region or country that is rich is musical heritage. The cheesy European discothèque culture, the drum and bass of France, heavy metal in Germany, and the grime scene in the UK all depict a place in musical terminology.
Has this post put you in the mood for some great music? Our Ultimate Travel Tunes playlists may be just the thing to get you going!
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Category: History and culture