I’m so amazingly fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to travel out of this country a few times. To experience other cultures first hand is just a great life experience, and I can say that it definitely changed my life. I’m far more interested in international affairs and cultures than I would ever be if I hadn’t visted overseas. The MASSIVE amount of excellent quality music overseas blew my mind away. There are so many artists that I really enjoy now only because I’ve travelled and lived overseas for a little bit, just long enough to be introduced to these things.
I lived in Spain (Barcelona) for a semester in college. Now that was an amazing experience. I had taken Spanish for 2 years in college prior to going, and Georgia Tech College of Computing was offering a study abroad experience at UPC, so I jumped on the opportunity. I enjoyed it so much, and I was fairly fluent by the end of that trip, that I tried to find a job in Spain so I could further foster my love for Spanish culture. Anyway, the job market over there for Computer Science sucked at the time, so I couldn’t do it, but that’s neither here nor there. Back to my discussion…
While in Barcelona, I discovered an abundance of really good music. And when I say really good, I mean _really_ good – stuff that made you want to dance, but still had sophisticated melodies and rhythms, as if talent was still required to create it. This is in contrast to most American pop music where the major purpose is to propagate a business model – to make money via a marketing machine. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like some 50 cent now and again, but I think the core function of music is to invoke feeling through genuine empathy, using sound as the medium. American pop music is more about the money than empathy (well, unless one considers sexual tension as the empathetic goal). This is often through no fault of the artists themselves, but instead because of the mega mogul music labels (kiss my ass RIAA).
Now, I’m not some self-proclaimed nutso musical elitist. I like the ‘down ‘n dirty dirty Southern hip-hop as much as the Strauss Liebesleider waltz. I like the Beastie Boys as much as I like chamber music. I really like Cassie’s new single “Me and U” at the moment. I’m pumped with energy by Reggaeton’s primordial overtones. I’m utterly blown away by Yo Yo Ma and his $3 million dollar Siren of a cello in the Memoirs of a Geisha soundtrack. I absolutely love anti-nihlistic Japanese Pop (JPop). My musical interests span a rediculous repertoire – I’m weird like that.
This interest is in part due to my exposure to European culture. Barcelona was a great gateway in this regard. Barcelona (and nearby neighbor Ibiza) is like ground zero for Europeans under the age of 30. So many people from all over Europe in one place, with the Catalunyan and Castillian background, make for a recipe of lots of partying, fantastic food, and a blend of all styles of music. When I was in Port Olympíc (seaside Barcelona), there were no less than 20 small music/dance clubs lining a 1/4 mile strip, all of which played different styles of music – Salsa, Brazilian beats, Trance, House, Hip-Hop, 80’s Rock, etc, etc, etc. You name it. Ahhh, the memories…..
Anyway, it was in Spain that I found a first love for Spanish acoustic guitar – from the classical Baroque style to the raw but sophisticated Gipsy Kings and more. I was introduced to my first dose of European Trance (Ibiza), which later became a big part of my regular music-listening routine. I heard and saw Spanish Flamenco for the first time. And, because Barcelona is so close to the French border, I heard a wild array of French pop and rock, all of which was pretty cool. This melting pot really opened up my eyes (and ears) to music on a global scale. Now I’m really into JPop and my future wife Tomiko Van (yeah, I wish. Ok, no otaku tension there….yeah, right.)
Now there is NO WAY that I would be listening to Tomiko Van, Utada Hikaru, and Teriyaki Boyz today if it wasn’t for me getting out of this country to see the world a bit. I recommend to all my fellow countrymen to take a trip and learn a little. At least your musical life will be far more interesting.
To finish off this post, here are some groups that I was listening to today. I was on what I call a “Euro-chill” trip today, and these two groups fit that description nicely:
Royksopp (Norwegian group):
Only This Moment:
Epple (won MTV award for best video of the year):
Phoenix (French group):
If I Ever Feel Better (_really_ popular when I was in Spain):