Okay, so there are some exceptions to this statement. I have indeed met one person on my journey in Southeast Asia who, in fact, did not enjoy music. However, I am electing to generalize using blanket statements and assumptions and claim that almost all human beings appreciate some form of music: metal, pop, reggae, techno, gospel, instrumental, hell maybe some people even like Justin Beiber. No shame (okay, a little shame if you like Beibs).
I myself enjoy almost all music. If there is music in the background at any restaurant, store, or bar I walk into, you can almost always catch me lip synching, bopping my head, or straight up dancing (this one typically accompanies a couple empty beer bottles on the table in front of me). To prove my point, I am currently sitting in a French coffee shop, watching French news, surrounded by French people; yet the news is currently discussing Nirvana and cutting back and forth from the lead anchor to clips of a past performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and several of the individuals around me are singing along.
What I don’t fully understand is why or how we came, as a single species, to universally enjoy the banging of drums, plucking of strings, or the sounds that we have the ability to make with our vocal cords when placed into a melody. Do I really care to know the answer to that question? no, not necessarily. I wouldn’t mind learning about the history of music as it originated on earth and developed into the numerous genres we have now, and I am sincerely jealous of my friends who selected majors allowing them to take classes on the history of rock or attend South by Southwest Music Festival as a “school trip” (Tyler you asshole).
But, when I am struggling for a conversation topic with new friends when there is a dramatically large language barrier lying between us making my Western social compass spin uncontrollably, music is my go to. The number of times I have found myself asking “what type of music do you like?” speaks to just how horrible I am at social interaction, or more so, how much I hate awkward silences. Generally, the question is enough to get us started on a music, movies, books, arts, and cultures rant that lasts for what seems like forever. Music is one of many things, but in my opinion one of the strongest tangible things, that brings people together. Whether its 3 in the morning at a club in Chiang Mai, Thailand or a classy dinner on the roof of the Phnom Penh tower in Cambodia. Dancing, singing, and laughing are the social first aid kit that I carry with me wherever I go. It’s my bandaid that I can pull out for when I inevitably bruise the conversation. Most of the time though, the music is already there. It lingers in the background as a safety net.
New music has been one of my favorite parts of my travels this far. Never in my life had I been to a jazz bar, a reggae rooftop bar, or a techno dance club until I came to Southeast Asia. The “when in Rome” mentality led me to do everything I never do. Granted these things are dominated by westerners rather than Thais or Cambodians, but hey I’m getting there. My first week in Thailand was spent in a rural village and on the last night the mic was handed off between Thais and Americans and Italians alike as we switched between Miley Cyrus and traditional Thai lullabies. No one stopped dancing. Ever.
Music, is the world’s universal language. It takes no words to understand the tone or meaning of a melody. And it speaks to each individual uniquely. It’s the most beautiful point at which the world can come together. And with that, I will leave you with a song (how fitting and cliche I know right? FIFA World Cup songs are my favorite…. sorry. But not really at all).