Throughout my travels, I've lived in busy cities, remote mountain villages and in between. I’ve experienced cultures from all over the world. And one thing that has been consistent where ever I've traveled, is music. From the buzzing, European city streets, to the beaches of Bali, the temples of Tokyo and Taiwan, and the Maori villages of New Zealand, there's always been music. I'm interested in how music can help people, how it lifts our spirits, makes us feel good and brings us together.
Can sound and music heal human beings both physically and emotionally, throughout cultures? Many people all over the world are well travelled and knowledgeable of global issues. We have access to media at the end of our fingertips. Through television, newspapers, magazines, the radio and of course, the most widely used communication tool of the 21st century, the internet! It’s almost impossible not to hear about the issues and problems that occur between countries, societies and people. It’s also a wonderful way to learn about world music, to watch and listen to performances and learn about cultures across the globe.
Music is important in so many contexts of our lives. Through song and performance, people throughout history have been able to communicate stories from the past. A large number of songs involve musicians singing about their ancestral history, keeping their tales and stories going on through time. Before songs were written down, the oral tradition kept stories from being forgotten. Communities from all corners of the earth play music together. Through musical performances, people come together to share their stories and their feelings. A medium to share their culture, traditions and values with each other and the rest of the world.
There is something magical about sitting with a group of people and playing music together. I was once traveling in Andalucía, sitting on the beach playing guitar. A Spanish man walked past me and returned not long later, with a guitar. He sat beside me and taught me to play a few new songs. He spoke only Spanish, and at the time, I spoke very limited Spanish. So, we were unable to talk to each other in the same language. However, we played guitar for a while on the beach and this felt like a form of communication. After playing music for a while, we said ‘gracias’ and went on our way. Two individuals, different cultures, different languages, connecting through music. Whether music comes from the meditative chants of Buddhist monks or the soulful singing of African women, Maori singers, people jamming on a ukulele in a Hawaiian sunset or the beautiful singing from a capoeira roda in Brazil, music brings people together.
I recently spent time in a Buddhist temple in Taiwan, chanting and meditating at 5am with the monks. It felt special and wonderful to be part of a daily spiritual ritual. To be welcomed by those individuals into their community and into their practice. I thought meditation was all about being silent. But in this particular temple, the meditations revolve around song and chanting. The temples in Taiwan are filled with musical instruments, large drums, wooden frogs and voices. And each day these individuals meet for sunrise to meditate and thank Buddha, Earth, life energy (whatever you wish to call it) for the day. Just saying thank you.
I also learned the ukulele whilst in New Zealand and Taiwan. I bought a green pineapple shaped ukulele in New Zealand upon arrival. This small and friendly instrument was a new joy in my life. I think music helps me. It's therapeutic and relaxing. The ukulele is small, spritely, fun and light. It's great for traveling and for bringing a smile to people's faces. It is extremely popular in the Fijian communities, French Polynesia and New Zealand. In Brazil, the cavaquinho is their ukulele, largely played in Bossa Nova music and Samba.
Musical instruments tell stories. They reveal the history of a culture and its people. They express emotions and create emotions. They help love to grow and connections to be made. Part of me believes that each instrument has a different sound and feel, not just because of the person playing it, but because of the instrument itself. Where the wood is from. Its origin. The country, place, and individual tree. This helps me feel more connected with the instruments and their story. I think that without music, an element of societies soul would be void. It would be missing its true heartbeat. In my opinion, I think music is great for the soul!