Q. 6. Ways in which Popular Music is Used to Transcend Social boundaries and Identities

Popular music refers to a musical genre that has a wide appeal. The distributors of this type of music target a large audience. The audience of popular music amounts to millions of people. In his analysis of popular music, Byrne explains that it is a commercial type of music produced by countries. He identifies countries such as Brazil, the United States, Bulgaria, and India as having popular music. An example of a popular music album is the Macarena kings that sold millions of copies in the United States alone. This paper examines the manner in which popular music transcends the social boundaries and identities. Identities and social boundaries examined are religion, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and class.

The emergence of popular music makes it possible for the musicians in the world to modify this music and come up with original compositions that qualify as pop music. This is an assertion that Byrne supports. In his analysis of Western popular music, Byrne explains that it spreads quickly across the globe. Musicians break down the elements of the Western popular music and creat their own styles of music. Byrne gives an example of Femi Kuti and Fela Kuti who managed to use the Western style of music to come up with their compositions and musical style. Femi and Fela Kuti are Nigerian musicians, yet they benefit from the Western popular music. Another example is the decision made by African guitar bands to copy the Cuban style of playing rhumba. These musicians were not successful in copying this style of music, but they came up with another genre of music that was equally popular.

These explanations and examples by Byrne are a proof that music transcends the social boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, and race. African musicians come from a different race, nationality, and ethnicity when compared to their Western counterparts. Most Western musicians are of Caucasian origin. It is an obvious fact that African musicians do not speak the same ethnic language as their Western counterparts, yet they can use and listen to the popular music emanating from these countries. Byrne explains that “restricting one to listening an English popular music is like eating one food for the entire life of an individual”. The intention of making such an assertion is to explain why some people listen to the music in languages that are not their native ones. He further gives an example of a Japanese salsa song that made it to number one in the United States music charts. Americans are speakers of English and not of the Japanese language, yet they listened to the Japanese music, voted for it to be the best in American charts. Another fact that explains the transcendence capability of popular music is the emergence of the world music festivals.

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Bohlman asserts that the world music festival brings artists from all over the world just to perform in United States. He gives examples of Palestinian, Algerian and Mexican musicians sharing the same stage to perform their music. Bohlman believes that these musicians can come together because of the transcendence capabilities of popular music. People will listen to music as long as it is popular, and it appeals to their interests. As a host of the world music festival, Chicago benefits because of the large number of tourists who visit the town. The intention of these tourists is to listen and enjoy music emanating from the visiting musicians. Through these examples, Bohlman proves the assertion that popular music transcends the social boundaries of nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, and class because everybody irrespective of where they came from will attend the world music festivals in Chicago.

Based on these facts and examples, one can say that popular music transcends the social boundaries that include race, nationality, ethnicity, class and religion. Millions of people listen to popular music and they are not limited by a particular language. Their interest is on the genre of the music and whether it is good or not. African musicians have borrowed from Western popular music and come up with their own genre of music. People in America listen to the Japanese music, proving the notion that race, ethnicity and nationality cannot limit a person from enjoying some particular music. The world music festival gathers people of different religions and classes for purposes of enjoying music emanating from popular musicians. Some of these people are tourists who travel from other countries just to enjoy the popular music of the day.

Q.7. What is Musical Authenticity, Why it is Problematic and Why People are Invested in the Idea?

Musical authenticity is a quite controversial concept. It concerns itself with which type of music is real and which one is false. This paper looks into this concept of authenticity, identifying what it means, why it is problematic, and why people have an interest in the idea. This paper focuses on Byrne’s ideas on authenticity, examining them and providing an argument on a perspective that is compelling. In examining this concept of musical authenticity, this paper takes a stand that it is a problematic topic because of the disagreements amongst scholars of music whether it exists or not.

Byrne explains that authenticity concerns itself with the identification of the type of music that is true and the one that is false. In explaining this concept, Byrne believes that talking about it will result in the opening of a can of worms. This is a metaphor that Byrne uses, which is a symbol of controversies and disagreements emanating from scholars and lovers of music. In explaining this concept, Byrne denotes that everybody has two types of music, “my type of music, and the type of music belonging to everyone else”. This assertion explains that musical authenticity varies from one person to another. His view is that musical authenticity does not exist. He gives an example of the Balinese monkey chant, whose original source is a German music composer and choreographer. Despite the Balinese monkey chants originating from Germany, it is the Balinese who have an honor of owning the chants. Another example is the first South African pop record whose tunes emanate from the American racing cars. Through these assertions, Byrne believes that musical authenticity does not exist.

Byrne is wrong when he asserts that musical authenticity does not exist because most musicians spend their time composing music and coming up with original versions of music. There are copyright laws that prohibit musicians or other artists from using and composing their pieces of music from other people’s works. Giving an example of the Balinese monkey chants, Byrne contradicts himself as he accepts that the original composer of the chants was a German. Through this example, Byrne confesses the authenticity of the Balinese monkey chants. People are, therefore, invested in this idea of authenticity because they have a desire of protecting their works. Byrne explains that the commercialization of music is the reason people have an interest in this concept of musical authenticity. Therefore, they will use both legal and physical means to protect their works.

Musical authenticity is a controversial topic, with scholars disagreeing whether it exists or not. One of the arguments against musical authenticity is that an original rhythm or music does not exist. Opponents assert that music is a reincarnation of previous ideas. However, this is a wrong assumption because it is these previous ideas that are authentic. Any music composed from these ideas is a copy of the music under consideration. Hence, it is not authentic.

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