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January 27, 1994 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-01-27

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, January 27, 1994

The world emerges*
Westerners discover world music
By SONNY CALDERON
The capacity crowd stood, dancing in the aisles and throwing money on the
stage. The walls shook from the beating drums and the collective voices of
musicians and fans. The house rocked. It was a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan concert.
Khan is a Qawwali singer from Pakistan who has been enjoying vast@
successes in the West in the last few years. Khan's music, Qawwali, is part of
a 700-year-old tradition of Sufi Moslems. Observed chiefly in Pakistan and
Northern India, Sufism stresses asceticism, mysticism and strict adherence to
Islamic law. Qawwali helps achieve these goals with inspirational, poetic,
celebratory music and lyrics. Sung by a small group with a soloist (like Khan)
and employing tabla drums (small, powerful skinned drums) and harmonia
(portable keyboard instruments with bellows), Qawwali music brings its
listeners to religious ecstasy and drives many to offer money to the perform-
ers.
Millions of Western listeners have recently been turned on to world music.
In the last few years, world music tapes and compact discs have occupied more
shelf space in music stores; more radio programming has been devoted to it
on stations like WCBN and WEMU (both college stations); world music
concerts have been scheduled more frequently and in larger venues.
What is world music? This is a difficult question to answer: First, the label
"world music" has been affixed to many types of music that otherwise have
nothing in common. Second, the "world" aspect is from a Western -
particularly American -point of view; most world music is part of or derives
from non-Western cultures. Finally, world music is understood in contrast to
Western art music. Western art music generally refers to European and
American high art music, including all types of classical.
Thanks to University Musical Society Executive Director Ken Fischer,
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan came to Ann Arbor last fall. Fischer has been trying to
incorporate more world music events into the UMS program since he won his
position five years ago. "I woke up one day and said, 'Here we are with the
opportunity to present other cultures to our community, and we're not doing
it,"' he said.
Under Fischer's control, UMS has a schedule peppered by previously
excluded artists. Included on UMS' roster this year, in addition to Khan, are
such artists as Les Ballets Africains, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and
Pilar Rioja. In fact, more than one quarter of UMS scheduled artists for this
season are considered world musicians.
Many Americans are getting their first taste of world music. In 1989, pop
star Peter Gabriel released a soundtrack album to Martin Scorsese's film "The
Last Temptation of Christ" entitled "Passion." The soundtrack included
traditional folk music from Pakistan, Turkey, India, the Ivory Coast, Egypt,
New Guinea, Morocco and other Near-East cultures. The album also included
a Qawwali performance by Khan.
Gabriel also started his own record label, Real World Records, to spotlight
world musicians and package their music for Western consumers. Last
summer, Gabriel toured the country with many world musicians giving
listeners across the nation an opportunity to hear live world music.
Lori Gum of the World Music Institute (WMI) gives credit to Paul Simon
for his contribution to world music awareness. "Since the release of the
'Graceland' album, Paul Simon has consistently maintained a place for world
sounds in American music," she said. Gum, who is Khan's tour manager, also
said that the rise of world music's popularity can be seen simply as part of the
loosening in the boundaries of art over the past few years. "We see it now in
New York (WMI headquarters) where all the arts are being influenced by non-
Western elements."
Khan himself has said that music "has the power to unite all people." His
music is not culture-specific: "Sufism teaches peace and love. If there's love
in people, you can reach them." Khan sees the growing popularity of world
music as an example of the emergence of one world culture. He said, "If
people trust in the music, they can be brought together."
According to Steve Bergman, owner of Schoolkid's Records, the demand
for world music has increased steadily in the last two years among his
customers. "World music is definitely a significant part of our sales," he said.
Clearly, world music fans exist and are determined to get their music. Said
University Professor of Music History and Musicology Judith Becker, "(World
music, specifically Qawwali) has strong rhythms, a fairly simple structure and
there is no need to understand the lyrics to enjoy it."

The House Band will join Michelle Shocked, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and others in the 17th Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival this Saturday at Hill.

FOLK
Continued from page 12
ville fair. Even if categorization was
desired, it would be difficult to figure
out just where in the world of country
the Texas-based singer/songwriter
should be pigeonholed. His unique,
slightly-nasal croon seems tailor-
made for country ballads, but when
he uses it to sing "I try to build a house
and then I tear the place apart /I freeze
myself in fire and I burn myself in
ice," it conjures a scene far removed
from Nashville's frequently pitiful
tales of adultery and barfights.
In contrast to 1991's "After
Awhile" (on which he wrote all but
one song), Gilmore's latest, "Spin-
ning Around the Sun," features only
four tunes penned by the singer him-
self. In addition, he offers songs by
friends, an Elvis tune and a version of
Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I

Could Cry." It seems that every musi-
cian ever to step foot in a studio has
recorded a version of that classic, but
Gilmore still manages to find ground
for his own unique interpretation as
he treats it to his mournful, almost
frightening, wail.
Another artist finding room to
move within Nashville is Tish
Hinojosa, who has brought her Mexi-
can-American heritage with her to the
fringes of country. Few other artists
dared record an album like her 1989
release, "Homeland," which featured
bilingual calls for social change along-
side honky-tonk romps. "My
songwriting passion was lit by the
fires of the '60s, by the Baezes and
Dylans," she said. Little wonder that
the mainstream all but ignored it upon
its release, though it did manage to go
triple platinum in South Korea. "I'm
always seeing the cultural boundaries
around me," she said. "If people trust
in the music, they can be brought

together."
Comprised of Ged Foley on vo-
cals, guitars and Northumbrian pipes;
Chris Parkinson on melodeon, syn-
thesizer and harmonica and John
Skelton on flute, whistle, bombarde
and bodhran, the House Band has
played for everyone from the Ameri-
can Historical Society in Virginia to
an audience primed for Status Quo at
a Swiss rock festival. Foley, a clich6-
defying guitarist in the vein of Rich-
ard Thompson, is known for covering
everything from traditional English
folk songs to slightly more modern
works by the likes of Elvis Costello.
Skelton, meanwhile, adds a distinc-
tively Irish flavor to the brew while
Parkinson can seemingly fit his melo-
deon into any style of music.
From Lansing comes the feisty
harmonies of the trio Second Opin-
ion. With sparse instrumentation (gen-
erally just acoustic guitar and banjo),
the three women offer an amusing

batch of originals and covers of such
folk legends as Tom Paxton and
Charlie King. What makes their sound
so unique is that they trade off lead
and harmony duties within songs. The
Deadbeat Society hail from Wolver-
ine Country and while Ann Arbor is
hardly the home of a bluegrass re-
vival, the band's sound is as pure as it
comes, spiced up by frequent collec-
tive improvisation and the occasional
cover by the likes of Billy Bragg.
Though the styles seem almost
too diverse to fit on a single bill, the
artists represented at the 17th Ann
Arbor Folk Festival share a handful
of common traits: they actively defy
easy categorization while maintain-
ing a healthy respect for both the past
and the future.
The 17th Ann Arbor Folk Festival
will take place Saturday at Hill
Auditorium. Tickets are $22.50 and
$19.50. Call 763-TKTS for infor-
mation.

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