“Squeee!” is the sound I made back in the summer when our artistic director Jennifer Rodgers said we’d do spirituals and traditional songs for our March concert. First a quick reminder about that. In Rodgers’ words:
Music is at the very heart of the world’s deepest traditional communities because it speaks directly to our spirits. Each tradition that we will explore in ‘Til The Spirit Moves has its own unique sound and message. They are centuries old in many cases, and are now steeped in meaning and in their communities. This is moving, powerful, evocative music.
Few would argue that music has the capacity to transcend barriers of culture and language. Audiences everywhere get melody, even if we have no idea what the words mean. And everyone gets rhythm. Even folks with two left feet get the beat.*
But there is something universal about the pieces that we hold dearest around the world. There is something human and transcendent about them. And sometimes, even without any context, the connection is instant. It certainly was for me. There is no other other reason why I fell in love with the Blues and Gospel as a teen in New Delhi.
I grew up in a highly musical family—to wit, my name. I grew up on a well-curated staple of Karnatic, Hindustani, and Western classical music. And yes, beloved Bollywood. None of the aforementioned, however, gave me any context for the random Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge tapes I found lying in a neighborhood store.
It made not one bit of difference. [Read more…]