Monday, June 6, 2016

Music one aspect of travel easy to pack home

The Doghouse Skiffle (jug) Band performs in Borneo.
One element of travel that is almost certain to be a part of any journey is the exposure to new and different kinds of music.

If you are in a foreign country, it's pretty much guaranteed that you will hear music different what you normally hear played at home (although that is changing these days, as our societies become more integrated and increasingly multi-cultural).

However, that can often be the case with domestic travel in North America, as well. The kind of traditional, local music you'll hear in Newfoundland or Saskatchewan will be decidedly different than that of what you may hear in New Mexico or Alabama.

Sometimes, though, you may be surprised at what you hear, abroad.

While we always associate a country's or a region's music with its culture, we may not always hear what we expect - and it can be a bit jarring, at times, albeit in a good way.

For example, a few years ago, I attended the Rainforest Music Festival in Borneo, Malaysia. The festival brings together musicians from all over the world. And while there are some local musicians that play there, it is actually quite a cornucopia of musical styles.

There was a jug band from Great Britain; an acapella singing group from Africa; and a bluegrass band from Oregon.

As I was listening to the latter play, I found it a bit jarring to the senses, almost surreal...I mean, here I was in a jungle in Borneo, listening to Foggy Mountain Breakdown, watching a large number of young Asian people bopping to music from half-a-world away as if they listened to it every day. Not exactly the image I pictured in my mind when I thought about what I might see when I was planning the trip.

I had seen some very good traditional Malaysian dance performances in Kuala Lumpur, a few nights before, so when you combine that with the festival`s musical fare and the music we enjoyed at a traditional Dyak village a few days later, it was certainly a well-rounded trip, musically speaking.

Some soft, quiet music at a Bangkok Hotel.

You would think because Thailand is so close to Malaysia geograpically, Thai music might be the same. While you might some similarities, you'll also find difference, again, depending on what region you're in, as it varies within the country.

Let's get energetic with some mariachi music.
Some of my favourite world music is that of the Andes Mountains of South America. There is something about that sound, something that really draws me into a place of joy whenever I hear it.

I can never get enough of it, and anytime I arrived at an airport in Peru, there seemed to be a Peruvian band with guitar, pan pipes, drums and all the other instruments used to produce the unique Andean song.

Another form of music that is always fun is that of Mexican music.

Whether it comes from a 12-piece mariachi band in a posh Mexican hotel or a simple duo singing from café to café on the beach, it's almost always recognizable and definitely full of energy.

Part of that energy comes from the music itself; but part of it also comes from the fact that it really and encourages participation by the audience.

Shades of Remington Steele, Season 2, Episodes 1-2

Without a doubt though, the music that haunts me most, the sound that has the most mystical appeal for me is that of the Middle East. I have never been to the Middle East, and given some of the safety issues involved in traveling there, I may never visit there - although I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Of course, you don't need to travel there to experience some of their music and the dance that goes along with it. Any number of Middle Eastern restaurants in most major North American cities often present belly dancers for their patrons on weekends, restaurants like Vancouver's Afghan Horseman, Toronto's Anatolia or Calgary's Casbah Restaurant. Still, that's not the same as experiencing it in-country, since a memory of music from another country will often stir more emotions than a memory of music in a restaurant in your hometown.

That's because one of the wonderful things about music you hear when you travel is the fact that when you get back home and hear music from that culture or country again, it transports you right back to that place, it's like you're reliving your trip all over again.

You may end up buying a few CD's of the local music to take home. But whether you take those with you or just return with the memories, it makes for some pretty light extras to the baggage. And these days, with all the extra fees added to carry-ons and checked bags, that's a welcome addition to any traveller's take-homes.


  1. What a great post - the music was a nice break from just reading as we normally do with blogs.

  2. I always try to include at least one video clip in on my blog posts. It does make for some nice variety

  3. Your post made me think of a time when a good friend and I visited Newfoundland. I'm getting chills thinking of it again. We had just finished our epic trip cycling across Canada and were enjoying the sights in St. John's. We walked up Signal Hill and sat on the back side of the mountain with our faces to the Pacific. Cresting in the water below us were two humpback whales and just then, the sounds of a bagpipe floated on the breeze. It was a magical moment. --Erin

  4. Thanks for your comment, Erin. I'm really glad it brought back fond memories for you.