Thursday, November 16, 2006

How universal is music?

Tonight I met someone who is a professor of Swahili, not too many of them I would imagine, certainly she's the first person I have met in that field. Not too long ago she went to Tanzania to do some research - she is involved in a project on two hip hop artists from among the Masai tribe. Interestingly she is not very familiar with the form here in the United States. Apparently there is quite a spread of what falls under that heading versus here where there are lines drawn between hip hop and rap, possibly "gangsta rap" is still use as a designation - I no longer follow this cultural trend with as much fervor as I once did. I asked if the spectrum was as broad as say Will Smith to Public Enemy (clearly showing my age, if I were being more hip I wonder what two artists would fit the bill now - maybe Black Eyed Peas to NYOIL?)

Being me, of course I come home to look up Masai hip hop. What did I do before the internet? It has become harder and harder to remember that time. I am pretty sure that this is one of the artists she interviewed. I watched one of the music videos and two things struck me right away. I really wanted to understand the lyrics, and how it wasn't filled with women and bling. What were they saying? Is it riddled with curses and negative images like much of rap in this country?

I asked for some music from her research, I just hope it comes with translation.

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