Famous songs should not define countries, cultures

Whenever I mention that I listen to Indian music more than American music, most people automatically respond with something along the lines of, “I’ve danced to Bollywood music before. It’s so hype!”

Of course, I do listen to the upbeat songs characteristic of Bollywood films often played at Indian events in the U.S., but this type of music is just one facet of Indian music. Most American people are oblivious to the diverse nature of music from foreign places. Instead, they assign one type of music they’ve heard as representative of an entire culture.

This doesn’t apply to just Indian music, but to many other cultures as well. Consider popular songs like Enrique Iglesias’, “Bailando” and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito.” I often hear people claim how much they love Spanish music based on these songs alone. But as many Latinx people know, those songs which have been diffused across the world by popular culture are not a complete depiction of all Latinx music.

On the same note, every time someone says they love Indian music based on the few popular Bollywood songs they’ve heard, I cannot resist the temptation to pull out my phone and play Indian songs that are more dimensional and unbeknownst to popular culture. I want people to know that there’s more to Indian music beyond what they hear at parties.

Indian songs resonate with me. When I listen to them, they evoke an emotional response. For example, when I feel sad I listen to “Yenga Pulla Irukka,” a song in the Tamil language. The song has a somber tone, but then transitions to a hopeful one towards the end. This transition mirrors my own, leaving me feeling positive. I find myself relying on this method, listening to songs to de-stress after school or to generally keep me motivated in life.

Although I listen to songs from my own culture most often, I try to expand my music selection to include other cultures as well. I am currently taking German as a foreign language. In order to aid in my absorption and understanding of German, I listen to artists such as Naika and Joris. This has broadened my perspective of both music and culture as a whole.

As such, I believe it is important for us to expand our musical libraries. By listening to songs beyond our normal boundaries, we can gain awareness of how different cultures address and express various concepts through music. Hopefully, this will help us learn to avoid generalizing music from other cultures. And in turn, we can learn to avoid any cultural generalizations. Full stop.