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Cultural Globalization 0631235388

Cultural Globalization 0631235388

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Published by: anaid6 on Feb 23, 2010
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I’ve been listening to what we could call global music in some form
or other most of my life. Though I grew up in Southeast Asia, South
Asia, and the Middle East, the music that surrounded me – that played
in our house – was predominantly American. My parents had their
LP records (Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Perry Como) and mix tapes
of current hits recorded on reel-to-reel tapes by friends and relatives
back in the States (later supplemented by cassettes purchased in
Hong Kong and Taiwan, which were probably pirated). We encoun-
tered non-US music locally as folk music rather than as popular music.
Otherwise, our dabblings with non-US music was filtered through
the trends of mainstream Western popular music: Latin flavors in jazz
(Herb Alpert, Cal Tjader, The Baja Marimba Band) or the odd
break-out hit (we had Miriam Makeba’s first LP). It was only when
my sister and I were older that we started listening to more locally
generated pop. In the early 1970s, when living in India, I don’t recall
listening to the radio at all, just our own isolated audiobubble of LPs
and reel-to-reels. Then, in Korea, we listened only to Armed Forces
Radio with its stream of US pop hits (“Billy Don’t be a Hero” and
so on). And later, in the Philippines in the late 1970s, where US-flavored
pop and Eurodisco seem to have infused and shaped the local pop
scene, we started listening to local radio. So we became fans of
Freddie Aguilar, Basil Valdez, Rico J. Puno.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, living in the US, that I began
exploring more “world music” (generally, non-Western music con-
sumed in the West – we’ll get into definitions in a moment), though

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this was also mediated through Western popular music and musicians.
In high school a number of friends were into art rock, especially Rush
and Genesis. I began listening to Peter Gabriel (former lead singer
for Genesis) especially as he began collaborating and touring with
African musicians like Youssou N’Dour and later Papa Wemba. I found
his phenomenally popular album Soinfluential, as was Paul Simon’s
controversial GracelandLP – both of which got me exploring African
popular music on my own (though guided by Gabriel’s Real World
record label which released selected non-Western albums).
I didn’t like all African music, just some. For example, though
I have tremendous respect for Fela Kuti, I don’t play his CDs. And
I don’t like African music just because it’s African or just because
Peter Gabriel’s company released it. But this began a careful con-
sideration of why I was listening to what I was. This chapter raises a
number of questions about listening habits, the circulation of global
music, the exploitation of non-Western musicians, the mediation of
non-Western music by Western artists and record companies, and the
perils and racisms of bourgeois aural tourism. All of which made
me reflect carefully on my own choices. For myself, I realized that
I liked what I liked because I liked the space. I liked the space they
created or how it altered me as I moved through it, be it Beethoven,
Rush, or Papa Wemba. However, I’ve done enough reading (and hung
out with enough critical music scholars) to know that aesthetics
isn’t everything, to be wary of the exploitative machinations of the
global music industry, to become aware of the local and global
political struggles that particular songs and musics are responding
to. But for me, space comes first: I can’t like a song by its politics
alone, though I can dislike a song because of its politics, and I can
also ignore some politics if I really like a song (for example Rush
base a number of songs on the writings of Ayn Rand, whom I dis-
like politically, but I like the songs). This aural territorialization is
cultural, economic, and political; it is both socially structured and
intensely personal. Music scholar Josh Kun calls the territorialization
by music audiotopia: “music is experienced not only as sound that
goes into our ears and vibrates through our bones but as a space that
we enter into, encounter, move around in, inhabit, be safe in, learn
from” (Kun, 2005, p. 2). The issues of that space are what we are explor-
ing in this chapter.

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Therefore, this chapter addresses the question of music in a global
context for a number of reasons. First, the last chapter focused on
globalization and a particular population (youth). It makes sense, then,
to complement that effort with a focus on a particular cultural form,
music. Second, music is one important way that people territorialize
– they shape the space they’re in with rhythms, sounds, meanings.
This not only is a communicative act (expresses their identity to those
around, and to oneself) but also an affective one, since we use music
as well to alter our own bodily states, our mood, our affect, our inten-
sity. And we use music to claim a space (regardless, at times, of what
meanings it has – it’s good music if it makes people leave you
alone, or attracts only certain types of people into a group, and so
on). Third, the global music industry is a fairly clear case, from a
political economy perspective, of cultural imperialism – dominated
as it is by European and Japanese corporations and American artists
and music forms. As Pilkington and Bliudina (2002, p, 14) put it:
“The American popular music industry, for example, has experienced
such extensive transnationalization that it has undermined domestic
industries in almost all other countries and acted as a medium for
the transmission of a wider set of American youth and African-
American cultural styles.” At the same time, music is a complex
realm that provides numerous examples of the reworking of global
musical forms to respond to, resonate with, local meanings, condi-
tions, and events. James Lull (1995) referred to this process as that
of cultural reterritorialization.
By global music I simply mean music that circulates globally.
It’s a too-simple term for a quite dynamic and uneven terrain.
Like many mass media, discourse about global music has been
dominated by discussions of cultural imperialism which tend to
oversimplify the situation. How I’d like to proceed in this chapter
is to address the debates about the cultural imperialism of (and
through) music and the exploitative relationship between Western and
non-Western musics. Then I want to open up these debates using
the more complex model of globalization developed in Chapter 2,
in particular addressing Appadurai’s notion of scapes and Wilk’s
notion of structures of common difference. We’ll end by spending
some time on the global circulation of punk and hip hop as influen-
tial cultural forms.

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