Discovering culture and music on the road

What defines another culture? These are the things I take notice of when I’m in a new country:

  • People – What they wear, what they believe in, who they live with, their sense of humour, how they socialise, how they speak, how they tell stories and what jokes they enjoy. What is the attitude to beauty and hygiene? What is the level of patriotism? Are the people ethnocentric?

  • Infrastructure – What is the public transport system like? What kind of architecture fills the city? What are the hospitals and other facilities at their disposal like? How is the city spread out?

  • Sport – What do the locals most enjoy watching and playing?

  • Law & politics – Are the locals happy? What do they get in return for their taxes? How do they feel toward their police force and country leaders?

  • Food, wine and other consumables – What do people eat, drink and cook? What products are on the supermarket shelves? What is the attitude to alcohol?

  • Festivals and art – What do they celebrate and what sort of art and films are produced?

  • MUSIC!!!

There are so many interesting components to experience when immersing oneself in a different culture, and no question about it, music is my favourite. (Admittedly, food follows at a close second – who am I fooling).

Discovering the musical tastes and abilities of people from other countries is exciting and enlightening. What sounds bring them together? Do they the sing along over a pint (Ireland, Scotland, etc) or do they prefer moving their bodies to the beat? Do they continue regular use of traditional instruments (like much of Asia) or has electronica taken over? Why do some songs make it to the Top 40 in some countries and never see the light of day in others?

Perhaps the topic produces more questions than answers but some things are for certain – music breaks the ice, ignores language barriers and makes people happy. And if you’re lucky, you end up with a Panamanian taxi driver’s awesome dub Master Mix or an Armenian immigrant’s self-titled CD to add to the collection.

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