My name is Nate, and I’m a 27 year old writer from North Carolina. Out of the kindness of their hearts, the administrators at rifflet.com have offered to let me post to this blog once in a while, just to get conversations started. So, here goes nothing, I hope you like it.
Just like many of you, I’m a member of Rifflet (riffler?… anyone?…no?…ok) and love to tinker with making music in my spare time. Here in Brooklyn, New York, where I live, I find music and music culture fascinating and important to daily life. I look around at all the people who are literally plugged into an mp3 player for most of the day and think, what are they listening to? Our new lives as musical cyborgs is old news and commonplace these days, what I’m more interested in is what people are thinking about music. How do they choose it? Does listening create a mood or space that helps them get through the day? I want access to all that internal stuff that we only share with the shower curtain and maybe a drunk best friend or two at a Korean karaoke spot. My guess is that you other Rifflers (I’m just going to run with it) are thinking the same thing, if not… that’s cool too.
So. The other day, some colleagues and I were sitting around waiting for a meeting to start and someone mentioned the oscars and “Jai Ho” winning best song. We happened to have an Indian employee who spoke Hindi on hand, so she was politely asked to translate it for us. She told us that the song’s chorus emphatic chorus line Jai Ho, didn’t really have an English translation besides something like, give light or be light or something like that. It hit me then that even though myself and several other people around the world, really liked the song and truly had no idea what the lyrics meant at all. I mean how many songs do we all have in our music library that are sung in different languages? I have a few Eartha Kitt numbers myself that I know word for word, but couldn’t tell you what they meant to save my life. Interesting. I think people can sense the meaning of the song in the tone of voice, tempo, key, rhythm etc.; the elements of a song may speak as loudly to some people as the lyrics. That may be the key to why so many songs seem to cross lines of nationality, language and identity. They just sound good. It all begs the question, what do we really value about our music, the meaning that the creator intends or the feeling we get when we hear it performed. Some may think that a dumb question, but the next time you’re listening to something where you don’t fully understand the lyrics, stop and ask yourself, is this emotional response I’m having what the musician and songwriter had in mind and does it matter?