Translating Traditions Through Tunes

By Sarah Solomon and Emily Lee


Music is a major part of society, and it influences many people's daily lives and cultures. In addition to providing entertainment and forms of self-expression, music serves a greater purpose in representing a variety of cultures from around the world.


In Chinese culture, people functioned according to ritual and ceremony, so music was used to help conduct and govern them. Music served as a means for musicians to accomplish political and social goals, and it optimized social utility or happiness while also serving as a form of entertainment. A Cantopop rock band named Beyond did exactly that in the 1990s with their song “海闊天空,” translated in English as “Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies,” with the lyrics representing freedom and dreams. This song has also been used as an anthem for Hong Kong protests in the 2010s. More recently, music has been championed by entertainment, with artists producing songs as soundtracks for Chinese dramas. Henry Lau's “Don't Go” serves as the opening for the drama “Double World.”


As an expressive language of culture, music tells a story, expresses emotion, and reflects characteristics of society...

“Music is meant to take us to the places of greatness within each of us, to guide us through the impossible times, and teach us to appreciate ourselves and others. Each culture and civilization of our world has specific ideals, values, and spiritual guidelines that allow each culture to develop their music, literature, and art with perspectives in accordance with these concepts. Again, the purpose of music is to bring enlightenment, strength, compassion, and comfort to any individual,” said orchestra teacher Ms. Tomkiw.


In Korean culture, Korean pop is one type of music that many people enjoy around the world. Commonly referred to as Kpop, the genre includes groups and soloists from different companies, just like in America. Korean idols, or music artists in Korea, work as trainees to pursue their goal to become popular. Some famous Kpop groups include BTS, Blackpink, Twice, and Enhypen. BTS’s song “Dynamite” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart for multiple weeks and boasted over 800 million views on YouTube, clearly impacting people worldwide. Music in Korean culture also consists of other different types of music, such as folk or religious melodies. Although most of these songs are in Korean, it is evident that music transcends the language barrier.


“Music is directly related to culture because it brings out language and traditions that pertain and unite a group of people. In today’s world, with so many forms of media that bring people together, people of various cultures can be exposed to other types of music. Growing up as a child of mixed backgrounds, I was exposed to various types of music. My mother is of Italian and English/Irish descent so she was always playing sounds of bagpipes and the accordion. My father’s family is Eastern European and had the greatest impact on my upbringing. Being Jewish, I attended Hebrew school and many bar and bat mitzvahs. Here I learned a new language with different songs and dances such as the Horah. I always had a great appreciation for cultures and language which is what drove me to become a Spanish teacher,” said Spanish teacher Ms. Marguiles.


Source by Jada Seto

The connection between music and culture is greater than people think, for music represents the history and traditions of countless cultures throughout the world.


Music in Indian culture is very distinct from others. In a traditional sense, music was considered “the food of the soul” in India. It symbolized India's remarkable diversity in culture, language and religion, and embodied the historical significance of the country. While classical music is very popular in India, a well-known piece is “High Rated Gabru” by Guru Randhawa. The song is from the movie “Nawabzaade,” which is a romantic comedy about three friends falling in love with the same girl. “High Rated Gabru'' is an upbeat song in which each friend expresses their love for this girl through music. The song is a notable part of the movie and has become a very popular tune throughout the world as well.


“As an expressive language of culture, music tells a story, expresses emotion, and reflects characteristics of society. I think today we need music and the arts more than ever. In these tough and divided times, music can bring happiness, calm, understanding, and joy into the world. It is also a wonderful creative outlet. My father played saxophone in a wedding band; I loved going with my father to rehearsals and performances. I started playing the saxophone in second grade, and my father was my first teacher. From that moment on, I fell in love with the saxophone and performing and teaching music. Music has given me many things. It brought me very close to my father, helped build my confidence and self-esteem, gave me the opportunity to express myself, be creative, meet interesting people, and perform in many wonderful places,” said music department chairperson Mr. Monat.