Hi everyone, welcome to this week’s personal post. I’ll be taking you on a journey, a musical one, where you will get to learn of the different types of music that came into my life and how. It might take a while as this trip down memory lane will take you over the last three decades of my life, and across cultures… so… it might be best to get your snacks and get settled…
So, while growing up in Zambia, I was exposed to both western and eastern styles of music. By western I mean; learning to play piano, taking music theory lessons, and hearing the pop music of the 80’s blaring out from radio and TV. Eastern, is the style prevalent in countries like India, Sri Lanka, and those from the Asian continent. You could say I had an appreciation for music from a young age. Learning to play piano felt like a chore in the beginning but when I realised I was creating something it felt quite magical!! All those years of learning scales, key signatures, chords and endless practices for recitals gave me lightness within myself and I felt as if the music could uplift not just my mood but of those around me. I would spend many a happy afternoon on our piano, tinkling out the simple songs from music books we’d collect. The piano we had in Zambia didn’t accompany us to Sri Lanka but we did get one here in New Zealand as my sister had started lessons. As I grew into adulthood, university life and other responsibilities meant I didn’t have much time to play. Sadly we had to part ways with that piano as well when my sister started university as neither of us had time. I tried my hand at guitar in my mid-thirties but had to pass that on as well. Not that I wasn’t into playing, but other aspects of my life became more important. This didn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in music, I’ll never stop enjoying it. We do own an electric keyboard now which is gathering dust somewhere in my parents house. Someday soon I intend on bringing that back to my place so I can reignite my sight reading and start playing again!!
Growing up during the 1980’s meant we listened to the pop icons of that decade. Everyone was into Michael Jackson, Madonna, Wham, and a whole lot of 80’s musical bands. You’d hear them on the radio, watch them on TV, and every party and disco would have those popular beats to dance to. Despite my Sri Lankan upbringing with our traditional music, I will always be a fan of those classic 80’s pop music. Every time I hear it on the radio now I feel like breaking into dance!! Not very easy when I’m driving!! These days instead of the walkman I would have stuck into my jeans, it’s the music from my Spotify account that fills my ears. Amazing how technology changes even the simplest of pleasures!!
Sri Lankan music and musicians have been a huge presence in my life. From a young age I could tell the difference between the classic and modern even in our language. I don’t have a lot of memories but my parents would have tapes of music they had recorded from the radio from the 70’s!! Those early tape collections gave way to CD’s and MP3’s later into the 90’s. And now, we stream Sri Lankan music from YouTube!! Oh, it’s not me who does that, it’s my parents!! I know, they’ve become teenagers in their old age!! Mind you, the tape recorder you see in the picture below is one my dad still uses to listen to his old tapes!! So, the old man still falls back onto them from time to time!!
Since coming to New Zealand we were quite lucky to befriend a singer-songwriter from Sri Lanka who immigrated with his family and our Sinhalese musical education developed. His wife was our dance teacher and together with a group of like-minded people, we participated in cultural shows during the late 90’s. As the years passed our friends went on to achieve higher accolades in their musical journey and we were there to support them in every way we could. After dad got sick a few years ago and moved with my brother, it’s been a bit challenging for us to attend the cultural shows as often as we like. Despite this, my parents and I will never falter with our devotion to our rich traditional Sri Lankan music, no matter the media it’s packaged in!!
Now that we’re in New Zealand, we have another country’s music that we have got used to. I have heard some amazing music produced by bands here and local artists. What I have encountered while travelling here in New Zealand is the songs of the Maori people. Their songs mixed with dance give a truly beautiful cultural experience. If anyone visits Rotorua here, they have to fit in a cultural experience there. It’s truly amazing!! My nieces along with the children’s librarians in my library are always singing Maori songs and it’s a good way to learn the language too.
Music in any form, be it pop music or a traditional piece that’s played, has the ability to speak to anyone even if you don’t understand the language it’s in. I learned this lesson in my youth and I’m continually learning as I go on my life’s journey. I’m quite lucky to have some friends who are either music buffs or know people in the music industry and I’m grateful for the education they provide me in all things music!!
I hope this account was interesting to you. Stay safe and keep reading.