I’ve always loved music, and as someone who was exposed to many different styles and instruments in her youth, music has been such an important part of my travels and truly appreciating other cultures. In Vienna, touring Mozart’s home and seeing where he composed some of his greatest works was necessary to understand how influential music has been on the city’s history.
In much the same way, visiting Morocco was a treat for me because I was able to learn about how each music style there was so engrained in the history of the people. The nomads used drums not only to create music, but to communicate with others over long distances, to dance and attract a partner, and to encourage morale as they crossed the desert. Learning about the music of a location is a peek into so many parts of a whole. In Tokyo, the drumming was almost more of a performance—a way to celebrate the past of their martial arts in the present day, and a way to warn camps during an attack.
So what does this mean for travelers? How should we learn to experience the music of each place we go to?
Do a bit of research before you go
While you can often learn a lot about the musical types in the country you’re visiting when you go, it never hurts to read up about your destination before you make the journey. Since I was able to give a little time and effort to research opera in Italy, I had a much larger appreciation for it living in Lucca—the home of Puccini and one of the hubs of modern Italian opera.
See a performance
Yes, it’s an extra 5, 10, or 20 dollars you weren’t planning on spending. Is it money you will regret taking out of your pocket? Most likely not. Even if the performance is only semi-professional, it’s often a good introduction into the local culture and the music that is played. Some schools even allow you to visit a lesson for free to help students practice performing in front of an audience.
Video your experience (if it’s okay)
I had always been fascinated by the dancing and music in Southeast Asia, so it was a treat for me when I was able to see a performance in Siem Reap. Fortunately, they allowed video and photography so I was able to capture it on my phone. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve revisited it and how many times I’ve been thrilled all over again to hear the music.
There are so many ways to experience a culture: the food, the language, the art and architecture. However, one of the most overlooked is the music and how it is so intertwined with the place and the history.
What types of music have blown you away while traveling?