Sounds of My Life

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve written a guest post on the Serious blog.

The post was for their ‘Sounds of My Life’ project, where they allow other bloggers to talk about an aspect of music that means something to them, and I’m honoured that they asked me.

You can read the original post here.

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I stared up at the cassette tape in awe as I held the oversized headphones to my tiny seven-year-old head. I had already methodically tried out every other set of headphones in the bookstore’s music room, listening to samples of each of the displayed tapes. I had ended up in front of the highlighted ‘International’ section and shining down from the top shelf, far beyond my reach, was this tape – the most exciting thing I had ever heard in all of my seven years.

The album was E Dide (Get Up) by Nigerian jùjú musician, King Sunny Adé. The drums made my heart rush and the music made me want to dance. I didn’t even bother listening to more than two of the excerpts before throwing off the headphones and rushing through the bookstore’s maze of shelving, searching for my mom.

“I found it! I found what I want! Can I buy it?!”

“Calm down. What did you find?”

“It’s a tape and it’s AWESOME! There’s this guy on the front in long robes and his name is King Somebody Something and there are these drums and it’s soooooo cool!” With that, I dragged my mom back into the music room and pointed at the tape.

For the first time ever, I had been given cash as a birthday present by my grandmother and was allowed to spend it on whatever I wanted (within reason, of course). With the birthday dough burning a hole in my pocket, I insisted that we visited the bookstore at once! A few days later and I had unintentionally wandered into the music section, where it dawned on me that it wasn’t a book I wanted, but a new tape to add to my brand-new music collection. In addition to the birthday cash, I had been given my very own tape player and three cassettes. I was already boasting a killer music collection for one so young – Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, Peter Gabriel’s Us and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

While I loved my other tapes, I couldn’t get enough of E Dide. I played that tape over and over and over. The talking drum and sliding guitar became the soundtrack to my childhood. Even though most of the words weren’t in English, I’d still sing along, making up sounds and syallbles that sounded close enough. Eventually, I wore the tape out. But I didn’t go too long before upgraded E Dide to CD, giving it a special place in my steadily growing ‘world music’ collection.

Twenty years later and while my collection has grown exponentially, I’d say those first few selections do well to sum up my musical tastes. Ultimately, I’m a lover of the weird and wonderful. Those moments when I find something new that changes how I listen to or think about music are moments I treasure.

To this day, I blame that King Sunny Adé tape for my obssession with the music of far away places and my eventual Masters degree in Ethnomusicology. Every time I stumble across something new and exciting, I think back to that day in the bookstore, staring up at the tape on the top shelf.

 

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