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Music Is A Universal Language

by Tony Kelly
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Some regular readers of my fortnightly column will notice that this is my second article this year on the subject of music although the stance is different,

The first line of  William Shakespeare’s  play Twelfth Night  is ‘If music be the food of love play on’ and that is the starting point here.

Musical appreciation has to start from an early age and is well-known for its therapeutic value. It  can be pulsating, rhythmic, soothing  and a  good form of relaxation to ease stress and tension.  A lullaby is often sung to babies to help them fall asleep and exercising ones vocal chords by singing, including warming-up is a really good tonic for the body, mind and soul. Some people have been described as tone-deaf and told that they cannot sing a note in tune. I beg to differ and vocal coaching can bring out the best in such persons.

I am fond of classic composers with Amadeus Mozart being my favourite.  It is remarkable that Ludwig van Beethoven another of the world’s greatest composers started to lose his hearing at the age of 28 and  was profoundly deaf by the age of  44,  yet still composed great music in the eighteen century which we are  able to enjoy now. 

Nothing can match the sound of birds  chirping  which  is Mother Nature at its best.  We tend to take the singing of birds  for granted and during lockdown  with the noise of the traffic  reduced and therefore unable  to drown out melodious  singing  of these song birds, because commuters had to stay at home,  it was music to ones ears. The peace and tranquility interrupted by the birds was remarkable and a pleasure to listen to.

The human voice of its own is a fantastic musical instrument and the ability to use ones vocal chords to hit low and high notes is a feat in itself.  Ranging from soprano, mezzo-soprano,  tenor,  counter-tenor, bass, baritone and   bass-baritone the tonal quality of the sound produced by  any of these  has to be admired. The gymnastic ability to hit top notes cannot be underestimated and it is a fact that a soprano voice with the decibels can in the right circumstances  break glass. That is not a myth.

Orchestras with their woodwind, strings, brass and percussion sections all create a wonderful sound for the listening ear. The black and white  piano  keys made famous by Paul McCartney’s song Ebony and Ivory produce a much better quality of sound when played together.  Other musical instruments  are  castanets,  fife/flute, tambourine,  drum, maracas, mouth organ, accordion and guitar  to name a  few  all play their part in the making of music but I am not a fan of the electronically produced music done with synthesizers as it lacks authenticity.

Not sure if it is a sign of age but I cannot stand loud music and have been known to walk  out of shops/stores where  the volume has been turned up so loudly that it is deafening and one is unable to have a conversation with the sales staff.   Even on train journeys  I notice some people  listening to their music  through their wireless earphones and it is so loud that others can hear. It begs the question, what is the long-term damage that they are doing to their ear drums?

Listed here are some genres of music but understandably many more have not been included:

Ska, reggae,  classical, choral, gospel, hip-hop,  rhythm and blues (R&B)  soca,   pop,  rock,  soul,   calypso,  country,  rap ,  jazz, disco, mento, folk, rocksteady, dancehall,  church, and garage  to name a few can be heard on the airwaves at any time. Each music lover has their own taste and none should be sniffed at  or disapproved as long as the lyrics are clean and wholesome.

Each country or region  also has its’  own distinctive music and  there is no way this article would be able to cover all of them except to say the diverse/eclectic  range is apparent and of paramount importance as it often defines the cultural heritage.

Let me use  this opportunity to urge youngsters with their earphones plugged in to whatever musical taste that they are enjoying to avoid doing so in open/public spaces as one must always  be aware of the surroundings. I have been reliably informed that the 15-year-old London school  boy murdered   on his way to school was being shouted at by onlookers as  the swordsman  was coming towards him,   but sadly, he was oblivious to all the  screams and cries to run for his life  having his headphones  listening to music. If only that was not the case, he might have been able to take evasive action and avoid the ultimate tragedy of losing his life. It is such a cruel twist of fate that his love of music ended up being his demise. May he rest in eternal peace.

Our daughter who is a classically trained singer has openly commented publicly how earlier in her career one of her singing teachers/vocal coaches  stated that she will have to get rid of that black voice!!!  Fancy saying that then to an up-and-coming black woman choosing to make her chosen career mainly that of an opera  singer. Needless to say, she had no more singing lessons with  the person in question as  that is such an incredible  and profound statement to make.  I cannot think of anything more damaging to someone’s self-confidence.

From my knowledge of singing, when a black singer renders a traditional  African- American spiritual the more accepted term as they are  no longer referred to as Negro Spirituals,  most of which  when researched are anonymous,  one can hear the interpretation, passion, warmth,  heartfelt emotions and feeling from deep within the soul. It is often thought to come from the enslaved era and part of DNA passed down the years.

The blind auditions of the popular  television programme the Voice in America and on BBC   where singers as soloists, duets and even quartets  sing unseen to a panel of four judges is one way to avoid turning down competent black singers trying to make a living in the music industry.  We live in an age where equity, diversity and inclusion need to not only be said but be like osmosis in all spheres of everyday life.

So, thanks  for the gift of making music which brings joy to the hearts, minds and souls of so many. 

Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly

London born Tony Kelly of Jamaican parents grew up in Jamaica and returned to live in Birmingham in 1979.
He is a graduate of Mico Teachers’ College and taught in Kingston high schools prior to working for 30+ years as a middle manager in central and local government with an emphasis on equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. He has a masters’ degree in socio-legal studies from the university of Birmingham.
For over a decade Tony has volunteered as a diabetes ambassador firstly for Diabetes UK and now for the National Health Service – Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group. A multi-award winner doing a yearly average of 150 health and well-being events, locally, nationally and internationally focusing on type 2 diabetes. He was diagnosed with this medical condition 18 years ago. However with a combination of physical activity and diet he has never taken medication thus proving with the right mindset and discipline it can be achieved.
As a diabetes advocate/activist Tony will continue delivering the message of healthy options to readers of CaribDirect.com .


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1 comment

Inderbir Kaur June 4, 2024 - 10:09 pm

Thank you Tony for an excellent and enlightening artical on music. I would have done well to have my physical dictionary to hand as there were several instruments and types of music mentioned. I appreciate your way of bringing up the dangers of listening to music by highlighting the tragic death of the lovely young boy who could not hear the people who tried to help save his life.
Very well researched and well written artical.


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