Cultural cringe

In 1961, when I was six years old, my parents took me to Auckland. My sisters were leaving on an overseas trip on a cruise ship and we were going to see them off.  Taking the term “overseas” literally I was desperately disappointed when we got off the ferry in Wellington to find that everyone still spoke English and looked just the same.

The next day we took the tram to the zoo and I was thrilled to see an Indian woman join us wearing a wonderful sari in beautiful colours. I immediately expressed my excitement by pointing at her and saying “look Mummy” in a nice loud voice. I then stared at her in great fascination until we reached our destination, restrained from going to grill her about India only by my mother’s puzzling annoyance and my new  friend’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for my admiration. The tribulations of being part of a small ethnic minority must be many!

Fortunately this scenario is unlikely to be repeated in contemporary Christchurch. The bland days of 1950s and early 60s culture has given way to a much more pluralistic society and a vibrancy much contributed to by a wide variety of cultures. Today I have the pleasure of mixing with people from all sorts of cultures every day. These days we celebrate our multicultural society with festivals like Culture Galore and the Lantern Festival.

Festivals like these also give us the chance to enjoy music and dance from all sorts of ethnic traditions. Along with our increasing awareness of ethnic diversity has come an interest in World Music. It is a genre with an increasingly wide audience and festivals like WOMAD have an enthusiastic following.

If you’re interested in finding out about it try the World Music The Rough Guides, on CD and in book form. They are excellent guides to get you oriented. The National Geographic has  a great website where you can browse videos of music from different regions to get an idea of what you like.

Once you’re started the library has a great collection of  world and folk music, both on CD and streamed free online and these can give you a chance to expand your musical horizons for very little investment. Try searching for World Music or Folk Music on our catalogue, or have a look at Music Online in our premium databases.

2 thoughts on “Cultural cringe

  1. jillr-jillr 15 March 2010 / 3:50 pm

    A fabulous introduction to world music is Charlie Gillett’s World Of Music on BBC Radio. Every programme offers a well commentated smorgsbord of tracks from all around the globe. Highly recommended.

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