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Music, culture influence each other

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 21:04

Music comes in a variety of sounds that coincide with someone’s sense of individuality while coming together with others.

“Music is tied to society — the two are entwined,” student Khan Sdoeung said. “They are dependent on one another. I can’t think of one that happens without the other.”

How different societies function with different genres of music is vast.

Sdoeung said he believes the social structure of the environment can shape human interests, or a sound a musician is trying to achieve.

Growing up on the streets of Oakland in the 1990s, his experience defined the type of music he only listened to at the time, Sdoeung said.

He found himself only listening to rap artists like Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and Nas. As he grew older and entered college, he understood the context more clearly.

“What makes it different for me to listen to rap now is education,” he said. “I only heard things I could hear, but I couldn’t hear their message.”

Contra Costa College anthropology professor Lisa Schawappach-Shirrif has experience as an Egyptologist and worked as a curator at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose.

She said that in ancient times, music was revered as an important part of Egyptian culture.

Music was an essential part of worship at the time, she said.

Inside the tombs, researchers have found hieroglyphics and images that detail similar archetypes of a blind man playing the harp or women with tattoos that identified them as musicians to establish their role in society.

These tattoos portrayed the Egyptian god Bes, a figure that represented dance, music, fertility and beer.

“Even then music was considered to help people with bonding,” she said. “Those with tombs wanted the music to last forever, to have the party never end.”

Different genres of music create subcultures and part of being a human in a society is to show individuality.

Individuals who are invested in different subcultures pertaining to a style of music create a fictive kin, a sense of family that isn’t biological, Schawappach-Shirrif said.

Elizabeth Murray, a nursing major, concurs.

She said when she was in middle school and high school she found it easier to find friends who listened to the same music as her.

For example, during her time in middle school, Murray’s outfits consisted of dark colors and she colored her hair black. She said she proclaimed herself as someone who is emo — a person who enjoys emotional melodic rock and adheres oneself to the fashion, behaviors and culture associated with the emo genre.

“Back then I found people who also dressed Goth and hung out with them,” she said.

Music can influence fashion trends.

“People follow music closely,” Murray said. “Since that Macklemore song came out, everyone is shopping at thrift stores now even though some people have been shopping at those places forever.”

Macklemore, a Seattle-based rapper, released the hit single “Thrift Shop” which steadily climbed into the top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list. It became No. 1 on the list in its 16th week during the first week of February 2013.

The song’s lyrics consist of how cool it is to go thrift shopping and how lame it is to spend $50 on a shirt.

As time passes by, people’s musical preferences can also change.

Sdoeung said his tastes also changed as he started to go to CCC and moved around the Bay Area before becoming a resident of El Cerrito.

While he still listens to hip-hop, he finds himself listening to other genres include reggae, classical and Cambodian music.

“I became more exposed to different people,” Sdoeung said. “People can influence you and expose you to different genres.

“Expose yourself to as much music as you can. You won’t know what your favorite music is unless you experience it at least once.”

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