Other than what was here before Columbus arrived, all American music is the result of migration. It’s been happening since Plymouth Rock; music is carried in with waves of immigrants and thrown into a Darwinian mosh pit, subjected to opposition, transformation, juxtaposition, synthesis, and evolution. And the sounds that survive change from being “World Music” into “American Music.”
Bluegrass is our New World take on European folk music, so is country; jazz and blues can be traced to the influx of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. Then there was the Great Migration, when those blues players moved from the South to the North, inventing Rock and R&B in the process. Those then became the roots of Hip Hop, and let’s not forget that those roots are also entwined with salsa from Cuba and Puerto Rico.
But what I’m talking about isn’t just music history-- changes are happening now just as they always have. Instead of Europe, though, most immigrants are now coming in from west and south of us. As listeners, we have the opportunity to become early adopters and help choose the sounds that will become part of our future musical space. If you’re hearing this commentary as a podcast, stick around to hear some examples of first- and second-generation immigrants from places like Cuba, India, China, and Japan who are creating the menu for us to choose from. This excites me, because as long as this country remains a place people will want to move to, American music is going to be amazing.
Listening list, part 1
A Tribe Called Red, Suplex, (EP)
Here’s some hip-hop, dub step, and reggaeton fused with First Nation music; called “pow-wow step”
Dafnis Prieto, “Blah, Blah,” Circles and Triangles. A drummer and Cuban immigrant, one of the young leaders of the New York City Afro-Cuban Jazz scene.
Zhou Long ”Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets, for string quartet & orchestra” (from "Poems from Tang")” The Silk Road Ensemble - Yo Yo Ma, New Impossibilities. Zhou Long is a Pulitzer prize-winning composer from China, now living in Kansas City.
Chibi-Tech, “Moe Moe Kyunstep (PART I - 萌え -)”, MoeNES vol.1: the idol composer's groove. Chibi-Tech is the stage name of a Japanese-American programmer who writes chiptunes, music composed and realized on old, 8-bit game consoles like Gameboys. She does live shows, so her music is a mixture of video game soundtracks and Western EDM.