Muchlike the sense of smell, music can instantly bring back moments from our past,locations, people we've known, sensations and emotions. I don't know theparticulars of how sounds act on brain activity to make this happen, but it'strue.
Themusic of the guzheng, for example, always takes me back to my first months inChina in 2012, as my wife and I were visiting Shanghai's People's Park. Thesounds from the traditional Chinese zither and the lush surroundings haveremained etched in my mind. We felt we had landed in a beautiful, exotic dream.
SinceI've lived in several different parts of the world, my portfolio of musicaltastes and memories is varied, including such diverse types as the traditionalmusic of Beijing opera, bluegrass music from the Appalachian region of theUnited States, classic rock from the 1960s and 1970s, Andean pan pipe music,Argentine tango and Brazilian samba.
Theballads and folk-rock tunes of singer and songwriter Cat Stevens, whose name isnow Yusuf Islam -- who was very popular in the 1970s -- take me back to teenageangst.
Withcollege came such classic rock musicians and bands as Neil Young and PinkFloyd. A postgraduate year studying in Argentina introduced me to the beauty oftango and such popular singers as the late Argentine icon Mercedes Sosa, aleader of the nueva cancion or new song movement.
Morethan three years living on the US-Mexico border, and crossing it most days towork in Mexico, taught me the beauty of Mexican mariachi, norteno and otherstyles of music. Several years in Miami taught me about tropical sounds.
Thereare few auditory experiences that make me happier than listening to theensemble of veteran Cuban musicians referred to as The Buena Vista Social Club.I'll put it on when I'm cooking or washing dishes in my Beijing apartment andbe transported to a Caribbean island.
Themusic dates from before the revolution and much of it falls into traditionalAfro-Cuban music styles such as son. It's lilting, beautiful, tropical soundsevoke love and longing in the small towns of Cuba.
Theactual Buena Vista Social Club started in the 1940s in Havana as a hub formusicians and performers at a time of greater racial segregation. The clubclosed in the 1960s and traditional music declined with societal changes andnew musical trends.
WhenUS guitarist Ry Cooder arrived in Havana in 1996 for a session with legendaryCuban musicians from that earlier era, the magic of The Buena Vista Social Clubhappened. The album of the same name became a gigantic international hit,thawed US-Cuba relations and made household names of such Cuban masters asCompay Segundo, Ruben Gonzalez and Ibrahim Ferrer (all of whom died between2003 and 2005).
Somesurviving members have continued to tour under the group's name.
Ifirst heard Mongolian throat singing by an ethnic Mongolian Chinese musicianwho goes by the name Tom Peng at the (now closed) Southern Belle bar inShanghai. He played a mean mandolin in a bluegrass band and his singing wasotherworldly. I was very happy to see that Tom and many members of his NewGrass Band appeared at the RockyGrass music festival in Colorado in July.
Ialso love a Mongolian heavy metal group called The HU (not to be confused withGreat Britain's The Who) who put a totally new Asian twist on metal music.
There'sa big, wonderful world of music out there, so dive right in!