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Thomas Burkhalter from Switzerland speaks about effects of globalisation on music
- Friday, June 13, 2014 - From Print Edition




“Many people think that changes in music brought about by globalisation are negative. They feel that the sounds are not too melodious and reflect a burst of energy and anger, something that is not conventionally associated with the traditional definition of music. In fact, it’s quite the reverse,” said Thomas Burkhalter on Thursday.


Burkhalter, who is from Switzerland, specialises in collecting and analysing trends in global music. He delivered a lecture at the Aga Khan University auditorium on music through the ages and trends, and changes that have been effected, especially through globalisation and a restive world riven by strife and dissension.


The specimens of music he produced extended over a wide range: from the kind that makes one’s soul waft over celestial meadows at one end of the spectrum to one which sounded nothing more than just frantically beating a buffalo on the back on the other end, and everything in between. Most of it comprised nerve-racking drumbeats as if to hypnotise someone.


While there was heavenly Swiss alpine music, there was the one with the most dissonant shouts and screams associated with civil strife, riots, wars and killings.


Interestingly, there were pictures of old wind-up gramophones with those breakable 78rpm records playing music from the US, Ghana, Germany and South Africa. It was a welcome, nostalgic trip back in time.


There were also shots of Indo-Pakistani music, especially Ustad Bismillah Khan’s Shehnai recital. There were shots of the Lebanese civil war and the stark barbarity therein, with militias shooting children to death, mines blowing humans to smithereens and others, and how this unprecedented barbarity precipitated a totally new genre of music: not at all melodious, absolutely dissonant.


There was also some lively country rock from the US featuring yodelling. There were shots of the latest rap music from the Caribbeans.


Burkhalter said the latest trends in music with those weird electronic sounds were connotative of the various forms of protest.


There was strange music accompanied by epileptic movements from South Africa. By and large, it was an interesting presentation, especially with an extra strong set of nerves. The programme was held under the joint aegis of the Aga Khan University and the Goethe-Institut.