photo by Netream/creative commons
Those of us who travel with a purpose, who voyage seeking a journey that goes deeper than the proverbial surface streets, are often guided by our hearts more than our heads. In the cacophony of noises that fill the air of every place in the world, there is a sound that rises above them all, a constant language to which all human ears are tuned. That is the language of the heart, music.
Exploring the local music scene when you travel is a great way to feel the pulse of a village, a city or even a nation. Whether or not you actually like what you hear is secondary; listening to local tunes is a destination’s secret confessional session. You don’t have to speak the local dialect to hear the message of their music – there is an emotional landscape painted in every beat.
Here are a few tips to let music infuse your travel and make it more meaningful:
1. Catch a variety of live performances
Check the local listings wherever you travel for opportunities to see live music, and opt for the both the grand opera house experience as well as the alley-side bar gig. This allows you to share in live art with the locals, experiencing what they value and being with them at play. The music itself, tangible as it is being created before you, becomes a part of the tapestry of your travel memories.
2. Go dancing
There is a giddy freedom that comes with shakin’ your booty among strangers! At a small beach party in Thailand one New Year’s Eve, I spent an evening dancing to techno with a delighted Thai grandma. Though I had stumbled through a few Thai phrases with her over the weeks I had lived in her neighborhood, so much more was communicated between us through the smiles and laughter that we shared on the dance floor. The willingness to give up your inhibitions and bust a move connects people instantly.
3. Buy local music to bring home
I always try to bring a couple of CDs home from every trip, so that when I go through my photos at home I can add this auditory element to enhance my memories. Sharing international music with audiophiles at home provides them with a great window into another culture.
4. Consider traveling with an instrument
A good friend spent months backpacking across several countries with a small Martin backpacker’s guitar. He was an instant hit in every village he wandered into! People approached him often to sing and to listen, and as an intimidatingly tall westerner he found that the instrument disarmed him in some way. If guitar’s not your thing, consider something smaller, such as a harmonica, flute or mini hand drum like a dumbek. Check out the selection of instruments from around the world at Lark in the Morning.
5. Use technology to capture the music of a place
Many of today’s travelers are using things like mp3 players or mini-disc recorders to capture audio “snapshots” of their travels. My partner and I have captured the sounds of street performers, impromptu children’s serenades, Buddhist monks chanting and even the blaring Thai pop that punctuates bus rides all over Asia with a mini-disc recorder and a small microphone.
Stay in touch with the world music scene and let the music move your suitcase at Anne Stewart’s Travel Tracks blog here on the Wanderlust and Lipstick site!