Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lucky Lips, Oh Yea!

Indian Classical Music entered my life just over a year ago and ever since, I could not wait to set foot in India and learn much more about the people, the music and the culture. Overwhelmed with excitement to go to such an exotic and foreign country, I knew I was embarking upon a journey of a lifetime. Little could have prepared me, however, for what was in store. The ride from Bagdogra to Kalimpong, although one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, was not at all what I had expected. Our trusty driver played terrible European pop as we drove past billboards worshiping Avril Lavigne along with various other western pop-stars. The first few days, I could not help but take note of how prevalent western influence was on Nepali culture. From Akon playing in taxis to a jeep full of teenagers rocking out to Ricky Martin, from the majority of the people dressed in western clothes to the pizza restaurants in Kalimpong, I was disheartened. Could Chakrabarty’s philosophy of Western ideals and standards being imposed and embraced by Nepali culture really stand true? Did the people of Kalimpong truly aspire to be Western, were they really loosing their ancient history and with it, identity? As the month continued and as my relationships with a few of the students intensified, my experiences were contradictary to the arguments proposed by Chakrabarty. All of the students were eager to invite me into their lives and proud to share their culture with me. They proudly opened their hearts and their homes to me and taught me invaluable lessons about patience, hard-work, and determination.

My afternoons were spent teaching and learning various dances. In the beginning, the only CD we had was Nepali folk CD. Every single student knew the dance to one of the songs and they attempted to teach it to me. As they laughed aloud at my two left feet, I could see how excited they were to share their culture with me yet they really wanted to choreograph a dance in which I would actually be capable of doing. Whenever, I tried to teach them a dance to a western artist (namely Shikira), they would roll with it for a few minutes then beg me to turn on their Nepali CD. They loved their music and their way of expressing themselves through dance and suggested that I pick up a few different CD's the next time I went to the market. The CD’s they were asking for were not traditional folk songs, but the a version of the Remix discussed by Paul Greene. The music that they were asking for, was in fact western influenced yet maintained a unique Nepali rhythm and style. This music, as Greene alludes, not only characterizes musical preferences but more importantly it symbolizes an imagined contemporary Nepali society, and not a Westernized-Nepali society. For the final performance the girls chose to choreograph a dance to the popular tune, Lucky Lips, which encompassed many of the aspects of the music Paul Green discusses. Lucky Lips, for me, was a cultural experience that resulted in a long-lasting memory. Times will change and with it preferences, but that does not mean that all of Nepali culture is being lost in this rapidly globalizing world. This new mix of music is not attempting to create a Western society in Nepal but is a result of a more contemporary and adapting Nepali culture.

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