Monday, January 4, 2010

Stimulating Classes – Part I: Intro to World Music

Most people seem to have a favorite subject in school/college. Mine has always wavered. In high school, I couldn’t decide if it was mathematics or history or science. Then when I entered college in Spring 2006, my major was biology. Some of my friends know that almost each time they talk to me, I’ve a different (unofficial) major. I started with Biology, but this blog post isn’t for what I’m studying and why. I promise to discuss that in another one, though, ka khairee.

For now, I wanna share the names, themes, and importance of some of the most stimulating classes I’ve taken during my last four years in college. They’re not listed in order of importance or anything – only in order of which one comes to my mind first.

Kha, so I’ll start with Intro to World Music. No, no, it’s not that I love music so desperately (well, I do, actually, but this isn’t why I loved and appreciated this class. Patience, please.). It was in this class that I realized how stupid I was for not appreciating Pukhtuns, my beloved people. Until I took this class, I absolutely HATED Pukhtuns. I’ll explain this story in another post as well one day, ka khairee. Intro to music literally changed my life, made me a re-born Pukhtun, and taught me to appreciate my own being. The reason for all this? Well, the class focused on music of different peoples all over the world. The first day of class, the teacher asked us to define the word “music.” And it hit me right there: I didn’t know what music really was; the word has no fixed definition or understanding! Here’s how the question/answer went in class, kha.

Professor: So what is music?
<< Class goes completely quiet, and everyone starts looking at each other. No one knows what to say. Until…>>
Student 1: Any sort of sound.
Professor: ~starts banging on the desk~ Does this count as music, then, based on your definition?
Me: Well, no. The sound must be pleasant to the ears, of course.
Professor: Ahh, of course. In that case, tell me if this is music.
<< He plays a song, entirely vocal, that is generally not liked by the average western student.>>
Me, smiling and kinda quietly: Ummm… I didn’t like it.
Professor: But it’s still sound, right? And it must be pleasant to SOMEONE’S ears, like those who are singing it and were involved otherwise in the making of it. No?
Me: Yes, I see where you’re getting with this.
Student 2: Well, I can’t really define music, but if you played something to me, I’ll know if it’s music or not.
Professor: … ahh, which means it depends on the listener, correct?

<< Students are kinda hesitant to agree because, duh, we all know what music is.>>

Professor, laughing: Tell me if this is music.
<< He plays a rap song. Some students like it, some don’t. I don’t, and I say it’s not music according to me.>>
Professor: So then I was right. Only the listener determines whether it’s music or not.

<< Class finally agrees. And then the professor plays a clip of some birds singing and other natural sounds in some forest, including a waterfall.>>
Professor: What about this?
Class: Yes, that’s music.
Professor: What makes it music? There are not man-made instruments involved, no human vocals, none of that. Then?
Student 3: It’s pleasant to our ears. Some of us, anyway.
Professor: Good. Then can we conclude that music is some sort of sound – any sort of sound – that is pleasant to the listener’s ears? Or then music scholars can’t agree on a fixed definition that’s not open to obvious questions.
Class: Yes.

I swear, after this class, I started re-defining EVERYTHING, even if it already has a “fixed” definition according to definers. If I can have even a fingernail doubt about its generally accepted definition, I’ll question it and think about it until I define it myself. The class also showed me how powerful music is in establishing a culture’s/people’s present, determining their future, and relating their past. I’d never before looked at music this way, and it is only now that I can fully value the connection of music to politics. I’ve never respected musicians the way I do now. God bless them all.

As for how it made me a re-born Pukhtun – driving me to research my history, understand my people’s current circumstances, and support them – well, we studied the cultures and values of each (ethnic) group of people whose music we heard. (Pukhtuns weren’t among them, unfortunately. One day, they will be, though, ka khairee. Don’t you worry… though, from all of Asia, only southeastern and Indian music was covered due to a lack of time.) And I enjoyed it so much, especially when we came to the Native Americans. Almost no songs exists in their native languages. And since I hated Pukhto and Pukhtuns so much, I though to myself, “How can I be expressing such sorrow for the Native Americans’ loss of culture, heritage, language, and mere existence while hating my own language and people? How am I any different from those who contributed to the loss of these people’s language, when I myself am refusing to speak my language or constantly vow that I will never marry a Pukhtun man?”

I don’t know how to explain it, but it was something like that. And lo and behold, came forth the Qrratugai you know today!

In the next couple of blogs, I’ll add more classes, WITHOUT going in so much depth, I promise. I did in this one only because it had to do with my utmost type of identity.


  1. waaaaaah g....der kha..

    so finaly you joined the music...clap..clap...

    You wrote your class activities in such a picturist manner that i felt while reading that i am also setting in class...You got true music teacher.The way he dig out indepth feelings about music from his students is ta ustazaan waee...

    Pleas do share more as you participate in classes in future...
    Ghani khan said about music in his one of cuplet:

    '' Rabab sa day mar gadoray au da tot ocha tana da......kho che soz da adam rashi hala tang okre rabab...
    When your inner push you to express ur inner feelings then your outer shape you in music,poetry,painting etc.When there is harmony and rydhm in your fingers,skull soul and sound then music begets...da saaz au awaz taroon musiqi ke dere khabare de kho bia ba she...keep on your flame of music and try to learn TABLA(dokrai) which is the base for all music....Au bia piano playing zda ka...
    za kha da ro ro band barabarege..:)

    pa palang nasta da laila pa laas au ghaig ke sitaar....starge ye dake da pursaan au intizar na da yaar..ghani khan.

  2. Thank you, Nawaz Khana. Yes, I certainly had a true teacher for music. Though, no, I haven't yet taken on any instrument :S It's definitely a priority on my list of to-do things, though, so I'll be doing it for sure. Rubab, I'm not sure if I'll ever get that far, lol. I'm planning to start with the piano and then own one one day.

    Which ones can you play, ho? :D

  3. Shanu,Hope in future you will have a good musician...Somebody told me that u have good voice quality...bia sa de jenay,saaz au awaaz che barabar she no bia tapa sha kana...:):)
    Once upon a time i used to play piano but later on due to some masrofiyaat i left practicing piano ,gani qabo qabo ustaz shawe om.lolz...But still the desire alive and one day i will re-play piano(baja,harmonium).....
    che rabab she,piano she,awaz she bus bia kho da tang takor group barabar de kana..
    enjoy ur music and peace be on you.

  4. LMAO!!! And who'd that Somebody be that told you I have "good quality voice"? LOL! Well, take it from me - I DON'T have "good quality voice" at all. I do like to sing when no one's listening, though ;) But don't we all? lol

  5. ahan, that was an interesting read..
    Looking at the theme of the blog and comparing it with how anti pukhtuns you were (according to this post), I must say , I am quite intrigued by the radical change..and correct me if I am wring since this is only the second post I read, but I got the impression that its due to the music class you had..
    nice nickname :)

  6. Hi, Ahmar, and welcome to my blog!

    Well, I've written a post on how and why I've changed (from an anti-Pukhtun little girl to a patriotic and Pukhtun-loving Pukhtun lady), but I haven't posted it here yet. Yes, part of the reason was because of the World Music class, another part was because of a book I read called "Miko King: An Indiab Baseball Story" (it's about how and why the Indian langauges in the Americas, along with their native speakers, managed to be expunged), another part of it was by -- of course -- looking into Pukhtun history and understanding why we are where we are today. So to owe it all to one class would be unjust, really, because it's because of many other factors as well.

    Thanks about the nickname! I love it too :D


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