Music: a bond that crosses cultures

Originally written for my study abroad class

I studied abroad not only to learn more about myself, but also to learn more about the people from different cultures. I want to explore the differences and similarities between the United States and Scotland. Over the week and a half that I’ve been in Scotland, I noticed that music (aside from the bagpipes) is nearly the exact same in both places.

Late on a Monday night, two Americans got up to cover a Journey song in a local pub in the heart of Scotland. Several Americans joined in, singing while in the crowd, as well as Scottish folk and people from Spain, England, Ireland and Botswana.

In the Scottish capitol before the sun rose for Thursday, a club full of international and local people alike, took to the dance floor, getting down to their favorite songs.

In the wee hours of a Wednesday morning in the heart of Scotland, a group of several Americans, a man from Botswana, an Englishman and an Irish lass belted out the lyrics to songs that filled at least four different genres. The Backstreet Boys, the Fray, Fall Out Boy, the Lonely Island, R.Kelly, Beyoncé and more various artists were present.

Before any of this, I wondered why everywhere I listened, it was all American music coming from the speakers. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m in Scotland, not the United States. Why am I only hearing American music?”

Back to those early hours on a Wednesday, I found myself sitting on a couch, rapping along to the only hit from MIMS. I look over to my right and see Iain (from Botswana) rapping the lyrics right along with me. During a musical interlude, he looked over at me and laughed while saying how he loved that song as well. Only in that moment did it really hit me that no matter where you come from, music has the ability to transcend cultures.

In my reflection, I realized that the people who make up American music are more diverse than what meets the eye. In the the current Billboard Top 100, there are artists from:

  • Alabama (Little Big Town)
  • Arkansas (Ne-Yo)
  • Australia (Iggy Azalea, Sia)
  • Barbados (Rihanna)
  • California (Andy Grammer, Echosmith, Jhené Aiko, Kid Ink, Maroon 5, Omarion, Skrillex)
  • Canada (Allan Kingdom, Carly Rae Jepsen, Drake, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, the Weeknd)
  • England (Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, George Ezra, Jessie J, Mark Ronson, Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, Sam Smith)
  • France (David Guetta, DJ Snake)
  • Florida (Ariana Grande, Easton Corbin, Fifth Harmony, Flo Rida, Jason Derulo, Michael Ray, Pitbull)
  • Georgia (2 Chainz, Bandit Gang Marco, Billy Currington, Brantley Gilbert, Future, Jason Aldean, Kanye West, Rich Homie Quan, Silento, Thomas Rhett, Zac Brown Band)
  • Germany (J. Cole)
  • Hawaii (Bruno Mars)
  • Illinois (Brett Eldredge, Fall Out Boy, Jeremih)
  • Jamaica (OMI, Shaggy)
  • Louisiana (August Alsina, DJ Khaled, Kevin Gates, Tim McGraw)
  • Massachusetts (Meghan Trainor, Nicky Jam, Rachel Platten)
  • Michigan (Big Sean, Frankie Ballard)
  • Mississippi (Britney Spears, Rae Sremmurd)
  • Missouri (Chris Janson, Tech N9ne)
  • Netherlands (Natalie la Rose)
  • New Jersey (Fetty Wap)
  • New York (ASAP Rocky, Jennifer Lopez, Prince Royce, X Ambassadors)
  • New Zealand (Keith Urban)
  • North Carolina (B.o.B, Eric Church)
  • North Dakota (Wiz Khalifa)
  • Ohio (Twenty One Pilots, Walk the Moon)
  • Oklahoma (Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood)
  • Pennsylvania (Taylor Swift)
  • Russia (Zedd)
  • Spain (Enrique Iglesias)
  • Sweden (Tove Lo)
  • Tennessee (A Thousand Horses, Dustin Lynch, Florida Georgia Line, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Hunt)
  • Texas (Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, T-Wayne, Usher)
  • Trinidad & Tobago (Nicki Minaj, Theophilus London)
  • Virginia (Canaan Smith, Chris Brown, Trey Songz)
  • Washington D.C. (Wale)
  • West Virginia (Brad Paisley)
  • Wisconsin (Jidenna)

69 artists and bands currently in the Billboard Top 100 hail from the United States and 29 artists and bands hail from outside the U.S. Clearly “American music” is much more than that.

Thanks to the technological inventions from the phonograph to the radio to the Internet, music from all over the world is able to be heard from sea to shining sea. And that music can be shared across all cultures with all people.

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”– Billy Joel

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