Storytelling in music

Sisters Dorinda and Rebecca Ackah represent the growing diversity of both the students and musical influence on campus.

Sisters Dorinda and Rebecca Ackah represent the growing diversity of both the students and musical influence on campus.

Music is everywhere, in everything.

Music is embedded in the depths of one’s upbringing and laced through the human experience. We don’t even realize how instrumental (pun intended) music can be, whether to help us in memory recall or in nostalgic enrichment.

We have all been raised with a specific musical influence. You hear “I grew up on oldies” and “My momma raised me on country” all the time, but I believe it’s important to think outside the box and look beyond the Americanized mindset. Having spent five years in an increasingly diverse Union College, I had the opportunity to tap into worldwide musical influence and role music plays other cultures.

Focusing on the Nigerian and Samoan cultures, I asked two Union students, Nigerian senior Jahbabe Aigbokhan and Samoan junior Jasmine Muasau, the following question:

“How important and central is music in your native culture?”

“Music in Nigeria is extremely broad and dynamic,” began Aigbokhan, a Social Science major. “Let me just say, I have yet to meet someone who has heard our music and hasn't felt the urge to move to the beat.”

In learning about Nigerian music culture, the infectious energy Aigbokhan spoke of was almost palpable through her descriptions. “Music is a huge part of our culture. We are music. The kinds of music we make are rich, full of rhythm and have diverse genres which even get combined to make one hit or 'jam'. This diversity is what pulls us and other listeners together to create a sense of belonging and to provide entertainment, especially for those [separated from their homeland].”

After speaking with Aigbokhan, the influence of music in Nigerian culture became clear to me. Jasmine Muasau also had a lot to say about about Samoa and its native music:

“Music is . . . a very significant part of ceremonies, used to offer praises. As a result of this, a great multitude of Samoans are musically inclined. For as long as I can remember, I have never met a Samoan who cannot sing or play an instrument.”

A love exclusive to none, music is “innate,” meaning that our appreciation for music is already found in us from birth. She listed successful musicians that hail from Nigeria, such as Sade Adu, Jidenna, Wale, Nas, and Llacoin. Recognizing some of these names, I was amazed how far across the globe these musical influences reach. A huge fan of the hip-hop storytelling that Nas and Wale present in their music catalog, I then thought of what Muasau first told me when asking of her Samoan music culture:

“Music plays a very significant role in our culture. It keeps our culture alive by the method of storytelling in songs. These stories can range from something as simple as the origin of the coconut tree to the roots of where the Samoan people came from.”

It is through the stories of just two individuals that I have been able to tap into a gold mine of musical history and storytelling. What stories does your musical influence tell?

AJ Valcin is a super senior who enjoys communicating and contemplating. Every state he has lived in begins with the letter “N.” He is the most obsessive music nerd you may know, and anything involving vanilla ice cream and gummy treats are his weaknesses. AJ also wants you to “download my mixtape, bruh.” - a Soundcloud exclusive under the alias “A2nelito.”