Music evokes powerful memories and feelings of attachment to family and friends, past events, locations and different stages of life. It can transport us in heart and mind to other times and places. It is also highly mobile. Songs and instrumental music can be carried in the memories of musicians – professional and amateur – as they migrate from the countryside to the city or from one country to another. Also, technological developments in the last few decades have enabled music to be recorded, copied and downloaded electronically at great speed so that diasporic communities can share their favourite music wherever they live.
The case of Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora suggests that music travels more easily than people. Migrants may be in exile or faced with closed borders or the red tape of immigration regulations, but music crosses political boundaries without difficulty.
Veronica Doubleday, voice and daireh, and John Baily, Afghan rubab
Its content may have political significance too. Its lyrics may voice criticisms of regimes back home or in the new context; they may break religious taboos or challenge authorised teachings.
The mutual influence of different types of music from different places brings about innovative fusions and hybrids. There have always been some people who want to keep traditional music ‘pure’, but there are many more who want to create something new by mixing up voices, instruments and styles. Bhangra music in the UK had its origins in Punjabi folk songs with dhol drumming, circulated with the help of Bollywood videos and tapes, and performed as dance music for weddings. Pioneer bands, such as Alaap and Heera, popularised it. Synthesizers, drum machines and scratching were added, and hip-hop and other dance styles influenced it in its journey from private family events to the club and DJ scene and the celebrity careers of stars such as Punjabi MC and Rishi Rich.
In October 2009 a unique event was held at the Turner Sims Concert Hall of Southampton University which brought together Malagasy and North African musicians.