Musical Memories
Preserving the Past

Kannan Headshot_sketchMost people like music. Maybe everyone has different taste in music, but I’ve never heard of someone not enjoying music at all. Music can be immensely powerful. Personally, it can remind me of certain memories or times in my life. When I think about each of my childhood summers, there are a handful of songs that come to mind.

Most of the time, it isn’t the type of music I would have necessarily chosen. For example, the summer between second and third grade is remembered by the song “Gasolina.” I probably only heard it once or twice, but the memory of my very first summer in the states and my very first summer camp will perhaps be forever linked to Daddy Yankee’s tune. It was during the first few months when I still wasn’t comfortable with the American accent, and I was highly confused by this song. It was a reminder of how different everything suddenly was, and maybe that is why it stuck. Between fifth and sixth grade, the song was “Umbrella,” by Rihanna. One of the camp counselors that summer was overly enthusiastic about the song and even brought a printout of the lyrics with him everywhere for two weeks.

International music is so diverse, from not only the languages and instruments used but also in the distribution of the songs. In America, the music industry is huge, with countless artists releasing albums usually in one genre of music per album. By contrast, in India, while individual artists are recently beginning to gain fame, much of the music industry is still contingent to the film industry. Indian movies are most often musicals, and a music director will work with the director to compose all the songs in one movie. Songs can range in genre within one film, depending on the plot. The music director will then hire singers to sing each song. A music album in India most likely still refers to the collection of songs from one movie. One music album can feature any number of singers. Often, the music composer is just as, if not more, famous than the individual singers.

So, when I listen to a Tamil or Hindi song, I’ll most likely think of the movie it corresponds to, if I’ve seen it, and this in turn makes India, and the culture of India, that much more tangible to me. In college, it is my biggest link to where I come from.

Every song has the ability to snowball and pick up new meaning for every listener. That what makes songs so powerful, their ability to connect with people and resonate with something inside. I used to think it was lyrics and the meaning of the song that made it special, but I’m beginning to realize that everything about the song contributes to the way we feel when we listen. Each person’s individual experiences and personality traits determine how that person receives and comprehends music. That’s why the most successful artists write about experiences to which their audience can connect.

It’s hard to tell what this summer’s song will be. One song that really sticks out right now for me is a classical piece that made me pick up my violin again, after almost two years. After listening to it about a hundred times, I decided just listening wasn’t enough and that I wanted to know how to play the piece. I’m nowhere near good enough to actually do the piece any amount of justice, but it’s a new perspective, and I’m glad I can somewhat play an instrument. Never before has a summer been defined by a classical piece of music, but hey, anything is possible.

Anushka Kannan is a rising sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. Preserving the Past appears every other Friday at

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