One man’s meat is another man’s poison. That iconic phrase reflects how different all our tastes can be. Variety is the spice of life after all. That’s all good until we confuse our taste with our perception of quality. Our likes/dislikes should never be mistaken for how good/bad the product actually is, especially in music.
Let me give you an example. I am not the biggest fan of Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion. I certainly don’t have them on my iPod. However I will be the first to put my hand up and say these are two of the best voices that we have had the privilege to have in our music world. I’m more a Whitney Houston/Kelly Clarkson/Pink fan but that only reflects my tastes, not how good/bad the other two are.
Recently, remarks like “He’s not popular” and “She can’t sell” have surfaced more times than I can imagine. People get dismissive of good music when it’s not their taste. Worse still is when these people are the ‘tastemakers’ of the nation. I refer to radio dee-jays, entertainment ‘reporters’ and many more in the mainstream media. So what you get now is very ‘one-dimensional’ music that is mostly trendy but little else. Malaysian teenagers and radio listeners hardly have a choice because all the decisions have already been made for them. Worse still when a lot of these ‘tastemakers’ themselves aren’t all that schooled on what’s quality and what’s crap!
Maybe that’s why You Tube, Spotify etc have such a good following. But how about the music fans in the rural areas? Are they ‘condemned’ to the fare that is selectively being dished out by the powers that be?
Our Indonesian friends have it a lot better. During one of my trips there a few years ago I heard this interesting radio program while riding in a taxicab. This was a half hour ‘jazz’ program highlighting different jazz icons; basically a biography of their personal and music lives interspersed with the music they created. The one I heard focused on Bud Powell (classic jazz, pianist) and Lee Ritenour (modern jazz, guitarist). When asked, my cab driver replied that this program had been going on for some time already and had a rather decent following. Needless to say, I was impressed! Firstly, that the radio station had the guts to include this kind of show in their programming. Secondly, I was also amazed that the show had a good following!
No wonder our Indonesian counterparts are a lot more musically exposed to music than we will ever be. And they have wonderful jazz festivals like Java Jazz and Jak Jazz! Really, are the Indonesians wired with a different DNA that allows them to appreciate something other than mainstream music?
What we need is our media to lead the way. C’mon, be brave and have slots that play Queen and Led Zep, Charlie Parker and Renee Olstead. What we need are entertainment reporters to know more than Jamal Abdillah and Search.
That there is another icon called Ella, you know?
Her name is Ella Fitzgerald.
Then maybe our next generation will clamor for something more than American pop, K-pop and ‘rock leleh’. Nothing wrong with that per se, but we need to recognize there’s a lot more good music out there. Our tastes need to be exposed to quality music once in a while.
Then maybe, we can truly keep the music REAL!