Most people seem to have a favorite subject in school/college. Mine has always wavered. In high school, I couldn’t decide if it was mathematics or history or science. Then when I entered college in Spring 2006, my major was biology. Some of my friends know that almost each time they talk to me, I’ve a different (unofficial) major. I started with Biology, but this blog post isn’t for what I’m studying and why. I promise to discuss that in another one, though, ka khairee.
For now, I wanna share the names, themes, and importance of some of the most stimulating classes I’ve taken during my last four years in college. They’re not listed in order of importance or anything – only in order of which one comes to my mind first.
Kha, so I’ll start with Intro to World Music. No, no, it’s not that I love music so desperately (well, I do, actually, but this isn’t why I loved and appreciated this class. Patience, please.). It was in this class that I realized how stupid I was for not appreciating Pukhtuns, my beloved people. Until I took this class, I absolutely HATED Pukhtuns. I’ll explain this story in another post as well one day, ka khairee. Intro to music literally changed my life, made me a re-born Pukhtun, and taught me to appreciate my own being. The reason for all this? Well, the class focused on music of different peoples all over the world. The first day of class, the teacher asked us to define the word “music.” And it hit me right there: I didn’t know what music really was; the word has no fixed definition or understanding! Here’s how the question/answer went in class, kha.
Professor: So what is music?
<< Class goes completely quiet, and everyone starts looking at each other. No one knows what to say. Until…>>
Student 1: Any sort of sound.
Professor: ~starts banging on the desk~ Does this count as music, then, based on your definition?
Me: Well, no. The sound must be pleasant to the ears, of course.
Professor: Ahh, of course. In that case, tell me if this is music.
<< He plays a song, entirely vocal, that is generally not liked by the average western student.>>
Me, smiling and kinda quietly: Ummm… I didn’t like it.
Professor: But it’s still sound, right? And it must be pleasant to SOMEONE’S ears, like those who are singing it and were involved otherwise in the making of it. No?
Me: Yes, I see where you’re getting with this.
Student 2: Well, I can’t really define music, but if you played something to me, I’ll know if it’s music or not.
Professor: … ahh, which means it depends on the listener, correct?
<< Students are kinda hesitant to agree because, duh, we all know what music is.>>
Professor, laughing: Tell me if this is music.
<< He plays a rap song. Some students like it, some don’t. I don’t, and I say it’s not music according to me.>>
Professor: So then I was right. Only the listener determines whether it’s music or not.
<< Class finally agrees. And then the professor plays a clip of some birds singing and other natural sounds in some forest, including a waterfall.>>
Professor: What about this?
Class: Yes, that’s music.
Professor: What makes it music? There are not man-made instruments involved, no human vocals, none of that. Then?
Student 3: It’s pleasant to our ears. Some of us, anyway.
Professor: Good. Then can we conclude that music is some sort of sound – any sort of sound – that is pleasant to the listener’s ears? Or then music scholars can’t agree on a fixed definition that’s not open to obvious questions.
I swear, after this class, I started re-defining EVERYTHING, even if it already has a “fixed” definition according to definers. If I can have even a fingernail doubt about its generally accepted definition, I’ll question it and think about it until I define it myself. The class also showed me how powerful music is in establishing a culture’s/people’s present, determining their future, and relating their past. I’d never before looked at music this way, and it is only now that I can fully value the connection of music to politics. I’ve never respected musicians the way I do now. God bless them all.
As for how it made me a re-born Pukhtun – driving me to research my history, understand my people’s current circumstances, and support them – well, we studied the cultures and values of each (ethnic) group of people whose music we heard. (Pukhtuns weren’t among them, unfortunately. One day, they will be, though, ka khairee. Don’t you worry… though, from all of Asia, only southeastern and Indian music was covered due to a lack of time.) And I enjoyed it so much, especially when we came to the Native Americans. Almost no songs exists in their native languages. And since I hated Pukhto and Pukhtuns so much, I though to myself, “How can I be expressing such sorrow for the Native Americans’ loss of culture, heritage, language, and mere existence while hating my own language and people? How am I any different from those who contributed to the loss of these people’s language, when I myself am refusing to speak my language or constantly vow that I will never marry a Pukhtun man?”
I don’t know how to explain it, but it was something like that. And lo and behold, came forth the Qrratugai you know today!
In the next couple of blogs, I’ll add more classes, WITHOUT going in so much depth, I promise. I did in this one only because it had to do with my utmost type of identity.