Music: A Universal Feature of the Human Experience

Music: A Universal Feature of the Human Experience

By: Yadley Turnier

What constitutes music?

Music is a constellation of sounds that unite the mind and spirit. The music paints our emotional experiences as an integral part of who we are as an art form. Like all art, it's a form of expression that can have varying significance based on culture and society.

As a Haitian woman, music plays a significant role in my life. Haitian music's history is multi-faceted, and over generations, Haitian music, or Kompa, has enriched our musical heritage by incorporating a variety of artistic inspirations. It has taught me to appreciate so many other genres of music. It has allowed me to be more open to new sounds that connect me to different stories from artists. Hearing the beats, rhythms, and personality behind each song makes me appreciate Kompa's blend of styles. From Afro beats to dancehall to soca, my love for music became international. Music will continue to adapt to what is happening in the world. If you broaden your music taste, you might be surprised by what you find out there. You'd be surprised by how many cultures outside of yours share musical similarities. So what are you waiting for? Oh, I see… you don't know where to start. No worries. Luckily for you, I have compiled a list of notable international artists that have caught my eye over the years.

Here are my top 10 international artists living in the diaspora. Below you can also find the link to a HESTAH playlist. We may not be able to travel the world because of COVID, but we can use music to get a taste of what is out there!

Most artists' musical content is influenced by culture and other contemporary issues experienced in society, such as mental health, sexual freedom, identity, racism, and politics. If you are interested in global artists with a taste of cultural music, then look no further. Every artist has helped construct an identity for themselves living in the diaspora and a source of connection to their heritage. I had the pleasure of sitting with two of these fantastic artists. In our conversations, they revealed how passionate they are about connecting to the music and enhancing their experiences as they grow in their journeys.

Kai, a young Taiwanese artist from New York who grew up in Peru.

We talked about Kai's musical journey and what he's learned about himself and his artistry. He also shared some of the challenges he faced when trying to find his identity in a society where many people may not be accepted. Kai's story is about overcoming adversity and finding his identity as an artist and as a person. Kai says, "Growing up; I knew I had a love for the arts, whether music, acting, or theater, but while exploring that, I was exposed to a more Westernized view of music, education, and art. The features I would see were lighter-toned and were deemed 'successful' in the arts. I began to feel that maybe my Asian features wouldn't be accepted in the music and theater world."

Kai's parents wanted him to go to school and study something that would make him a living, "But I chose music because I wanted to follow my dreams," Kai says. He moved to New York and began his journey of self-identification. Kai writes about his experience being a gay Asian man. Culturally, he talks about how he broke out of the assimilation of his American name "Jake Frost." He says, "Some kids have

Americanized names, and it wasn't until last September that I used my American name for the last time. At my graduation, my mentor told me how important my name is in my history, culture, and how I should never compromise that to make it comfortable for anyone." He took a trip to Taiwan that changed his music's direction, name, and music production. After releasing his latest song, "All That Matters," he learned the meaning of his name. Kai means "victory." He began to own up to the power of his name

Michel'Le Baptiste is a drummer and vocalist from Houston, Texas. Growing up, Michel'Le was exposed to all sorts of genres, but she was mainly listening to Gospel music. Artists such as Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, and many others were her introductions to music.

Growing up in a Caribbean household where her dad is Antiguan, and her mom is St. Thomian, Michel'Le also grew up listening to reggae and other similar styles of music. As she grew more curious about the musical world, she began to listen to other genres and was fascinated by the artistry of musical talents like Earth Wind and Fire. All different types of music spoke to her. Baptiste says, "Everyone that I listened to had put their own experiences in the work that they created, and it allowed me to connect more to their music." This grew her inspiration to do the same in her work. Michel'Le approaches her music the same way. She says, "I put my stories in my music and want my listeners to feel what I'm playing. All of this has helped me to be more open. It helped me pay attention to all sorts of details." When she went to Berklee College, it changed her perspective. She wanted to focus on the things that she didn't know. She wanted to reach out and learn about other music styles and be connected to stories.

"I took different classes to help me connect to all the different musical techniques," she says. "When I'm on tour, I look at it as a new platform, new ideas, new people to learn [from] and be inspired by." She talks about her experience playing for Beyoncé during the Super Bowl. She has also played with 5th Harmony and Normani. She talks about how all creatives are different and how you need to adapt to new exercises[CW1] . "You need almost to start over and change your mindset. Every season since I was little has made me into who I am today. The people who are around me have taught me to be a better musician, a better artist, businesswoman, and overall person."

After sitting with Michel'Le and having this fantastic conversation, she leaves us with this last piece of advice. "Everyone should be in the lane of their purpose. Whatever your purpose is, stay on that path. Know what your purpose is, so grow in that. Learn your worth. You are a blessing in this world. Remain level headed, be confident in yourself [and in] the way you play, [and] the way you talk. The tongue is mighty. Say things to uplift people."