“Hey Jarrod, you like world music right? Check out this Mongolian band called 13th Bell”. I received this text a few weeks ago and was quite piqued by their choice of words. “World music”, what exactly is that? More often than not, this genre of music has been constantly utilised to categorise songs that sample and/or include musical elements that are derived from a particular minority ethnic group. More specifically, language and vocal technique are the primary factors that allude to this strange term. As an anthropologist of sound and music, I am often loosely classified as an ethnomusicologist, which I always found to possess a curious prefix. I want to take this opportunity to take a step back and revisit the elusive meaning of what the prefix ethno means, and whether it is analogous to the study of ‘world’ music’. Many times, I am asked about and ask myself: what is so appealing about experiencing music that is so distant from your own culture, what is music’s connection with social identities and why is it so pertinent to both the performer(s) and listener(s)?
“Whatever your eye can see, it's vecik.” This line resonated with me while I was conducting my fieldwork in Taiwan with the indigenous Paiwan village known as Paridrayan. Good friend and prolific artist, Etan Pavavaljung, once mentioned to me this Paiwan concept known as vecik. The concept, briefly speaking, implies an interconnectedness that links all tangible things with each other. From humans, rocks, and trees to winds and words, they are connected to each other through vecik...“However,” he added, “something like poetry can be vecik.”. He continued, “let’s take for example, a village elder reciting a poem about his childhood. He recites verses about his flower garden from his childhood home as well as reminiscing his childhood days. These words become vecik.”