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Monday, December 24, 2012

Learning to love Dutch Hawaii music - or The Great Mystery of Music.

When long ago I started to study at the conservatoire in order to become a music teacher, I had to do teaching practice as part of my study. My teaching practice started in a primary school. I remember some things vividly - my mentor, Ed Silanoe, for example, a great guy, a living example of what it means to be a teacher; or me writing songs for the children at school; or the feeling at 7.30 in the winter morning when you knew that in an hour you had to start teaching - not an idea cherished automatically by a 19-year old student.

One of the most vivid memories I have is that of the school's care-taker. For some reason at some point he told me about his musical preferences. He told me he loved Dutch Hawaii-music, and that when he felt sad or angry he would lie down on the floor between the speakers of his music installation and play Hawaii music so loud he would be completely immersed in it. That always helped.

In hindsight I must already at that age have been gripped by the wish to understand other people's ways with music. I did not understand the caretaker's preference for Hawaii (I hardly knew the music, I only knew that it had a lot of steel guitar and ukelele in it and very sweet voices - things I abhorred at that time), but I loved what he told about  the role it played in his life. As I loved the way people with a preference for Dutch schlager handled their music; I even went to a concert by the Zangeres zonder Naam ('Singer without a Name') in order to feel what her fans felt. Without result - the fascination stayed, but the love did not come.

Now there is a lot to say about Dutch Hawaii music - about its history, about the role it played in Dutch music history, about the connection to the Dutch Indonesian community, about its relations to Hawaii and to Indonesia, et cetera (or even about its relation to the music of Seaman Dan, that great Torres Strait crooner who recently had his newest cd out - Nat King Cole songs sung by a nearly 90-year old. Check it out!). But if you wish to know more about that, look for the work of Lutgard Mutsaers (I'm not sure she wrote about Seaman Dan yet, though...). And there is a lot to say about Dutch schlager - something I hope to do in the future.

The thing I would like to point out here is the fact that I have, actually, over the years, started to appreciate - and even like - Hawaiian music. I now live in a house with a collection of over a hundred old Hawaii records, thanks to my wife who has collected them. Occasionally we play one, not for reasons of its 'camp-ness' (I can't really stand the whole idea of 'camp' because the border with outright ridicule is too unclear for me)  but because we like it.

Now, the question is: have I learned to like it? On the surface, it looks like it. But I would (again) say that if this is learning, than only if learning is taken in its widest sense as any change of behaviour on the basis of experience. But if learning is in any way seen as a conscious process, or something that can be brought about by someone else, then it is not. Me liking Hawaii then basically is an unexplainable fact.

The unexplainable fact of beginning to appreciate a certain kind of music, a certain composer, a certain singer or band. The Great Mystery of Music?

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