Just as music speaks to every corner of the human soul, it compels us to seek new forms of expression and connection to share to the world. We dance and sing, clap and play, laugh and cry to music. We seek companionship or solitude, we seek the merriment of food and drink, we seek inspiration from the mysterious methods of music that keep us alive. Music combines with all our arts and thoughts to create the very fabric of creativity.
Throughout history, there has been a worldwide trend of those who seek to share their music with the world. In feudal Japan, monks known as komuso traveled throughout the country, playing long bamboo flutes called shakuhachi to help bring enlightenment and protection to themselves and the villages they visited. They wore baskets on their heads that covered their entire faces, to represent their lack of ego and identity: the focus would not be on the person himself, but on what he did and how he did it. By hiding their faces and sitting in street corners they gave a focus to their music that separated it from the identity of a single person, instead reflecting the universality of the music. In West African countries such as Ghana, a caste of people called the djeli have performed similar tasks for centuries: they travel for miles, reciting poetry, commenting on social structures of their day, singing and playing instruments, telling stories of both history and myth. They possessed great wisdom and knowledge, tempered by experience and the promise of open road ahead of them.
These traits – these people, who encompass so many facets of human existence, are similar to the bards of England, the skalds of Scandinavia, and the ashik of Eastern Europe. They were also rhapsodes and philosophers of Ancient Greece, the azmari of Ethiopia, the medicine men of many Native American tribes. People have always looked to them as teachers, scholars, friends, advisers, family. By traveling and sharing their music, art, and thought, they revealed to communities the world over news from far-off lands, guidance to the soul, and the connection of past to future, place to place, with music acting as the universal bridge for all connection and culture to flourish. Our very own Austin, Texas could easily be seen as a modern equivalent of the sheer depth of cultural connection that music can bring from people to place.
Through our music and stories and history and art and culture, humanity has defined itself in ways that seem opposite but could not fit better together. We express ourselves individually, yet those expressions form our culture – and our culture informs our expression. We function as ourselves within our collective root, and our collective communities tell us who we are. Though our society has long passed the need for individuals to travel the world telling stories and singing songs, the spirit of these traveling musicians lives on in our capacity to share culture with one another through platforms such as OurPangea. We can share our lives, passions, hopes, and dreams from one community to the next, “traveling” through frontiers of cyberspace for one another – as teachers, scholars, friends, advisers, and family. We have combined the possibilities of the future with the unbound spirit of discovery from the past, and the wisdom of yesterday into the culture of tomorrow, all for a better today.
So here at OurPangea, we’re packing our bags and headed for the airport (not literally, of course!) of our next great frontier. We have taken inspiration from Austin’s modern bard scene and from the cultural connections it has brought and we know we can spread it through the world, with everyone starting to dance and sing, clap and play, laugh and cry to the music that we travel with.