Thursday, July 14

Can bowling, Pakistani street music, and square dancing save America?

During the talk I posted earlier about the mathematics of square dancing, the computer scientist Guy Steele mentioned that in an earlier era Americans had ways of getting together in public in groups -- he named bowling, ice skating, square dancing -- that aren't done much today. He added that now they have other ways of getting together, but quickly moved on before someone in the room asked, 'What ways other than political protests?' 

From the stats he gave, square dancing never died out, and I suspect it's set to make a big comeback in the USA. Americans really do need to find ways to get together in public spaces, ways that don't only involve politics, sports events, and getting stoned at dance clubs. 

I thought of this again when I watched Shazia Khushk rock it out on a Pakistani street with a troupe of Sufi musicians and a wildly enthusiastic audience. Shazia, from the Wikipedia article about her, is a Pakistani folk singer of Sindhi, Balochi, Dhatki, Sairaiki, Urdu, Kashmiri, GujratiBrahvi and Punjabi songs who's been awarded an honorary fellowship from Sindh University for Sufi folk music, and named a goodwill ambassador by the U.S. Consulate in Karachi for her performances in at least 45 countries.

But the awards don't convey her ability to get people dancing. She seems made of rhythm. However, Pakistani folk music is itself incredibly infectious; it belongs to the streets and farm fields, never sounding quite right, at least to my ears, when it's confined indoors. Even Shazia seems to droop a bit when she has to sing indoors. Pakistani folk music is meant for occasions -- weddings, harvests -- that are celebrated outside by entire communities.   

For the grinches who say that obviously the music hasn't been able to save Pakistan -- well, watch Shazia in action; maybe the folk music is what's been saving the country from going over the cliff.

Now what do we have for folk music in America? Kumbaya? Actually we have a lot of folk music from before it was taken over by Lefties as a form of political protest. It's just that it doesn't get sung and danced in the streets. We should dust off the more rhythmic folk tunes and come up with new ones; it would be great to have street square dances to celebrate special occasions -- the tax filing deadline, the start of each season, and so on. 

Have fun. (By the way her last name is misspelled in the YouTube title; the proper spelling is Khushk.


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