Understanding Culture Through Music: Students gain insight about others by listening to and performing music

Written by: 
Sydney Odell & Clover Cheng~Multimedia Journalists

More than 130 students from various cultural backgrounds crowded into the Aloha Center on March 8 for an Intercultural Music Event hosted by the McKay Center. The event aimed to foster understanding through the medium of performance.

With performances in more than 10 languages, representing countries like Indonesia, Samoa and Canada, students had the opportunity to hear both instrumental and vocal ensembles, as well as a Fijian rap number.

“Despite our many differences, we all share a common language in music” said Catherine Castillo, a junior in HTM from Florida, who performed the FIFA World Cup hit song, “Waving Flag,” in Spanish as part of a trilingual rendition alongside several friends. “Music truly is the universal language,” she said.

McKae Joyner, a senior in ICS: Humanities from Washington, was one of the peacebuilders who put on this intercultural night. “I was inspired to expand this event, which was originally a gospel forum last semester, in hopes that more people would be able to perform a variety of pieces,” she said.

“Overall, I just knew this was an important project to take on. I love music, and I love culture so this just seemed like a natural combination of those two ideas. Music truly helps us to understand people and where they come from.”

Katie Kim, a junior in communication from South Korea, was one of the performers who sang on behalf of the Korean Chapter. “Since we were singing a traditional song, we decided to wear our traditional clothes to represent the culture,” said Kim, referring to the womens’ elaborate costumes. “It is a song that we sang during the time we were colonized by Japan. It reminded us of the spirit of Korea, our home.”

Representing the Indonesian Chapter, Ezra Ksatrya, a senior in music, played the piano for a song named “Indonesian Heritage,” which holds a special meaning in their culture. “I wish people could understand Indonesian, so they can understand the story behind the song,” he Ksatrya. “It really is a happy song.”

Halfway through the event, the evening’s host invited students, who felt inspired to come up and perform their cultural song.

Daniel LeBaron, an ICS senior from Utah, jumped at the chance to be on stage performing a Yiddish song named “Shnirele Perele.” “It’s about time we had an informal cultural event like this” LeBaron said. “I was glad I got to share something special about my Jewish heritage.”

“It is sweet for us to see how similar a lot of our music cultures are,” said Aria Een, a senior in music from Nevada. “It’s a great doorway to connect students from different cultures.”