Which cultures do we tend to undervalue?

Large and insular ones.  The Cape Verde islands produce music which is immediately accessible, whether or not you are a local or an insider.  The music could not have flourished as it has without external support; the same is true for Jamaican reggae.

On the other hand, you might find that Chinese music sounds like screeching cats being murdered.  But in reality, you probably should accept the old saw that 1.3 billion (or however many) people can’t be wrong.  Get used to the idea that musical timbre can be as important as traditional harmony, or that shrill voices, loud gongs, and droning background instruments can make for fun.

If you are looking for some Chinese music that won’t offend your Western ears, try the pipa (think elaborate Chinese lute) player Min Xiao-Fen.  Here is her home page and some press quotes.  Here is a disc to buy.  But don’t expect all Chinese music to be so easy.

What about sea cucumber?  The Chinese love the culinary texture of smoothness, even if you don’t.  Jellyfish is yummy and crunchy, and don’t forget chicken kidney boiled with fishhead.  (For real Chinese food in Northern Virginia, try China Star of Fairfax, or Saigon Palace, at Seven Corners, Falls Church, they have the kidney dish, and yes I know Saigon is in Vietnam but a Hong Kong entrepreneur just bought out the old place). 

Are you curious and looking for new cultural adventures?  Or just seeking a new and difficult way to signal your sophistication?  You probably alrerady grasp island cultures relatively well.  Spend your marginal time and energy on learning the creations of large and remote foreign territories.


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