Can race influence your music skill?

Music is interpreted and performed differently all over the world, which is what makes it so interesting. An African American youth may not have any Middle Eastern music in his collection but may nod their head to a Hip Hop beat that has a Middle Eastern sample loop in it. Music is diverse, however most people tend to associate a genre of music with an ethnic group or country, which may not seem logical, however does it mean that that ethnic group are only able to play that kind of music? Is playing a certain instrument e.g. a Sitar only possible if you are Indian?

It does actually seem that way with certain genres of music, simply because you may never see anybody outside that ethnic group playing that particular instrument. But the reality is, anybody can play any instrument if they learn and study it. It does have a lot to do with culture and the way you grew up too though. A good example is music in the far east where education may encourage people to stick to strict rules and formulas in music which of course is the opposite for Jazz and improvisation which is said to have come from the west. Even a professional Japanese musician may have difficulty if you take away the score and ask them to improvise. Just listening to Jazz only may not even help either, they would need to immerse themselves in the music by frequently playing with jazz players to get the feel of how improvisation works. By doing that, they would soon see that improvisation is not completely random at all. It is like a Hip-Hop freestyle, you learn / memories mini sections and then you string them all together with an end results appearing to be random.

There are of course Japanese who have purposely immersed themselves in music from other cultures from a young age, therefore playing no different to the ethnics associated with that type of music. E.g. Takuya Kuroda who is a an Jazz Afro Beat trumpet player who performs in New York.

Takuya Kuroda

If you listen to Indian singers, especially women, you would think that such a tone and voice property is only achievable by Indians. But I have heard an African man sing perfect Indian music. If I close my eyes I would think it’s an Indian.

Here in Japan there are TV shows with foreigners signing Japanese Enka, the traditional “Soul music” of Japan. Some of these guys are perfect, and some don’t even understand the Japanese language.

Some instruments simply don’t follow any of the scales we may use in the west, giving them a unique sound. If I play a 1,2b, 3,4,5, 6b while you close your eyes, you would imagine me as a Middle Eastern musician. A lot of Arabic and Middle Eastern music has quite a simple rhythm, it’s just the unusual scales you have to learn and get used to, you would probably have more of a challenge trying to play Blues and Jazz.

Some cultures and/or communities are simply closed off and not open to outsiders, therefore it may seem that only the indigenous people can play their music, when of course this is not true.

Physical ability 

Short fingers are said to be a disadvantage for playing the piano but not impossible. Chords can be inverted and other tricks and adjustments can be made to order for you the reach the keys. Certain famous written pieces maybe difficult but they can always be tweaked to suit your playing.

Beat Deafness – This is the rare disorder of somebody not being able to move or sync to a rhythm or beat. Anything musical would be impossible, especially the drums and bass which are the most important for holding the rhythm and tempo.

2 thoughts on “Can race influence your music skill?”

  1. No relation to race at all but it does help if you have been brought up in an environment which often plays a certain music genre.

  2. No but being brought in a community surrounded by a certain sound from a young age will make it much easier for you to learn a style. Children from a music orientated family are more likely to become musicians then children who are not.

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