Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Long Tail of Cultural Policy, Cultural Diplomacy Division

A Pakistani version of Brubeck's "Take Five" here. The album is shooting up the charts in the UK, having gone viral. What is interesting, and moving, about this story is not just the music itself (I would have hoped for more drumming and some improv from the sitarist, and maybe a south Indian violinist solo as well, though perhaps the full version of the song, which I have not yet heard, goes further than the clip), but the spirit of "freedom, and live-and-let-live" that the millionaire Pakistani underwriter decribes, returning musicians to work after the repression that crushed them back in the 1980s.

This story also tells us several important things about cultural policy. First, that the longterm impact of cultural diplomacy can be very longterm: Brubeck, Ellington, et. al. visited Pakistan back in the 1950s as part of a State Department-run Cold War cultural diplomacy initiative. It is not completely clear how, or to what degree, that tour left seeds in Pakistani culture that emerged here, but that would be a story well worth pursuing.

The other interesting cultural policy feature of this story is what it says about the recording industry today. Marketing did not create the hit: building an Abbey Road-style recording studio in Pakistan made the hit possible, a hit that in turn helped strengthen so-called Western values associated with the music. So a cultural diplomacy initiative today might well draw lessons about how to encourage politically-progressive spirit in other countries by running programs that empower musicians and artists more generally to explore hybridized idioms of expression.

1 comment:

Nate Rabe said...

I am currently listening to Sachal Ensemble's latest album which is really good. The connecting threads of an event such as Ellington and Brubeck's (and Satchmo's) visit to Pakistan and India are indeed long. Hard to argue with such cultural diplomacy.