One of the curiosities of this “Internet-era” we live in (and era is used ironically here) is that it breaks down traditional geographic limits in terms of giving an author access to an audience. As I have occasionally mentioned on here, I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. I have been fortunate enough to have spent the last seven years abroad, mostly in the United States, as well as short stints traveling and studying in Europe. I run a blog based in the United Kingdom (due to fortuitous circumstances), and our writers (and readers) are around the globe. In short – have web access, will travel. Despite this interconnectivity, everyone has their conception of home, and local, and of belonging. Music is one of the most powerful tools in triggering these complex memories: a few notes, or a hummed chorus, and we’re transported somewhere else. Our minds have created a thick, embedded correlation between the notes and a set of feelings.
The idea for Quintessentially Local came to me while sitting on the L train in Chicago. I moved to the Windy City a few weeks ago for work, and found myself in a new city, away from friends and familiar faces, and huddled in the added anonymity of rush-hour public transport. I had my big headphones on, and in an effort to stave off the sensory assault (visuals, sounds, and smells) of a packed train car, I turned on “College Dropout”, Kanye West’s 2004 debut album. As the intro skit faded into We Don’t Care, and I peered out of the finger-smudged train window, I began to acquire a new appreciation for the album. It just oozed Chicago out of every soul sample, out of every witty verse, and each line of social commentary. It seemed to me that it was Kanye’s love letter to the city that had seen him grow from a little boy into a man on the verge of greatness (remember that in 2004, Kanye was still best known for making insane beats, not for making insane Tweets). As I rode from Midway Airport into my new life, the lyrics and songs just clicked in a way they never had before, despite the fact that I always loved this album. It gained a new dimension of genius, and my respect for it as a standalone work of art increased even more.
So I posed the question to our writers, and now to you the audience: which albums are Quintessentially Local for you? What artists have created pieces of music that are so inextricably tied to their place of origin that it’s hard to separate them in your mind?
I will go into College Dropout at greater length in my own column later this week, plus a couple of others. Each day this week, one of our authors will talk about his or her own selections. We want to hear about your favourites and suggestions!
With this, I send you off with something that embodies my home country. The inimitable Juan Luis Guerra: