The echoes and rhythm of a drum do not stop at boarders; instead, a drumbeat fluidly moves across the world. Here at Bates, integrated music classes and the Steel Pan Orchestra are a few ways for students to get a taste of the international music world without leaving Lewiston.
As one of the integrated music professors at Bates, Shamou brings all of his life experiences to his students. Born in Tehran and drumming since the age of five, Shamou traveled the globe before coming to the United States and studying at the Berkley College of Music in Boston. In an interview, Shamou notes that he was always exposed to international music. All throughout his childhood Shamou remembers, “listen[ing] to western music as well as classical.”
It was at Berkley where all his experiences finally “glued together in a massive way” because at this college there was “quite a bit of interest in world music.” While at Berkley, Shamou joined ten different global music ensembles, all of which helped him understand what a global sound really entailed. One of the many reasons that Shamou enjoys global music is because “it [brings] us together from all over the world. Musicians from Afghanistan, Italy, Israel, Alaska, Africa, South America and Russia, just to name a few.” People from completely different and diverse backgrounds get together and find commonalities in their music. Music helps bridge the divide between these many different countries. To Shamou, “world music is a gathering of all cultures from the four corners of the world.”
Taking his experience from Berkley, Shamou is able to apply the globalized music he learned to help his students in their area of study. Instead of having a set lesson plan, this teacher prefers to have the students take the lead in their course of study. Shamou recalls that working with different students “calls for different tools and sets of different information” because not one student will learn the same way. The teacher has just as much to learn as the student in many cases, and to Shamou “teaching is a two way street.”
To promote the enjoyment of transnational music, Shamou conducted an International Drumming Jam in the Fireplace Lounge of Commons where students could come try their hand at drumming. Even without going into the Fireplace Lounge, the reverberation of the drums were felt throughout Commons, drawing all the diners into the same experience – even if only for a little while.
Senior Benjamin Cuba worked with Shamou many times. Cuba “took one-on-one Applied Music Lessons with [Shamou], learning about drumming styles, instrumental phrasing, and the cultural make-up of African diasporic music.” For Cuba, he knew he wanted to focus on African music, thus drawing upon a niche of Shamou’s skills and taking a different direction than another student may have gone.
The relationship between student and teacher grew and now the two accompany dance classes and workshops. In the winter semester of 2015, they accompanied Dante Brown’s Modern dance class, played together at the Bates Dance Festival this past summer, and currently play for Carol Dilley’s Modern class.
Carol Dilley, chair of Theatre and Dance, notes “we hire [Shamou] to play with most of our classes at some point during the semester so that students all have the opportunity to dance with live music interaction. It is completely different than dancing to a CD.”
Furthermore, this year the Music Department is revitalizing the Steel Pan Orchestra. This ensemble was on hiatus last year but is now under new leadership with Duncan Hardy as its director. Gina Fatone, chair of the Music Department, emphasizes that this department is “interested in all global varieties of musical expression here at Bates, and the Steel Pan Orchestra is part of the diversity of musical experience that we strive to offer.” While almost any genre of music can be played on a steel pan, calypsos, a type of Afro-Caribbean music, is traditionally the most popular.
Global music is a way for college students to escape the Ivory Tower in which we accidentally lock ourselves. Instead of solely listening to the stereotypical Top 40s radio station, venturing outside the norm and into the world of international music proves to be an excursion worth taking.