Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Country Music in Riyadh

I must confess I'm a country girl at heart. Growing up in Wyoming without access to MTV pretty much guaranteed that my music tastes run along the lines of 80s power ballads and country music. I'm also a classically trained pianist and vocalist, meaning that I do love and actually understand classical music. Despite years of traveling and living abroad, other forms of music just don't really do it for me.

(Camels in the bed of a truck are a common sight in Riyadh.)

We don't generally listen to music in the car while driving in Riyadh. For one thing, it distracts my husband because he is hypersensitive to sounds while driving. Our radio gets poor reception and the few stations we pick up aren't really conducive to easy listening. Some of the wailing and undulating tones of Arabic music don't really appeal to my western musically trained ear. Occasionally, we get brief moments of an American military channel playing country music.

(My sisters and I at a George Strait concert. George Strait is the quintessential country/western artist.)

As I said, I like country music. However listening to country music while driving through Riyadh is a surreal experience. Popular country songs today sometimes feature an almost aggressively American arrogant attitude that is almost embarrassing to listen to while driving in one of the most conservative Muslim nations in the world.

Songs like Toby Keith's Angry American come to mind. And other songs unique to the genre celebrate small-town America. Listening to songs like "Small Town USA" by Justin Moore is really incongruous to my surroundings. I almost feel a little guilty listening to that kind of music because it almost directly at odds with my current environment. An environment of which I'm keenly sensitive to and understand.

Maybe I feel the incongruity in my life because sometimes I have a hard time reconciling all the pieces of my own life. I grew up in a small town, like the quintessential town Justin Moore sings about. I know people just like he describes. But I wanted a very different life and I've had it. I've lived in three different countries in a ten-year period of time. I call New York state home and visit NYC when I can. I have traveled to many different countries. Heck, I live in the Middle East. I also have a large family which is not something you expect to drag around the world.
(Bubba J pets Bill and Bob, a team of Percheron horses my dad owns. This was taken in Wyoming in January 2013.) 

Sometimes I think we want to put each other into boxes or categories and for things to fit neatly withing those parameters. But I've got ragged edges, overlapping circles, and all sorts of parts of me that don't fit neatly anywhere. I don't think I'm the only person who doesn't fit all the categories defining people. I've stopped trying to fit into something I'm not because I don't want to be limited to one piece of me. Who I am is pretty amazing and I'm not afraid of owning it.

(My sister and I soaking up the Christmas atmosphere in NYC in December 2011.)

What parts of you feel incongruous to other aspects of your life? Do you feel like you are being categorized narrowly?

1 comment:

  1. I was actually just thinking this morning about how far you are from the small town where you grew up. I wonder how many people from your town end up living in Sweden and Saudi Arabia or other distant lands during the course of their lives.
    I wasn't thinking of it as incongruous though, more like experienced, well-traveled, and well-rounded.