'Global Beat Fusion': New Music for Ancient Rituals

Producer Derek Rath looks at the new book Global Beat Fusion: The History of the Future of Music. Author Derek Beres compares the contemporary worldwide club scene to ancient shamanistic rituals.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Maybe kids in Spain aren't getting enough sleep because they're spending all their nights in local dance clubs listening to the booming bass of electronic music. Now there's a book by deejay and music writer Derek Beres that examines the connection between the hypnotic bass and drums of a nightclub and the drumbeat of ancient rites and rituals. Produce Derek Rath has that story.

(Soundbite of song)

OJOS DE BRUJO: (Singing in Spanish)

DEREK RATH reporting:

The Spanish flamenco group Ojos de Brujo is a classic example of global beat fusion, uniting local folk and spiritual music with electronica for an urban audience.

(Soundbite of song)

OJOS DE BRUJO: (Singing in Spanish)

RATH: So what does the dance club scene have in common with Sanskrit teachings, yoga or the poetry of Rumi? Derek Beres explains in his new book "Global Beat Fusion: The History of the Future of Music." The book chronicles electronic music from the 19th century through to the present day and also references writers such as mythologist Joseph Campbell and futurist Alan Watts. Beres emphasizes how global fusion differs from those of pop music's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll camp or the rave scene.

Mr. DEREK BERES (Author, "Global Beat Fusion"): My point of entry for electronic music was the dance club, you know, dancing at 5, 6 in the morning when it really gets going, which I consider just a modern extension of a shamanic ritual where, you know, it's this ecstatic gathering of people who are all around the music. The drum and--or now the bass, but the drum is really what leads people into this frenzy. And just because its coming through speakers instead of live hands doesn't change the effect it can have on people.

RATH: His own personal odyssey began after hearing the great Pakistani Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a classical artist who, like many others, was bridging the gap between the traditional and the contemporary.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: In the book, Beres makes the connection between traditional trance music and today's deejay culture.

Mr. BERES: Because the deejays are the modern shamans who control the room and bring the spirit of music to people and put it together as a soundtrack for people to have their experience to.

RATH: These deejays are spreading the music of American artists like Bill Laswell, who has experimented for years with many different ethnic music sources.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: But global fusion isn't just for Western artists borrowing from other cultures.

Mr. BERES: It's not being created just by Americans or not Americans at all. I mean, the people--you know, Mercan Dede, you know, he's Turkish. He's from Turkey. He lives in Canada and Turkey now, but he's trying to do that with the reed flute that he loves and with his electronic excursions. And there's people everywhere I'm coming across who are doing this in their homeland.

(Soundbite of flute music)

RATH: According to Beres, one of the reasons for the growth of global fusion in the West is a need to redress the post-9/11 culture of fear and the demonization of many Arab and Muslim cultures.

Mr. BERES: Middle Eastern Arabic music has become so meaningful to my life and to so many people as well in America. Really, you know, the instrumentation is just gorgeous and really, really beautiful. When they see somebody who might be wearing a turban or dressed in a kurta or wearing some sort of, you know, the beard or anything in these images that maybe they start to see the music and the devotional aspect rather than, you know, the backpack and what's inside of that.

RATH: Beres points out in the book that the trancelike effect on the dance floor has much in common with ancient music forms such as Sufi dervish, Native American ceremonial chants and the rhythms of Africa, a spirit Beres wants to return to.

Mr. BERES: We've really lost a sense that music, at root, is a ritual affair that is both communal in the way that it brings societies and people together and is also a sort of connective tissue between the individual and their divinities.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: With such a diverse subject matter, "Global Beat Fusion: The History of the Future of Music" is not a book about music alone. It's about a growing worldwide community that's searching for a shared experience without politics or corporate involvement, and it could fill many different slots on the bookshelf. For NPR News, this is Derek Rath in Los Angeles.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. We'll be right back with more of DAY TO DAY.

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