When I was working for a travel agency it was amazing the number of things that I realized go together. Like music and travel. When you think about music and what it does for an individual, you will realize that music is a time machine that gives the listener a chance to travel to another place or time. Maybe because when you watch the music video you can see yourself in that city or that town. Or it gives you a feel of the time that the music was written, the place, situation and circumstances surrounding it. If you were a fan of Tupac you may have identified with California and California love for example! There have been musicians who have made their hometowns famous and turned their cities into tourist places. Think about Elvis Presley and Graceland Mansion – Memphis, the Beatles and Liverpool, and Tupac and California. Some music has also put some cities or states on the map like Rap music and New York City, Jazz and New Orleans, Kwaito, Johannesburg and I could go on and on.
Music has the ability to take us on a journey even without moving from our seats. Many times it makes us curious about the people performing and makes us want to know more about where they are from. There are also die-hard fans that make pilgrimages to see their favourite musicians’ hometowns like Elvis’s Graceland Mansion.
When you travel music can draw you into an adventure, make you feel welcome, and gives you nostalgia for home. Who can forget in Kenya the now famous and overdone Jambo Bwana which is a welcome song for tourists? Or Roger Whittaker’s song my land is Kenya that makes you nostalgic to visit a Kenya that doesn’t exist as it used to when he sang that song.
This video could be a commercial that Kenya Tourism Board was promoting. Then watch this longer video where Roger Whittaker is on safari and you can be enticed to come and experience the culture, the people and the music. Doesn’t it just make you want to come to visit Kenya? There’s something about the way Eric Wainana sings Kenya only (Daima) that makes you feel patriotic and miss home when you’re a thousand miles away. Or the way the Mushrooms gave their music a coastal feel that made Mombasa seem so attractive. There’s even the song narudi ocha (I am going upcountry) which came out when prices of food had gone up. This brought back memories of a simpler time upcountry when mandazis were cheap and bigger than a small karai in shags (I digress).
Music from different regions calls us and tells us to go experience more.
Each place in the world has its own unique rhythm or music. It’s music that’s rich in culture. And when one travels it either draws us in or repels us. Many will travel to music festivals in other countries in order to listen and dance to music that reaches out to them and makes them pack their bags and move. Recently there was the Jazz festival in South Africa which was estimated to draw a crowd of around 38, 000 people (figures from estimates before the concert) from around the world. Can you imagine those numbers and the impact on the economy and the tourism industry? There is no doubt about it, music contributes to the tourism industry and ultimately to the GDP.
We should take music seriously and invest in making our music industry more vibrant. We should also have more musicians singing about their favourite places or towns. It’s fun to stay at the YMCA by the Village People can be poster children for how a company or country can promote their product through music. Even though the song was not originally written for the YMCA it ended up driving up revenues for YMCA from increased accommodation requests. Research needs to be done on the contribution of music to travel and tourism.
Music is a form of travel, a pure form that transports us without cost to another place and time. What is your experience with music and travel?
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