What a big city sounds like

Barcelona has nothing to do in terms of modern music with the rest of Catalonia, which is at the same time radically different than Spanish scene. I think every place has its own peculiarities, but nowadays the main differences are between big cities and, let's say, the rest. Barcelona is similar to Madrid, similar to Bilbao, to Paris, London and Berlin.

The sense of capitality makes big cities' inhabitants more receptive to foreign musical inputs than local expression. If you live in a big city you have tons of import-record shops to buy at, hundreds of free-newspapers which talk about tendencies in arts and fashion. You have plenty of stores to buy the newest guitar or computer software. And, amongst all, there's a lot of people around you that puts pressure in the pot and makes you need more and more modern and ultimate issues. In the other side, if you live in a more isolated place, or in a small town, you can easily decide that the newest fashions and trends are not your war, because you simply can't follow its urgency and speed, and you probably don't need to!

That's why people in general and artists in particular who live far from a big big city find some confort in tradition, roots, and somehow more humanistic and less trendy interests. This huge contrast is nowadays the rule that works, and that makes all big cities pretty much the same in terms of musical scenes. That's possibly what they call globalisation: where ultimate technology and access to knowledge and culture is, the less you'll find local expression. And if you live in Berlin and come to Barcelona you'll find the same DJ sessions along with the same indie-rock underground music, the same mainstream big stadiums concerts and the same bunch of ethnic, hybrid musical bands that mix the particular folk expressions of the immigrants that form them. Fusion is probably the newest issue in big cities musical scene: a drummer from Argentina meets a bass player from Senegal who meets a keyboardist from Holland and an percussionist from Morocco, who along with a local guitar player set up a band. That's not typical from Barcelona, it's typical in every single european big city.

In the other side, another peculiarity of musicians in Barcelona (or other capitals), is that almost all musicians are musicians just because they can afford it. Everybody knows that not every good musician can live off playing music. Musical instruments need some money to spend on them; and many of those who play music can do it because of a musical background that many times is given by buying records, going to concerts, and being as ultimate as the city pushes you to be. And you need money for that. That's why most of the people I know who work actively in Barcelona's musical scene, professional or not but dedicated, are not low working class. In fact, most of them have studies, or have a nice car, cause they have a middle-upper class status. So in one hand you have the rich kids playing guitars and in the other hand the immigrants playing Djembe. And that's pretty much all of it. Where's local expression here? Well, the fact that this happens at this time in this city is a cultural undeniable truth. Nowadays culture in a big city is exactly this. And culture outside a big city is something different. Closer to traditional culture, tending to use local language, Catalan and not Spanish or English as in Barcelona. Is that good or bad? Is that something we should fight against? Is that something that the governments should correct? I don't thing so. Culture is what happens, not what someone wants to happen.

Eric Fuentes
Member of Barcelona's rock band The Unfinished Sympathy

8 thoughts on “What a big city sounds like

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