I felt I needed to get this out of my chest as a sort of unburdening to the musicians among us, for this has been on my mind over the past few days.
From my pictures and videos here on NG as well as on YouTube, I think you can all deduce that I am at least "ambiguously brown," and certainly not white. That's fine by me. : ) I happen to be of Indian descent.
Now, let me make it clear that I'm not the least bit bothered about ethnicities, or even taking pride in ethnic origins. I was raised a second (possibly third?) culture kid, partly by the choice of my parents and partly by my own preference. I have next to no attachment to my ancestry... I've long seen myself as my own person.
Some of you will have at least heard or seen me play the bodhrán -- that Irish frame drum -- and at least attempt to play it well. I'll still admit this is my favourite drum, and trad music from along this side of the world tends to really beckon to me.
Okay, you may say, no problem! We've had unlikely people playing unlikely instruments. We've had taiko drummers of all ethnicities. We've had Norah Jones, the daughter of Ravi Shankar, excel as a jazz singer. Where's the problem in that?
Well I recently had someone remind me to take pride in being Indian, like how he took pride in his own cultural heritage. He asked (probably out of curiosity) if I never took interest in traditional Indian music.
I said no, I never did (and truth be told, I never will. It's just not my thing, at all.) My heart isn't in it at all. My mother once asked out of curiosity if I would be interested in this kind of stuff; I said no.
To which he replied, just because you study one music form in your childhood doesn't mean you would wind up in it forever.
Honestly speaking, if I had not received the musical education I had received -- which was classical piano under the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music -- I wouldn't even have the musical skill I have today, let alone the style or the ethereal vocals. I wanted music that could be practical for me at all times. I sing in church, and I am an organist and percussionist whenever needed -- which basically doubles as the reason why I would want a classical education. As for my leaning towards British and Irish folk music... well, that comes with the territory, really. Plus the rules of tonality are almost similar, if not completely similar, to that which I had been taught. I picked up the bodhrán because a close friend of mine encouraged me to pick it up, in response to my complaints that I had urges to beat out a rhythm, but had no access to a drum.
As an artist, one expresses what is in one's heart. Yes, I'm probably going to raise a number of eyebrows coming out there with a bodhrán in a trad session in a pub, or a céilidh (a dance gathering), or somewhere else, just by being who I am. But I cannot let that hold me down. I'll never be English or Scottish or Irish or Breton by descent -- but in many ways I have gone against the grain of what I am expected to be, both musically and with regards to my ethnicity. Heaven knows if there are any dark-skinned bodhrán players out there. There are none on YouTube, at least none that I can see, apart from myself. Correct me if I'm wrong. But if I am correct, then let me be the first: there always has to be a first for everything.
Fact still remains that in my heart, I will always know that I'm not doing it for brownie points (pardon the pun!), or to attract people along the lines of "OH HEY LOOK AT HER SHE'S NOT IRISH BUT SHE CAN CERTAINLY ROCK IT" -- no, none of that. I do it because it's my passion, I love the mere sound of it, and I've been able to play and/or record personal stuff with it -- improvisations, hymns etc. A musician has to be passionate about what he plays in order to reach out to others in the deepest possible manner. This is my passion; I lean towards musical forms which are in no way associated with my presumed native culture at all.
I once confided in @Krash17 about the fact that I'm an unlikely bodhrán player, as well as my influences.
His response was simply: "Fight the power. Music is for everyone."