May 1, 2007
At the park by the canal, Place de la Republique, I was reading an article the other day about the globalization of music. Setting the book down, I heard the distinct sound of someone rapping. On a bench across the lawn were four men. Two of them took turns rapping while the other two "beat-boxed," creating complex rhythms with their mouths. They rocked their torsos forward in time with the bass sounds. All four appeared to be in their mid twenties, dressed in a dark-tone, form-fitting, stylish French-way.
Looking around, it was obvious they had the impressed attention of half the park. Two older, grey haired men in sport coats on a nearby bench folded their newspapers and arms, and sat discreetly tapping their feet with grins of curiosity. A young mother lifted her infant out of the stroller, holding the child under the armpits to watch the music. Ten minutes later the rappers took a break and I went back to my book.
The article was specifically about Japanese hip-hop. Around me as I read, the park hummed with a light, rhythmic chorus of conversations, of teenagers laughing, of musical instruments, and the white noise of nearby traffic. Patches of
afternoon light pierced through a tree with small, round leaves like a brush dipped in canary yellow paint, to shine on my book.
I read about how musicians in Japan have made the American musical form of rap their own by infusing it with issues of homegrown significance. Addressing a greater concern that globalization is depleting localized cultures, Condry, the author, notes that Japanese hip-hop is written and performed by Japanese speaking people, from Japanese
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