Making a study of it

Die-hard fans of some musicians and actors make it their duty to learn everything they possibly can about them and then retain what they would have learned so that they are able to rattle off all of the statistics whenever they need to make a point. Some fans have won prizes from being able to answer quiz questions about celebrities. And while the lucre must be good, the perception is that more often than not, they learn and retain the information out of love and loyalty.

It is much easier now for the legions of fans around the world who follow some celebs to keep their fingers on the pulse. They no longer have to wait for magazines and newspapers or depend on radio and television; the internet has made all the difference. Not that you can believe everything you read/see online. But no true die hard will be caught out like that; they know to sift dirt to find the diamonds.

Which brings us to the latest news: Britain has just taken a decision to add Beatles music to its General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) formerly General Certificate of Education (GCE) curriculum and come June 2017, British 16-year-old high-school students could be writing exams based on songs by the ‘Fab Four’ as they were known. The songs selected are “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Within You, Without You” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

20140104culture boxThis is certainly not the first time that pop music would be studied academically, or rather pop artists, though it might be the first time it is being introduced at this level. In universities in the US, there have been courses on such subjects as ‘The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Urban Theodicy of Jay Z’, ‘Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame’ and ‘The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur’ among others.

Last year January, Rutgers University introduced a new course called ‘Politicizing Beyoncé’ in its Women’s and Gender Studies Department. But far from this being simply a study of pop culture, the course explores race, gender and sexual politics in modern America.

The University of Victoria in Canada, on the other hand, offers a far more literal ‘Beyoncé’ course that explores the situation of popular music as a cultural construct.

It looks at feminism, sexuality, social media and authenticity of Beyoncé’s music and students are expected to listen to and study her music.

Then there is the University of Texas which just started offering a gender studies course looking at Beyoncé and Rihanna, dealing with various aspects of black feminism such as violence, economic opportunity, sexuality, standards of beauty, and creative self-expression.

More often than not nowadays, teenagers and young people can be found ‘plugged in’ – they have earphones on and they are listening to music of some sort. It might not be the best thing in the world but it’s reality. It has been tried and tested too that a lot of learning takes place when lessons are set to music; look at how well we all learned to sing the alphabet and various nursery rhymes that we would have struggled to grasp otherwise.

But beyond that, except for the absolutely inane there are messages in music. Sometimes the message is direct, other times it’s subliminal and requires critical thinking; sometimes all of the people who listen to the same music don’t get the same message. This surely makes the study of it worthwhile.

Meanwhile, with Britain having led the way in its GCSE curriculum, how likely is it that the Caribbean Examinations Council could do the same in its Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exam or even its Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE)? It has introduced Theatre Studies after all. Is there any likelihood of the complexities of singers like Bob Marley, Chronixx, Sparrow, Machel Montano, Eddy Grant or Charmaine Blackman finding place on a Caribbean curriculum for serious study? You tell me.

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