Opinion: Infusing FM with chili peppers, sesame and turmeric

Zayna Quraishi, Managing Editor - Polaris

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“My bad habits lead to late nights endin’ alone.”

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“I do the same thing I told you that I never would.”

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“Well good for you, you look happy and healthy, not me, if you even cared to ask.”

Surprise surprise, the radio’s playing the same three songs again. I switch the channel from 103.5 FM to 96.3 FM, only to find the same song from the other channel starting up again. I sigh, finally taking out my phone to play one of my K-pop playlists, hungry for variety. 

I grew up surrounded by music performed in many different languages, and started incorporating much more American pop into my song rotations when I was in fifth grade. I didn’t know anyone else who listened to foreign music at that age. 

Fast forward to 2021: The U.S. has seen a rise in popularity in world music. More and more people are dissatisfied with the lack of song variety on radio stations. And that means more Americans – young Americans – are becoming fans of foreign music.

Senior Kylie Reid regularly listens to music that’s not in English, and she believes that more exposure to different languages can help increase our global understanding. 

“It’s nice to have something different than the same songs that play on the radio every day,” Reid said. “I [also] think it creates greater appreciation for the language and culture beyond simply learning about it.” 

Listening to music in different languages has also helped me learn more about cultures I knew next to nothing about, and has even helped me relate more to my own culture. Let’s take a look at K-pop: the more I listened to the music and read the English lyric translations, the more I learned about Korean and East Asian cultures, politics, social climates and generational divides. I even learned a bit of some of the languages. Listening to Indian and Middle Eastern music also helped me pick up more of the languages and traditions of my own culture.

Even though there are many benefits to listening to foreign music, and many people enjoy doing so, why do almost all our radio stations play the same cookie-cutter pop songs? And more importantly, how can foreign music become more mainstream?

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Including just two or three songs from various foreign artists in already popular FM radio stations will offer listeners variety and introduce them to new cultures and languages. Including songs by artists like French singer Zaz and South African rapper Fik Fameica will help us push out of the all-English bubble and try something new. It’ll be a breath of fresh air for all of us. 

There may, however, still be some that are resistant to this change. After all, the predominant language in the U.S. is English, so shouldn’t we play English songs on the radio? If we apply that same thought to the rest of the world, that means people in other countries should be restricted to listening to songs exclusively in their native languages. However, that’s not the case. People thousands of miles from the U.S. can recite an Eminem rap verbatim because music is free to move through the world, rising above all barriers. 

Music has the power to transcend boundaries of language, culture and geographical borders. We should be able to broaden our horizons and learn things from each other, especially in a country as diverse as the United States. Different people all over the world are exchanging cultures through music. It’s time more of us start on that journey. 

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