Music is the heartbeat of our culture. Listen, and you’ll start to hear the roar of many beating drums. But listen closely, and you’ll notice the distinguished members of a drumline pounding—many drums, one sound. Close your eyes—breathe it in—and you’ll understand that the thunder you feel inside your soul isn’t that of many drums, but one.
Let’s begin. In 1972, Bill Withers began the steady beat with his R&B-folk mix, “Who is He and What is He to You?” with which he subtly betrayed man’s jealous heart and disguised his envy with the sound of drums.
Creative Source echoed that sound in 1973 with their infectious cover of Withers’ original piece. It featured his characteristic backbone with a satisfying rock and roll twist.
Years later, LL Cool J, a 90s rapper took the already familiar beat and re-worked its sound to create his unique and lively hip hop dance record, “Phenomenon,” that charmed a nation with its rolling soul jam-party fusion.
In the wake of Cool J’s “Phenomenon,” Punjabi singer, Amar Arshi joined the chorus in 2000 with “Kala Chasma,” a genuine Bollywood hit. Arshi flawlessly blended his 1990 Bollywood record, “Tenu Kala Chasma Jajta Ve” with LL Cool J’s 90s club hit to create a complexity and depth of sound quite uncommon for its time. Arshi’s new sound distinguished both musicians as he brought Cool J’s lyrics to life once again.
Now, almost half of a century later, Withers, Creative Source, LL Cool J, and Arshi’s soul invading sounds have been awakened once more in the 2016 Bollywood movie, Baar Baar Dekho, featuring an upbeat remix of Arshi’s 2000s hit sung by artists Amar Arshi, Badshah, Neha Kakkar, and Indeep Bakshi. Lead actors in the upcoming Bollywood film will be Sidharth Malhotra and Katrina Kaif, taking the roles of two lovers whose story is told through a series of flashbacks and flash forwards.
The evolution of Withers’ original beat and its permeation into many musical genres displays the universality of modern music. Cuepoint Journalist, Stephen Horowitz, says “Genres exist because consumers find comfort in categorization… they’re subscribing to terms of an invisible hand that can, in turn, limit listeners without their realization.” Like the divisions between dissimilar language and culture, the compartmentalization of music only reflects the compartmentalization of our global culture. Music’s heartbeat betrays the truth that despite our obvious differences—despite our many unique sounds—we are truly one in humanity.
One heart, one beat, one body. Music is the heartbeat of our culture, and our mutual humanity is betrayed by the sound of our music.