The music of Julia Hydes

Part II:
The music of Julia Hydes

We start a brand new series this month with part one of
Natasha Kozaily’s thesis for her BA in Music, focusing on the music of Julia
Hydes.

John Blacking said music is ‘humanly organised sound’
meaning we are as essential in the creation of music as music is to us.

Music, both in production and reception informs and
reflects certain human behaviours. It is deeply rooted in culture, just as
food, dress or language.  Therefore it is
in music that we can find the answers to questions we all ask ourselves: Who am
I? Where am I from? And where am I going? As a Caymanian it is only natural
that I begin the discovery of my own identity by asking the question, what is
Caymanian music? 

This question is far from simple and can be the topic of
research and investigation for years. When I first asked myself what Caymanian
music was, I immediately thought of the current musical-political debate that
has been a part of the music scene in Grand Cayman.  It is an ongoing debate that finds its self
in all aspects of Caymanian society today and one that stems from the question
of identity.

What is it to be Caymanian? In regards to the issue of Caymanian
music, everyone has their own ideas, but I will briefly outline a few
predominant views. Some believe that Caymanian music is anything that sounds
‘Caribbean’ like reggae or calypso. Others believe that Caymanian folk music is
the true representation of Caymanian music. Another general viewpoint is the
belief that if music is composed by a Caymanian then it can be considered
‘Caymanian music’.

And finally there is the opinion that Cayman does not have a
native music or culture and that everything is an import.  While, my aim is not to examine these
viewpoints or attempt to define Caymanian music within these pages, I believe
that Caymanian music cannot be defined in such simple terms and that music is
just as complex and diverse as the society we live in today. My search for
Caymanian music starts at the very beginning with the mysterious and unstudied
traditional folk music of the Cayman Islands.

While growing up in Grand Cayman, I don’t remember ever
hearing a kitchen band play or listening to Caymanian folk songs. While
studying music in high school I learnt about the history of western classical
music and even the traditional music of India or Africa, but never about the
music of my own country.  This may be due
to the lack of research and resources or a lack of interest in the musical
traditions of Cayman. This project is a gift to the people of the Cayman
Islands. 

Many theorists such as Philip Bohlman have highlighted
the idea that through the study of folk music we can not only find the origins
of all musical genres but the common origins of the human species or of all
cultures as well.  Why does folk music so
often exist in confined repertories and cultures and as a genre of “national
music”  These speculations lead many
ethnomusicologists to debate and evaluate the importance of their work and
areas of study.  In return, I ask myself
the same questions:  why am I interested
in studying Caymanian folk music?  Why is
it important?  There are many theories
and problems regarding the purpose of the ethnomusicologist which several
persons have tried to define. Alan Merriam, in Purposes of Ethnomusicology: An
Anthropological View, outlines a few main concepts which I feel reflect my
passions and reasons for the study of Caymanian folk music.

In Merriam’s ‘White
Knight’ and ‘Duty of Preservation’ concepts, the ethnomusicologist’s purpose is
to defend the music of ‘others’ and preserve the music of the folk as it is
fast disappearing in many non-literate societies. Western cultures often view
the ‘others’ music as inferior and unworthy of study. As an ethnomusicologist
and due to my personal investment in this project as a Caymanian, I see myself
as the ‘White Knight’ whose duty it is to aid in the conservation and study of
this music before it diminishes.

A final incentive for this project, which I have always
been a firm believer in, is the concept of communication. Alan Merriam divides
this concept into three different approaches: firstly, music as a form of
communication between and among people, second, music as a reflection of the
values, goals and attitudes of a people, and thirdly, ethnomusicology as an
agency of international understanding. To understand a people you must
understand their culture.

Ethnomusicology is the study of music in culture and
therefore provides an outlet to communicate and understand a people through
music.  Through her music, Miss Julia
Hydes communicates her story and the story of the Cayman Islands and their
people. By writing this project in an outside institution, I am communicating
this exploration of her music to a foreign audience. These modes of
communication enable national and international understanding among people.
Through the study of folk music we have limitless learning potential about
ourselves, others and our shared humanity.

It is upon this
basis of preservation and communication that I begin my search in uncovering
what there is to learn about the people of the Cayman Islands through Julia
Hydes and her Music.

It is my wish that this project will help the people of
Cayman to better comprehend, recognise and cultivate their own musical
heritage.

While I have made the decision to limit the focus of this
ethnomusicology project on the study of Julia Hydes and her music, it is also
my hope to direct interested readers to other literature.

Other scholars and
musicologists may ultimately explore and generate the more broadly inclusive
panoramas that the subject of Caymanian folk music requires.

 

Editors Note: 
Natasha Kozaily is a young Caymanian musician, singer–songwriter and
painter.  For more info visit
www.natashakozaily.com

 

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