Good Or Shit: How To Win A Stereo Beef

12 June 2012 | 6:30 pm | Liz Galinovic

Ladino, Judeo-Spanish folk vs progressive house. Two genres enter the ring, only one will leave...

I've always had a thing for foreign folk music. I tend to like all kinds of music depending on my mood for the day and foreign folk music is right up there. Spanish, Latin, Arabic, French, Balkan, North African, and so on. It probably comes down to simple psychology – there is an allure to what is seemingly exotic and what is foreign to us is always exotic. I love the feeling of being musically transported to the desert, when I hear an oud I can almost smell the camels. Call me an orientalist if you like but I prefer to think that I may have been a Bedouin in my past life.

Back when I used to sling sneakers for a living there was a very common argument that occurred in-store amongst the staff. To give a clue – what happens when you get more than one person and a stereo? Beef. Stereo beef happens everywhere, all the time. Most of us at some point have been the victim and the aggressor. This is only intensified in a setting where the tunes you're listening to are the only thing keeping you from whacking some whiny customer who doesn't know their shoe size in the face with a hyper coloured Converse.

There was one particular sneaker-slinging work mate I was always scuffling with in front of the stereo. For some reason he didn't like my foreign music, he didn't understand why I wanted to listen to Yasmin Levy – an Israeli musician stunning in everything from looks to vocals – because, for one, I couldn't understand what she was singing about. But get this – he wanted to turn it off and listen to progressive house.

Yasmin Levy released her first album in 2004. Her music is Ladino, Judeo-Spanish. It's a 500-year-old language and culture that harks back to the Convivencia (coexistence) a period in history when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative peace together in Spain. The language is derived from Spanish and is heavily influenced by Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic as is the music and it's fantastic. Ok, so I don't understand the language, do you really need to in order to be able to enjoy a kind of music? And do you really need to be able to understand a language to be able to understand folk music? What else do folk musicians sing about other than love, heartache, war, and their parents?

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And what is so un-foreign about progressive house? “Elevator music” one of the other staff members used to call it. “Or the kind of thing you expect to hear in an aquarium.”

Just recently, at my bellydancing class (just trying to get back to my past life's roots) I was introduced to a group called Beats Antique which is like the perfect combination of foreign folk and electronic music. I have no doubt that Beats Antique gigs are probably filled with loads of people wearing hemp shirts and furry pants with holes in their ears big enough to use for goal scoring in a ball game, but that doesn't bother me. Now I can be musically transported to exotic places with electronic sounds and heavy bass. I just wish I had known about 'progressive world music' back when my mate and I were fighting over the stereo.