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The Segregated Party World: An International Reflection

It will be a while before we can enjoy one of my favorite past-times: turning up (partying) overseas. In fact one thing I miss the most is partying overseas, since it taught me a significant deal about life in segregationist America. In every country I have been to, I have done my research and gone out to party like a rockstar with the locals.

You may be asking yourself: “why take the time to party overseas?” or maybe you’re in the “Yeah I ALWAYS need to let loose abroad” camp. In either way, being the dance-loving, international music-hoarding, social butterfly that I am — even the international clubbing experience is a cultural learning tool while abroad. It is, and has been one a long observation for me, that partying overseas is much more enjoyable given my personal preferences for a diverse range of music. With maybe 85% of my travels including going to some version of a club/lounge/bar I learned a few things about partying here in my hometown of New York City.

1. Generally speaking, popular music (or what we consider Top 40/Pop music in the States) includes music from around the world and from a variety of artists. Unless you go to a themed-specific club overseas, you will hear everything from European dance music, African artists, Reggae artists, Hip-Hop/Rap, and other international artists we have never heard of. 2. Club audiences welcome and are familiar with these variety of tunes and we as Americans are often left with looking dumbfounded when an entire crowd bursts into loud singing, hype-man/woman antics, and overall joy at hearing certain tunes.

3. American artists sometimes release songs internationally that are not played here in the States OR you only learn about a song by venturing out of your own hometown. I remember partying in Istanbul and hearing the collab “Wiggle” by Jason Derulo and Snoop Dogg with my mind being blown at how hot the track was, how hype everyone was hearing it, and why the hell I had never even knew this song existed.

While I will admit, it is always exciting to hear the songs you know and love overseas (I mean I still get hype when I hear throwback Sean Paul in a random club like I did in Sydney, Australia way back in 2005) —when I think about my experiences partying overseas compared to what I used to do here in New York, I learned that even in our music and cultural consumption we are segregated.

And we’ve been conditioned to expect ONLY what we want to hear. Think about it: going to a Reggae bashment in Brooklyn means that the BREAK music is a quick Hip-Hop set from any era of present, early 2000’s and/or 90’s depending on the age group or the DJ’s desire to span a few decades. Same if you go to a Hip-Hop party where the BREAK music is a 15 minute Reggae mix with the same hits from over 10 years ago that do NOT reflect the newest and hottest of Reggae/Dancehall productions.

Afrobeats JUST came onto the Black music scene about 1.5-2 years ago thanks to Davido, Burna Boy, and mainstream radio playing more of those songs during daytime DJ rotations and the Don’t Rush challenge on social media. My absolute FAVORITE music of Konpa is still relatively unknown except for when the DJ is making his obligatory tour around the Caribbean and shouting out each island specifically.

Now, if you party in Manhattan, you’ll hear Top 40: read popular WHITE music, EDM, and definitely the same staple of vanilla-friendly Hip-Hop tracks that continue to make TI & DMX relevant to white folks. Did I ever mention how much I can’t stand “Bring ‘Em Out” and “Up in Here...” Like I know y’all music and this ain’t hittin’ for me and it never will in all the 50 countries I’ve heard it play!

If you travel across state lines, like I did when I went to college, it was only then that I was introduced to E40’s Tell Me When to Go, and the chill bops of the West Coast. In an equivocal exchange I remember teaching my roommate how to wine to Dancehall classics. Never mind the fact that Southerners had no clue what was going on in these songs I had to slowly feed to the DJs at those parties all those years ago.

Not much has changed, except a supposed awakening amongst some people, but we have a lot of work to do. I’ve had small glimpses of the look of rejection when people have never heard of a song that truly is amazing - but isn’t instantly what they know. This alone makes partying overseas vastly different and more enjoyable.

Corona has exposed so much about our lives here in America, and while partying seems trivial - it speaks volumes to how we consume, indulge, and accept (or in in our cases, REJECT) opportunities to grow in even the smallest ways. Whenever I travel, one thing I do with the in-flight entertainment is listen to the local artists to see what I like. I’ve gotten exposed to some dope ass music simply doing that before landing. I’ve even heard some of those in-flight tunes at the parties I wound up at!

Going out, when I hear a banger, I make sure to have that Shazaam at the ready. And when I’m feeling bold, I just ask the DJ to tell me the name of that song! If only we could be as open on the dance floor maybe we could bridge even more divides. It may sound idealistic, but I definitely don’t want to hear the same old tunes once outside reopens.


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