Cultural Gulfs In Developing Markets #1: BlueGrass, Soukous, & 9 Mile

The Urban v. Rural path of development is a common theme in this blog.   "Emerging markets" in Brazil, China, South Africa, India, Egypt and Indonesia have their own "story of stuff".    For 3B3K (three billion people earning $3000 dollars per year) internet = entertainment.   It's a whole mass media market creating a demand for "good enough" devices.  These markets now produce/consume more "stuff" than rich nations do, but they also reuse and repair devices, like rich nations did 25 years ago.

Afrikan Marilyn Manson Die Antwoods Volandi Visser
Huge factories devoted to refurbishment of good enough display devices served these markets for the past 20 years.  They deserved more credit than they got in the "E-Waste Toxic Dump" press.  Unfortunately, I'm the only person writing about it, and I've been labelled.  This "well is poisoned".

But what about the demand, the noise, the hunger for music and videos coming from inside those cities?
How are the new hyper-cities like Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou (a metropolis with a population as large a Japan) incorporating music and culture from the rural areas migrants came from, and how are those sounds changing when infused with world pop?  When we call six billion people "the third world", we put megacities into the same category as Somalian refugee camps.

We talking about a very cosmopolitan three billion people, my friends.

Most Americans don't get overseas to non-OECD countries much.  The closest most of us get to India is listening to second generation Sri Lankan singer MIA's Paper Planes song.  Die Antwoord and Yolandi Vi$$er sing "I fink u freeky"?   The South African youtube video has 43 million views with zero USA air play.

Those of us who travel to emerging markets often go through a "honeymoon of gawking".  We tend to point our cameras at the most stereotypical poverty we can find.   "I was here".   Baled cardboard from Chinese shopping malls on the back of trucks?  Who wants to photograph something we see every day in Vermont or Oklahoma or Missouri?   But a Chinese person with cardboard tied in a bundle on a bicycle?  "Click and Share, You Were There!"  Exoticism is natural, even if the people being photographed eventually deserve a cut of the poverty porn photography.

Go go Egypt.  Picture sitting on camel, check.  Picture of Sphinx, check.   Picture of woman carrying 1981 Zenith on her head, carrying child in arm.  Check.

But no one under the age of 30 in the emerging markets - and that's a HUGE percentage - identifies at all with that.  They roll their eyes.  They identify with streaming music and videos, soccer stars, and underdogs.  They want the best tech they can afford.

My son, 17 and a half, is the median age of the average Afghan.   Last night, he shared some new music with me.  He attends United World College (bragging father alert - full scholarship, his best subjects are Econ and Spanish, his third language - he got transferred to native speakers class).  GangstaGrass, a hip-hop/bluegrass mash band with an African American (I think?) lead singer on rap and a fiddles, banjos, mandolins in the background.  I don't like every genre of music to always be mashed with rap (the Soukous/Zouk music in Africa may be permanently scarred), but I love it when it works.

We play an eclectic mix in the Ingenthron home.   John Jacob Niles, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Gorillaz, Edith Piaf, Fatboy Slim, Grateful Dead... my kids and I hear mixed genre playlists on our long drives from Vermont to the Ozarks. That's where I'm from, where all my cousins live, my parents, brothers and sisters, everyone.  I'm not a New Englander, but to call me a "flatlander" is a bit weird for a hillbilly.  And the hillbilly bluegrass of Bill Monroe, Kentucky Colonels, and Roy Clark are as dear to my childhood as both Elvises.

The history of emerging market cultural geography is not that different from the history of the USA over 75 years.  Hillbillies and farmers were a distinct minority by the 1960s, but we still wanted to watch Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres.   But what we heard was Elvis and Beatles.

And we can rewitness the changes audibly.

Americans who study development of the Ozarks, from the Depression and FDR's Tennessee Valley Authority, know more than they may think about emerging markets.   The private sector investors efficiently take care of the first "9 miles" of track and the public sector generally tries to develop either everywhere at once, or fills the gaps at the end.  When the TVA gets to the Buffalo River (ten miles from my parents home), they find snake handlers and fiddle players and kids who have never seen an Asian person.  John Jacob Niles and Bill Monroe recorded that music, and Monroe mashed it with his own brand, calling it "Bluegrass".

Japanese Youts
From my Facebook Post (bottom) back to my son (who of course shares Gangstagrass lead via Facebook, where else?), I realize I haven't really blogged about this Ozark-non-OECD connection.  The Ozarks, land of Snuffy Smith and L'il Abner and Jed Clampets, was a cauldron of racism and class warfare, child labor, and poverty.  It was America's "last mile" of track.  And the Buffalo River became the last "habitat", the national river America chose to preserve by NOT damming it, cutting Arkansas off from the Branson-ization of Table Rock Lake to the north.  There is a state line that crosses the Ozark mountains which makes as much sense as cutting Northwest Cameroon from West Nigeria.  And that line led to brothers shooting at brothers in the Civil War.  Lines on maps, not visible by satellite, another theme of the blog.

One of the writers in the family, Elmo Ingenthron (along with Ella Ingenthron Dunn, the "Granny Woman of the Hills") wrote about the Civil War in the Ozarks, along with several other history books on Baldknobbers, Civil War history, and Native Americans of the area.  He grew up with brothers and sisters in homemade shoes.   That part of the country never saw a Sears and Roebuck catalog as much more than toilet paper for the outhouse (and free reading material, I remember one in my Grandpa Fisher's outhouse, which my mother used growing up).

Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae on Sadie Hawkins Day. Artist: Al Capp.
Ozarkers didn't live on 8 Mile.  We lived on the 9th Mile of track.   And it was as far apart from New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles as Guiyu is from Shanghai.

This weekend, Part II:  Flatlander   Below is part of my conversation with my United World College Econ-French-Spanish son, who lives with people from Nepal, China, South Africa, South America, two hundred fifty kids from several dozen countries, in a network of private colleges funded by Armand Hammer.

Robin Ingenthron shared a link.
9 hours ago
Raw baby

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