HIVEWIRE #09: Nomenclature will fuel the next phase in the Emergence of New and Local Music Scenes

“Nomenclature”, the art of naming and labelling musical genres is an often overlooked factor that can make a traceable difference in the growth of these scenes and, therefore, can positively impact the culture.

HIVEWIRE #09: Nomenclature will fuel the next phase in the Emergence of New and Local Music Scenes

Key topics covered:

  • Nomenclature's Impact: Nomenclature, the art of naming and labelling musical genres, can significantly influence the growth and recognition of music scenes, fostering connections and authenticity.
  • The Role of Scenes: Music scenes have played a pivotal role in shaping music landscapes, making music more relatable and accessible, from Punk to Hip-hop and beyond.
  • Culture Through Nomenclature: Genres like Jazz, Rock, Hip-hop, Electronic, and Classical have evolved into multifaceted ecosystems, giving rise to many subgenres, each unique. Nomenclature can capture the essence of a culture, transcending a genre into a cultural movement, as seen with scenes such as Amapiano and Desi Hip-hop.
  • Streaming's Transformative Role: Streaming platforms have democratised music distribution, enabling the revival of historical music cultures from emerging markets and connecting with global audiences.
  • Cultural Significance: Music genres and subgenres reflect the heritage, history, and social contexts of their origins, becoming cultural ambassadors on the global stage. Nomenclature empowers local music scenes to embrace their regional influences, fuse them with contemporary sounds, and communicate their unique identities.
  • Gateway to Music Discovery: Nomenclature serves as a gateway to music discovery, guiding audiences to sounds that resonate with their personal preferences in a world of vast musical libraries.

In one of our previous essays, we highlighted that the future of music scenes lies in subcultures and storytelling. The truth is, scenes have always played a pivotal role in shaping music landscapes and fandoms right from the era of 70’s Punk to 90’s Hip-hop, Grime, Reggaeton, Afrobeats, etc., always making it more relatable and easy to find for people looking to associate with a community. Genres like Jazz, Rock, Hip-hop, Electronic, and Classical have not only stood the test of time but have also evolved into multifaceted ecosystems, giving birth to a plethora of subgenres, each with its own unique identity. Music genres and subgenres classified under music scenes and cultures serve as the compass guiding us through the vastness of artistic expression that comes with the art form. They act as guiding lights in the universe of music and expression, helping not only to classify and comprehend music but also propelling the rise of new and local music scenes. If you ask me, “Nomenclature”, the art of naming and labelling these musical genres is an often overlooked factor that can make a traceable difference in the growth of these scenes and, therefore, can positively impact the culture.

What do I mean by this? Let’s go back to my favourite example: Amapiano. This South African music scene, a blend of House with distinctive local flavours, would not have achieved its current global recognition if it were merely categorised as "South African House Music." "Amapiano" encapsulates the essence of South African culture and identity, transcending it from a genre into a cultural movement. Similarly, in India, the emergence of Desi Hip-hop (DHH) has provided a platform for the country's Hip-hop community to tell their stories, infusing the genre with local flavours and languages. "Desi" carries cultural connotations, signifying authenticity and a connection to Indian roots. In our ever-evolving musical world, nomenclature such as these can revolutionise how we perceive, appreciate and explore new sounds. 

Scene vs Culture

Before we dive in, I would like to highlight how I see the difference between Scenes and Cultures. To do the same, I will dive into Punjabi Music and Afrobeat as examples. In Punjabi music, a music scene refers to the dynamic, localised community of enthusiasts who share a profound passion for different Punjabi language genres and sounds, whether contemporary Bhangra, derived from Western genres such as Hip-hop, Pop or Urban Desi, etc., or just a new amalgamation of genres that hone the Punjabi culture. These scenes flourish in regions with a significant Punjabi population both in the home market and in the diaspora. It is characterised by its distinctive events and dance forms that celebrate Punjabi musical traditions. The Punjabi Music Culture showcases how culture interacts and engages with music and encompasses the rich musical heritage of the Punjabi people. This culture spans various musical expressions that don’t specify genres but reflect the deep-rooted connection of music with Punjabi life, history, and identity. 

In contrast, the modern Afrobeat scene represents a contemporary urban community dedicated to the fusion of African rhythms and Western genres such as Afrobeats, Afro-Pop, Afro-Jazz, Afro-House etc., creating a vibrant musical movement in the present era. Afrobeat, as a culture, mirrors the diverse musical traditions of the African continent, embracing sounds such as drumming and chants from genres such as Highlife and Juju. This culture reflects the essential role music plays in African societies, from tribal rituals to contemporary political and artistic movements, transcending scenes to encompass a wide spectrum of musical practices and contexts. Both scenes and cultures offer valuable insights into the unique ways music shapes and reflects the lives and identities of communities, be it within traditional or modern contexts.

In a more traditional example, Hip-hop would fit in as a culture, but 90’s Hip-hop, East Coast, West Coast and Grime are various scenes under the Hip-hop culture. Now, diving in.

Streaming's vital role in resurfacing traditional music cultures from Emerging Markets

Streaming platforms have played a transformative role in the global music landscape, to say the least, especially in reviving historical music cultures from emerging markets. These platforms have democratised music distribution, allowing artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to reintroduce their heritage to the world. For instance, Gengetone, a rising Kenyan music scene that includes a mix of Dancehall and local Genge music with a mix of Hip-hop and Reggaeton, has been revitalised by new-age artists directly through streaming. Similarly, Funk Carioca or Favela Funk in Brazil found global and local popularity through streaming, as artists like Anitta leveraged the global stage to rekindle this cultural treasure. In fact, in the case of Brazil, many local artists and labels created new music scenes to strengthen the local fan bases of Funk. Streaming has become a bridge connecting these historical music cultures with a new generation of listeners, transcending boundaries and resonating with audiences worldwide.

The art of naming and labelling musical genres is then vital in this global resurgence of traditional music. As young musicians rekindle their cultural roots and reinterpret traditional sounds, nomenclature provides them with a means to define and communicate their unique musical identities. In essence, it fosters a sense of authenticity and belonging, enabling artists to tell their stories and infuse their music with their heritage, all while connecting with like-minded enthusiasts. This, in turn, sparks the revival of historical music cultures, making them more accessible and relatable to a global audience.

Defining the Musical Landscape through Cultural Significance

Music genres and subgenres are like a cultural toolkit that enables us to describe and differentiate between the diverse forms of musical expression. These labels serve as signposts, guiding both artists and audiences on their musical journeys. It carries profound cultural significance. The names we give to musical styles often reflect the heritage, history, and social contexts from which they emerge, for example, Reggae's association with Jamaica or Flamenco's deep roots in Spanish culture. These labels become cultural ambassadors, carrying the essence of a region to the global stage.

Emerging markets are ripe with new music scenes. Until a decade ago, most music marketed to emerging markets came from traditional markets through the major labels or their local partners. However, more recently, the focus has shifted to local artists and marketing local music to local audiences, creating newer and stronger local scenes that reflect the rich cultural influences, social movements, and artistic expressions of local markets.

In these emerging markets, music is a conduit for artists leading their communities to assert their unique voices and narratives. It's a means to embrace cultural heritage while embracing contemporary influences, resulting in innovative sonic landscapes. Nomenclature, in this context, becomes a tool for articulating these complex musical identities. Just as it has been a guiding force in established music scenes, it plays a pivotal role in shaping the musical identity of emerging markets.

Nomenclature - A platform for local music scenes 

Naming a scene becomes even more prominent when considering its role in empowering local music scenes. These scenes are often characterised by their authenticity, drawing inspiration from the cultural and social nuances of a particular region. They give voice to the stories and experiences of local communities. These scenes thrive on names that capture their essence, making it easier for enthusiasts to identify and connect with their sounds. 

A scene fosters a sense of identity among musicians and their audiences. When artists can label their creations within a specific subgenre, it empowers them to explore and experiment while still belonging to a particular musical family. This sense of identity is instrumental in the growth and preservation of local music scenes. When local musicians embrace their regional influences and fuse them with contemporary sounds, they often coin new terms to describe their music. These terms serve as a badge of honour, signifying their commitment to authenticity and preserving their cultural roots. In turn, this authenticity resonates with audiences who are drawn to music that reflects their own experiences.

For example, Electro Sha'abi is a subgenre that fuses traditional Sha'abi music with electronic beats. Sha'abi music, rooted in working-class neighbourhoods, has a rich history in Egypt. However, Electro Sha'abi brings a fresh twist to this traditional genre by incorporating modern electronic production elements. It often infuses their music with lyrics that explore themes like urban life, social challenges, and personal experiences. This subgenre hence reflects the evolving cultural and social dynamics of the region. It addresses contemporary issues and resonates with a younger audience while retaining the essence of Sha'abi's folk traditions. 

Empowering local music scenes using nomenclature is instrumental in the growth and preservation of these artistic movements. When artists can label their creations within a specific scene, it empowers them to explore and experiment while still belonging to a particular musical family. 

The Gateway to Music Discovery 

Nomenclature is a gateway to music discovery, especially in today's era of instant access to vast musical libraries. Scenes embodying different genres and subgenres are the signposts we search for when embarking on a quest for new musical experiences. They provide the essential navigation tools in the ever-expanding universe of music, guiding us to sounds that resonate with our personal preferences.

Streaming platforms, music magazines, and online communities heavily rely on these musical labels to curate playlists, recommend tracks, and connect with like-minded listeners. Genres and subgenres are rapidly becoming more challenging to define, whereas a scene can incorporate a new sound encompassing more than one genre or subgenre that further represents a specific music culture. 

Looking ahead, the significance of nomenclature in fostering the rise of new and local music scenes cannot be emphasised enough. These labels will continue to signal authenticity and act as bridges that connect diverse cultures by acting as catalysts for musical evolution. In a world where globalised Pop Culture can sometimes overshadow local voices, nomenclature provides artists with a powerful tool to celebrate their heritage, build connections with their communities, and leave their mark on the musical landscape.

In this age of interconnectedness, online communities, social media, and specialised groups thrive, and music scenes find new avenues to flourish. Facebook groups and dedicated online communities were and still are essential hubs for enthusiasts to converge, share their passion, and explore music scenes with like-minded individuals in the previous decade. I have experienced the power of these platforms, having run a thriving community dedicated to Djent back in my day (Don’t judge! Ok, maybe a little!). It will be interesting to see where these new communities grow and how they offer a space where fans can dive deep into the intricacies of their favourite scene, share recommendations, and connect with artists and fellow enthusiasts, eventually fostering a sense of belonging within these musical movements. Discord and Twitch have been some of the significant platforms catering to new-age communities. More will rise for local audiences and international ones.

Nomenclature, within the context of these online communities, becomes an integral part of the dialogue. It not only aids in categorising and discussing music but also serves as a rallying point for fans to gather, discover, and celebrate the unique attributes of their chosen music scenes. It's through these digital spaces that the future of music scenes continues to evolve, with nomenclature playing a pivotal role in guiding the way.

All this isn’t asking artists to name and label everything they do. Instead, it is an opportunity to create a profound connection to cultural roots, an authentic narrative, and a bridge to communities. For artists, it allows them to embark on a journey digging deep into their cultural heritage and their own authentic stories and identities, providing a sense of authenticity that resonates with their audiences. However, to find the right name and label for a scene, artists need to think out of the box, examine their community, radiate their culture and share it with those who are looking for similar spaces, creating more robust, newer and more diverse music scenes from emerging markets. Amapiano, Desi Hip-hop, Mahraganat, Gengeton and many more are just examples showcasing how nomenclature has contributed to the new generation of music scenes.