The Power Of Music (Even When You Don’t Know The Words)

The Power Of Music (Even When You Don’t Know The Words)

By |2016-07-21T23:47:23-04:00June 25th, 2012|Perspectives, Romania|34 Comments

Iris Concert, Bucharest
I tapped my left foot on the ground, slowly, then quickly, then slowly again. I raised my hands to head level and clapped with the beat (or at least I tried to). I yelled out ‘Wooohoooo!’ every time the crowd of 10,000 people around me yelled out ‘Wooohoooo!’.

In between songs, when the lead singer spoke a few words into the microphone, I waited for the crowd’s reaction and followed suit. Sometimes we cheered, other times we screamed and sometimes we applauded politely.

When the crowd swayed from side to side during a slower song, I swayed from side to side too. And when a faster song was played, I did my best to throw my hands in the air and bob up and down just like everyone else.

And during the times when I had no idea what to do, I just continued tapping my left foot, nodding my head and occasionally saying, ‘Yeeeeaaah!’, at a volume level that nobody could even hear.

So there you go. If you ever find yourself at a huge music concert in a foreign land, listening to a popular band sing their songs in a language that you don’t understand at all, you now know what to do. It’s quite simple really.

I don’t think anyone around me had any idea that I wasn’t a lifelong fan of the Romanian rock band on the stage, a band called “Iris”, a band whose 35 year anniversary concert I was attending.

Tap, clap, yell, sway. Tap, clap, yell, sway. ‘Wooohoooo!’

The Role Of Music In My Life

Anyway, despite not knowing whether Iris was singing about freedom, love, where to buy a laptop at discount prices or recipes for a nice Thai curry, I must say that I had such a good time at this concert.

I’ve always been a fan of music in general and I listen to it all the time. Even right now as I write this I am listening to music. If I’m at my laptop, music is on. If I’m on a bus, train or plane, music accompanies me. If I’m walking around, taking a stroll through a park, I’ll often do so while listening to music as well.

And because I’ve always been traveling, I’ve developed a taste for a wide variety of musical genres from around the world. There really isn’t much that I won’t listen to.

Iris 35 Ani Concert, Bucharest, Romania

I also enjoy live music, although, due to my nomadic lifestyle, I don’t often have a chance to attend many concerts. My live musical experiences are generally limited to listening to lesser-known local bands play the night away in bars or pubs or cafes around the world, in cities such as Melbourne or Istanbul or Chiang Mai or New York. Beyond that I rarely know about larger concerts taking place in the countries I visit or my travel plans don’t match up with certain musical events that I would be interested in attending.

That’s just one of the downsides of moving around so much.

However, after attending this “Iris 35 Ani” concert (Iris’ 35th Anniversary) on Friday night in Bucharest, an outdoor concert that took place in Piata Constitutiei, a major square directly in front of the impressive Palace of the Parliament, I’m quite motivated to try and attend more concerts every year from now on.

And I don’t care what language the music is in or even if I’ve ever heard of the band.

Songs Are Much More Than Just Words & Music

The thing is, I realized, as I was swaying and tapping the other night, that even though the words of a song are indeed important, I am also attracted to the atmosphere that music can create.

At the Iris concert, as I looked around me at the 10,000 others in attendance, I could see the connections that everyone had to each of the songs. I could see the happiness, the sadness, the memories, the pain, the dreams, the stories, the challenges, the victories, the hope and the joy in their faces every time a new song was played.

There was laughter and there were tears, there were moments of reflection and bursts of inspiration, everywhere around me. People were hugging, holding hands, exchanging high-fives and giving each other looks that said, “Remember when we first heard this song?” or “This song always makes me feel like I can do anything in life!”.

And even though I obviously did not have similar connections to these songs and this music, I could not help but feel entirely caught up in this energy, in the overwhelming intensity, in the personal bonds between every member of the audience and this band that has been making an impact on so many lives for the past 35 years.

Iris 35 Ani Concert, Bucuresti, Romania

I loved this concert. I didn’t want it to end. I could have tapped my rhythm-less feet, struggled to clap my hands in unison with everyone else and swayed my body as only a terrible dancer can do, for the entire night if the band would have kept on playing. The atmosphere was just that addicting.

After all, this is the kind of stuff I always remember most from my travels. It is these experiences in which, even if only for a few hours, I am not merely present in some location, but I am completely engulfed by such a spectacular force that causes every part of me to become infinitely more alive than usual.

The power of music as they say. And thanks to my evening at the Iris concert, it turns out that you don’t even need to understand the words or have any clue what the band is singing about in order to experience that power to its fullest.

Does music play a role in your life?

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  1. Jessica Volke September 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    YES! It most definitely does! When I lived in China for two years, I met most of my friends at concerts! Concerts in little hole-in-the-wall places that I couldnt understand what they were saying (or singing)! I also joined a band, and learned a song in Chinese(!) and met a lot of great people when we played shows. So I would say, that in my travels, music was one of THE most important parts of my life.

  2. Ivy @ Pathway to Asia September 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    You’re so lucky you were able to go to different countries and attend various concerts. In that you get to discover a lot of music genres and extend your preferences about music.

    Just like you, music has been a part of my everyday life and my world – there has never been a day that I don’t listen to music. It’s like a necessity for me, really. Without being able to listen to it everyday, I feel like my day isn’t complete. Music fills my soul. It soothes me and brings me to another world. That is why I say you’re so lucky that you were able to experience travelling into different countries and hear different bands.

    And yes I agree with you, the power of music is really great. Because when words fail, music speaks. 🙂

  3. I love how music can catapult you back towards a memory or moment in time that would possibly otherwise be forgotten. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and it’ll remind me of a specific food I ate or a person I travelled with.

  4. Jenna June 29, 2012 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Nice post. There’s a cliche that music is a universal language. Having studied ethnomusicology, I actually don’t think this is true. At face value anyway. There was a lot about this music that you didn’t understand, largely because you didn’t speak the language and probably missed a lot of the cultural references that grow from the context surrounding the music. But what is true, I think, is music’s universality to have an effect – of some kind – on all people. Keep listening.

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      Hey Jenna – I definitely missed out on some aspects of the music but it is amazing how much you can ‘feel’ even when you don’t know the words!

  5. Christine June 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    WOW! I am sure it comes as no surprise to you I loved this post. Many people love music, but I come across very few that feel the way I do about it (and live shows in particular). Music is my companion at all times. I can’t go to sleep without it, I need it when I am driving and in the shower/bath. I listen to it while writing, reading, cooking, lounging, doing chores and even at work. I have two docking stations, multiple portable little speakers (that fit in my purse) and ear buds stashed everywhere from my car to different purses to rooms in my home. My iPod and the laptop that holds my music (and a hard drive as I have over 25,000 Gigs of music alone, despite I haven’t added all of my CDs yet) are my most valued possessions. Music comforts me when I am sad or down, and I give it much of the credit for getting me through the hard times. It adds to my happiness at other times. I associate songs with memories throughout my whole life like a soundtrack.

    My favorite night out is at a live show, especially for one of my favorite bands in a small venue with a fabulous audience to interact with. The energy is incredible. I will miss the shows when I am traveling more, as the artists themselves are so down to earth and often remember the regulars such as myself. For example, I requested a song at a recent Amber Rubarth concert (via email prior to the show), and she not only sang it as her last song of the night, but she dedicated it to me and sung it while acknowledging me, as I was in the second row. When I went to say thank you, she threw her arms around me in a big hug. She remembered me, though I hadn’t seen one of her shows in almost 2 years. Artists like her are amazing! Though most of the live shows I attend are independent musicians, I love almost all kinds of music and have songs dating back to the 1920s/1930s in my collection (Bing Crosby is one of my all time favorites and I have about 200 of his songs alone).

    When I was reading your post I felt like I could have been writing it. I knew you enjoyed music and finding new songs/artists, but I really appreciate that you feel it actually has a role in your life. As you can tell by this comment, I can say the same for my life and love of music. Again, somehow I don’t think this will be such a big surprise for you. Thanks again for sharing a little piece of yourself with your readers (like me). This is another amazing post by Wandering Earl. Rock on! 😉

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Christine – While I am not surprised by your comments, it was great to read them and feel your love of music through your words. I think I need to really make an effort to attend more live shows. I do wish I had a chance to see more bands that I do feel a deeper connection with but as I mentioned above, settling even for a show in a foreign language is not a bad alternative.

      If we ever meet up one day I’ll have to take an even closer look at your music collection. I imagine I’d find endless bands that I would enjoy myself 🙂

  6. Someday I'll Be There - Mina June 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Good music is good music, the vocal’s language is just 1 instrument of the whole band, but you’d still understand the music itself, specially as you said from the people’s reactions to it! I love the vibes and the atmosphere in concerts and during live performances!

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:19 am - Reply

      Hey Mina – There are so many ways to enjoy the music…and feeling how other people are connected to each song can often create a connection for us as well.

  7. Idun June 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I know exactly what you mean with the atmosphere of a concert, even if you have no clue what they are sining or know the music at all, it’s just amazing. And as for not understanding the language, one of my all time favourite bands is German (and sing in German), a language I speak maybe 20 words of. Even so I’ve seen them live twice and listened to their songs countless times and fully enjoyed the experience

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:17 am - Reply

      Hey Idun – I love that your favorite band sings in a language you don’t understand! For years I listened to Spanish music without knowing the words but then I learned more Spanish and it made an even bigger impact. Perhaps you should start practicing German 🙂

  8. Simon P June 26, 2012 at 4:10 am - Reply

    Haha, I don’t even know half the words to my favourite songs – so I do nearly the same thing at most concerts! If all else fails, make sure you bring a lighter just in case the band plays any ballads…

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:13 am - Reply

      Hey Simon – Good point! A lighter does come in handy and I didn’t have one at the Iris concert. Add that to the list and it really is easy to fit in at any concert.

  9. Joseph June 26, 2012 at 3:56 am - Reply

    Music is a lifeforce – that’s my opinion. It transcends all languages – as you said, you don’t need to fully understand the lyrics, it’s the rhythm that drives you, the notes resonate with your soul. I enjoy listening to (almost) all types of music. I have songs that make me cry, songs that make me dance, songs that bring back awesome memories. I love music so much that I’m thinking of getting a tattoo to express my feelings 🙂
    As far as concerts go, love them – it’s so amazing to see the artists you’ve been listening to for ages live, a few feet from you!

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:15 am - Reply

      Hey Joseph – Concerts are great and I somehow had forgotten that for many years. But I’m quite happy that this random Romanian concert has reminded me of what the experience can be like so that I can start attending more from now on.

      And good luck with that tattoo! Any ideas of what you’ll get exactly??

      • Joseph June 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm - Reply

        well, since I love music and books I thought I’d combine those 2 – so it’s going to be an open book, with the following quote “There is a place, we all must go, into the dark” – it’s from Melissa Etheridge’s Into the dark – it’s an awesome song…oh, and the tattoo is going above my ankle…can’t wait 🙂

        • Earl June 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm - Reply

          Hey Joseph – I’ve never heard of the song so I’m going to check it out right now!

  10. Rachel June 26, 2012 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Music has always played a big role in mylife. I’ve been able to play an insturment since I was 8 and I’ve added a couple since then. And when listening to music it doesn’t matter what langauge it is in or the genre I always dance along and if the lyrics are simple enough I even start to sing along. I was at a bacholorette party and music was on I had been singing along and was asked do you know this song I said no their response was it’s english so ofcourse you can sing along. Then a German song came on and I was asked the same thing and I responded the same way but she was suprised that by the second time the chorus came along I was already able to sing along without to many mistakes. Music has become so much a part of my life that I haven’t gone a day without music. Even if I haven’t listend to any music live or from a device of some sort I have a song playing in my head.

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:11 am - Reply

      Hey Rachel – I don’t think I’ve gone a day without it either in a long, long time…and just as you described, when music comes on, it can affect you in ways like nothing else can. You just feel it and connect with it and that can happen no matter the language, no matter the style and no matter the setting!

  11. Carlos June 25, 2012 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Hey so I modeled my blog after yours but my travels are based around music! I’ve only been going for a few months, but I’ve recorded over 1400 songs by more than 100 bands in nine American states so far. I’ve been keeping up with your adventures. Seems like you might be interested in mine, too:)

  12. Stephanie - The Travel Chica June 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Seeing live performances is something I also miss as a nomad. I have experienced a few shows but not nearly as much as I used to at home.

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:09 am - Reply

      Hey Stephanie – It is tough and it takes a little extra effort to seek out such concerts while overseas. But it’s possible and perhaps if you attend one, you’ll find yourself ready to attend more, just like I am after this Iris concert. I’ve already looked up the summer concert schedule for Bucharest and have a few more I’d like to attend!

  13. Craig O June 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Earl. You hit the nail right on the head. Music is such an important part of life. I have a large collection of Latin music like Bachata and rock bands from Mexico to Argentina that I love, even though I have no idea what they are saying. I remember being in a bar in Mexicali, Mexico and a band walked in playing that Banda type music, you know, where they have only horns and drums and all wear the same colored suits with cowboy hats. I LOVED IT!! I ended up paying a few bucks to hear more of it. The bartender came from around the bar and we danced and they all laughed because a gringo knew how to dance to Banda. Its was so much fun and I made new friends that day. And to think I had just stopped in for a drink. I ended up having a very memorable day. Life is Music. Music is Life!!! Rock on Earl.

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:08 am - Reply

      Hey Craig – Great story and music sure does create a connection between people from all over the world! Music has played a big role in many of my memorable experiences as well. Keep on listening to music and enjoy where it takes you!

  14. Earl from June 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    While in Plovdiv, Bulgaria we too checked out a local concert. It was playing at the Ancient Theatre, and we thought it was a cool way to see a local show at a neat venue. We met an older gentleman in the morning who said he didn’t care for the folk/pop singer who was performing that night. When we bought the tickets, there was a young girl in her 20s there at the time as well. So we figured the music would be tailored to the younger generation.

    We were a little surprised when we entered the theatre to see so many grannies and others older than us, many carrying flowers with them. Turns out that Vaselin Marinov is not really for the young crowd but is loved by the grandmas, many of whom gave him flowers between each song, which was really just an excuse to kiss him.

    We didn’t understand a word of the performance and were confused as to why he needed the dancers behind him, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a great night at a great venue. Your rock concert, though, is a little closer to the style we would have chosen. 🙂

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:06 am - Reply

      Hey Earl – Well, that’s still an interesting experience you had there in Plovdiv. You never know what will happen at a foreign concert. You should have bought some flowers to give to him as well and seen where that might have led!

  15. Meg | One Love Meg June 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I love music. I love festivals. I love it all. I am itching to check out a concert or festival while we are in Europe. I don’t even care if I don’t know any of the bands. It doesn’t eve matter like you said.

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:04 am - Reply

      Hey Meg – I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a concert…let me know what you end up attending!

  16. Imperator June 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Earl, I need to bring you also to a football match on the National Arena… Wait for a big one 🙂

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:02 am - Reply

      @Imperator – Just let me know! I would love to attend such a match.

  17. Sophie June 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I know what you mean… Music is such a treat and a big part of my life. It can instantly make me feel happy, sad, captivated, energetic… in varying intensities. Im guessing it would be the same in any language by what you said in your post. Thanks for the excellent tips on how to fit in at a foreign rock concert:)

  18. Chelli June 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Wish I could’ve been there with you.

  19. Masha (2away) June 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Think this band has the same effect on everyone 🙂 Did they sing their “Baby”?! Don’t understand the words either, but absolutely love this song!!

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 4:59 am - Reply

      Hey Masha – They did sing “Baby” and actually, a famous Romanian soprano singer – Felicia Filip – joined them on stage for this particular song. It was right in the middle of the concert and was definitely a crowd favorite!

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