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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Audio: By listening to cultural music, students keep in touch with identities

Photo by Mitchell Zachs for the Knight Foundation, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED
The music of Los Tigres del Norte, a Mexican band specializing in the norteño style of folk music, evokes a sense of nostalgia for senior Yolo Martinez, one of many U-High students for whom music is more than just entertainment; it’s a direct link to one’s cultural roots.

In a world where cultural identity is often connected to personal expression, music serves as a powerful way for students to connect with their culture. For many U-High students, music is more than just entertainment; it’s a direct link to their cultural roots. Whether it’s the traditional songs of their culture or modern sounds of their homeland, music serves as a powerful way to preserve and celebrate cultural legacies.

Senior Yolo Martinez embraces her Mexican heritage through her love for Latin music, a passion inherited through her parents, who are both from Mexico. She finds this music as a source of passion and joy, connecting her to her culture.

“Last year around like October is when I started listening more to Regaton or like Corridos Tumbados as they call it now, like Peso Pluma.”

Recently, Yolo saw Los Tigres del Norte, a Mexican band specializing in the norteño style of folk music. For Yolo, this music evoked a sense of nostalgia, transporting her back to cherished memories of family gatherings.

“Having the Tigres del Norte pull up with the Mariachi it was like really nice because it brought back so many memories about the importance of heritage for me now as I’m getting older. I didn’t really understand the importance of raising your kids and making them aware of what identity means and how it can affect how others see us.”

Yolo stresses the importance of teenagers listening to music from their culture as a means to forge a deeper connection with their roots.

“I think it’s something like if it’s not something you’re into, it’s something that should be put in like the background of your life, at least, because I feel like it gives you a deeper understanding of like your identity and helps you connect more, especially if you’re not someone that visit visits your country often. Like it just helps you feel a little bit more connected with like your heritage.”

Junior Noah Runesha comes from a Rwandan, French-speaking family and was introduced to both French music and Afrobeats through his siblings and cousins. For Noah, this music of Western Africa deepens his connection to his culture.

“My mom has spent a little bit of time in Canada. And she also speaks French and my dad speaks French and I speak French, everybody in my family speaks French. So French music has all sort of always been a part of my life, mostly introduced to me recently by my brother and sister. I would say other than that, I listen to a lot of Afro beats. A lot of that comes from my cousins who live in Rwanda and South Africa.”

Additionally, Noah believes music can play a role in unifying people across different cultures and countries.

“I think, like people like throughout Africa, like with using Afrobeats as an example like, like Burna Boy, he’s Nigerian. So I think like sort of unifying with like other people from other countries with heritage from other countries. Like Afro beats plays a huge role in that like it connects like me with like, maybe like my Nigerian American friends or like Ghanian American.”

Noah believes that despite it being an important factor in his life, no one should feel invalidated for not listening to music from their culture. He also emphasizes the ways in which music can connect people with a shared culture.

“I don’t think if you don’t listen to music that’s from your culture, I don’t think that like invalidates you in any way. But I do think that it can be helpful with like, uniting with other people from your culture. Just because music is so like, popular like so many people listen to so many different types of music, like it’s a great way to like, find like a like a common factor between you and like your peers.”

Junior Kaavya Peddinti listens to Bollywood music which is sung in Hindi. This has created a strong connection to her culture as she was introduced to this music at a young age.

“Oh, yeah, since I was younger, me and my sister have both been pretty exposed to like our culture. So um, we watch movies a lot. And that’s really, like I said, where most of the music is from. So I guess like I could say, I’ve been listening to it for most of my life. And it plays a big role because I like to like, I mean, I just enjoy the music a lot. So sometimes, like, I’ll listen to it kind of like as much as I listen to American music as well.”

Kaavya particularly enjoys Bollywood music because it is a reminder of movies she watched as a child, evoking a sense of nostalgia.

“I guess there’s a lot of songs that come from like older movies from when I was younger, and I guess like when I listened to them, I kind of just like remember those times because I know like, I was a big fan of like this one soundtrack when I was younger and like when I hear it kind of just reminds me of that.”

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About the Contributor
Milo Platz-Walker
Milo Platz-Walker, Reporter
Milo Platz-Walker is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as a reporter. He joined the staff as a ninth grader in 2021 and returned as a junior. Outside of journalism, Milo competes in karate, listens to music and spends time with friends and family.

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