As a true 80s/90s child I grew up on admittedly inappropriate music. As a five-year-old, I sang along to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” (thank you MTV) and both my mother and I listened to ABBA, Donna Summer and Boney M. Those were my Western musical influences, but worse still were the Bollywood jams that ran on a loop in my innocent childhood ears. Lyrics like “Choli ke piche kiya hai?” (“What’s beneath your blouse?) and “Chumma chumma dey dey” (Give me a kiss.) were my introduction to the world of Bollywood movie music. I did not fully understand the double entendres, the euphemisms or even the overtly sexual lyrics, but I happily sang them aloud nonetheless.
Now, I’m not saying my mom and dad did a poor job as parents by not censoring risqué music, but as a mother to an inquisitive four-and-a-half year old living in a culture where vulgar songs are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, I feel the need to carefully monitor what my daughter hears. I do not want to expose Sammy to Chris Brown, Rihanna, Katy Perry or really anybody these days. So pop and rock radio stations are a no-no in my car; I only trust jazz and classical tunes, as well as the occasional instrumental CD (yes, I’m a dinosaur who still burns and listens to CDs).
My siblings chide me for being a little obsessive about controlling the influence of mainstream society on my daughter, but I think it’s best to start kids young. And although I am a Muslim, my underlying concern is not even about promoting Islamic values. I mean, does anybody want their small children listening to music glorifying sex, cheating, drunkenness and drugs? They may not fully comprehend the lyrics, but on some level their sponge-like minds begin to accept that this behavior and these choices are perfectly fine and fun.
I’ve been asked if, with such limited exposure to society’s standard of “cool,” I worry about jeopardizing Sammy’s “coolness” in class and on the playground. The short answer—no. The long answer–my daughter will look puzzled when her classmates are singing Katy Perry’s “California Girls” (“Sex on the beach. We freak in my jeep” are just some of its fun lyrics). She will likely feel left out and maybe she will come home and ask me if she can listen to this hit. I’ll do my best to gently but firmly explain to her that I think she is too young and besides it is not that great anyway. Instead, I’ll have her listen to Coldplay’s “Yellow” instead (amiright?).
I find that as I grow older, I find myself gravitating more and more towards music that calms me, brings me peace, and elevates my spirituality. I wasn’t given the option of inspirational music during my childhood, but perhaps if I had heard Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” or John Lennon’s “Imagine,” I wouldn’t have dabbled in other genres. I do not want the Billboards, the Grammys or MTV to decide what is appropriate for my daughter. I realize I can only control what penetrates her ears and her mind to a degree, but I want to plant a sensible seed while I can. For now, Sammy will continue to listen to filtered music–mostly instrumental, because this category allows her to explore different kinds of sounds and decide if she would like to learn a particular instrument (right now she’s keen on learning to play both the piano and the guitar).
And did I mention she and I watched the musical “Stomp” where the performers use everyday objects and their own bodies to put on a show? She was enthralled. She received a mini garbage can afterwards which she enthusiastically bangs and taps when putting on her version of “Stomp.” The neighbors are positively thrilled. Well, maybe not, but I truly am.
Samar Ahmed won no Nobel Peace Prize but is a single mother and teacher paving her unique path in life residing in Toronto.
(Photo Source: Cheltenham Town)