Music can change your life
By Kip Cates
Music is a great way to learn a foreign language. I first began learning foreign songs in junior high school when I was 12 years old and had just started French. I loved studying songs from France and enjoyed singing them to myself.
In high school, I learned the song Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome from the Hollywood movie Cabaret. It was exciting singing in three languages — English, French and German! When I arrived in Japan in 1979, I practiced Japanese by learning the latest karaoke hits: Tokio by Kenji Sawada and Ihojin by Saki Kubota. I'm still proud that I can sing songs in all of the nine languages I've studied, including Arabic, Spanish and Chinese!
Music is not only a great way to learn a language. It can also change your life. I should know. It happened to me!
The year was 1977. I was 24 years old, traveling across Asia and halfway through my round-the-world trip. I had just arrived in Iran and was exploring the capital city, Tehran.
In those days, you often heard Western pop music in backpacker hotels. Two songs were particularly popular that summer. One was Stay by Jackson Browne, which began "Why don't you stay just a little bit longer?" The other was Keep It Coming, Love by KC and the Sunshine Band, with its chorus "Don't Stop Now." Sometimes you'd hear one song. Sometimes the other.
Tehran was an exciting city of mosques and markets. The people were friendly, the culture exotic and the language fascinating. "This is an amazing country!" I thought. "I should really spend more time here."
That same day, I heard that a British bus had arrived in Tehran and was leaving for New Delhi in two days. India! My mind raced with exotic images of elephants, Hindu temples and the Taj Mahal.
I was faced with a dilemma. Should I stay in Iran? Or go to India? Both options were enticing. I knew I'd have an amazing experience if I stayed. On the other hand, I'd always dreamed of going to India. What to do? I couldn't make up my mind.
The departure day for the bus arrived and I still couldn't decide. Stay or go? I had to make a choice. At that moment, a song began to play in my hotel lobby. That song made my decision for me … and changed my life.
The song was Keep It Coming, with the message "Don't Stop Now." Fate has spoken, I thought. I took the bus to India, completed my round-the-world trip and became a university professor. But I sometimes wonder. What if the other song had played that day? What if I had stayed in Iran? Where would I be now?
What about you? Have you ever let your life be decided by a song?
Shukan ST: NOVEMBER 11, 2011
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