The harmony begins, differentiating the song from a vast sea of chords. These lyrically enumerated notes flood, formulating the niceties of music in overlapping strides. Layer after layer blankets the melody, each sheet attributing complexity, spirit and personality on the previous. Instruments struck seemingly in disunity clutch ever more desperately to the crucible of their patron, a tune so often shadowed by these intricately conniving harmonics. This unsung hero, melody, falls victim yet again to the fame seeking harmony, the self-aggrandizing guitar solos and the lone voice contradicting the chorus. And so, listeners anticipate later choruses, these masquerading with harmonic sheets, rather than the stark beauty of their predecessor, the melodic stricken initial version. These same listeners, of no fault of their own, attribute value in accordance with this harmonic blend, thus rewarding harmonies for their efforts yet overlooking the crux, melody. With the focus shifted, the musical among us seek out these harmonies, discrediting so much in the process.
In a true testament to human nature, we harmonize education as well, teaching early on that educational experiences are contained in cement buildings where bells chirp at predetermined intervals. School then becomes the conniving harmony, working tirelessly for a perceived monopoly on teaching. Where in music this harmony blankets melody in complexity, in education it pushes the notion that everything, from guitar and science to life skills and now empathy, can be taught inside the confines of typical schooling. In turn subjects stack up like accompaniment with no melody, abandoning this basis, already undervalued in its continual depreciation.
But what is our melody? What have we lost in our pursuit of this educational harmony?
Our melody is day to day life. It is the waking up every morning, the brushing of teeth, the hushed “Salammalekums” or “Good Mornings” at dawn. It is the moments where you laugh, where you cry, the moments where you suffocate so totally in emotion that you are unable to express yourself in mere tears, laughs, or words. For me, it is the mutterings between friends and family, the holding of my infant host nephew, the chuckles emanating from my host family because of my broken Wolof. It is the setting of the sun over the railroad tracks, the sweet smell of beñe cooking in Ahram’s fryer, and the attempts of my agricultural coworker to speak in my mother-tongue. It is my host dad Cheikh, my host mom Fatou, my host sibilings Yassin, Mame Fatou, Talla, Matar, Soxna, Jehkhiel, and Deegel. It is the anticipation of coming home to Kër Madaro after a day in Thiés and the feeling of belonging.
This is what we undervalue. It is here where we learn our melody. The humdrum quotidian, the ordinary unspectacular flow of everyday life.* It is here were we build up our base, where we teach ourselves empathy and solidarity, where we live without textbook instruction. It is here, in melody, where the various harmonies of our lives find structure. This cornerstone of our lives falls into disrepair if not nurtured. Left unattended, it cracks and becomes rubble, causing the accompaniments, the classroom learnings, to stand alone, woefully incapable of singlehandedly combating the trials of life. But, if our melody is nurtured to fruition, our accompaniments join with it in a procreative, yet humanistic dance. The quotidian blending with study, melody with harmony, only together producing song.