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Our Daily Breather: Ketch Secor Is Listening To Music From Around The Globe

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show

Where: Nashville, Tenn.

Recommendation: Widening your musical horizons

One thing about a global pandemic is that you know it's happening to everyone. It's a phenomenon that crosses every cultural divide around the globe, putting it at odds with other geopolitical forces, but striking a similar chord as another border jumping phenom: music.

As a Nashville musician, I have seen my business come to a screeching halt. Colleagues who just months ago were contemplating buying their first homes are instead applying for federal grants, unemployment, food stamps. Yet somehow I have faith that we'll get through this dry spell and here's one thing that reminds me to keep my chin up: world music. Knowing that musicians all around the earth are feeling the exact same pressures, disappointments and uncertainties, I turn to their music to feel at ease with my present out-of-work status.

Songs like "Je Mais Suis Tu Petit" by Georges Brassens put a pep in my step as I walk my kids around the block for another endless homeschool "recess." Sitting in the supermarket parking lot donning mask and gloves, cranking up tunes like "Yuve Yuve Yu" by Mongolia's The HU or Songhoy Blues' "Mali Nord," I feel a psych mix-like charge as I gear up for the task of speed grocery shopping.

Reading powerful headlines, like last week's New York Times' entire front page listing of just 1% of America's COVID-19 deaths, I mourn with songs like "Faikavu Love Song," a soul-stirring male chorus of Tongan Islanders both somber and hopeful.

World music, primarily sung in languages I don't comprehend, captures with sounds and tones that I have a hard time expressing in my own language, the inexpressible feeling of melancholy (and curiosity) the coronavirus brings out; "Ibu" by Indonesia's Iwan Fals is one such song. Likewise, some music needs no words to express humanity's shared hope and vision such as Master Vyas' sparse, elemental "Jala-Tarang" or Naseer Shamma's maginificent oud playing on "The Moon Fades." Listening to aboriginal artists like Yothu Yindi and the Warumpi Band I feel that rage-to-art conversion that helps me recognize disparity in my own country. Other native groups like 1960's Inuit rockers Sikimiut remind me that the world's oppressed peoples can create some of the most uplifting songs.

Across Nashville, just like around the world, musicians like me wonder when we'll get back to the business of merriment, of touring, of drawing a crowd. One thing is certain: We can't count on anything returning to normal anytime soon. Still, unknowable forces can't keep us from singing.

Through the hardest times music has always been there to soothe the troubled soul. And whether the business of music remains unchanged or not, we can rest assured knowing that singers from all around the globe are going to keep singing their hearts out no matter the disease or affliction. Like Kenya's The Lulus Band shouts "This world is coming to an end, can you feel it? I can feel it! We can feel it! Oh yeah!"

Ketch Secor is a member of Old Crow Medicine Show. Each Saturday, he hosts The Hartland Hootenanny live on YouTube; the next episode, which will air on Saturday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET, will feature The War & Treaty.

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    Ketch Secor