Mind if I play my music?

This is a question that I have never asked at the office.

(Context: I work in an amazing, open-plan space with tremendous colleagues who have excellent and varied musical tastes. I know this because said office is equipped with an AirPlay setup that allows us to pipe our Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and turntable.fm playlists to a speaker system for shared rocking out)

But my music? I’ve never asked to stream my (incredibly extensive) Damian Marley playlist, or my (even more extensive) collection of non-soca music made by Caribbean artists.

If my fear is that Damian and Mangoseed are somehow not “office appropriate” (what does that even mean? And what about the recent all-day Wailers-fest we enjoyed, courtesy a colleague who’d watched the Marley documentary over the weekend?), why then don’t I even cue up the Mumford & Sons or the Florence and The Machine playlists?

There are a few things going on here.

One, I have an uneasy relationship with “Caribbean” me, at least and especially when I am in decidedly non-Caribbean contexts. I’ve already got the hair, the head wraps, the WTF accent and that whole being-brown thing. Do I also need to highlight my predilection for soca, dub, dancehall and related musical forms? For one of the reasons why this is even a thing: see reactions to Rihanna in Carnival costume, and add a hefty dose of my must-bust-stereotypes syndrome.

Two, my relationship with music is intensely personal, and I am averse to (indeed, tending toward incapable of) intermingling the personal and the professional.

I regularly listen to Damian at work – safe, secure and inviolate in the castle of my headphones.

And that’s ok.

5 thoughts on “Mind if I play my music?

  1. I feel the same way about sharing my musical tastes with my Canadian friends. During Masters I loosened up a bit to include some of ‘my music’ into our party mixes; like 3Suns and Tanya Stephens. I have select friends that I feel I share my diverse taste so I share with them but it’s still very touchy. This is because I know I’ll take it so personally if they don’t like it. In the studio during undergrad we used to blast tunes and the one time one of my soca songs got onto a playlist some girl said some dumb stuff about it. This made me feel like I had to insulate my Caribbean persona from eyes and ears that just wouldn’t understand. I totally get how you feel. Very well said.

  2. I too can relate.

    At school, subconsciously I realized whenever in studio, I’d always think “what is my whitest playlist so as to not freak out anybody here?” (At work I luckily have my own space with closed door so I don’t give a crap).

    Then I decided to throw caution and just funkify the place. Here and there I’d find colleagues who surprisingly know about baile carioca, or even the more mainstream soca songs, but most kinda glance over with a “wtf” look. However I have a reputation for being very vocal, and at times antagonistic, so at school people generally steer clear of me.

    At work however, I love listening to this bossa nova radio station. Or a jillionaire house-soca mix. And I remember one time a colleague commenting “your office sounds way too happy.”

    And if that’s how our culture contrasts to mainstream North America, then I’d rather be way too happy.

  3. I had an exact moment like this on Monday, I was in my classroom at lunch and wanted to do some cleaning, I closed my door as if I expected to hear noise complaints or WTF comments from student and teachers alike, blasted some Mr. Fete to the surprise of many students that armed themselves at my door to ask, “Miss what class is this?”– where they told me that “why are you so happy, and why you playing this happy music here?”

  4. I had an issue like this come up this week, I was cleaning my classroom during lunch time and felt almost guilty for wanting to blast Machel in my room as I cleaned. I peered in the hall, closed my door and cranked up the music as loud as I could- I definitely anticipated WTF comments from staff and students but got many students running to my class to ask “what class is this, and miss why you so happy….” I tried to explain my pride, but why did I feel obligated then to defend my choice?!

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