It’s hard to ignore the amount of activity on campus lately. Apart from the endless maintenance work keeping the noisy machines up and running for most of the day, there’s been a sequence of huge parties. It started the weekend of the Batavierenrace, followed by the King’s night party, and we are now expecting the festivities of Liberation day.
I love partying, though I must confess that every time these big celebrations feature typical Dutch music, I am left feeling a bit alienated. Until recently, I couldn’t put my finger on what was it exactly about such music that made me feel so out of place. That lack of knowledge prompted me to assert, in simple terms, that Dutch music is horrible.
But I’m no hater, so I thought there had to be more to it. After all, most Dutch friends have an exquisite taste in music. Plus, you’re speaking about the land who saw the birth of Tiësto, Armin Van Buuren, and Martin Garrix. So how come people at these celebrations are losing their minds over that coarse Snollebollekes’ song?
I began to interrogate every Dutch student I knew, just to discover almost all of them despise that type of party music. But quickly afterward, they would confess they themselves have happily danced and chanted with a crowd to these melodies. I found that situation as inexplicable as fascinating. Are Dutch people actually cycling to these sick beats on their way to work even though they secretly hate them?
To solve that enigma, I sat with Dutch friends who introduced me to the captivating world of Nederlandstalige music. We navigated our way through allradio.nl and watched unimaginable videos on YouTube featuring dances with cauliflowers, melons, and 20-centimeter-sausage-breads. Thus, I became acquainted with Carnival music, which wasn’t particularly appealing to my ears, but which had us all laughing up to the point of almost falling from our chairs. ‘I don’t really think there’s someone who actually likes this music,’ one of them told me. Well, then why are you all dancing to it?!
My friends quickly justified the tradition, reminding me how easy and fun the lyrics were. They pointed out how, on carnivals, people are already dressed up, and have been binging on beer for several hours. That all makes up for the perfect setting to continue to show irrational behavior such as jumping along with a crowd.
Several things might be concluded from my ethnographic efforts, the most important being that these songs are meant to incite unpremeditated, cheerful responses, rather than pleasing a refined music critic. They are all about consolidating collectivity, a feeling of fraternity among each person in the multitude.
I still think you need a great amount of beer to actually enjoy them. But now I’m honestly looking forward to the upcoming Dutch parties, just so I can listen to one of these songs, beer in hand, and finally feel like I understand what the heck is going on.