A new study has revealed that humans across the world dance to the same beat, suggesting taal sey taal reverberates around the world.
The University of Exeter and Tokyo University of the Arts’ study has found that songs from around the world tend to share features, including a strong rhythm that enable coordination in social situations and encourage group bonding.
Despite decades of skepticism about the presence of cross-culturally universal aspects of music, the study provides strong evidence for the existence of common features in global music. The results support the idea that music is powerful social glue that helps bond societies together.
University of Exeter’s Thomas Currie said that the findings help explain why humans make music, showing that the most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions and suggest that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups, it can be a kind of social glue.
The researchers analysed 304 recordings of stylistically diverse music from across the world to reveal the common features. Although they found no absolute universals, they found dozens of statistical universals (i.e., features that were consistently present in a majority of songs across different world regions). These included features related to pitch and rhythm as well as social context and interrelationships between musical features.
The results showed that rhythms based on two or three beats were present in music from all regions sampled – North America, Central/South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
Lead author Pat Savage said that in the old days, Western people believed that Western scales were universal. But then when it was realised that other cultures had quite different ideas about scales, that led some people to conclude that there was nothing universal about music.
Savage added that now they have shown that despite its great surface diversity, most of the music throughout the world is actually constructed from very similar basic building blocks and performs very similar functions, which mainly revolve around bringing people together.
The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.