When we are driving alone in our cars we have a chance to listen to the music that we enjoy the most. We don’t have to conform to any social pressures and we don’t have to take into account the tastes of any friends or family members. We can simply indulge our musical senses. By stepping into the car of someone who was previously alone, we open the door to a different world just a little bit.
Uber travel has become one of my favourite means of transportation for all the obvious reasons; it’s efficient, affordable, and comfortable. One surprising element of pleasure, though, has been the music that the drivers enjoy.
Each time I get into an Uber car, if there is music playing the driver asks if I would like them to turn it off. I always say no, and in doing so I have enjoyed lots of sounds and conversations I could not have anticipated.
Last week, the sounds of Louis Armstrong’s version of Summertime began shortly after I got into a car. Those first three notes are so distinctive that I knew what it was right away. When I commented on it, the driver went on to talk about his love of jazz and especially of Louis Armstrong’s music. I learned from him the surprising fact that the melody for Summertime was actually derived from a Ukrainian lullaby. He was from Russia but took some vicarious pride in the association with eastern European music.
Another Uber jazz fan was very happy to talk about his musical background. He was a bass player, but mostly wanted to talk about his son who had been a musical prodigy. At the age of eight he was able to recreate on the piano pop songs he had heard only a few times, chords and all. As a teenager, that son went on to play the organ at San Jose Sharks games. Subsequently the NHL franchise played only recordings of his music, but latterly rehired him to play live music and gave him a good raise in pay.
The most surprising musical treat I have had in an Uber car was when a driver was listening to songs in a language and style quite unfamiliar to me. It sounded like middle-eastern folk music and I asked what the song was about. He told me it was a love song, and as I left the vehicle I asked the language of the singer. He told me she was singing in Farsi and I thanked him for giving me the chance to hear something so far out of my normal range of musical experience.
I have listened jazz, rap, pop, easy listening, Mexican, and Persian music so far, and for ten minutes or so each time my musical world gets just a little bit wider.