In a galaxy of 400 billion stars, where sentient life emerged on some 20 million distinct worlds, music, one of the hallmarks of civilized culture, has evolved in an almost limitless variety.
Some styles remain planetary bound, their appreciation limited to their progenitors. Gamorrean opera and baka rock has mostly failed to find an appreciative audience in the galaxy at large, outside of expatriate Gamorreans, who tout its snorting and squealing as sublime. Likewise Verpine choral arrangements, whose members rub their legs together to produce their version of music, are not particularly well-regarded other than by insectoid species. In a pangalactic community of such varied biology and aural temperament, some sonic compositions even have negative physical effects which their creators are immune to. The deafening noise of Aridinian folk music famously causes human ears to bleed within the sounding of a few notes and has thus been strictly regulated outside of its native system. The smazzo percussion group Shluur was once escorted off the planet Clak’dor VII after it was found the music of its avant-garde composer Wurokk provoked violent aggression in the native Bith population and nearly leveled the capitol city of Weogar in destructive riots.
Yet other genres, such as the perennially popular jizz, seem to break orbit from their homeworlds and join the Galactic community at large, changing and in turn being changed by its interactions with other cultures. Symphonic classical composition has been a kind of neutral musical ground for the expression of heterogeneous cultures for millennia. A few musical styles, such as the traditional music of the reptilian Tarasin of Cularin, achieve popularity because of the unique, pleasing effect they have on extraterrestrial species; in this case, inexplicably soothing the gills of aquatic peoples.
It is known that the Wookiees of Kashyyyk beat their tree drums in celebration of Life Day as early as 1,500,000 BBY, and early writings found in the Petrax Historic Quarter of Coruscant speak of attempts to duplicate with woodwind instruments the haunting moonsong that occurs when wind passes through the wingflutes of ringed moon shadowmoths. Millennia before the Battle of Yavin, the fragile-boned, flying reptilian Vors of Vortex in the Glythe sector were already performing their annual storm solstice Concert of the Winds, manipulating the passage of wind through the myriad tunnels and apertures of the mountainous, delicate crystalline Cathedral of Winds to produce complex, ethereal music unheard anywhere else in the galaxy.
Some of the earliest examples of popular music in the galaxy have been recovered from ancient jukeboxes on the Smuggler’s Moon of Nar Shaddaa dating to the Cold War (about 3,640 BBY). The contemporary band The South Sector Boppers performed an array of songs, including the Huttese language “Doe Azalus Ootmian” (Dangerous Stranger), “Shapa Keesay” (Shapeshifter), “Kayfoundo Naweea” (Hungry Eyes) and “Smeeleya Whao Tupee Upee,” as well as the classic Vertical City yerk instrumentals “Average Brown Wookiee” and “Run Kessel Run.”
Interestingly, the use of preprogrammed musician droids was proven to already have been in use at this time, when the all-droid band The Leisurenauts was uncovered during an archaeological expedition into the ruins of Kaas City on Dromund Kaas. Reactivating the droids re-discovered the ancient instrumental tracks “Do the Holos Show Up on the Bill?”, “In the Escape Pod,” “Yesterday’s Jawa,” and “See You on the Dark Side,” which some critics dismissed as “ancient lift-tube music,” a genre notorious for its soullessness. Derision of droid bands is one shared by much of musical academia, but is perhaps misguided, considering the historically widespread use of 3DO protocol droids as mandolin players to soothe children, and the enormous crossover popularity of the Clone Wars-era mechanical band Plexo-33, whose “11011101 #2″ was a chart-topper, and one of the most famous songs in the galaxy at that time. Acclaimed Outer Rim gliz artist Gaeriel Capens was discovered to have used a RetSpan Audionics Tri-bot mimic series droid in her hit remix of “The Sequential Passage Of Chronological Intervals” in 22 BBY.
Classical music saw a renaissance with the introduction of hyperspace travel, and symphonic music bridged the gap between early societies. Planetary orchestras exchanged compositions and native instruments with extraterrestrial musicians, inevitably leading to interspecies orchestras whose disparate elements coalesced into the universal, some would say mathematical language of melodious tonality. Early classical composers such as the immortal Borna did more to further understanding between species and cultures than legions of diplomats. Dembaline’s piece “Shwock Dubllon” is, for most species, their first exposure to Mon Calamarian diaspora, and is rightly considered one of the planet’s most significant contributions to Galactic culture. It remains a timeless masterpiece, even remixed to renewed acclaim by Gaeriel Capens (again, via a Tri-bot mimic series droid). The sonatas of Kithra and Berltagh, Mondegrene’s “Fugue In K,” Borra Chambo’s masterwork “Dissolution By Self-Intention,” as well as “Insensate” by Tikkal Remb Mah, composed in these golden years, remain undisputed foundations of musical study.
Guts and Glory: A Chronicle of The Amazing Story of The Twisted Rancor Trio by Gilthos Iksaris tells of the titular jatz band from 3,956 BBY whose driving, bass heavy instrumentals were popular in the nightclubs and cantinas of Taris around the time of the Jedi Civil War. Jatz has proved one of the more enduring styles of dance music, existing well into the time of the Galactic Empire.
Heavy isotope, a genre known for its excessive volume and the tendency of bass lines to mimic the human heartbeat, was invented in the boroughs of Slum District G17 by the vibrant but rebellious youth culture, as personified by the band D.T. Spool and The Skroaches. The genre gained notoriety for its association with the deathstick culture rampant in the Coruscanti Underworld in the years leading up to and including the Clone Wars.
The musical genre glimmik, was popularized around 31 BBY. A loud, frenetic sound reminiscent of heavy isotope but with a fitter, more extreme image and inspirational lyrical content, it was a favorite with non-humans and those in risky career paths such as racers, daredevils, and the elite military, possibly due to the popularity of two-time Boonta Eve Classic champion Podracer and superstar crooner Boles Roor, who famously performed a sold-out concert at the Kallark Ampitheater on Coruscant. Glimmik is still played on shockball courts and used by shockboxers as entrance music to vertices around the galaxy.
The rise of digital sound slugs led to a boom in the exchange of popular music styles from world to world. The new method of storing and selling or trading individual songs was officially charted by news periodicals like HoloNet News. Singer Miracle Meriko introduced the galaxy’s ears to jizz-wailing with his #2 single, the plaintive, soulful, “Stardance.”
Jizz is primarily a Bith institution, and is characterized by swinging, upbeat melodies. Yet the tonal variety of jizz has led to it becoming one of the more versatile and widespread popular musical art forms, embraced and appropriated by numerous cultures, which bring their own unique native stylings into the mix. As a result, there are countless jizz offshoots spread across the Galaxy, such as Wroonian blues, gliz (not to be confused with glitz) Tatooine blues (or the dirty variety, developed by Smooth Banjaxx Wab and the Scundereds) , and the more romantic aubade.
Jizz bands employ a wide variety of instruments, including drums, fanfars, Omni boxes, and double jocimers, with various planets incorporating their own native musical instrumentation. For instance, Tatooine blues is often played with a floonorp, drifxar, or sobriquet, all instruments made from spare podracer parts (such as in the Mos Espa song The Street Singer), and the Kitonak jizz-wailer Droopy McCool favored a low-toned chidinkalu horn carved from the hollow reeds of chidinka plants on his homeworld of Kirdo III. The only apparently indispensable member of a jizz band is a kloo horn player. The saying goes among aficionados, “A jizz band without a Bith has its work cut out for them. A jizz band without a kloo horn should find a new gig.”
The loud, rhythmic leap-jump style epitomized by the bubbly Twi’Lek singer and DJ Sasha Digweed, rose high in the charts, with Dobi Deene’s unabashedly infectious Wroonian Tramp topping out at #3, beating out well-respected vandfillist Maxa Jandovar’s anti-war track Does Anyone Weep? as well as Lord Kavad And The Skaalite Orchestra’s haunting Stark Memory. The Kessel Runners popularized the jango genre in the first years of the Clone Wars. The group Pekkie Blu And The Starboys gained a fanbase playing a whimsical brand of pop known as deva, and the Cularin band Jedi Mind Trick toured The Colonies with The Space Monkeys, who had a bestselling single with their cover of Summertime. Zabrak conserlista music enjoyed a small but fervent following off Iridonia.
As is common during the duration of any armed conflict, music began to reflect the times, with some entertainers expressing political stances in their songs.
Inspired by the escape of his family during the bloody Battle of Brentaal at twenty years old, classical quettarrist Ban Shoosa became a sensation when he wrote the critically lauded Vissencant Variations.
Bith DJ Vennido T’all sampled lines of Separatist leader Alto Stratus’ fiery speeches (“Your planet—your home—is drowned in blood! For three thousand years we were loyal to the Republic!” and “We will send the Jedi home in caskets!”) in his driving, overtly anti-Republic tracks.
Patriotic classical composer Noj Smialliw retaliated with the stirring epic “Spirit of the Republic,” whereas the duo Kang and Lubrichs collaborated on a decidedly anti-war album with renowned kloo-horn soloist Jimke Weet and blissl virtuoso Orin Mersai.
In the midst of these, some popular entertainers managed to sidestep controversy yet still show their support for the besieged Republic. Popular young holo-actor Jasod Revoc partnered with aged comedian and entertainer Epoh Trebor and his best friend, Bith musician Epoh Bahb (no relation) under the banner of HoloNet Entertainment to tour the Galaxy as Jasord Revoc And His Galactic Review, entertaining troops with an ensemble that included the lovely Sullustan native riev singer and dancer turned pangalactic leap-jump star Eyar Marath, jizz pioneers Figrin D’an And The Modal Nodes, and later the band Sien’Soro. Each show began and ended with Epoh Bahb’s signature fanfare tune, “Appreciated Reminisces.”
The esteemed royal music advisor Hela Brandes, classical composer Toffi Argala, shudderup quetarrist/singer Bongiovi, and gungan bandleader Augara Jowil coaxed the legendary symponika master Beezer Pert out of retirement for a packed concert in the Palace Plaza of Theed on their native Naboo to benefit war orphans on both sides of the conflict.
The late Republic period gave rise to the widespread use of subliminals in popular music. One pioneer of this method was Twi’Lek sensation Skwan Bonduna and his band Sonic Free, who were arrested by the newly born Empire for attempting to foment revolt, although the subliminals Bonduna used were harmless and meant to enhance listeners’ moods. While the band was killed during a suspicious prison riot, Bonduna managed to escape and fled to the Mid Rim with a price on his head. Shortly after, the Empire legalized subliminal use in music and introduced legislation to regulate mood manipulation in terms of decibel and duration. It developed into an art form, even appreciated by a select segment of techno-minded music-philes.
Stay tuned for part two of Slugthrowers!
Edward M. Erdelac is the author of The Merkabah Rider series, Terovolas, Buff Tea, and Coyote’s Trail. His fiction appears in over a dozen anthologies. He wrote the definitive story about boxing in a galaxy far, far away for StarWars.com’s Hyperspace feature, and created the backstories of m-HYD binary hydromech, Bane Malar, and Yoxgit.