If you ever run into a group of chimpanzees in a record store, you may find them congregating around the Indian classical section.
That's according to a new study that tested the musical tastes of humans' primate cousins. The researchers found that while chimpanzees shun the steadily strong beats common in Western genres, they like Indian ragas and Akan tunes from West Africa.
"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music," study co-author Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, said in a statement. Rather, the researchers used music from Africa, India and Japan to test how the primates reacted to specific acoustic characteristics, such as the ratio of strong to weak beats (or stressed to unstressed beats). [8 Humanlike Behaviors of Primates]
De Waal and colleagues said that similar studies in the past only tested how chimpanzees reacted to Western music. But even though the sounds of Western pop and classical might seem different to the casual listener, they share similar rhythmic patterns and intervals. Musical traditions from other cultures, however, may have fundamentally different properties. While a typical Western song might have one strong beat for every one to three weak beats, an Indian raga (or series of notes in a classical composition) might have one strong beat for every 31 weak beats in a long rhythmic cycle.