Ancestry.com has teamed up with Spotify to provide musical playlists inspired by the ethnic origins revealed by AncestryDNA tests. If you’ve taken an AncestryDNA test, you can log in at Ancestry.com, select DNA > Your DNA Summary and click Make Your Mix. Enter your preferred five genetic regions, as identified by your ethnicity results (these don’t automatically populate for you). From the categories of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceana, you’ll choose more specific regions that align with your DNA regions.
The resulting playlist curates 20 songs from those regions into a unique playlist you can access with a Spotify account. It’s mostly modern music, with sprinkled nods to traditional styles. For example, a playlist representing my northern European regions includes Pink Floyd, Sinead O’Connor, Sam Smith, Duran Duran and Talisk.
What people are saying about these DNA playlists
Several news and culture outlets have reported on this new service. The New York Times wasn’t impressed: “It can be hard to tell if these playlists are highly specific or just completely haphazard….The experience is less ‘Finding Your Roots’ and more ‘disoriented tourist abroad, in a loud bar near the hotel.’” They quote a commentator’s description of the playlist as “a kind of souvenirizing of DNA results.”
When we shared the news on Facebook, some of you curated your own heritage playlists on the spot. Constance shared a sentiment that others echoed: “At first I was excited that I may get to hear what sort of music was popular for my people in the past. My ancestors would not have listened to anything that has been included. If Ancestry wanted to make this truly valuable, it would be focused on music from previous centuries. These are not ‘ancestral playlists.’ They are ‘what’s playing now in (fill in the region).’ Another opportunity to teach us about our history lost.”
We did like Sebastian’s comment: “It has to be something epic for me…and hopefully it skips the whole Bavarian Oktoberfest music part.”
Here’s my own take on this somewhat gimmicky offering. I’m guessing it’s meant to get older people to subscribe to Spotify and younger people to buy an AncestryDNA test. It’s not a serious attempt to satisfy the genealogist’s curiosity about the musical tastes of their forebears. The Talisk entry in my playlist introduced me to a folk band popular in the UK, which I enjoyed. I treat the playlist the same way I have treated my own DNA ethnicity results: something that’s more about fun and emotional connection than about genealogical research value.
Another (very short) DNA playlist
For another super-short take on the sound of your DNA ethnicity results, upload your autosomal test results to MyHeritageDNA or test with them. MyHeritage DNA started putting test result “reveals” to music in June 2017. The tune is a quick soundtrack mashup specific to your ethnicities. According to the site, “each of the 42 ethnicities has a distinctive tune, based on the regions cultural elements; all songs seamlessly connect to each other.”