INTERNATIONAL WORLD MUSIC
INTERNATIONAL WORLD MUSIC
I’ve long been an advocate for cross fertilization of styles and genres hopefully to generate something new and exciting. My favourite examples are ‘Run DMC/Aerosmith’ with ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Paul Simon’s album ‘Graceland’. Both of these utilized completely diverse types of music and seamlessly wove them together. I’m surprised that this inventiveness has not been more widely used although there are plenty more slightly disguised attempts out there, my biggest hit being one of them.
Internationally, there are so many variations of the twelve different notes that make up the music most of us would recognise. Anyone who has widely travelled around the globe cannot help but be aware of so many different styles and sounds, some of which are palatable to the individual, some which are not. However, marrying up diverse rythums and sounds together with some decent songwriting could be an answer to the deluge of mediocrity offered by the majority of todays artists.
I remember visiting Taiwan a couple of years ago and had an amazing experience in the mountains of the central area. It was in this region that the indigenous locals sang the atmospheric vocals for the hit ‘Return To Innocence’ by ‘Enigma’ (I can sense you now rushing to YouTube for a reminder). This still remains one of my favourite pieces of music.
World Music is, broadly speaking, music of the world’s cultures. In the 1980s the term was adopted to characterize non-English recordings that were released in Great Britain and the United States. Employed primarily by the media and record stores, this controversial category amalgamated the music of such diverse sources as Tuvan throat singers, Zimbabwean guitar bands, and Pakistani qawwalī or Sufi-music singers, as well as non main stream Western folk musicians such as Cajun fiddlers and Hawaiian guitarists. Although purists argued that no musical style could be identified as ‘World Music’, the term was coined to bring foreign music closer to the mainstream of Western popular music. In many ways the history of World Music is the story of the marketing of foreign music by Western record companies. Despite these commercial origins, by the early 1990s the term had precipitated a change in the consciousness of musicians and producers, and World Music had become a bona fide musical genre.
Paradoxically, world music was often synonymous with local or regional music and interpretations of what fitted tended to shift from one country to the next. Although some artists from countries on the margins of the Western popular music market could now aspire to a worldwide audience, those who took superstars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Bob Marley as their role models were usually frustrated by the idiosyncratic tastes of world music mediators. World music was welcomed for its ‘authenticity’ as a counterpoint to the increasingly synthetic and robotic sounds favoured by Western pop producers during the 1980s.
Industry recognition of world music came in 1990, when the influential
American trade magazine Billboard introduced a world music chart. A year later the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences added a world music category to its Grammy Awards. Among the artists who benefited most from this new visibility were the Gipsy Kings, a French pop-flamenco group that sweetened strong vocals with strummed guitars, catchy songs, and a neo-dance beat, an avalanche of Irish-related artists, many featuring the word Celtic in their album titles, that included 1997 Grammy winners the Chieftains, Cesaria Evora, a smoky-voiced nightclub singer from Cape Verde, and several ‘ambient-global’, or ‘ethno-techno’, projects, including Enigma (from Germany) and Deep Forest.
Wouldn’t it be great to hear more cross fertilization of cultural music from around the world. Who’s up for the challenge to create something new, listenable and exhilerating? An International ‘Mash Up’ of styles to titillate our aural senses.