Ten musical destinations that will rock your world

Music has a way of taking you on a journey. Like any great trip, the songs that inspire us are filled with joyous highs and sobering lows, unexpected revelations and exotic uncertainties. It’s only natural then that each of us seeks out music during our travels. Whether it’s a CD stand in a bustling market in Morocco or a classically-trained violinist playing on a street corner in Paris, music offers travelers a visceral way to cut through the confusion of language and custom, revealing the true essence of a destination.

Wherever we go, melodies both familiar and exotic burst out of speakers, vibrate in concert halls, groove around city streets and drip off the walls in sweaty dance clubs. Yet it’s only in a few select spots around the world that the culture of music becomes a truly tangible attraction. These are the special places where a unique confluence of cultural cross-pollination, inherent creativity and a critical mass of kick-ass musicianship coalesces to create something truly special.

In the course of our journeys here at Gadling, we’ve uncovered some of the world’s most unique and memorable destinations for music. The following list is by no means the end-all-be-all of musical places to visit, but each of the ten spots we’ve chosen is without a doubt one-of-a-kind and a true musical hotspot. Did we choose any of your favorites? Click below for our picks…
Number 10 – Mali’s Festival in the Desert
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake Mali’s Festival in the Desert as a cruel mirage. Yet every year this wind-swept country in Northwestern Africa puts on one of the continent’s best musical events, featuring traditional Tuareg tunes as well as music from around the globe.

Number 9 – Pitch-perfect karaoke in Manila
Love it or hate it, Karaoke has spread its melodies around the world, from the drinking dens of Tokyo to the back streets of New York. But to truly experience Karaoke talent, head to Manila. Filipino cover bands are legendary for their pitch-perfect renditions of Western pop songs. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference from the originals.

Number 8 – Concert hopping in Austin, TX
They like to say everything is bigger in Texas, and Austin’s annual South by Southwest music festival certainly doesn’t disappoint. Each March, over a thousand bands from around the world descend on the state’s capital for four days of drinking, dancing and music industry schmoozing. If you’re hoping to catch rock’s next great thing or simply looking for a good time, South by Southwest is definitely one of the USA’s best music events.

Number 7 – Tokyo Record Collecting
Tokyo, Japan is one of the world’s great cultural epicenters, consuming and re-creating pop culture trends at a furious pace. This intense consumption is particularly true of music, where the Japanese excel as the world’s consummate music collectors. If you need proof of Tokyo’s status as the crown jewel for record shopping, one need only stroll the back alleyways of Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku district. Along the narrow side streets you’ll stumble upon hidden second floor record shops packed floor to ceiling with obscure vinyl and out-of-print rarities.

Number 6 – New Orleans gets Jazzed

New Orleans is known as the birthplace of Jazz music. It was the city’s unique mixture of French, Spanish and African traditions that allowed the city to develop this particularly unique musical heritage, one that is evident even today. One of the best ways to experience the Big Easy’s Jazz culture is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, perhaps the world’s best showcase of this distinctly southern-tinged style.

Number 5 – The London Remix
London has a reputation as a musical chameleon, a city that takes on the world’s constantly evolving musical styles, remixing and reinterpreting in a uniquely British way. Whether it’s Punk or Techno, Indie Rock or Dubstep, London has something to suit the tastes of about every music lover. Check out this list of London music venues, this rundown of record stores, or top-notch dance clubs like Fabric if you’re looking to jump along to the beat.

Number 4 – Kingston sound system parties
Jamaica holds an outsize reputation in the world’s musical lore, having birthed world-famous artists like Bob Marley along with hundreds of other equally talented Jamaican singers, producers and musicians. Though the laid-back vibe of Tuff Gong has long-since morphed into the raw sounds of Dancehall and Ragga, you can still experience Jamaican music at its finest at some of Kingston’s weekly sound system parties like Passa Passa and Weddy Weddy Wednesday. These rough and tumble affairs take over Kingston’s parks and streets with huge speakers, raucous dancing and plenty of fun.

Number 3 – All night techno in Berlin
Something happened when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. As a divided city was slowly mended together, music fans began to take over the city’s abandoned buildings and spaces for semi-legal dance parties. It was the beginning of Techno, a music scene that would soon sweep the capital and most of Europe. Berlin today is ground zero for electronic music fans, with some of the world’s best DJ’s playing parties that can last all night and into the next day and beyond. Check out the events list at Resident Advisor for a good listing of what’s happening.

Number 2 – Shake to the rhythm of Brazilian Carnival
Much like New Orleans and Jamaica, Brazil is the product of a unique confluence of cultures, bringing together Portuguese, African and indigenous influences. Nowhere does this unique cultural history make itself better felt than during Brazil’s annual Carnival festivities, when cities across the country like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador erupt in wild displays of samba dancing and furious drumming. Check out this Rio Carnival guide to get started.

Number 1 – Find what’s new in New York City
It’s hard to even describe how important New York has been to 20th Century musical innovation. Jazz. Punk. Disco. Hip hop. Whatever your preferred style of music, you can find it here…whether its an Indie Rock show at the Bowery Ballroom or killer night of Jazz over at Blue Note, New York’s got it all. Spend a day browsing through record stores like Other Music and A-1 Records before catching a show at Mercury Lounge, S.O.B.’s or Lincoln Center.

Did we pick your favorite musical destination? Think we forgot one of the best? Leave us a comment below to continue to the debate.

Photo of the Day (5-27-09)

This gorgeous building is in the walled-city of Intramuros, a section of Manila, Philippines. The city, built by the Spaniards on the southern bank of the Pasig River in the 16th century is Manila’s oldest district. I love the tone and the way the angle that wetboxer chose in order to show off the intricate details of the architecture. It’s buildings like this one that draws me to travel. Not the only thing, but one thing. Like nature, buildings that offer visual stimulation and intrigue also capture the world’s wonder. But, I’m fond of cities so perhaps that’s why I feel this way.

If you’ve captured some of the world’s wonders with your camera, send your shots our way at Gadling’s Flickr photo pool. One might be chosen as a Photo of the Day.

Strange New Year’s traditions around the world

Unlike many holidays, where celebrants are bound by tradition or religion, New Year’s is a holiday that allows each individual to choose his own method of celebration. Some revelers will soak themselves in alcohol, boozing it up with copious bottles of champagne. Others choose to make the evening a quieter affair, settling in for a movie and an early night in bed.

However you personally choose to celebrate New Year’s 2009, people around the world certainly have some wacky ways that they choose to bring in their new year. MSNBC is reporting on some of the more interesting customs. Here’s a look at a few of the more curious:

  • South America – in countries like Brazil and Bolivia, it’s what’s inside that counts. Residents in cities such as Sao Paulo and La Paz ring in the New Year by donning brightly colored underpants. Those who choose red are hoping for an amorous year ahead, those with yellow wish for money. I guess this begs the question of how you tell who is wearing what color underwear. Perhaps that is best left unanswered…
  • Denmark – as if the effects of plentiful New Year’s alcohol were not disorienting enough, many Danish revelers leap off chairs at the stroke of midnight, hoping to banish bad spirits in the year ahead.
  • Philippines – New Year’s celebrations in places like Manila tend to be circular; Filipinos focus on all things round, consuming “round” fruits such as grapes and wearing clothing with round shapes like polka dots. The spherical theme is meant to remind celebrants of the “round” shape of coins and prosperity.
  • Spain – at the stroke of 12, Spaniards begin to consume 12 grapes, attempting to eat the whole bunch by the time the clock stops chiming.
  • Belarus – the new year in Belarus is all about getting hitched. Unmarried women compete at games of skill and chance to determine who will tie the knot in the coming months. One game involves setting piles of corn and a rooster before the potential brides-to-be – whichever pile the bird chooses apparently picks the lucky lady.

You can check out the full list of weird New Year’s traditions here.

Man Shot Dead for Bad Singing

Okay, in the United States we get shot for honking at someone to let them know the light as turned green. But in Asia, where karaoke is big business, you can get shot for singing out of tune.

Midway through his song, a homeless man in a karaoke bar in San Mateo town, Rizal, Philippines, was warned by a bouncer that his singing was out of tune. “As [he] ignored his comments and continued singing,” the AP reports, “[the bouncer] pulled out his revolver and shot him in the chest.”

The AP story goes on to mention that violence in karaoke bars is not uncommon, and in the capital of the Philippines, Manila, the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra has been taken off of most karaoke playlists due to it’s violence-inciting abilities. The song was “found to be the cause of fights and even deaths when patrons sang out of tune.” Seriously.

Double Tall Skim Catpooccino To Go

If you’re a coffee lover, maybe you’ll want to make a special flight on Japan Airlines to buy “the rarest coffee in the world“: civet coffee. But this specialty brew is sold only in business class, to the tune of $600 for 100 grams.

You’re not going to find this in any Starbucks. Your other options for getting the coffee are limited: if you’re not heading to Japan, a single coffee shop in Vienna sells the beans. If you’re really adventurous, maybe you can sniff out the source directly: the Philippines. An environmentalist husband and wife team, named Reyes, has made a multi-million-dollar business out of its harvest. Non-coffee drinkers themselves, they accidentally stumbled into the civet’s special gift while doing conservation work on sugar palm trees outside of Manila in 2003.

What makes the coffee so rare? It’s made from the droppings of the civet cat. Apparently, this nocturnal, ferret-like cat eats sugar palm fruit and coffee cherries. (Oh, and you can catch SARS from it too.) The coffee bean is not digested, but ferments in its digestive system and is excreted, much to the delight of locals, who collect the ready-to-roast beans, but try to keep the origin secret. The roasted beans give off a “sweet chocolatey aroma” and produce a “strong and earthy” brew.

Ah, I can just imagine the aroma!