Round the World in 80 Sounds: What’s World Music?

What is World Music? How has such a bland, vague term come to describe the rich and divergent music of thousands of cultures, from sub-Saharan Gnawa to Colombian Cumbia and Tuvan Throat Singing? For too long, it’s been the descriptor anywhere we buy or hear international music, from record stores to digital outlets like iTunes, relegating hundreds of diverse artists to a single heap because of their “otherness.” In fact, World Music is a Western term describing music outside the traditional “pop music canon:” the familiar American and European bands that long-dominated our radios and laptops. But World Music is on its way out: a hunger for the varied sounds from around the globe is rising to take its place.

The term “World Music” is a relatively recent phenomenon. Coined by a musicologist by the name of Robert E. Brown in the 1960’s, it was created to describe styles of ethnic or folk music found in more remote corners of the globe. World Music actually worked OK for much of the last 50 years, as long as the Western World remained the center of economic, political and cultural force. In the 20th Century, the West dominated the global airwaves, with icons like Michael Jackson and The Beatles winning hearts and record players from Bogota to Beijing. But by the end of the 90’s, it was clear the term was increasingly irrelevant.

As we push into the 21st Century, the Western dominance of the global music scene has waned. A new global musical consciousness springs up in its place, driven by the power of a global economy and music distribution systems where digital files and streaming videos are the norm. The hot sounds of 2010 don’t just come from New York and London – instead, rhythms ricochet across the globe, from Angola to Argentina and to Angkor Wat, finding eager listeners and receptive audiences in the farthest corners of our planet. It’s not just that music lovers are just discovering new global favorites, it’s also having a profound impact on what we listen to at home. The DNA of this global music phenomenon has worked its way into the music of our favorite singers and bands, from M.I.A. to Shakira to Vampire Weekend.

The global phenomenon of music is also tied to travel. Wherever we go, music permeates our consciousness, buzzing from tinny taxi radios, echoing off the chambers of metro tunnels and pumping from giant speakers. But alluring as it may be, discovering global music can also be confusing and intimidating. There are enough countries, artists and weird musical genres to make your head spin. What’s a traveling music-lover to do?

Today we’re unveiling a new feature here at Gadling called “Round the World in 80 Sounds.” The phenomena of global travel and music are inextricably intertwined. Each Thursday over the course of the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at some of the world’s most fascinating music personalities, emerging musical trends and musically inclined destinations. We’ll introduce you to new styles of music you haven’t heard, and help you to take a fresh look at some of your old favorites with a global eye. What qualifies as World Music in 2010? Everything and nothing, it seems, all at once. Prepare to take a journey into the fascinating world of music today as we head Round the World in 80 Sounds.

Curious about the sounds of the world? Read future Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.

“Don’t Worry”: Playing for Change–music around the world

Here’s another song from Playing for Change, the project that joins various musicians from around the world. The musicians are filmed singing the same song, but each sing in the country where they live. The parts are then combined into a whole with the footage of the musicians woven together. The intention of the project, as we’ve posted before, is to inspire people to make the world a better place by building music schools around the world with an aim for peace-building.

Of the three songs I’ve seen of this project, “Stand by Me,” “One Love,” and this one, “Don’t Worry,” I like this one the best, although they’re all excellent. The CD/DVD of the project will be released in April. Enjoy.

World Sound: More Desi Boy Bands

If you were to give me a pop quiz right now on Desi pop culture I’d flunk horribly. I’d like to think my crooning Asha Bhosle’s version of Ina, Mina, Dika would score me some points in the Desi community, but the song is centuries old and the world is need of a fresh new sound from young Desi boy heart-throbs. According to my favorite and really the only Desi culture blog I read, Sepia Mutiny, the planet could use a few more boy bands. Desi boy bands. My initial thoughts were quite opposite and not so much the Desi part, but the boy band part. However, I decided to read further and listen.

JoSH is a Montreal based Desi duo. The one they say resembles Lenny Kravitz (Q) is kind of cute to me and the other (Rup) rocks the turban while delivering the vocals that make the hearts of women melt. Okay, not so much melt, but you know the ladies are feeling it and shaking their tail-feathers, swinging their hair all wild and what have you and so it seems that the world needs more of this Desi boy band business, right? If you’re not familiar with JoSH (long O like Joe, not Joshua) you’ll want to see the videos they’ve included in the blog. The first one sold me, but the second one almost lost me. I’m a sucker for world music though so I’d probably pick it up or download a few tracks.

Seriously, if you’re into tuning your global ear to new things give JoSH a try. They’ll be opening for Nelly Furtado in Bombay on New Year’s Eve if you happen to be around India end of year.


Time for us to showcase some of our favorite blurbs of the week in case you missed them. I’m guessing most of you dear and loyal readers, haven’t and I completely don’t understand if you did, but here’s another chance to review five.

5. Saving Belizean Music:

Thanks to Neil, Belizean music is remembered this week. In this short blog he points us to a LA Times piece on the sounds of local music in Belize. On top of that he also provides you with a link to get your own fill of these Central American tunes.

4. Saving Pics:
Everyone’s got their own method to saving their precious travel memories. Some will back them up three times on CD, on five different computers or you name it so long as they are protected. A few of us who are a little more trusting in modern technology can probably do without caring too much equipment in the name of protection and that is why I point you to this (oh-so) simple gear piece from Erik. The skinny – Flashtrax XT. Another cool compact option for photo storage on the road.

3. Machu Picchu Helicopter:
To climb or fly? That is the question in this chopper over Machu Picchu piece, where Neil invites readers to share their feelings on whether or not taking the ride up to the ruins is better than hiking. In short, we want to know if it’s cool or lame?

2. Road Trip USA Podcasts:
Here’s a good one if you’re planning a last minute road trip for the summer – Road Trip USA podcasts by Jaime Jensen. While the gas along the way may be high you needn’t worry about the podcasts costing you a thing, because if what Erik says is true, then they’re free. Go get some audio for the road to help you along the way!

1. Self-Erecting Tent:

Some claim it’s spankin’ new and other say it’s a thing of years past, but I’ve never heard of it so for me it’s on the spankin’ side. What am I speaking of? The self-erecting tent by Quechua is making pitching your cozy campsite digs a breeze. All you do is toss it in the air and by the time it lands your home-sweet-tent is all ready to go. Thank Neil for pointing to this fine piece of gear.