31 July 2008

Catching Up to the World

SoundRoots has been a bit minimalist in recent weeks, a combination of non-blog workload, Internet-free vacation, and summery distraction. So we'll wrap a number of updates into this last post of July.

First, the kitten is safe. For now. While the ratio of visits & downloads to comments is still alarmingly high, he's been spared from the soup pot by those of you who have taken the time to leave a comment, question, or encouragement. Thanks!

Second, more CD reviews and mp3s coming soon. I'm still weighing options for mp3s, since the downloads tend to suck up my available bandwidth earlier and earlier each month. Ah, the price of fame...

News and links:
* There's an interesting conversation with Justin Adams about his new CD Soul Science over at Afrofunk.
Max Wild with Oliver Mtukudzi - Teerara
* CKUT radio in Montreal has posted a two-part special on World Music Immigration that you can stream or download.

* Oliver Mtukudzi is featured on the new album by jazz saxophonist Max Wild. While the album isn't out until next year, the single "Teerera" (sample) is out and Obliqsound has posted a video showing some of the studio recording.

* In the category of "where was this five years ago?" we have the upcoming film W by Oliver Stone; you can watch the trailer at YouTube. Not particularly musical, but the film's subject certainly had a global impact, even if most of it was undesirable.

Ever since my conversation with Paste Magazine's Nick Marino, I've been further pondering the term "world music." His rather literal interpretation of it as meaning "all the music in the world" has been grating on me, and it doesn't help that Music in a Suburban Scene wants to further expand the term to include Western classical music. And under the misleading (and further annoying) headline "It's All World Music Now," Miles Raymer of the Chicago Reader makes some interesting observations, concluding: "The exchange of musical ideas between the West and the rest of the world is evolving into a genuine conversation, and that can only be an improvement. The Internet may be giving the music industry all kinds of fits, but it’s pretty great for the health of music itself."

A moment of rant: I love music of all kinds, although most of my current playlist is, um, global music. Music that has distinct ethnic roots. And that, for me, is the heart of what the term "world music" is about. Maybe it has truly outlived its usefulness, and we're ready to start talking about more specific kinds of music. But if you're going to keep using it, here's the definition that will keep my head from exploding.

World music is music with distinct ethnic roots. Think Cesaria Evora, Huun Huur Tu, Ali Hassan Kuban.

And how about we coin a new, related term?

Glopop (global pop) is music that may incorporate ethnic rhythms, instruments, or melodies, but is so multicultural or so derivitive of transnational pop sounds as to render impossible identification to any one specific ethnic/cultural tradition. Like the Afro-Celts, Gamelan X, Slavic Soul Party.

Categorizing music is a fool's errand, of course. Even as I write this, I can think of a dozen bands that could fill a category between these two. Where would you put Lo'Jo, or Rachid Taha, or Dengue Fever?

Perhaps we can all start evolving toward more specific descriptions of music. Forget huge umbrellas such as "world music" and start talking about fado, klezmer, son, yoik, Bollywood, rai, reggae, bhangra, bluegrass, palm wine, samba, rapso. Let's get specific, even if it means taking a few minutes to explain to a Lil Wayne fan why they might like listening to a former Sudanese child soldier named Emmanual Jal.


Kan said...

Hi Sir,

I understand that you feel uncomfortable that your banner of world music is being hijacked for a other sounding music style.

This is quiet a long running discussion and I dont see the value of repeating long standing arguments.
I believe what you are doing is fine and interesting. No need to get confused. Everybody their niche, all satisfied.

Many of the pro and against arguments can be found on

wayne and wax http://wayneandwax.com/

There is more theoretising about world music, values and interpretations than I can process.
Also mudd up long time ago had some debate on world music. the blogger doesn't like the term.

I remember also masalascism discussed your same argument
search for the 2 april post titled Citizen Touré pt.2 on

Enjoy reading.


If you are a keen surfer google david byrne and his vision on world music

Your perspective is also the one held by Ian Anderson of froots fame versus the perspective of his competitor songlines.

SpinTheGlobe said...

Thanks for the input, Josef -- I'll certainly check out those links, though I don't expect this debate to truly get resolved until we move beyond the term "world music."

I can see why David Byrne say he hates world music, but the term still has some marginal usefulness for me. For now. And I'm glad to know I'm in the company of Ian Anderson, who has done a lot to promote great global music.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how it is called, I like it! :-)