World Music, term for various styles of world popular music, or pop, that are practiced outside the European-American mainstream. The term World Music is somewhat ambiguous: In one sense it is used by the Western music industry to group various kinds of non-Western popular music; alternately, and in the context of this article, it connotes world popular music that has been influenced by Western pop, or, conversely, Western popular music that incorporates significant non-Western influences. For information on folk music or art music traditions around the world, refer to the various ethnic music articles in Encarta: African Music; African American Music; Arab Music; Chinese Music; Greek Music; Indian Music; Indonesian Music; and Latin American Music.
II. Musical Diversity
Popular music (music produced and marketed on a mass-commodity basis) first emerged in the early 1900s, during which time numerous distinctive popular music styles began to develop around the world. The rise of such genres was linked to dramatic transformations—especially urbanization and modernization—occurring throughout the world. Such changes disrupted traditional attitudes, lifestyles, and forms of artistic patronage, while creating new urban social classes with new musical tastes. In addition, the emerging popular music styles were closely tied to the advent of mass media—especially the spread of recording technology in the 1920s and 1930s—that introduced new forms of mass production and dissemination of both local and imported music. Many of the new evolving popular music genres consisted of hybrids that combined indigenous folk traditions with modern stylistic features borrowed from abroad.
In many non-Western societies, the emerging popular music genres combined Western imports, such as the guitar and chordal harmony, with traditional features, such as indigenous musical form, and characteristic melody, rhythm, and vocal style. Such was the case, for example, in Hawaii in the early 20th century. In larger societies, the cultural mixes could be more complex, as in the emergence of popular Cuban dance music. The Cuban son, an urban style of dance music that evolved in the decades after 1900, combined aspects of Spanish-derived folk music (guitars, characteristic harmonies) with other features (rhythms, call-and-response singing) evidently adapted from the rumba, an Afro-Cuban style of dance music. In subsequent decades, Cuban dance musicians incorporated influences from jazz, developing styles such as the mambo, a fast dance genre for big band, and the bolero, a slow, sentimental song form. These Cuban dance-music styles became popular from Paris to cities in Africa. Meanwhile, African countries were developing their own syncretic (integrating both Western and indigenous influences) pop-music styles. In several cases, as with Ghanaian highlife, a popular genre of West Africa, the new music involved a synthesis of local creole guitar styles, Westernized brass-band music, and indigenous rhythms and song forms.
In some cases, as with jazz, Greek rebetika, and the Argentine tango, the emergent popular music styles came from the colorful underworlds of urban taverns and brothels. As such styles grew in sophistication, they came to attract the interest of cultural nationalists and middle-class enthusiasts. Eventually these styles shed their less reputable origins and developed into dynamic national genres.
With the worldwide growth of the motion-picture industry about 1930, some popular music styles developed in connection with films, especially in such countries as India and Egypt, where large segments of the population were unable to afford records and record players. By the 1960s India's motion-picture industry had grown to be the second largest in the world and Indian film music had evolved into an internationally popular genre.
While the term World Music was not widely used until the 1980s, non-Western genres of music had been introduced in Europe much earlier. German composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart imitated Turkish military music in his famous "Turkish March" of 1778 (K. 331), and French composer Georges Bizet used a popular Cuban habanera tune (a 19th-century dance form) in his opera Carmen (1875). With the advent of records, several non-Western music styles came to enjoy considerable popularity in Europe and the United States from the 1920s. Hawaiian music was perhaps the single most popular genre of commercial music in the United States in the 1920s. During the 1940s and 1950s the United States experienced the so-called mambo craze, the chachachá fad, and the successful marketing of Trinidadian calypso by American singer Harry Belafonte. In the early 1960s a handful of records that derived from distinct ethnic origins achieved places on the Billboard magazine Top-40 charts, including a rock-and-roll-style recording of the Mexican folk song "La Bamba" (1959), performed by rock singer Ritchie Valens; a version of "My Boy Lollipop" (1964), performed by Jamaican singer Millie Small as a ska (fast style of dance music) song; and "Pata Pata" (1967), written and performed by South African vocalist Miriam Makeba. Several Brazilian bossa novas became commercial hits as well as jazz standards, including "The Girl from Ipanema" (1964) by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.
It was not until the 1970s, however, that music styles from outside the Western mainstream came to be widely appreciated as more than fads or novelty items. In particular, Jamaican reggae, especially as performed by singer Bob Marley, achieved phenomenal international popularity. Reggae, whose antecedent, ska, developed partly as a Jamaican reinterpretation of American R & B music, became popular not only for its compelling rhythms and its soulful melodies, but also for its ideology. Expressed via the Afrocentric principles of the West Indian Rastafarian religion, reggae's fervent and utopian message of liberation, idealism, and justice had worldwide appeal. As rock-music audiences bought Marley's records, and as musicians such as British rock guitarist Eric Clapton recorded reggae songs, a new dimension of internationalism and multiculturalism entered the music industry worldwide.
IV. Recent Trends
The term World Music implies the new international popularity of syncretic, non-Western styles of pop music, as well as the excursions of Western musicians outside the Euro-American mainstream. A landmark in the latter trend was the album Graceland (1988), by American musician Paul Simon, which represented a particularly successful—albeit politically controversial—collaboration between Simon and black South African musicians. Simon, along with American vocalist David Byrne , British rock singer Peter Gabriel, and others went on to produce eclectic recordings in collaboration with Brazilian, Chicano, West African, and Newyorican (New York City Puerto Rican) musicians, among others. In collaborating with musicians outside the Euro-American mainstream, Western musicians may be inspired by an interest in new sounds as well as by a search for music that seems fresh, authentic, and untainted by the commercial music industry. While some critics have accused Western performers of exploiting artists from developing countries, others have pointed out the efforts of musicians such as Peter Gabriel to promote and popularize their collaborators.
In tandem with such collaborative ventures, various styles of non-Western syncretic pop music have acquired followings among cosmopolitan Western consumers. While language continues to remain a significant barrier to the cross-cultural popularity of certain kinds of music, styles of dance music such as Congolese soukous, and Nigerian juju have gained substantial followings in the West. Juju artist King Sunny Ade, for instance, has performed widely in Europe and the United States. Although Caribbean and African pop music form the core of World Music, a few other genres have gained international popularity. Algerian rai music has won a core of European fans through its sinuous melodies and lively rhythms. The international popularity of Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who performed qawwali (Sufi devotional music), may have surpassed that enjoyed by Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar in the 1960s. Growing numbers of Western listeners now browse record stores for new releases of everything from Bulgarian vocal choirs to Tibetan chant. Such consumers often enjoy not only modernist eclectic recordings by such musicians as Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía, but also purely traditional music such as that found in the album Sounds of the Rainforest (1991), which features tribal songs and ambient sounds from the jungles of New Guinea.
In many cases, the exposure of Western audiences to World Music music has been aided not only by the availability of recordings, but also by the abundance of immigrant communities in major urban centers. For example, the presence of large numbers of African and Caribbean immigrants in New York, London, and Paris has helped make these cities centers for world popular music. New York City has in many respects been the center of the Latin-music industry since the 1940s, just as Paris is home to the top French Caribbean pop groups, such as Kassav'. Second- and third-generation immigrants are developing their own hybrid styles, such as the bhangra music of British-born South Asians, which fuses Punjabi folk rhythms and melodies with influences from disco and modern Jamaican reggae. Some urban nightclubs that hire World Music performers attract immigrants as well as Western world-music enthusiasts.
V. Homogeneity and Diversity
In developing countries, the trend toward Westernization of music continues. In many cases, innovative crossover artists (bridging two or more styles) are inspired by their exposure to Western and other music via the mass media and by the concurrently changing tastes of their urban audiences. At the same time, these musicians may seek to emulate the ability of such artists as Bob Marley to earn fame and wealth in the West. Musicians often try to craft rock-oriented sounds that will appeal to Westerners while still retaining some indigenous flavor.
Many critics, both in the West and elsewhere, have expressed concern about the increasing homogenization and Westernization of the world's music. Indeed, the rhythms of rock and disco music have spread worldwide, just as many traditional non-Western music genres are disappearing. However, such trends are at least partially counterbalanced by the proliferation of distinctive musical hybrids. Furthermore, certain pop styles emerging from developing countries—such as Sundanese jaipongan (accompanied by gong-chime ensembles) and Vietnamese vong co (theater-derived music)—reflect no noticeable Western influence. Revivals of ethnic nationalism have contributed to a reawakening of interest in local art forms. Meanwhile, the proliferation of the mass media and of hybrid musical styles has enabled seemingly contradictory trends toward homogenization and diversification to coexist.