A Brief Guide to World Music

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Photo: muzik-agaciniz

When we hear the phrase world music, it’s supposed to evoke a sense of awe!

It creates in us a feeling that there is more to music than meets the ear. World music communicates the idea that there is a universe of sonic experiences that await us.

But just as the vastness of the ocean doesn’t stop us from swimming, do not let this ambiguous term stop you from experiencing the greatest musical journey of your life.

So, just what is world music and how does one navigate its immense roadways? Keep reading to find out!

What Is World Music?

A big misconception of world music is thinking that it’s actually a genre. You may go to your local music store and see a category with this label and assume that it has some sort of unifying sound. The truth is that the only unifying theme of world music is that it’s anything but music from the western world.

World music has become an alternative (and somewhat lazy) way of labeling music from other cultures. Within this category, there contains a realm of genres and musical instruments that are not familiar to the western world.

As vague as this category is, knowing what it means helps you to open up doors to breathtaking genres that you perhaps didn’t even know existed.

From angelic Bulgarian choirs to the futuristic synths of 1970s Cape Verde, world music is a world in and of itself!

Where Do I Start?

To be honest, there is no greater and easier time to get into world music than today. Years ago, world music was only explored by audiophiles that traveled to obscure vinyl stores in search of their next fix.

In the age of the internet, though, we have the whole world of world music at our fingertips. Thanks to sites like Youtube and Bandcamp, tracking down world music has never been easier.

A simple search of “music from…” can bring up a bounty of results of music around the world. Websites dedicated to a specific musical culture, like this one here from the Bahamas, can give you a crash course on the history and styles of a whole country.

Doing your research on different cultures will help you to widen your scope when it comes to the different styles available.

Redefining World Music

Gone are the days when world music was a tiny section of discs or vinyl in a music store. The name itself is facing extinction because of the accessibility of music on the internet.

No more is it seen as a niche, but a category that will soon break free of its own constraints into a rich universe of genres that stand proudly on their own.

Your starting place in world music is yours to choose. Russia? South Africa? The world is your oyster! With the power of music and technology, you can be transported there in seconds.

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