Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This categorizes everything that is not in the Western classical music tradition. Middle Eastern music, for example, has been influencing Western traditions ever since the siege of Vienna in 1683 with the Viennese listening to Turkish martial music outside their city walls. In the 19th and early 20th century, the taste for the mysterious Orient (a loose term) became the rage in opera: one just has to listen to the Bacchanale in Samson et Dalila, or to the gongs, bells, and cymbals throughout the acts of Turandot to get a taste of the exotic, that even continues in relatively recent times, like the "oriental" music in the King and I or in Flower Drum Song, the "Bali Hai" in South Pacific or the contemporary South African choral music in the Lion King. Orientalism was the subject of my Master's Thesis and continues to be a favorite study of mine! I divide "World Music" into nine "musical" geographical areas:

  • The Caribbean, Central America, and South America: indigenous and non-indigenous music, from Andean flute music to the ensembles of Terra del Fuego. Musical genres like the Pan-American salsa, the Cuban rumba, the Dominican merengue, the Argentine tango and the Brazilian samba, including the soca, calypso, zouk, and reggae of the Caribbean.

  • North America: indigenous and non-indigenous music, from Inuit songs of the north to Navajo powwows. This includes folk songs, sea shanties, the fusion of European and African musical traditions into the spirituals, jazz, blues, country and the popular genres from pop to hip hop.

  • Europe: although opera and Western classical music belong here, this wider category includes folk, regional, and popular music from alpine yodeling to Balkan gypsy music, from Spanish flamenco to the trans-Atlantic musicals of West End and Broadway.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: musical traditions from West Africa, Mali, Central and South Africa and East Africa, including Madagascar and the southern Indian Ocean.

  • North Africa and the Middle East: Music from Morocco to Egypt, from the Levant to Mesopotamia, from Turkey to the Caucasus, from Persia to the Central Asian republics: the Western Silk Road.

  • Siberia and Northeast Asia: indigenous music from Siberia; music from Mongolia and China, from the Beijing opera to the Buddhist chants of Lhasa, from the drums of Kashgar to the bird flutes of Xian: the Eastern Silk Road. From the cabarets of Shanghai in the 1930s to the ancient folk songs of indigenous Taiwan and Hainan. Also included are Korean, Japanese, and Ainu musical traditions.

  • Indian Subcontinent and Himalayas: Classical music from the ghazals of Pakistan to the ragas and bauls of India; popular Bollywood music and popular Punjabi songs; also music from the Indian ocean to the foot of the Himalayas, from Sri Lanka to Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

  • Southeast Asia: Classical Burmese and Thai music; Thai boxing music; the music of the Indonesian archipelago, from the Batak songs of Sumatra to the Javanese and Balinese wayang or opera. Also included are the musical traditions from the former Indochinese countries of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, to peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippine archipelago.

  • Australia: although Australia has a very strong Western musical tradition in both classical, folk and popular music, Aboriginal music is the special feature here, plus its fusion with western music in the creation of a sound that is distinctly Australian!

  • Oceania: the last category covers the musical traditions of Melanesia, Miconesia, and Polynesia, the latter includes Maori traditions of New Zealand to Tahiti and Hawaii.


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