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World Music is an umbrella term for traditional music from different parts of the nonwestern world. It usually refers to music derived from the folk traditions of many nations across the planet, played on traditional instruments. Some people only see non-Western music from Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Indigenous cultures of the Americas and Oceania fit this category, but the term is also used to describe traditional folk, blues and country music in North America, Europe and Australia.

It began as a way to market the musicians from Africa and other non-Western regions to a Western audience, following the idea of a few DJ's from London. While it helped to give exposure to non-Western music, it came with its own Unfortunate Implications, as the term ends up pigeonholing so many unrelated and vastly different music styles. In practice, being pigeonholed as "world musicians" brings less exposure to those artists just because of the country they were born in and the language they sing in. Or as David Byrne says, "It's a none too subtle way of reasserting the hegemony of western pop culture. It ghettoises most of the world's music. A bold and audacious move, White Man!" The term "world music" itself also begs the question, "So, is Western music made by Little Green Men not from this world?"

It encompasses Nordic and Eastern European Folk Music, Country Music, Blues, Bluegrass Country Music, Zydeco, Afrobeat, African Chant, Samba, Bossa Nova, Reggae, Ska, Andean Music, Indian raga music, Native American music, Tuvan throat singing, Raï,... As probably the oldest "music genre" in existence by the broadest definition, world music has remained popular over the centuries. The term really started to become its own "genre" from the 1950s on, when many musicians from different continents started releasing albums and touring in the West, increasing their notability. The arrival of TV also brought more people in contact with music from different parts of the world. As Classical Music, Jazz, Folk Rock and Rock musicians started to incorporate world music influences in their own work more people got interested in the exotic, mysterious and wonderful sounds. Compared to the bland shallowness of mainstream pop, world music has an authentic originality to it, In Harmony with Nature and often makes the listener dream of visiting that other world.

Musicians often categorized as world music.

  • King Suddy Adé: Nigerian musician and guitarist.
  • Alamaailman Vasarat: Finnish folk music band who mix klezmer, black metal and jazz in their work.
  • Valya Balkanska: Bulgarian traditional singer who actually managed to get one of her songs put on the Voyager Golden Record, sent into space in 1977.
  • Harry Belafonte: Jamaican-American singer, composer, ACLU ambassador and civil rights activist; well known for popularizing calypso music like "The Bananaboat Song (Day-O)".
  • The Buena Vista Social Club: Cuban band who became famous in the rest of the world after American musician Ry Cooder recorded an album with them.
  • Hariprasad Chaurasia, Brij Bushan Kabra and Shivkumar Sharma's record "Call of the Valley" (1967), is still the best-selling Hindustani classical music album.
  • The Chieftains: Irish band who play traditional folk music.
  • Heather Dale: Celtic music performer
  • Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird: a Klezmer group based in Germany
  • Ergyron: Music ensemble from the Northern Eastern part of Russia.
  • Cesária Évora: Cape Verdean singer, known as the "Queen" of Morna music.
  • Gipsy Kings: A group of French-born gitanos (Spanish Romani), performing in Spanish with some southern French dialects mixed in, who brought rumba flamenca, a pop-oriented form of flamenco music, to a worldwide audience. Most notable for their 1988 song "Bamboléo".
  • Ofra Haza: Israeli pop artist of Yemeni Jewish descent, incorporating traditional melodies into her music.
  • Gregory Alan Isakov: South African folk artist.
  • Mory Kanté: Best known for his 1988 hit "Yeké Yeké".
  • Salif Keita: Malinese singer.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Pakistani singer who became famous thanks to his hypnotic and very long Sufi devotional qawwali songs.
  • Angélique Kidjo: Singer from Benin who emigrated to France and combines music from Africa with other influences from abroad.
  • Los Kjarkas: Andean Music band from Bolivia.
  • Umm Kulthum: The 'Voice of Egypt', iconic Egyptian singer whose work is not only famous all across the Middle East, but also became famous in the rest of the world. She's influenced everyone from Bob Dylan to Maria Callas.
  • Fela Kuti: Nigerian musician, founder of the Afrobeat genre.
  • Femi Kuti: Son of Fela Kuti, who also incorporates Afrobeat in his music.
  • Solomon Linda: South African singer, best known for the song "Mbube", which was covered by countless other artists as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" without him every seeing a dime of it.
  • Madredeus: Portuguese folk group.
  • Miriam Makeba: South African singer, best known for her hit "Pata Pata".
  • The Master Musicians of Jajouka
  • Carmen Miranda: Portuguese singer (although more associated with Brazil, where she grew up and became a superstar), best remembered for her tutti frutti hat.
  • Youssou N'Dour: Senegalese singer who became a one hit wonder in the West thanks his duet with Neneh Cherry: "Seven Seconds".
  • Namgar: Russian folk band who combine Buryat-Mongolian folk music in their sound.
  • Babatunde Olatunji
  • Natalia O Shea: Russian folk musician.
  • Tito Puente
  • Amália Rodrigues: Portuguese singer, known as the "Queen of Fado".
  • Ravi Shankar: The most famous sitar player in the world. Brought traditional Indian music to the mainstream. Gave a four-hour show at the Monterey Pop festival.
  • 1994 - Yma Sumac: Peruvian singer with a four-octave range, an incredibly unique voice, whose music dwelt on traditional Inca culture.
  • Ali Farka Touré: Malinean guitarist and singer, who became prominent in the rest of the world after his collaboration with Ry Cooder: "Talking Timbuktu".

Examples of otherwise more mainstream musicians (classical music, pop, rock, metal,...) incorporating world music influences in their work.

  • Afro Celt Sound System: British band who mixed Irish and West African music with modern electronic dance.
  • Alexander James Adams: Celtic musician who also considers himself a World musician.
  • Béla Bartók: Collected Eastern European, Northern African, Chinese and Balinese music and referenced these traditional sounds in his own music by keeping the raw pure primitive sound intact.
  • The Beatles: On Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the tracks "Norwegian Wood", "Love You To" and "Within You Without You" have George Harrison play a sitar.
  • The Paul Butterfield Blues Band has a 13 minute instrumental titled "East-West" (1966), incorporating Indian influences.
  • The Byrds: Their singles "Eight Miles High" and "Why" have Indian influences.
  • David Byrne: Famous collector of world music, who also uses the influences in his own work. The influence started while he was still with Talking Heads (see below), but continued in his solo career.
  • John Coltrane: Was very much inspired by Arabian and Indian folk music later in his career and used these sounds in his own work.
  • Cornershop: Multi-racial British indie rock band who assimilated Asian instruments such as the sitar and dholki in their music, including the hit song "Brimful of Asha".
  • Ry Cooder: Collaborates a lot with traditional musicians from across the world, like Ali Farka Touré and the Buena Vista Social Club.
  • Crowded House: On their album Together Alone they make use of traditional Maori music.
  • Holger Czukay: Former member of the German rock band Can who already started incorporating world music sounds while in the band, but even went more into this as a solo artist. He was also one of the first sampling artists, incorporating tapes of shortwave radio broadcasts as an 'instrument'.
  • Dead Can Dance: British-Australian band who incorporate traditional folk music in their Avant-Garde Music sound.
  • John Fahey: American guitarist who evolved from traditional folk and blues to incorporate Portuguese, Indonesian, Tibetan and Brazilian influences along with weird sound effects and New Age experimentation.
  • Peter Gabriel: Began exploring this on his self-titled third album (1980). His most popular album So (1986) is one of the best-known examples of world music fusions.
    • 1980 - Melt
    • 1982 - Security
    • 1986 - So
    • 1989 - Passion (a soundtrack album consisting of elements of Middle Eastern and African music)
    • 1992 - Us
    • 2002 - Up
  • George Harrison: He is well known for experimenting with traditional Indian music; some of it is entirely artistic, but a good chunk of it is devotional Hindu music. Apart from the Beatles songs mentioned above his first solo album Wonder Wall Music is predominantly instrumental Indian music.
    • 1968 - Wonder Wall Music
    • 1971 - The Concert for Bangladesh
    • 1971 - The Radha Krishna Temple, produced by Harrison; devotional chants by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and re-issued as Goddess of Fortune, later as Chant And Be Happy. This album, particularly the upbeat "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna" mantra, soaked into public consciousness not only because it was produced by a Beatle, but because for a few years it was ubiquitous on underground, college and community radio stations, and in hippie shops and bookstores.
  • Los Jaivas: Chilean progressive rock band, known for mixing bossa nova and other traditional South American music in their work.
  • Brian Jones recorded an album with the Moroccan folk band The Master Musicians of Jojouka, Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka (1971), which was released after his death. Though since he doesn't actually appear on the record and only added phasing and production it would be better to call it a Master Musicians of Jojouka record first and foremost.
  • The Kinks: "See My Friends" (1965) and "Fancy", from the 1966 album Face to Face, is one of the first Western rock songs to add Indian themes and instrumentation.
  • Korpiklaani: Finnish metal band who started off as a folk band.
  • Malcolm McLaren: The former Sex Pistols manager had since released albums which incorporated world music.
  • John McLaughlin: His band Shakti mixed jazz with Indian maga music.
  • Freddie Mercury: The track "La Japonaise" on Barcelona (1988) is arranged with Japanese traditional instruments.
  • The Rolling Stones: Their song "Paint It, Black", from Aftermath (Album) (1966) and the song "Gomper" features Brian Jones on sitar. "Continental Drift" from Steel Wheels (1989) was recorded with the Moroccan folk band The Master Musicians of Jojouka and has a distinctive Arabic sound to it.
  • Chico Science: A musician from Pernambuco, in Northeastern Brazil, who is commonly identified as one of the frontrunners of the "Manguebeat" movement, which mixes traditional Northeastern and African-Brazilian rhythms with Alternative Rock and Reggae. Died prematurely in 1996, but his backing band, Nação Zumbinote , continues to this day.
  • Sepultura: Their album Roots (1996) incorporates traditional Brazilian music in their sound, although they have been flirting with this mixture as far back as Arise, in 1991.
  • Akiko Shikata: Many of her albums have elements of musical styles from the Middle East or traditional African music. She also has two albums that are primarily Japanese folk music influenced.
  • Paul Simon: His album Graceland (1986) is influenced by traditional South African folk music.
  • Simon & Garfunkel: "El Condor Pasa" on Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970) has a Peruvian atmosphere to it.
  • Patti Smith: The song "Ghost Dance" on her album Easter uses traditional indigenous drums and cedar flute. David Huckfelt covered the song with Keith Secola (Ojibwe) and Quiltman (Lakotah) for his Room Enough, Time Enough album, itself a response to the police murder of George Floyd.
  • Sting: His song "Desert Rose", from the 1999 album Brand New Day, has a very strong Arabic sound. Algerian raï singer Cheb Mami is credited as a featured artist; he wrote and performed the song's Arabic lyrics, and his voice is the first and last heard.
  • Talking Heads: Began exploring this with Remain In Light onwards:
  • S. J. Tucker: A filk artist who incorporates world music into her works.
  • Xera: Spanish band who mix Andalusian folk with techno.
  • The Yardbirds: The track "White Summer" on Little Games has an Eastern music sound, exemplified by an oboe and an Indian-percussion tabla. During "Glimpses" a sitar plays.
  • John Zorn: Cult musician who is so eclectical that he mixed almost every possible genre in existence in his music. One of the more famous works he made was "Masada", where Jewish klezmer music was mixed with rock and jazz.