What is world music essay

What is world music essay

World Music

The term “ world music ” was first circulated in ethnomusicology (the study of music in or as culture) and entered Western popular culture as a category of musical commodity in the 1980s. It is a packaging of music “ from the outside ” into popular music primarily intended for Western consumers. In this sense, world music generally connotes non-Western music traditions (e. g., singing-storytelling in Mali, Qawwali in Pakistan, and Aboriginal music in Australian); music that combines Western and non-Western elements (e. g., Nigerian J ú j ù and Afrobeat, Paul Simon ’ s collaborations with South African musicians); and non-mainstream music from folk traditions or ethnic groups within Western societies (e. g., Irish folk music, salsa in New York, Indian Bhangra — fusion of folk music with Western popular music — in London). The term is intended to exclude other marketing categories (e. g., classical, rock), but its boundaries have never been clearly delineated, and what is considered world music has changed over time, affected by shifting patterns of Western musical interests.

At least since the 1960s, ethnomusicologists have used the term world music to denote all music (e. g., folk, art, popular) of all the world ’ s peoples. The “ world ” qualifier stresses the inclusion of non-Western music. In practice, studies of world music have tended not to include Western art (classical) music, so the term, as used in ethnomusicology, tends to refer more to music outside of that tradition.

Music scholar Timothy D. Taylor recounts the entry of world music into popular discourse in Global Pop: World Music, World Markets (1997). In response to growing sales of non-Western music recordings, representatives of independent record companies, broadcasters and concert promoters met in London in 1987 to discuss marketing the music. They determined that record stores were reluctant to stock the music because it was not clear under which heading it should be sold: The existing rubrics of folk, ethnic and international were not clearly defined, differentiated or adequately promoted. Following ethnomusicologists, the group decided to term the emerging niche World music. The term entered the music press and spread internationally. In 1990 Billboard magazine created a world music chart, and in the 1990s catalogues and guidebooks to world music appeared, such as World Music: The Rough Guide.

Whereas ethnomusicologists introduced the term world music as an inclusive term, in music promotion and distribution the term is used to distinguish it from other existing categories such as pop, rock, classical, and jazz. Yet the precise boundaries of the world music category are unclear and somewhat fluid, as the following examples illustrates. Filipina singer Banig sings in a Western pop style with English lyrics, and as Timothy Taylor observes in Global Pop, she is classified as a world music artist. Swedish band Ace of Base, French Canadian C é line Dion, and German singer Nena are all categorized as pop music rather than world music, regardless of which language they use. World music is sometimes defined as “ roots music, ” meaning that it is perceived as explicitly connecting with or continuing a people ’ s tradition or heritage. Thus, while Nena and the German band Kraftwerk are not classified as world music, German Heimatmusik (music associated with the countryside) is categorized as world music. In addition, the content of world music racks in stores is shaped more by trends in Western music purchasing than a systematic attempt to represent all the world ’ s music. The swelling of the Celtic music subcategory within world music in the 1990s was due to North Americans exploring their (vaguely defined) Celtic heritage and not, for example, a change in the overall makeup of the music of the world.


There has been Western interest in world music as far back as Westerners have encountered other cultures. For example, the Middle Eastern santur was a blueprint for the European pianoforte, and the banjo was descended from a Northwest African lute adapted by Africans in the Caribbean. During the twentieth century there was an acceleration of outside influences on music. Examples include the “ Latin invasion ” of the 1930s and 1940s (audible in the music of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie); the popularity of calypso in the 1940s and 1950s (the Andrew Sisters and Harry Belafonte); Brazilian Bossa nova in the 1950s; and South African vocal music in the 1960s (The Tokens ’ s “ The Lion Sleeps Tonight ” ).

During the 1960s and 1970s there was a surge in popularity of folk and folk-rock music, stimulating an unprecedented interest in world folk music recordings. Folkways Records and Elektra Records ’ s Nonesuch Explorer Series began to meet this growing demand. Several British and American popular musicians incorporated world musical elements into their music, for example, George Harrison (Indian Sitar and Ragas ), Led Zeppelin (Arabic melodies) and the Clash (reggae rhythm).

George Harrison, and Paul Simon later (with Graceland ), not only incorporated world influences, but “ curated ” the music like ethnomusicologists. The musicians went into the field (Harrison to India, Simon to Africa), “ discovered ” the music, and presented it to the Europe and North American market, often performing with world musicians. World music was introduced to listeners by familiar musical personalities with star appeal. David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, and Mickey Hart followed in this vein. Ethnomusicologist Steven Feld argues that the Western experience of world music in the 1980s was largely shaped by “ pop star collaboration and curation ” (Feld 2000, p. 149). As world music grew in popularity, an increasing number of record labels started marketing it.

Pop-star collaboration and curation continued into the 1990s; however, other channels of distribution also emerged. In the late 1990s and 2000s the Internet became a leading means of distributing world music. With the Internet, the term world music is perhaps less crucial to marketing because consumers can also search online by country of origin, musician, or instrument. But the category shows no signs of disappearing. The world music category is prominently used in Web sites and sold in the cosmopolitan cities of Europe, North America, Australia, and elsewhere. Also, chain coffee shops increasingly sell recordings of world music, such as the Hear Music CDs in Starbucks.

SEE ALSO Ethnology and Folklore; Ethnomusicology; Globalization, Anthropological Aspects of; Indigenismo; Internet; Music; Music, Psychology of; Popular Music


Bohlman, Philip V. 2002. World Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Broughton, Simon, Mark Ellingham, and Richard Trillo, et al., eds. 1999. World Music: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides/Penguin.

Feld, Steven. 1994. Notes on “ World Beat. ” In Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues, eds. Charles Keil and Steven Feld, pp. 238 – 246. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Feld, Steven. 2000. A Sweet Lullaby for World Music. Public Culture 12(1): 145 – 71.

Frith, Simon, ed. 1989. World Music, Politics, and Social Change: Papers from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Manchester, U. K.: Manchester University Press.

Guilbault, Jocelyn. 1997. Interpreting World Music: A Challenge in Theory and Practice. Popular Music 16(1): 31 – 44.

Meintjes, Louise. 1990. Paul Simon ’ s Graceland, South Africa, and the Mediation of Musical Meaning. Ethnomusicology 34 (1): 37 – 73.

Mitchell, Tony. 1993. World Music and the Popular Music Industry: An Australian View. Ethnomusicology 37 (3): 309-38.

Sweeney, Philip. 1992. The Virgin Directory of World Music. New York: Henry Holt.

Taylor, Timothy D. 1997. Global Pop: World Music, World Markets. New York: Routledge.

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World music

World music Generic term used to describe ethnic or ethnically influenced music. As part of a growing interest during the 1980s in non-Western music, many Western artists, such as Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon, began to draw particularly on the traditions of African culture, bringing together a variety of diverse styles and musicians.

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«world music.» World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia. com. 25 Oct. 2018 .

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What is world music essay

Welcome to World Music 101, a series of articles exploring the concept and genre of World Music, as well as specific musical cultures and artists. Below is the growing selection of articles to choose from, each on a different topic. Please feel free to email me with comments and suggestions.

What is World Music?
The challenge of defining World Music, and the role of World Music as a cultural and musical phenomenon.

Jewish Music
An introductory look at the different styles of Jewish/Israeli music, examining the similarities and diferences between them.

Music and Language
Some reasons to listen to music in other languages; the state of music and language on North American radio in relation to the rest of the world.

Alan Lomax
A short biography of Alan Lomax and his role in the field of Ethnomusicology.

Canadian Music
A coast to coast look at Canadian music artists and movements and the country’s role in the international music scene.

World Music Step by Step
A series of «How-To» articles for everything from buying albums to introducing your friends to World Music.

Rockin’ World
World Music is inching its way into the mainstream with popular acts from other genres borrowing ethnic influences.

Daniel Lanois
A look at the career of this prolific producer, songwriter and musician.

Fine China
Ethnomusicologist Josef Bomback answers questions about Chinese music, including explanations of tonality and the different kinds of instruments used.

Welcome to Bollywood
An introduction to Hindi film music.

World Music and Beyond
In-depth resources for specific musical cultures, providing you with the best artist links, articles, sound files and music purchasing information.

An introduction to the history and characteristics of this Spanish style.

World Music Glossaries
A selection of glossaries covering general World Music terms, styles and instruments.

The Essence of Qawwali
A concise introduction to Sufi mystical music, with a biography of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Rhys Hone Music CSM

Music, from me to you!

World Music Essay

This is my work for my lecturer Matthew Lovett. It’s a 2000 word essay about world music and It talks about the problems with world music and what world music is.

Similarities between Western and World Music

In this particular assignment I’m going to describe differences in western music and world music. One of the first things we find out about world music is that it has different meanings. The first part of this essay include the Epistemology of music that also folds into Ontology both talking about music as a culture. Then mentioning First Musicians and about how they came before humans and how humans see what they think or know are first musicians. Then onto World Music as a whole genre and what we class as world music and what others see it as. Then finally brining the introduction of world music then onto Globalisation.

Epistemology of music

The Epistemology of music is the ability to be part of a culture as a whole and to acquire meaning in relation to other activities. This can be an argument about the idea of semiotics, that music isn’t meaningless unless there is a sign, signified and signifier. It argues that meaning can be conveyed through other means, such as religion, for example. The type of music usually found relating to religious means is known as “Ritual” music. A good example of this would be the Confucius music of the people of that religion. To them it has meaning due to their beliefs; they’ve connected the music to themselves through religious ideals. However, if someone completely unknowing about the religion were to listen to that ritual music, they may not find any meaning behind that particular music.

This little segment is from a book called “The Body in the Music: Epistemology and Musical Semiotics” this is talking about Epistemology and it describes it really well. Epistemology means,

“We can use language to describe musical processes or effects, but we usually find that propositional statements about music are clumsy compared to the efficiency of the music.”

This means that we use our own voices as an instrument to make the sounds we want like singing or just chanting but it doesn’t really compare to listening to music and just being engulfed in what it can do. Obviously people have been using voice for centuries and it’s worked for them in spiritual form but since instruments came about like drums, flutes and modern instruments music has changed and people can explore music in different ways and to feel different in the music.

Ontology of Music

“Ontology of music’s properties of being a part of a lived-in world, it’s the study of musical things that exist, and the relations that hold between them.”

On researching the book “World Music: A Very Short Introduction” written by Philip V. Bohlman on Google Books this segment was from the ontology section from where the start of this paragraph came from. Ontology is in everything to do with music, like pitches or melodies in certain music or spiritual music for religious practices. There’s loads of different meanings for the word ontology but I think it’s to do with musical practice and the way we express ourselves and the way we play music shows different meaning and ways of exercising the word ontology. One of the larger debates when looking at musical ontology is what it means to give an ‘authentic’ performance. Mainly when talking about performances, the debate has been about western classical music, and the metaphysical nature of such music. The argument is simple. In a broad sense, it is whether or not these authentic performances exist; this is the argument of realist against anti-realist. However, even though realist seems to be a more logical and explainable debate; within the realist idea, there are many contradicting, and controversial views.

First Musicians

This little segment is taken from the same book as the ontology section of my essay and it says “Musicians, Populate many mythological and religi-philosiphical writings about the origins of religion and history – music.” This term first musicians should mean what is human and what is not human. Music has been around for millions of years before the human race ever existed. Music was alive with animals and as we humans came along we never classed other species as making music as musicians because musicians is a human term to describe someone who plays or commands a musical instrument as a professional or is just musically talented. From the same book it says “Musicians they appear in two guises, first as performers and second as craftspeople who fashion the musical instruments they play from substance of the earth or from the bodies of once-living beings.” This is describing that the word musicians is two things.

• Just the person who performs

• The person who creates instruments from the earth

Using old animal bones or skin to create music instruments like the African drum. The traditional African drums were made by taking the centre of a trunk of a tree away then carving the bark to make the shape of the instrument like the Djembe. Then it’s sent to the place where people put the animal hide on the top with its tuning rope along the sides. There’s two things could be classed as first musicians. It could also be argued that animals themselves should be known as first musicians. “Craftspeople who fashion the musical instruments they play from substance of the earth, or from the bodies of once-living beings.” Some animals are known to make noises, sounds, or music by using things like rocks and water, among other things. We should also look at the calls for some animals, for example, a lot of bird calls are very musical, and many of those species may have existed before us. Surely then it can be argued that animals were also first musicians?

The Genre of World Music

“World Music,” is the term used to describe a genre of music called world music was only invented 26 years ago. It’s been used to categorise what western people think is exotic or unknown to their ears. It’s been criticized by many artists because it’s basically categorising race. Manu Chao in 2007 said “Don’t call me ‘World Music’ – That’s a neo-colonial label British and Americans use for music not sung in English.” I totally agree with Manu Chao here because by listening to some of his music it’s not weird or totally different to western music. It’s just sung in a different language but with some of his countries cultural instruments played on it. On listening to his music it’s pop/reggae music but sang in a different way and language. Does that make his music any different from western musicians like Justin Bieber or even Bob Marley? Who is Jamaican and should really be classed as World Music but since he sings in English and is understandable for westerners the music industry placed him in reggae so why isn’t Manu Chao placed in the Reggae genre. Why? Because he sings in a different language and obviously no language is more popular than the English language so he’s placed in World Music? I think it’s pretty racist of the western world to categorise people who are unpopular with Brits or Americans. This then causes quite a bit of a problem. The idea of anything that isn’t sung in English, or doesn’t have conventional western instruments or structure with it means that the whole spectrum of world music is huge. The problem is it’s a catchall for anything that isn’t western music. It can range anywhere, from the most blatantly commercial music produced by a country, like Hindi film music (the singer Asha Bhosle being the best well known example), to the ultra-sophisticated, super-cosmopolitan art-pop of Brazil (Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé, Carlinhos Brown); from the somewhat bizarre and surreal concept of a former Bulgarian state-run folkloric choir being arranged by classically trained, Soviet-era composers (Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) to Norteño songs from Texas and northern Mexico glorifying the exploits of drug dealers (Los Tigres del Norte). This is what is wrong with World music, and why we should refer to it in a term that would make more sense; for example, Non-Western music, or even Ethnic music would be fine. World music is just a term that makes no sense, because it could be argued that every type of music is world music to other people.

Introduction of World Music to the Masses

Musicians have been known for taking other ideas and using them to improve their own ideas and show the world what they have done. We as musicians sometimes do this by taking other cultures music or instruments and use it to our advantage. Indians use the sitar in religious ways but they also use it for entertainment. It’s used mostly in festivities in India as it’s one of their most proud ad ancient instruments. The Beatles used a sitar in their song Norwegian Wood. The Beatles were the first rock band to use a sitar in their music and it was played by George Harrison. They used a sitar to mimic what the western instrument the guitars was doing. This was released in the 1960’s so it was very weird for people of that time to hear other countries instruments unless you were into “World music”. The only reason The Beatles pulled it off so well was because they were already popular but also by the way John Lennon sang the lyrics in a major key. But the Beatles weren’t the only band to use this bands like Toto with their song Africa in the 1980’s where things like this were becoming more aware to the general public. With their African rainforest sound theme. This is where globalisation comes in.


Globalisation is a process of international integration from the exchange of world views, products, and ideas and of course other aspects of culture which includes music. Of course globalisation also concerns aspects of a biased nature, such as cultural dominance where a dominant culture which dominates others in size and influence, similarly like cultural imperialism which is solely based on influence by force. These factors have influence on cultural exchange as English speaking countries would be seen as the dominant culture in the eyes of Western music as English is one of the most widely spoken language.

Globalisation also concerns transculturation. The term was first used by Fernando Ortiz, a Cuban essayist, anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, in 1940. It describes the merging and converging of cultures, however, this does not consist of acquiring another culture (acculturation) or losing a previous one (de-culturation), it merges these concepts and carries the idea of a new cultural phenomena (neo-culturation). Put simply transculturation reflects the natural tendency of people to resolve conflicts over time rather than making them worse resulting in bringing cultures together.

Against the fusion of cultures there is also cultural cannibalism, an example of such a movement is the Cannibal Manifesto. The Cannibal manifesto is a document of a modernist movement that was inspired by a piece of artwork given to Oswald de Andrade of Brazil. Andrade and his friend Raul Bopp decided to start a movement based upon this painting and titled the piece Abaporu, which stands for man-eater in the Tupi-Guarani language. The Tupi Indians are a native group of Brazil who were known for their acts of cannibalism. The cannibal manifesto basically says that Brazil is like a melting pot of different cultures, but their idea for the future is instead of following in the footsteps of European culture they should work towards finding and constructing their own, from ‘absorbing’ cultures already in the country and creating a recycled, fresher culture that consist all the good aspects of each culture.

With so much exchanging of ideas of different cultures in music, how can one draw a line between what’s classed as world music and what’s not?