World Music is very hard to define. It’s such a broad category, including so many musics, it almost makes no sense at all. At the same time, it excludes some of the music we are most familiar with (like western classical music or pop). Sometimes, it seems that the only thing all world music has in common is that we’re not very familiar with it.
But then, who are ‘we’? Britain is now so richly diverse, full of people originating from all over the world, that everyone has experience of different kinds of cultures and music.
So world music isn’t out there, separate from us. Instead, it’s music in and of our world. It travels just like we do. It evolves, crossing paths with other sounds, other people, other ideas. Almost any sound out there, can connect with our lives.
And some of those sounds mean very powerful things – they’re expressions of identity, worship, protest, anguish, and celebration. World music, and the way it is treated, can be a very political issue. That’s why almost all dictators have tried to suppress and control music-making in their countries!
At the same time, it can provide us with a wonderful source of inspiration for our own music making. There are very few famous pop artists who have not used influences from other cultures in their music. And there’s a reason why they do. We love unusual sounds – they promise all sorts of mystery – they allow us to travel around the world without ever leaving our homes.
To find out more about some of these issues, have a look through some of these musical journeys…