World Music

Written by Serena Berger
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World music has been gaining in popularity over the last few years. While just two decades ago it would have been unlikely that you would find American teens listening to anything other than American or British pop and rock, now they are increasing their musical horizons with world music. Perhaps this can be attributed to the careers of several prominent English-speaking pop and rock icons.

The Fusion of American Rock and World Music

Starting in the '70s, and much more in the '80s and '90s, talented rock musicians with long careers found themselves wanting to branch out from established pop music formulas. Great artists such as Paul Simon, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Dave Matthews all began to look to the Middle East, South America, and Africa for new ideas. They came back with exciting rhythms, different instruments, and collaborations with world music artists.

Jazz musicians in particular are often excited by Middle Eastern music with its more complex scales and tonal systems than Western Music. While most Western pop and rock is written in one of two modes with seven-note scales and Western classical music uses at most twelve tones in a scale, some Middle Eastern music uses up to 24 tones in a scale, some of which are separated by quarter-steps as opposed to the half and whole steps for which our ears are trained. Improvisation is also highly venerated in Middle Eastern musical traditions, which gives jazz fans another point of references.

Still others have been brought to more traditional forms of world music by their studies of world cultures, civilizations, religions, or music. Liturgical and classical music from many nations around the world is a testament to what is universal about life and love and the quest to bring glory to man and God. If you are interested in pursuing a world music collection, you will certainly need to use the Internet to find recordings that are not available in any U.S. stores.

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