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Ethnic Fusion

Ethnic Fusion is not to be confused with world fusion (a synthesis of jazz and world music) or worldbeat (which may draw from any number of world musics, often adding a Western pop influence). Instead, ethnic fusion is generally rooted in the sounds and philosophies of new age music, seeking to incorporate traditional ethnic folk musics into contemporary electronic music. Often, though not always, the aim is to find ways to create unity and harmony between Western technology and more earth- and nature-oriented cultures. Jazz musicians like Tony Scott and Don Cherry were some of the first to synthesize world music with Western forms, and minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Philip Glass sometimes drew upon non-Western scales and structures. These experiments informed early ethnic fusion, most notably the music of Jon Hassell, who helped establish the style during the late '70s and early '80s with his solo work and his collaborations with ambient pioneer Brian Eno. In time, ethnic fusion became a favorite way for adventurous contemporary instrumental musicians to broaden their sound with new rhythms or non-Western instrumentation; others came naturally to a particular ethnic music and fused it with a contemporary instrumental/new age sensibility. Artists in the latter category included Clannad (Celtic folk), Ottmar Liebert (flamenco), Kitaro (Japanese folk melodies), and R. Carlos Nakai (Native American flute music). During the early '90s, ethnic fusion artists like Enigma, Dead Can Dance, and Deep Forest found a wider audience with the introduction of club-ready dance beats into the mix, which could feature anything from medieval European music to sampled field recordings of African pygmies. But even if there were very few larger commercial breakthroughs, ethnic fusion maintained a degree of popularity through the remainder of the '90s.