International » Worldbeat

The term worldbeat refers not to one specific style of music, but to a certain sensibility -- namely, the fusion of disparate musical styles in ways that are only possible from a globalized, multicultural perspective. The results can range from Westernized pop or dance music to wild, genre-hopping experimentalism, but the central, unifying feature of worldbeat is that it's a conscious attempt to bring world music to a wider audience. Frequently, this involves modernizing traditional sounds with up-to-date technology, or borrowing the most relevant elements from Western pop and rock, which have spread all over the world and affected other nations' pop-music scenes to varying degrees. At its best, worldbeat can produce utterly unique hybrids and amazing eclecticism; other times, worldbeat artists have been savaged for uprooting traditional styles and diluting them for mass consumption. Although the rock world was by no means closed to outside influence, the Western audience for world music really started to take shape in the mid-'80s, when rock artists like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Mickey Hart, and David Byrne began to incorporate ethnic sounds into their recordings, and enthusiastically pursued high-profile collaborations with world-music artists. With the commercial possibilities presented by a greatly expanded potential audience, some artists began to tailor their music for international appeal. Although there were many exceptions, the majority of the worldbeat artists who achieved a measure of popularity in the West came from Africa, a continent whose music -- to make a broad generalization -- had already exerted a tremendous influence on Western popular music throughout the 20th century. Thus, the sounds of artists like Mory Kante, Salif Keita, and Youssou N'Dour were familiar enough to be appealing, yet different enough to be striking and intriguing. Other worldbeat performers use their broad range of musical knowledge to find similarities and common ground among different indigenous traditions from around the world -- sort of the musical equivalent of comparative literature studies. Most Western-born worldbeat artists fall under this category, but a few -- like England's 3 Mustaphas 3 -- take a less academic approach, trumpeting their freewheeling eclecticism and accentuating the contrasts between the various styles of music they've assimilated. Worldbeat has never been a commercial blockbuster in the West, but some of the better-known styles include the popular music of West Africa and South Africa, North African rai, Bulgarian choral music, Scandinavian folk, Tuvan throat singing, various forms of Indian music (raga, dance, and film music), Pakistani qawwali, Spanish flamenco, Brazilian samba, and Argentinian tango, to name just a few that have made an impact among adventurous critics and record buyers.

Worldbeat Artists Highlights

Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Rachid Taha
Rachid Taha
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil
Gipsy Kings
Gipsy Kings
Najma
Najma

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Worldbeat Album Highlights

Gipsy Kings
Gipsy Kings
Gipsy Kings
Rough Guide to Youssou N'Dour & Etoile de Dakar
Youssou N'Dour
Rough Guide to Youssou ...
Set
Youssou N'Dour
Set
Devotional Songs
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Devotional Songs
The Warner Brothers Collection
Ladysmith Black Mambazo / ...
The Warner Brothers ...
Graceland
Paul Simon
Graceland

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Worldbeat Song Highlights

Title/Composer Performer Stream
Un Amor Gipsy Kings
Alboury Etoile de Dakar / Youssou N'Dour
Set Youssou N'Dour
Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain Ladysmith Black Mambazo
The Boy In the Bubble Paul Simon
Eje Nlo Gba Ara Mi King Sunny Ade
Batonga Angélique Kidjo
Independence Day David Byrne
Me and Julio Down by the School Yard Paul Simon
Petite Noya Gipsy Kings

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Worldbeat styles