What Is World Music? With 7 Top Examples & History
In this article we’re going to look at what world music is. We’re also going to look at the history of world music, some top world music musicians, and some notable songs in the genre. Let’s jump right into it.
What Is World Music? Definition
When most hear the term “world music,” one thing that comes to mind is that the music is worldwide. However, this is just the tip of the ice bag for its definition.
World music is also called global or international music. The definition of world music is music that comprises the specific diverse cultures witnessed in the different communities or people populated in various parts of the world.
The songs characterized as world music are mainly composed in native languages rather than English. This music genre describes non-western countries where the culture is more diverse and characterized by unique practices and languages.
It was considered contentious from its primary representation of African music. The genre mainly had music from bands in Zimbabwe, Hawaii, Pakistan, and Tuvan. This comprised countries in Asia and Africa where the development of their culture had not fully grown.
The countries had most of their cultures defined in their songs and is mostly used native languages to define the songs, uniquely representing their own culture.
World Music Characteristics
Every music genre has unique instruments or voices used to create a harmonized song that must be interesting to its audience. The world music genre is no different. The genre has unique characteristics that differentiate it from western music.
Here are the five primary characteristics that helped define world music:
1. They Were Mostly Non-English
For music to be categorized in the world music genre, it had to be non-English. The songs in this genre mainly use other languagesand helps to describe the cultures in non-western countries more easily.
The native languages build an accurate picture of the cultural ways of the musicians in their respective countries.
2. They Used Less Robotic Instrumentals
In native singing, the musicians would prefer the use of instrumentals that were native in nature. This meant there was less use of machinery to make the beats than instrumentals used in the western parts of the world.
The use of these instrumentals was a primary characteristic that differentiated any music from music in the world music genre. These instrumentals brought up a new feeling of entertainment to the music industry. They also encouraged the development and interest in the world audience, increasing the popularity of this genre immensely.
3. Sang by Native Musicians
The world music genre influenced the rise of African musicians into the international audience. In this genre, most of the music was done by musicians from the African states.
This was from the need to describe African cultures using music. The native singers would easily bring out the aspect of their culture to the respective audiences.
4. Had Short Melodies
To allow the international audience to understand and enjoy the native rhythms, the native musicians produced songs with short melodies. The melodies are arranged in a single syllable per note.
This simplified music production due to the lack of development of the music industry in African countries. The use of short melodies was also advantageous to the native singers, who found it simple to make this type of music.
5. They Were Created in Different Forms
The world music genres were all produced for different purposes – this described the forms that they were based on. The different forms included work, entertainment, game, and responding form.
The song tempos for the different forms were different per the audience's liking. This created a wider field where this genre would nourish compared to other genres. The creation of these forms acted as a unique feature in the definition and characteristic of the development of music.
6. Distinctive Sounds
World music is often characterized by its distinctive sound – this can be due to the use of traditional instruments or the unique melodic and rhythmic elements of the music. The sound of world music often reflects the culture from which it comes.
7 Examples of World Music Music
There are many examples of world music. Some popular genres include African music, Latin American music, and Indian music. World music can also be found in traditional forms, such as folk music and jazz.
African music is a wide-ranging genre that includes a variety of subgenres. Some popular African music styles include Afrobeat, Highlife, and Soukous.
Latin American music is another broad genre that encompasses many different styles. Popular Latin American music genres include Salsa, Reggaeton, and Merengue.
Indian music is a rich and diverse genre that has many different subgenres. Popular Indian music styles include Hindustani classical music, Carnatic classical music, and Bollywood.
World music songs primarily displayed immense growth in the 1980s – this saw a rise in sales of different albums worldwide. Here are the seven most sold music in the world music genre:
1. Once Again
The song “Once Again” is composed and performed by hanging massive. It has a simple but entertaining rhythmic style used. It comprises drum beats all through that are relaxing to the audience.
This song was first released in 2011. It has a total of 56 million views. Those are some impressive numbers and only goes to show how famous this track is around the world.
The song “Malo” was composed by a Mexican lady, Bebe. She enjoyed performing love-related songs. In this song, it was no different. She brings out romantic lyrics as she gives a broader picture of her reasoning on love.
The song has around 32 million views since it was first released seven years ago. The track released in 2015.
3. You Don't Belong To Me
This is one of the few English-written songs in the world music genre. The song “You Belong to Me” was composed by Imany. It has slow lyrics that majorly discuss the non-existence of a person in a specific culture. The song has more than 440 thousand views. It was produced and released in 2017.
This song was produced and composed by Bebe. The song is no different from the other songs by Bebe as it has her romantic and love aspect in its production. The song “Repair” has had more than 6 million views after its production seven years ago.
The lyrics are well arranged with a soft, moderated harmonizing voice that makes the song enticing to the audience.
“Taranta” is one of the best entertainment songs in the world music genre. It is composed by a band that successfully uses different musical instruments to add flavor to the music. The song has 1.7 million views after being released six years ago.
This song was primarily released at the Tribal festival. The song “Tash” can be considered a modernized world music song. It has the Ukrainian taste combined with other cultures. The song uses various instruments to make it enjoyable to the audience.
This song has more than 2 million views. That massive viewcount showcases its success in an era where most individuals are not interested in cultural music.
This song is mainly about gypsy cultures. Ederlezi was composed seven years ago. With its well-decorated cultural practices, watching and listening to the performance is an experience. This has reached a success rate of more than 1.5 million.
5 Top World Music Musicians
The development of the world music genre has seen different musicians rise to the top of the music industry. This is from the unique entertainment factors seen through music production. Here are five top word music musicians:
This artist is considered the soul starter of music in the world music genre. He was the first African to have an international audience for music produced with non-western aspects. He was internationally recognized in the 1960s after his unique composition of poetic lyrics was made public.
He brought the Cameroon aspect into the world after getting a scholarship to study in Paris. Here he got a better platform to compose and perform his native songs. After they were moderately famous, he did not hold back from entering world music.
He had immense growth in the industry, making him the best world music musician in Africa. He made songs of different forms describing the unique aspects of his native country – this aroused interest from the audience, enhancing his easy rise in the music industry.
This singer originated from Nigerian culture. He was one of the first musicians to involve themselves in the world music genre. He was well known for his unique combination of western and African styles of music – this gave him an upper hand in necessitating his growth in the music industry.
The artist would easily compare the lives of the African people to that of the western people – this gave an open picture of what being in the west of Africa looked like.
Sunny made numerous music albums with unique instrumentals that were a complete and successful combination of western and African beats.
After international recognition as a musician in the world music genre, sunny decided to start a band that would apply his unique production style – this was another factor that led to the immense growth of his music in the international market.
The band made its music entertaining and unique in the whole music industry.
This musician is well known for the integration of French culture with African culture. His success came in 1989 after his active involvement in Paris music. The accomplishment connected to the production of a song titled “Mr. Bobby.”
The song was influential in creating a combined aspect of Paris and African music – this enabled its attraction to the international audience. After this success, the singer was motivated to produce numerous other songs classified in the world music genre.
Manu Chao decided to venture into songs with more romantic, political, and social appeal – this facilitated the ability to tap a massive crowd with the release of a single album. The political songs seemed to be a more defined form that gave him an international platform.
He compared the political nature of African countries to that of western countries – this brought up mixed reactions in his audience and caused a spark of interest in listening to his songs.
He is one of the few British-born artists who have seen themselves occupy the top recognition in the world music genre. Peter realized his genre growth after releasing a song that described a few African cultures – this was the first song to be categorized as his first in world music.
The song achieved massive sales in the international market – this necessitated his interest to participate in more songs that achieve higher profits. The unique nature of his having a western background but participating in the world music genre was a big boost to improving his sales.
His songs were a contributor to the political revolution in 1980. Peter indulged in developing politically informative songs – this was necessitated by his prior involvement in national politics in the 1970s.
Prior participation gave him a better view and understanding of how to relay political information through music. Within no time, his success was noted for facilitating the use of his songs by the military while in battle.
Khan showcased a unique involvement in the world music genre by incorporating his Muslim religion in developing his songs. Khan increased his music tempo making it more entertaining – this builds audience interest in getting through to international platforms.
His desire to make the Muslim culture known to the world was shown by qawwali dance and music.
The History of World Music Music
The history of world music can be classified to have originated from the idea of western music producers developing songs that had been done from non-western parts of the world – this majorly happened in the late 19th Century.
The songs that were non-western and had a rise in the very first promotion of world music were African – this is from their ability to entertain from their description of their native cultures. The songs used African beats that were unique and entertaining – this increased the growth of the word music genre.
With this immense growth, every production house was readily available to produce any song that could be classified into the genre – this was from an increased profit that could be realized from selling this sort of music.
The highest selling rate in this period was witnessed from an album by Sunny Ade. The musician released his albums internationally and had Nigerian culture in them. This saw the albums sell more than 100,000 copies in just a year. The music was able to describe the native cultures of Nigeria to the outside world.
After this huge selling rate for African music was witnessed, the music producers from Britain and USA visited Africa to study how to make music that would be popular with the whole world – this brought up the origin of the genre of world music.
The initial purpose of the genre was to make the music industry profitable by making music that could easily have an impact on the whole world. The purpose later changed after the music producers became interested in the cultures they saw in Africa and non-western countries.
These cultures were defined as unique and entertaining to the world. The producers developed an interest in showcasing this side of the world through the use of music.
Different individuals widely appreciated the success of this genre. The genre showcased a different taste in the instruments that western musicians used. Whereas they considered using instrumentals with a robot-like production feature, world music necessitated using human-made beats.
The instrumentals focused on drumming while producing the music and made them more connected to the music produced.
In the late 19th Century, all songs composed in an African setup and with their native languages were categorized in the world music genre. The commercial houses for music production used this stage to sell out this type of music that native persons mainly produced.
The genre showcased immense growth through the 20th Century – more music bands and native musicians developed through this period.
In the 21st Century, the genre has experienced a back clash as most individuals are more westernized and unable to characterize their native cultures – this has seen the music industry changing the terminology of this genre from world music to global music. This is to recognize even the music genres produced in western countries and have some cultural representation.
What Is World Music? Final Thoughts
Developing music enticing to the audience is a factor in facilitating its development on international platforms. The world music genre is well known as it comprises cultural practices that make the audience curious to listen to the songs.
You can get a spark in developing your music career in the world music genre by having the best producers – this would require the best instrumentals, wording, and production styles.
To learn more about other different music genres, explore our website.
P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!