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Does “World Music” Really Include the Whole World?

8 August 2010 8 August 2010 Tags: One Comment Print This Post Print This Post

Sakamoto Ryuichi

I found an interesting article on “world music” at the website; The Root. As everyone knows, I abhor and reject that term despite industry reality. My own radio programme, as I occasionally have to assert, is an African programme which mission is to promote African music and artists.

But, if one takes the term “world music” as a current and real concept, one finds a yawning lacuna in the definition and media discussion. Discussion of race in America often devolves to black and white, in certain quarters, despite the fact that brown is the biggest “minority”. As for the yellows, they are usually ignored in the equation.

One sees the same thing in the “world music” discourse. For the most part, it’s all about African artists and their relationship to European and north American fans and musical collaborators The CMJ world music top 40 charts, on which African music routinely make up 50 percent of the albums, reflect this reality. Almost totally ignored from the “world music” rubric are Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian music stars.

Youssou Ndour

Indeed, the subtitle of the article at The Root, [African and Afro-Caribbean music are edging their way into the American consciousness] betrays the bias in the consciousness of most. Forget Youssou, Cesária, Tinariwen et al. There are scores of Asian stars whose sales can put them, and even Beyoncé, to shame. Most don’t even know their names. Why aren’t they promoted in Europe and North America as vigorously as the Sowéto Gospel Choir? Why is excellent Asian music routinely overlooked [unless the artist is paired with Ry Cooder] for Grammy nominations?

Four Asian teams participated in the recent World Cup in South Africa but there was a striking blackout of Asian stars in the big pre-game concert. Why is ink not expended on their appeal, merits and careers in the press?

I don’t know for sure. It’s not as if north Americans would find sakara music of Nigeria more easily accessible and less exotic than dangdut or ji-uta. I don’t think racism is the problem either. Why would the mostly white north American and European consumer prefer Baaba Maal or Konono #1 over Sakamoto Ryuichi, Liu Fang or Detty Kurnia? That makes no sense.

Liu Fang

I was even thinking that relative proximity of Africa to Europe compared to Asia might be a factor but I have to reject that because Europeans and north Americans will go to any end of the earth for any resource. Could it be that because of lax laws and an underdeveloped sector, producers and labels can more easily exploit the African artists and markets?

What about education and literacy, lack of savoir faire in European and north American business practices. Now there’s a thought worth exploring. In fact, I personally know a few [mainly female] African artists who are illiterate in any script and who have been exploited by labels and producers. Perhaps this is harder to to in Asia? I don’t know. I would love to hear if others have ideas that might be the key to understanding this conundrum. So, do engage.

Written by Akenataa Hammagaadji.
Akenaata Hammagaadji is an African music expert and cultural critic. He is the radio host of First World Music; an African music programme broadcast from WVKR. His insightful music reviews, which goes beyond music into cultural dissections, can be found in his weekly First World Music Newsletter, now a blog on afrobeatradio.net

One Comment »

  • education tips said:

    Great post .Here found a great resource music and education thanks

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