it’s not “world music” to everyone

i started to laugh to myself the other day when i had this thought. while making a mix for a friend, i thought i’d expand my musical prowess by experimenting with a few new non-english tracks.

the dreaded term “world music” popped into my head, and i immediately thought of ian. yeah, you remember ian. the ponytail-wearing kickboxer in the movie high fidelity, that steals john cusak’s girlfriend, and “listens to whatever world music is in fashion that week”.

well, i don’t fancy myself to be much of a kickboxer, and i sure as hell don’t have a ponytail (kind of a sore subject really, considering my ever growing bald spot).  also, i can assure everyone here that i would have no chance stealing any girlfriend from the great john cusak. so what gives? what is world music?

i’ve been enjoying a lot of yann tiersen lately.  he’s a french pop superstar.  but “pop” is way too narrow a classification for this guy.  he’s also a composer, rocker, experimentalist, rapper, you name it, he can do it.  anyway, so how do we in america categorize folks like yann, and manu chao.  or even carlos vives or keren ann?  well, according to the itunes music store, they’re all in the blanket genre of “world music”.  

so, i guess that the main, and perhaps only, criteria for this broad genre is that it’s not american in origin.  we have been the driving force behind the modern music industry, so it kind of makes sense.  but i’m sure if you visited the french version of the itunes store, yann tiersen would certainly not be found in the dreaded “world music” section with the long-forgotten riverdance and obligatory amazon mood music.

there’s some really great music out there though… even beyond the reach of american record labels.  so don’t hesitate to check out some good world music today.  don’t worry, you won’t become like ian overnight… at least i hope not.