What is World Music?

essrand

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Interestingly while world music seems like a constraining and pejorative categorization , world cinema informs of an expansive , cerebral, eclectic and rich world of cinema, removed from the hackneyed tropes of Hollywood.
 
Interestingly while world music seems like a constraining and pejorative categorization , world cinema informs of an expansive , cerebral, eclectic and rich world of cinema, removed from the hackneyed tropes of Hollywood.

Irrespective of the relative merits of what's categorised as 'world cinema' vs that of Hollywood, an increasingly multi-polar world will reject terminology thats US/west-centric. Bhaskar's reasons are as valid in the case of cinema as they are for music. It would serve the world of cinema and moviegoers far better if international films are segregated by genre/style than binning the entirety of non-Hollwood cinema into one.
 
@essrand , excellent post, thanks for sharing.

Quoting you from the blog:

And finally, a third result is that, unfortunately (especially in the late 20th century), a greater part of high quality music recordings were produced in rich Western nations — only they could afford the state-of-the-art equipment and only their consumers could afford to pay (more) for these high quality recordings — goes only to artistes recognised in these countries while music of artistes unknown in the western world are recorded poorly in studios of their native countries with subpar equipment and untrained sound engineers who disregard sound fidelity leading to large swathe of world-class musicians whose music are not available in high quality studio or live recordings for the music lovers in the present or for preservation in posterity. This is a cultural loss, catastrophic and unforgivable. Especially amongst audiophiles who lament the inability to find good quality recordings and vinyl pressings outside the genres of Jazz and Western Classical.

I think this could be a reason for the one bin categorization. Audiophilia is also a largely western phenomenon. Recordings from the 'rest of the world' which are not well recorded and marketed, will likely sell less (compared to the other categories). The categories in music must have evolved in accordance with how much revenue the industry can generate out of each (and study the trends). As this develops into a habit, the music listening population will be more keen in sticking to what they're used to, rather than explore. Also, understanding the lyrics is very important while appreciating music (which has lyrics), lessening the appeal of music sung in a foreign language.

On Movies: I wouldn't label every idea that comes out of Hollywood as trite. There are excellent movies in both segments. One advantage that commercial/well-known movies share is the democratic nature in which they are accepted. A bad movie is highly likely to get thrashed in user ratings. Art-house/Independent cinema, by nature of their exclusivity and limited appeal, will be more likely to roll out duds and remain unnoticed (or worse still, win awards and get praised by critics and cinephiles). For me, the probability of ending up watching a really terrible film (which is highly praised/rated) from the 'world cinema' bin is much higher than from a 'Hollywood' film.
'World cinema', though referred to as so in blogs and discussion forums, are already segregated by genre. Also, the fact that we can watch a film in a language unfamiliar to us with the help of subtitles (which is not the case with music), makes us appreciate it fully and makes it easy to explore and find the next great director.
 
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A very tiny debate in the Music forum: https://www.hifivision.com/threads/fusion-world-music.79400/#post-874544
inspired me to write this (next) blog post on music.


Would love for FMs to take a read and hear what they think of my views on this topic? Agree/Disagree/Don't Care?

Cheers,
Bhaskar

Really like your Blogs Bhaskar, you write so well and you did bring out the emotional perspective on musical diverstity

As another perspective, and not with the intent to be argumentative ! while love for music is what creates the demand in the end does that love translate to money the same way would be the question ! If you look at the economics of it the US market for music is 7.6B which is almost 5 times more than China and 12 times more than UK. the overall music market is pegged at around 15B ..hence more than 50% is the US.

Comparably india is at around 200M which is 35 times lower..hence despite the wide talent and variety, its intricacies is limited to the diaspora.
Of course this talks about the economics and not the love for music , but explains why a store would have more divisions or shelves for its highest selling content and put the lower volume sales content lumped in one shelf


I think this could be a reason for the one bin categorization. Audiophilia is also a largely western phenomenon.


Reminds me of an incident while I was living in the US 2 decades ago. The apartment complex around a km away was predominantly, if not all rented out by Indians and it was at the peak of the dot com boom . So many of them had their parents also living with them. One day an american ( non asian) knocks at a door and asks if a mr So and So ( another non asian) lives their and the elderly indian lady answer " No , there are no foreigners living here ";) So for an indian even in a foreign land everyone else there is a "foreigner" even though they may be native.

I guess this is the same for music as well as in america where everything which is not american or in english is "the world" since there is so much of content/variation of music there itself and so little of popular appeal for other music that it can very well be clumped into "World music" and even there the little popularity is due to folks like Ravi Sankar who really took the music to the world and performed at woodstock along with fusion collaboration

Interestingly during some time I lived in Paris, most of their FNAC outlets had a world section alright but with a sub section on india , along with some countries in africa, latin and even china, which had folk songs and classical... this could be since the europeans are more exposed to to "World music"

Since Bollywood music is mostly Pop and also very often " inspired" by western pop, it is not surprisingly is limited to the indian diaspora !
 
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@essrand , excellent post, thanks for sharing.

Quoting you from the blog:



I think this could be a reason for the one bin categorization. Audiophilia is also a largely western phenomenon. Recordings from the 'rest of the world' which are not well recorded and marketed, will likely sell less (compared to the other categories). The categories in music must have evolved in accordance with how much revenue the industry can generate out of each (and study the trends). As this develops into a habit, the music listening population will be more keen in sticking to what they're used to, rather than explore. Also, understanding the lyrics is very important while appreciating music (which has lyrics), lessening the appeal of music sung in a foreign language.

On Movies: I wouldn't label every idea that comes out of Hollywood as trite. There are excellent movies in both segments. One advantage that commercial/well-known movies share is the democratic nature in which they are accepted. A bad movie is highly likely to get thrashed in user ratings. Art-house/Independent cinema, by nature of their exclusivity and limited appeal, will be more likely to roll out duds and remain unnoticed (or worse still, win awards and get praised by critics and cinephiles). For me, the probability of ending up watching a really terrible film (which is highly praised/rated) from the 'world cinema' bin is much higher than from a 'Hollywood' film.
'World cinema', though referred to as so in blogs and discussion forums, are already segregated by genre. Also, the fact that we can watch a film in a language unfamiliar to us with the help of subtitles (which is not the case with music), makes us appreciate it fully and makes it easy to explore and find the next great director.

Yes, I agree, a lot of decisions are made based on economics. But I would dispute the fact that Audiophilia is a largely western phenomenon. Japan comes to mind, even since the 50s, they have been toe-to-toe with West. In fact Luxman's heydays were the 60-70s. And since the 2000s, I think, the centre of audiophilia has shifted, a lot of European/American (especially super high-end) brands build products exclusively for the Asian market. My point is: still, even then, even today, we have to deal with terms like "world music" for asian music.

About Movies: The democratic way of doing things would be that everything would come under World Cinema (including hollywood) and then divided into genres that put hollywood masala movies in the same genre as say bollywood masala movies. Otherwise, no matter what you say, it is problematic and elitist, to put it mildly.
 
Really like your Blogs Bhaskar, you write so well and you did bring out the emotional perspective on musical diverstity

As another perspective, and not with the intent to be argumentative ! while love for music is what creates the demand in the end does that love translate to money the same way would be the question ! If you look at the economics of it the US market for music is 7.6B which is almost 5 times more than China and 12 times more than UK. the overall music market is pegged at around 15B ..hence more than 50% is the US.

Comparably india is at around 200M which is 35 times lower..hence despite the wide talent and variety, its intricacies is limited to the diaspora.
Of course this talks about the economics and not the love for music , but explains why a store would have more divisions or shelves for its highest selling content and put the lower volume sales content lumped in one shelf





Reminds me of an incident while I was living in the US 2 decades ago. The apartment complex around a km away was predominantly, if not all rented out by Indians and it was at the peak of the dot com boom . So many of them had their parents also living with them. One day an american ( non asian) knocks at a door and asks if a mr So and So ( another non asian) lives their and the elderly indian lady answer " No , there are no foreigners living here ";) So for an indian even in a foreign land everyone else there is a "foreigner" even though they may be native.

I guess this is the same for music as well as in america where everything which is not american or in english is "the world" since there is so much of content/variation of music there itself and so little of popular appeal for other music that it can very well be clumped into "World music" and even there the little popularity is due to folks like Ravi Sankar who really took the music to the world and performed at woodstock along with fusion collaboration

Interestingly during some time I lived in Paris, most of their FNAC outlets had a world section alright but with a sub section on india , along with some countries in africa, latin and even china, which had folk songs and classical... this could be since the europeans are more exposed to to "World music"

Since Bollywood music is mostly Pop and also very often " inspired" by western pop, it is not surprisingly is limited to the indian diaspora !

Thanks for your detailed thoughts on my post. It is posts like this that makes writing a blog a rewarding experience for me :)

I totally agree and understand the need to put lower volume sales content in one shelf. I cannot imagine there are as many customers for Karnatic classical as there are for even Death Metal at a typical CD store in the US. What I object to is the catch-all genre that lumps us all (rest of the world) together in one genre.

The HD Tracks website that I screen-shotted in my blog is similar to the FNA Coutlets. It has sub-sections on India etc. But still has a "World Music" section has amongst other things an album of Christian songs sung by Kumar Sanu :oops: :D

Clearly the "World Music" genre is completely superfluous and on its way out. The West can do what they want, based on how they sell stuff, their economics, their attitudes, but it get really disturbing when we Indians amongst others start referring to some music (ours or other culture's music) as World Music.o_O

(See this 1999 article New York Times by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne against this genre)https://archive.nytimes.com/query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage-9901EED8163EF930A35753C1A96F958260.html)

Haha, that Indian lady story is funny, I have experienced similar stuff abroad as well in INdian strongholds in the US, like Fremont and New Jersey (Edison).
 
Fundamentally the subject is about we see the world: as ‘Us and Them’ clubbing whatever isn’t us into one category without being curious to understand and appreciate its diversity. It’s as applicable to US as to us Indians here. Don’t we simply say ‘Western‘ music? Or ‘Western movies‘? For a large majority of Indian consumers those simply stand for Pop music and Hollywood movies respectively. Beyond an elite segment of musicophiles of which many of us here would be representatives, the average Indian Anil doesn’t bother to understand Jazz from Rock, or French cinema from Iranian. As we grow as humanity, should we be getting more nuanced, more sensitive and more discerning? I doubt our answers would differ on it. Shouldn’t that result in more curiosity, more understanding and more acceptance/celebration of what’s diverse and what’s ‘not us’? For when we start doing that, it soon starts becoming ‘us’ - enlarging our self.
 
nice article @essrand

World music - i guess - is a category to put the rest of the music into - depending on ones familiarity

For a carnatic music enthusiast - it might be Carnatic Music on one corner and all the rest ( world ) on the other corner
For a Hindustani music enthusiast - it might be Hindustani Music Vs the rest of the world ( incl carnatic music ) :)

Music is an ocean and just like one cannot physically split or categorize an ocean...one cannot compartmentalize music either because there are so many genres and so many compartments !!

Sometimes we get pleasure in one part of the ocean sometimes we sail to another part - i guess.

Just like a Salmon comes back to its home river and even travels upstream to lay eggs and die - we also many times come back to our home music - like your moms MSS bhajans ( my moms too ! )

( The friend in my locality who later on went to be associated with MTV India in its early days - introduced me to Indus Creed - and that was a good start for me )

We swim in the sea of music and come back to our own river :)

Just my 2 bits - but a thought provoking article as well !

PS : Can we view - world music is the genie inside the bottle - once one tries to get it out in order to categorize and compartmentalize it - it wont be possible !! simply because the genie cannot be caught !! :)
 
Maybe I am going off on a tangent here , but even within the Indian context - perhaps not unsurprisingly for a such a large country- there are people who complain and to some extent rightly so, about the lack of adequate recognition for art, music etc from the margins such as the North East and the Adivasi areas.
But recognition is a double edged sword. With it comes slick packaging and marketing. The roughness is smoothened , the visceral punch is tamed and the end result is to the detriment of the real music.
But once in a while, one discovers such music in their vernacular and organic setting and the effect is magical. One should be mindful of the urge to share it with the larger audience as that enterprise will then again devalue the music for the aforementioned reasons.
 
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