April 7, 2020

What exactly is World Music?

The phrase, “Western Music” includes genres of music originating in the Western world (which includes Europe) that are differentiated through music from the Orient or Center East. Put simply, Western music, for the most part, is built on major, minor, and pentatonic scales.

There is liberal usage of octaves, fourths, and fifths. Songs from the Orient or the Middle Eastern employs a larger group of scales which includes those built on five notes (rather than seven) and one fourth tones (rather than semitones). These differences, though not understood by the layperson, go a long way in developing music that is noticeably different and unique to each culture.

Music from different countries and ethnicities can be dramatically different. Latin music, for example , is known for its use of a number of percussion instruments including congas, claves, timbales and hand drums. This music, often used for dances, will be lively, very rhythmic, and often dramatic. Mexican music, on the other experienced, often includes a mariachi band which consists of guitar, bass, violin and horns such as trumpets.

Strikingly different, music from Japan is often performed on interesting instruments with interesting names such as shamisen, taiko percussion, and a flute called shakuhachi, which is made of bamboo.
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The music is very meditative and is often used for ceremonies and marking certain passages in life. Hawaiian music is very simple in rhythm and melody and has a distinct sound performed by ukuleles and guitars. “Slack key” guitar, a finger selecting style played with unusual tunings, started in Hawaii in the 1960s and it is still heard today. Music through Israel is a mix of music from Jewish and non-Jewish traditions. You will also hear a mix of Klezmer and Hebrew folk music.

The United States, being a relatively young country, and one that is composed of virtually all ethnics groups, has a music of its own – jazz — and it’s derivatives. You can hear Dixieland swing in New Orleans and hard-charging blues in the night clubs associated with Chicago. The U. S. is considered the birthplace of both rock-and-roll plus Country music, both sharing their own beginnings with folk music (which some insist had its origins in Europe).

The term “world music” is a most often used to describe a wide and eclectic collection of music and musicians. There are many world music festivals throughout the year with musicians and their own support staff traveling thousands of miles for a single performance. Music periodicals like “Song Lines” are devoted to world music with each copy containing a CD of music from around the globe.

Music from a specific culture (or country) is often affected by what instruments are traditionally performed and readily available. For example , Irish songs is deeply rooted in the fiddle, where Spanish music depends a great deal on the guitar and it’s versatility.

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