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World Famous

Iain Scott
Iain Scott
Some musicians do not want to be shoved into the ‘world music’ bin because they think it denies them mainstream exposure and increased sales. This is valid in cases where the artist can clearly compete in a mainstream category, but the big stumbling block for radio and TV producers remains foreign language. For those marketed as ‘world music’ and unhappy about it, it’s just as likely that if they’re singing in English and they’re not getting exposure, it’s because what they’re doing simply doesn’t resonate with anyone very much. The ‘world music’ rack is at least a starting point for their output, and the category dividers which separate it are not so high.

Now, for musicians from every culture, there are opportunities to perform and record and disseminate their music which were unimaginable twenty years ago. They don’t need the rack itself, they can do it all themselves, call it what they like and bang it out on the internet.

Western musicians now combine musical elements from other cultures with their own as much as musicians in other cultures pick things up from the West. In the last twenty years, the exotic has become familiar. Yet this has not resulted in cultural grey-out. Exciting hybrid forms exist where they haven’t before and traditional local music is reinvigorated in the process. People look to their own culture when it is valued by another.

The term ‘world music’ simply offers a context where all kinds of music from all over the world not marketed via Western mainstream categories might be found, enjoyed and explored. It is a term which is used and useful in other countries too, existing without the elitist middle class connotations dumped on it here. Now running Discos Corason with her husband in Mexico, Mary Farquharson says “Although the record market here is very depressed (a global trend), there is an excellent public for live music and ‘world music’ artists are given an important space. The Mexican-American singer Lila Downs has benefited enormously from her ‘world music’ success outside Mexico and now has a huge home following. The story is similar, on a more limited scale, for Los de Abajo. Chavela Vargas has enjoyed a huge revival, in part thanks to the international ‘world music’ boom.”

fRom fRoots 289, July 2007


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