Welcome to my 6th entry in Awesome Music from Around the World. In this entry you’ll find music from Algeria, Belarus, Hawaii, Turkey and Mali. Enjoy!
Joy isn’t as common as infatuation, anger or disappointment in modern pop music, but it shines through in this single from Algerian singer Rachid Taha. In this song, Taha greets everyone from Grace Kelly to Superman to his own buttocks while hand-delivering greeting signs to people throughout his neighborhood.
Turkish pop singer Tarkan has been compared to an early Elvis Presley, both for his music talents and for bringing sex appeal to cultures that are still in many ways repressive in that regard. There’s definitely a bit of a peacock to Tarkan, but “Simarik” (“spoiled”) remains a catchy and fun song nonetheless.
Isreal “IZ” Kamakawio’ole’s take on “Somewhere over the Rainbow” works thanks to its simplicity (only vocals and ukelele) and Kamakawio’ole’s beautiful, haunting voice. An activist for Hawaiian rights and pride, Kamakawio’ole is still a revered figure there. After his death in 1997, his body was laid in state; after his body was cremated, his brothers paddled a traditional canoe to a bay where Kamakawio’ole’ spent much of his childhood and released his ashes into the ocean.
Rokia Traore’s spare, meditative song goes well with this fan-made video, which features close-up views of insect and plant life. Both (to me, anyway), feel calm, a little alien, and unexpectedly beautiful.
Step about the magic chernyj bumer, or “black boomer” for a ride with Seryoga, the #1 rapper from the former Soviet Union. The conceit for the music video–beautiful women gather in a black BMW to dance in the hidden music club inside–is mildly clever but emotionally and sexually retarded. But the song itself works well combining Seyoga’s lyrics, a hip-hop beat, and accordians.
I’ve been trying to include more women singers in this list, but I would have found a way to include the Pipetttes no matter their gender (even though I already included England in my first entry). The Pipettes combine the catchiness of early 1960s girl groups with a bit of modern pop and polish. It’s not the deepest niche, but when it works, as it does here, its glorious. “Pull Shapes” is British slang for dancing, by the way.