After a year-long hiatus, Awesome Music from Around the World is back. This double entry (Serbia! Cuba! Guyana!) brings up the total to 55 countries. For this entry, I included several musicians who only spent part of their childhoods in the countries they’re “from.” Technically it may be more likely to say that these musicians are from the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia–all of these countries are increasingly countries of immigrants. But, I’m interested in the little touches that a home country may have on a person–a bit of leftover accent, a few early memories, or stories from parents–even after a person has left there for years (I’m also glad for any excuse to finally include MIA, Eddy Grant, Kenna, and others). I’ve marked these entries with an accent for technical accuracy.
I hope to be updating this blog more regularly in the near future–please stick around and enjoy the music!
Eddy Grant’s reggae classic sounds just as good today as it did 30 years ago. But beneath the rocking chorus and beat, there’s an angry (and still relevant) protest against consumer culture that showcases the latest electronic goods while leaving the poor behind.
I dig this song. It’s got a little bit of gothic atmosphere, a touch of Johnny Cash, and it builds to an awesome, rocking chorus.
MIA samples the opening to the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” to great effect in this entry from her second album, Kala. But, her chorus and lyrics, which tell the story of a violent but sympathetic member of the London lower class, hold up just as well, and fit in the spirit of Joe Strummer’s work.
Take a five-minute journey into a genre between rock and ambient music in “Hoppipolla” (“jumping into puddles”). In the accompanying video, groups of elderly men and women reenact their childhood, getting into trouble, and going to (pretend) war with each other. If you ever wondered what Icelandic sounded like, this may be your chance.
Shaggy teams with Barbadian signer Rayvon for a great reggae love song, with Shaggy singing about his infatuation, and Rayvon covering the importance of a lasting, dependable relationship. That last point is undermined by a plethora of scantily clad women in the music video, but since when has the genre been known for restraint when it comes to the female form?
In this ballad, Goyte sings about a poisoned relationship that has fallen apart. After infatuation, breakups may be the most common topic for songs these days. But this song has a level of detail that makes the relationship feel like a real thing, and the perspectives of both parties seem imperfect but understandable. (I don’t normally like novelty/take-off songs very much, but this Star-Wars-themed take on the song is pretty great).
Malcolm Gladwell has already written about Kenna’s struggles with commercial success (Kenna makes great music, but is hard to pin down into a single, marketable genre). “Say Goodbye to Love” is one of his more radio-friendly hits, but it’s a good one.
The Lebanon-born British singer Mika channels a bit of Freddy Mercury and a bit of Lewis Carroll in “Rain.” Bouncy, energy-filled electronic fun.
A colleague Bora Zivkovic has kindly shared many favorite songs from his native Serbia. I chose this entry (“I miss our love”), a melancholic but beautiful song from Djordje Balasevic, who’s been making music from a variety of genres for the past 30 years.
During the 1940s, Havana’s Buena Vista Social Club was a hot spot for musicians to come together and play. Members of the bands that played there reunited in the 1990s for a series of concerts, a documentary and global fame. “Chan chan” became one of their most famous songs (“De Camino a la Vereda” is pretty great too, but it lacks the footage of life in Cuba in this video).
I’ve covered South Korea before, andthis song has been so overexposed and overplayed that even people in North Korea probably know this song by heart now. But now that it’s been a few months, take a look back and see how this song really does hold up. The video is inventive in addition to being weird, Psy has a fine baritone voice, the song is definitely catchy, and it bumped Justin Beiber off the #1 most-watched music video spot. That alone earns Gangham Style an entry on this list.