Awesome music from around the world, part 8

May 10, 2016

After a year-long hiatus, “Awesome music from around the world” is back. This dance-heavy entry ventures to Senegal and double-dips into Japan, India, Spain, and Sweden. The love of dance is apparently what unites James Bond villains, underage African folk heroes, and highly coordinated Japanese pop stars.

51.Japan (World Order) – Welcome to Tokyo

The Japanese pop band World Order specializes in elaborate, synchronized dancing routines and revolutionary protest songs. Their teamwork and dedication make the act of walking into performance art. In addition to being one of their catchiest tunes, “Welcome to Tokyo” features amazing dance numbers in various locations throughout the Japanese capital.

52. India – Various – Deewangi Deewangi (Om Shanti Om)

This nine-minute song and dance number from the bollywood musical Om Shanti Om is an ode to the joy of dancing for all ages (when was the last time you saw a woman over 40 consigned to anything other than a mother, grandmother, or witch in an American movie?). It’s also just one of many standout sequences from the Indian equivalent to Singing in the Rain that just happens to involve reincarnation, disco, and shuttlecock.

 

53. Senegal – Youssou N’ Dour. (Senegal)  (Kirikou and the Sorceress)


Speaking of joy, this clip from Kirkikou and the Sorceress is a breath of fresh air, both for the audience and literally for its protagonist. A bit of context: the boy, Kirikou, is the hero of an African village who also happens to be a young baby. On a quest to find the evil sorceress who has kidnapped the men of his village, Kirikou has emerged from traveling underground. Having just saved a family of prairie dogs from a burrowing predator of some kind he finds himself rewarded for his efforts. The movie, drawn from traditional West African folk tales, is a great example of children’s animation that doesn’t involve Pixar, Disney, or anime, but Yousso N’Dour’s guitars give this sequence a power all on its own.

54. Spain (Manu Chao) Me gustas tu


Spanish alternative rocker Manu Chao proclaims his enjoyment of everything from traveling to the wind to marijuana in addition to his love of you in “Me gustas tu.” This song will burrow its way into your head, where it will teach and then reinforce the proper use of verbs and indirect objects.

55. Sweden – Miike Snow – Genghis Khan

The video to Miike Snow’s latest earworm explores the obsessive relationship that builds between a Bond villain and his captive with dancing, a genuine emotional bond and wry humor, all things that have been lacking in the Bond series recently. Whoever produces the next Bond movie should take notes.

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Awesome Music from Around the World, Part 7

December 17, 2012

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!

46. Guyana* – Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue

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.

47. Australia – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Bring It On


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.

48. Sri Lanka* – MIA – Paper Planes

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.

49. Iceland – Sigur Ross – Hoppipolla

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.

50. Jamaica*, Barbados – Shaggy (feat Rayvon) – Angel

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?

51. Belgium* – Goyte – Somebody That I Used to Know

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).

52. Ethiopia*- Kenna – Say Goodbye to Love

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.

53. Lebanon* – Mika – Rain

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.

54. Serbia – Djordje Balasevic –  Nedostaje mi nasa ljubav

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.

55. Cuba – Buena Vista Social Club – Chan Chan

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).

55.5 South Korea – Psy – Gangnam Style

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.

 


Awesome Music From Around the World, Part 6

December 17, 2011

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!

 

41. Algeria – Rachid Taha – Bonjour

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.

42. Turkey – Tarkan – Simarik

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.

43. Hawaii – Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

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.

44. Mali – Rokia Traore – Kele Mandi

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.

45. Belarus – Seryoga – Chernyj Bumer

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.

45.5 England – The Pipettes – Pull Shapes

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.


Awesome Music From Around the World, Part 5

September 21, 2011

My Awesome Music Around the World feature is approaching 50 entries and shows no sign of slowing. This entry features Swedes mixing swing and hip-hop, a Malawian singer alongside the lead singer from Vampire Weekend, macho Chechen dancing, and more.

36. Russia: Leningrad – Dorogi

Leningrad, a ska-punk band based out of St. Petersburg, formed shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. “Dorogi” (the road) has a great beat and takes full advantage of the lead signer’s gravely voice as well as the band’s full brass section. I love music videos that tell a story, and this is a great one. It follows an unassuming Russian youth who wakes up alone and bloodied, and then flashes back to the night before. The video manages to be simultaneously bleak, engaging, and life-affirming. I won’t spoil the ending except to say that it ends on one of the most badass, and Russian, notes in music video history.

37. Malawi: The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa

Malawi’s Esau Mwamwaya and the England-based DJs Etienne Tron and Johan Karlberg to form The Very Best, a band that mixes African and Western genres.  Warm Heart of Africa is one of several great songs on the band’s first album, released in 2009. The song manages to be distinct, fun, and catchy, and the video features a dancing giraffe and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. What more could you ask for?

38. Sweden – MOVITS! – Sammy Davis Jr.

“They say I sound old school, baby, like Frank and Sammy Davis,” sings MOVITS! lead singer Johan Rensfeldt, but the Rat Pack never mixed old-school swing with hip hop, and they couldn’t sing a word of Swedish. MOVITS! gained some fans in the United States after appearing on the Colbert Report, but they deserve a lot more, for this number especially. (Click here for a less pretty copy of the video with lyrics in English.)

39. Uruguay – La Vela Puerca: Va a Escampar

In “Va a Escampar,” (the rain will clear) La Vela Puerca take their time, building from Sebastián Teysera’s voice and acoustic guitar to a crescendo of electric guitar and horns. The video isn’t as coherent or original as I would like but the music to “Va a Escampar” manages to balance a touch of melancholy and hopefulness while still working as a rock song.

40. Chechnya – 12 (movie scene): Chechan Dance Music

This entry comes from 12, a Russian remake of 12 Angry Men. 12 takes a while to get started, and it’s not as tight as the 1957 classic, but it makes up for it with some inspired twists and a brilliant ending. In this scene, (approximately the first two minutes of this clip), a boy impresses a group of soldiers in his village some traditional Chechen dancing, which may be the most macho form of dance in existence.

 

What do you think? Do you have suggestions for more awesome music from other countries? I know Chechnya isn’t technically a country, but I’m invoking my “Puerto Rico rule” to include it anyway.

You can catch more awesome music videos in my previous entries, and you can see all the entries in my updated global map.

Thanks to the denizens of the Cracked Forums for the great suggestions, especially Yurksemesh and EFHRK for entries 37 and 38 respectively.


Awesome Music from Around the World – Now with Maps!

September 7, 2011

I created an interactive map world map listing every country that I’ve gathered awesome music from. Check it out here, or via the image below:

I hope to have a new entry featuring music from Russia, Uruguay, Mali and other locations coming soon, as well as an update on some non-blog related work. Stick around!

My goal is to get an entry for all 180-something countries in the world, so if you have a suggestion, pass it along!


Awesome music from around the world, Part 4

March 25, 2011

After just over a year, Stretchyourmind is back, with five (and then some) new awesome songs from five new countries. This batch includes Ugandan mwooyo, Brazilian new wave, and  self-effacing German rock.

31. Somalia: K’naan – Wavin’ Flag

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2Wig_vHUVc]

Somalian-Canadian artist Kn’aan wrote this song to call attention to the bloodshed and upheaval that have plagued Somalia and many other African countries for decades. Coca-cola went and sponsored a new version of the song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup that kept the hook but replaced any reference to poverty and unhappiness with lines about about happy people waving flags. Both versions are still miles above other versions of the song featuring Will.I.Am or Canadian supergroups.

32.  Brazil: CSS – Move

This is a fun electronic/rock number. Dressed up like a bunch of Carrboro hipsters, CSS (short for cansei de ser sexy, or “tired of being sexy”) drive around the countryside taking some impressive but technically dubious photos using trick photography.

33. Germany: Die Prinzen – Deutschland

Die Prinzen (“The Princes”) crafted this catchy little number that manages to tweak German habits and culture (they aren’t being entirely sincere when they sing about the joys of German cars or about Germans being the friendliest people on Earth) while also working as an anthem celebrating Germany. Shades of “America, F— Yeah,” anyone?

34. Uganda: Maurice Kirya – Boda Boda

Maurice Kirya races through Kampala to get to his loved one in this sweet example of  the mwooyo (according to Kirya’s website, a blend of soul, Afro-fusion and R&B) genre. Kirya deliberately chose a woman with albinism to play his soulmate in this video to show albinos in a positive light and to reduce stigmatism associated with that condition in parts of Africa.

35. Panama: Los Rabanes – Commanding Wife

Los Rabanes, a cumbia/rock/reggae/ska band, often sing in a blend of Spanish and English, reflecting the strong influence the presence the U.S. military has had on their country. In this boisterous, bouncy, infectious tune, the singer describes the problems that come with having a life partner who “wants to destroy my life.”

35.5 Zimbabwe: Tinashe – Zambezi

I already covered Zimbabwe’s Tuku Mtukudzi in a previous entry, but in the interest of sharing great world music I had to include this entry as well. In this haunting song, Minashe recounts the story of a doomed young couple, originally told to him by his mother. You can also catch the more upbeat, visually appealing, thematically inappropriate video of the song here.


Awesome Music From Around the World, Part 3

March 22, 2010

My ongoing series of great music (and music videos) that I hope will eventually include every country in the world continues. Part three features Ghanian hip-hop, Norwegian indie rock, Venezuelan acid jazz, and seven other entries. Enjoy!

21. South Africa: Freshlyground – Pot Belly

The video accompanying this song works on its own as a short film. This song, from Freshlyground’s 2007 album, pairs lead singer Zolani Mahola’s exquisite vocals with a wonderful melody and back-up guitar.

22. Norway: Kings of Convenience – I’d Rather Dance with You

This Norwegian indie duo channel Wes Anderson and a bit of Napolean Dynamite for their biggest hit, a sweet, charming melody on acoustic guitar and piano. Or perhaps they’re channeling Flight of the Conchords (or are the Conchords channeling them?)–isn’t New Zealand on the exact opposite side of the globe from Norway?

23. Iraq: Acrassicauda – Garden of Stones


This heavy metal band formed in 2000, under the final days of Saddam Hussein’s regime (apparently they were even forced to write a song praising him). They developed and played in Iraq during the war with the United States until 2006, when they fled to Syria, and then to the U.S. Since then, they’ve been the subjects of the documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad, received signed guitars from their Metallica, and have recently been featured in Newsweek. Their single, “Garden of Stones,” is great head-banging music–raging guitars, heavy beats, and lyrics shouted over black-and-white footage of wrecked cities. This song is as powerful and subtle as a sledge hammer to the face.


24. Austria: EAV – Ding Dong


This video opens with an animated weasel having a panic attack, a Rutger Hauer look-a-like wooing a transvestite, and a hot dog in a birdcage. Then it takes a turn for the bizarre. This is a very silly, deliberately fun video, with the band obviously having a great time. The song itself that could be used as a textbook example of an ohrwurm (literally, “ear worm”) that gets stuck in your head over and over after just one listen.

25. Ghana: Obour – The Game


Ghanian hip-hop artists Obour, Okyeame Kwame, and Richie take on their country’s music establishment in their most recent single. But you don’t need to understand the politics of Ghana’s music industry (something about artists having a tough time getting their music out?) to enjoy the bouncy beats of this great song.

26. Israel: Kele 6 – The Way of the King

This fun take on The Wizard of Oz by Kele 6, one of Israel’s older hip-hop bands, is marred by the director’s decision to place the camera angle so that it aims either directly at Dorothy’s breasts or up her skirt. This points to a director who is either a pervert or who is quite insecure about establishing this obviously beautiful woman as attractive? He ends up doing everyone a disservice–effect is off-putting and slightly creepy. Still, this song is very catchy, and the players and costumes are charming. Still, this is definitely one of the better Israeli Wizard-of-Oz-themed rap videos out there.
27. Venezuela: Los Amigos Invisibles – Diablo
Los Amigos Invisibles blend dance music, disco, and Latin elements to create very catchy, dance-worthy music, especially in this song. And the video director knows how to film sexy women without being invasive or taking away their dignity (director of the Tele 6 video, I’m looking at you…)

28. South Korea: Super Junior – Sorry Sorry


According to wikipedia, Super Junior is the world’s largest boy band, coming from a country that has embraced the genre (when the Koreans do something, they do it whole-heartedly and then some). “Sorry Sorry” is an infectious pop number with some great dancing that has been emulated by, among others, the Filipino “Thriller” dancing prisoners and members of East Chapel Hill high school’s Asian club. [EDIT: YouTube Vogon Squad has disabled direct embedded viewing of this video, so you’ll have to click on the text link (the words by the 28).]

29. Dbanj: Nigeria – Fall in Love

Dapo Daniel “D’Banj” Oyebanjo took home the MTV Africa Artist of the Year and Listener’s Choice Awards for this 2008 hit. In this sweet video, D’Banj woos his sweetheart by, among other activities, losing to her in Mortal Kombat.

30. Argentina: Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Matador
Argentina’s most famous band, founded in 1985, is currently still touring in South America. Their 1993 hit “Matador” blends rock, ska and big-band music into a potent and memorable song that has been used in movie soundtracks as far as the United States (Grosse Point Blank) and Spain (Matador).