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 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 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).

Awesome Music from Around The World, Part 1

August 25, 2009

I hope to one day make a playlist featuring great music (and great music videos) from every country in the world.  Here are my first ten entries.

1. Canada: The Arcade Fire — Rebellion (Lies)

This band single-handedly reaffirmed my faith in and appreciation of music that’s actually being played on the radio these days. If Bruce Springsteen was from Montreal, was 25 years younger, and added a few additional instruments to the E Street Band, he could have easily formed this group.

2. Colombia: Juanes — La Camisa Negra

Colombian artist Juanes is a Latin American superstar, whose music can be heard from Uruguay to Mexico to the U.S. My favorite song, “La Camisa Negra,” (the black shirt), showcases the song and functions as a great short film in its own right.

3. England: The Beatles — It’s All Too Much

Who doesn’t love the Beatles? George kicks ass (and melts the Blue Meanies’ hearts) in this song from The Yellow Submarine.

4. India: Abhijeet and Anuradha Sriram — Chunari Chunari

Abhijeet and Anuradha Sriram strut their way from India to San Francisco in this song from the Monsoon Wedding soundtrack. My wife has observed that the male shoulder wave, followed by the female hip shake, interspersed with lots of “come hither” looks, appear to be a universal part of dance. They’re certainly in the vocabulary here.

5. Mexico: Julieta Venegas — Me Voy

Me voy, que lastima, pero adios (“I’m leaving, it’s a shame but goodbye”), sings Mexican pop superstar Julieta Venegas in one of her most popular singles. Fun facts: Julieta Venegas is an identical twin, and she thinks her eyebrows are her most beautiful body part.

6. New Zealand: Flight of the Conchords — Hiphopopotomas vs Rhymenoceros

New Zealand’s fourth-most popular folk parody duo sing one of their classics in an attempt to intimidate some thugs.

7. Puerto Rico*: Calle 13 — Nadie como tu

Calle 13 is one of the world’s most popular reggaeton (actually a blend of hip-hop, dance music, and several Latin genres, with very little reggae) bands.  “Nadie como tu (no one like you) is a great song to learn (or relearn Spanish by), especially with this charming fan-made video that illustrates the lyrics, sometimes literally, sometimes comically.

8. Spain: El Koala — Opa, yo viace un corra

Self-named artist El Koala (just what it sounds like) set out to create an album of “rustic rock music”, which combines rock and punk music with lyrics about farm life in Spain. “Opá, yo viazé un corrá” (Dad, I’m going to build a farm, with some slang and contractions), is incredibly fun to watch and catchy (this video has had more than 20 million hits already). Other songs from the album include a farmer singing about a hog and a rooster’s lament.

9. Ukraine: Ruslana — Wild Dances

This Ukrainian artist won the 2004 Eurovision song contest, and five years later received the honor of being included in the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto 4.

10. U.S.A.: Johnny Cash — Hurt

American IV was Johnny Cash’s last album released while he was still alive (two more have since come out), and it remains one of his best. For Hurt, Cash takes a song from Nine Inch Nails and makes it much more powerful and profound. Age and illness ravaged Johnny Cash’s body and voice for years, but he continued to sing and record albums until his death. The Man in Black will be missed.

A few notes:

  • These are all songs I genuinely like, so future entries may take a while.
  • That said, constructive suggestions for future entries are welcome.
  • I’m focusing on contemporary, “fun” pop music, with the exception of the Beatles, because they’re the Beatles.
  • Of course I’m not trying to sum all of any country’s musical influence into one song. What song could ever do that?
  • *I reserve the right to include Puerto Rico even though it’s not  a country. I like Calle 13.