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).

Learning Spanish on YouTube

March 7, 2010

Learning Spanish (or any foreign language) can be as easy as opening an Internet browser.

The full potential of the Internet for learning is pretty awesome. Sites like LiveMocha offer online chat groups and social networking to allow users to meet and practice with each other. You can find and order textbooks online, access posted college lectures and learning materials, and tune into online radio programs.

But the site that I’ve used most often to practice my Spanish has been YouTube, where for the past four years I’ve been learning and relearning Spanish by listening to music from throughout Spain and Latin America.

There’s an intimidating amount of diversity to music from these regions. YouTube allows you to access this diverse pool anytime, and if you’re brave enough to venture in, the rewards can be wonderful.

I’ve found three advantages by learning a language through its music:

  • If you can find a genre or artist you like, you’ll enjoy listening to it, and be more likely to make a habit of listening
  • You can listen to music everywhere, making it easy to incorporate music into your daily routine
  • Listening to a song works well for language learners of all levels: beginners can try to pick out individual words and then work on understanding the chorus, while more advanced learners can work on understanding the verses line by line (searching for “letras,” or lyrics, can help you find the words to a song).

To help get you started, here are a few videos that I’ve enjoyed that have (relatively) simple lyrics. (You may also want to check out my  “awesome music around the world” series, which has music from Spain, Mexico, Colombia, and other countries.

Manu Chao – Me Gustas Tu

Elmo – Es Musica

Kumbia All Starz – Speedy Gonzales

Does anyone else have any ways they’ve used YouTube or other online resources to learn a new language?