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 – 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!