Melting Pot

World Music has always been about compelling music that connects the common joys, fears and hopes of men everywhere. Here’s a look at the genre and some of its biggest stars.

Bibek Bhattacharya | Print Edition: July 27, 2008

The phrase “World Music” entered the popular music lexicon in 1982 when “World Music Day” was first celebrated in France. But in reality, the merging of musical boundaries to create something entirely new has been around at least since the 1960s. Of course, for many, World Music began when Pt Ravi Shankar’s sitar bewitched young pop stars like George Harrison (The Beatles) and Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) in the mid-’60s, sparking a 40-year-old trend of western musicians jamming with musicians from other cultures.

The ’70s saw an explosion in such collaborations like Shakti and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, featuring guitar player John McLaughlin and Indian classical musicians like the violinist L. Shankar and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. Other classics have been Paul Simon’s Graceland, which he recorded with South African mbaqanga musicians in 1986, and the Ry Cooderhelmed Buena Vista Social Club project in the mid-’90s, which made superstars of forgotten old Cuban masters. We take a look at three World Music stars of varied backgrounds who are extremely dissimilar musically, but are alike in crafting soulful, unique music.


In a recent interview, Coldplay’s Chris Martin heaped praise on this Malian band, citing it as a major influence on the band’s new album Viva La Vida. This isn’t surprising, as Tinariwen captures the yearning for change and freedom much better than its multi-platinum counterparts. The band started in 1982 in the refugee camps of Mali, formed by a number of rebels from the Tuareg nomadic tribe, professing a love for legendary African singers like Ali Farka Toure and the Blues in equal measure.

What the group has wrought is deeply passionate Blues-based music, adding a raw guitar-based sound to its distinctly nomadic folk songs about politics and freedom. Generally considered to be one of the best rock bands in the world today, its recentlyreleased third album Aman Iman (Water Is Life) is being hailed as a classic, with such brilliant songs like Cler Achel, Assouf and Izarharh Tenere. Don’t miss a day to discover this fantastic band.
Check out the band on:http://www.myspace.com/tinariwen

The Idan Raichel Project

Idan Raichel
The young singer-keyboardist Idan Raichel is a star in his native Tel Aviv, and his band, The Idan Raichel Project, plays a unique music which is a mix of electronics, traditional Hebrew texts and Ethiopian music. With members drawn from Israeli Palestinians, South Africans and Ethiopians, this is World Music in the true multi-cultural sense of the term. An adept arranger and the writer of some beautiful tunes, Idan Raichel’s debut album,

The Idan Raichel Project, made him a World Music star. Combining Hebrew religious songs and love songs of rare beauty, numbers like Boee (Come To Me) and Mi’ma’amakim (Out Of The Depths) capture the unique sound of the band. The eclectic songs that The Project writes in Hebrew, Ethiopian, Arabic and Zulu have made it a huge draw in West Asia and the West. Check out the band on:www.idanraichelproject.com

Gogol Bordello

Gogol Bordello
“Gypsy-Punk” sounds like an oxymoron to you? Well, not if you hear the hilarious, brilliant Gogol Bordello. If the best of World Music excels in producing convincing cultural mash-ups clothed in appealing music, then Gogol Bordello is one of the very best bands in World Music today. Its MySpace site cheekily labels it as a band playing “Death Metal/Melodramatic Popular Song/Japanese Classic Music” but what this bunch of Eastern European immigrants play is frantic rock’n’roll with gypsy musical idioms.

So, you get Django Reinhardt-influenced swing, violins and accordions, The Clash inspired punk rock and hilarious lyrics about bohemian life in New York’s Lower East Side played with utter abandon. Formed in 1999, Gogol hit it big with its theatrical stage shows and the infectious energy of its 2002 sophomore album Multi Contra Culti vs. Irony. The 2007 release Super Taranta was a smash hit, earning the band spots in some major festivals—like the Bonnaroo Music Festival this year.
Check out the band on:http://www.myspace.com/gogolbordello

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