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The Influence of Popular World Music on Modern Western Music

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Vassar College

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  1. Introduction
  2. Raga Mala by Pandit Ravi Shankar and the path of his life in music
  3. The evolution of Reggae music in Jamaica
  4. The jerky ska rhythm
  5. The reggae chapter of world music
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography

The nebulous category of World Music has been defined as "simply not our music, it is their music (Rahkonen, 1)." World Music is thus a distinction based on otherness and not any singularly defining characteristic. It is a term that developed from the classification of popular music "to include all styles of music with ethnic or foreign elements (Rahkonen, 6)," defined in opposition to the western idiom. With respect to popular music today, World Music is often a syncretism of ethnic elements with popular western styles that creates genres such as bhangra-fusion (disco and Punjabi bhangra), reggae (from ska, mento, and R&B), and afro-beat (Yoruba drums, soul singing, jazz).

[...] The music is everything around me (162)." This "British sound" of bhangra-fusion is an ironic development because "in the 1960s, bhangra allowed South Asian youths to affirm their identities in a positive way within a culturally hostile and exclusionary British environment (Shelemay, 190)." Apache Indian's breakout hit "Boom Shakalak" reached No.5 on the British Charts, and "Move Over India" (1990) placed the artist No on both the Asian and Reggae Charts (Taylor, 157). The single "Arranged Marriage which debuted at sixteenth place on the British singles charts is an overt commentary on the "double-life" led by Indian youth: "You go through a system where you have girlfriends, you go through another system at home where you have to have an arranged marriage (162)." The song opens with a bhangra dhol rhythm and continues with a tabla beat over which Apache delivers his reggae style vocals, serving to combine musically the urban and traditional cultures he represents. [...]


[...] Colonialism (in these cases, British) has been another driving force in the admixture of musical cultures, bringing western traditions into the purview of foreign cultures. In his autobiography Raga Mala, Pandit Ravi Shankar discusses the path of his life in music. Beginning with his early life as a dancer in an Indian performance troupe, Ravi travelled through Europe and America, where he "became so attracted to jazz music Beginning in 1938, his career as a sitar virtuoso blossomed under guru Allaudin Khan. [...]

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