What are your thoughts on world music? If you are like me, you may have associated the term with pan flutes and steel drums… maybe not exactly the most modern or exciting thing to listen to (no offense dad). Despite these initial perceptions of world music, the planet is full of progressive, modern, and quite frankly- some of the coolest music I’ve ever heard. Today, I want to showcase some music from different parts of the globe.
From the 16th Century to 1975, Angola, located in Sub Saharan Africa, was a Portuguese colony. As is common in most colonial relationships, much culture was shared between the two countries during the period of foreign rule, and the legacy continues into the present. In this instance, the sharing of cultures has manifested itself in contemporary music. Buraka Som Sistema, a group hailing from Lisbon, Portugal, have made a name for themselves by putting a hip-hop spin on a traditional form of Angolan music known as Kuduro. Kuduro itself is a hybrid, fusing African tribal elements with Caribbean rhythms and Portuguese lyrics. Check out this sweet video that showcases the intense sounds and languid dance moves that traditionally accompany Kuduro.
A musical style similar to Kuduro hails from Brazil and is known as Funk Carioca, or more commonly in international circles, “Baile Funk.” Baile Funk, which has less in common with what U.S. citizens might associate with ‘funk music’ and more to do with electro or Miami Bass, incorporates traditional Brazilian instruments and lyrics layered with thick bass lines and rapid beats. Bonde Do Role, a Baile Funk group from Curitiba, Brazil, has garnered international attention after their totally RADICAL songs became dance club bangers.
If you’ve listed to Bonde Do Role’s music, you may have noticed that they speak in Portuguese. This is because Portuguese is the national language of Brazil, which was also a Portuguese colony prior to its independence in 1822. Now I’m not a music historian by any means, but I’m guessing that the similarities between Kuduro and Baile Funk may have to do with the fact that both of the host countries were colonized by the Portuguese (what do you think?). While the two types of music may sound similar, their lyrical content generally focuses on different subjects. Kuduro tends to feature social and political critique and commentary, while Baile Funk is typically more sensual and less serious. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after checking out this killer video from Bonde Do Role.
Finally, here’s a link to a video by a musician who raps about troubles in his native land of Somalia. His name is K’Naan, which means ‘traveler’ in his native Somali language, and his rhymes are a call to action.
Check out the video here at our National Geographic videos site.
If you are familiar with the decades-long civil war that has ravaged Somalia, then you may know some of the issues that K’Naan talks about and some of the images featured in the video. Did you notice the architecture of the buildings in the background of many of the shots? Many of those buildings are in Mogadishu, which as the capital is the largest and most important city in the country. During the early part of the 20th Century, Mogadishu was controlled by Italy, which explains why some of the buildings appear to be vaguely European. In 1960 following WW2, Somalia finally achieved independence, establishing Mogadishu as its capital and cultural center. However, since 1991 when the central government collapsed, the city has essentially been the staging ground for bloody gunfights between rival militias.
Recently, repeated attempts at re-establishing a central government in Somalia have been unsuccessful. Clashes between the Islamist majority, which manifested itself as the Union of Islamist Courts, feuding warlords, and the interim government have resulted in conditions that make Mogadishu, Somalia, one of the most dangerous cities in the entire world.
With all of this in mind, how does K’Naan’s music resonate with you? He mentions that Mogadishu “used to be a place that people came to see”, implying that the years of conflict have rendered it uninhabitable, much less a tourist destination. Additionally, K’naan expresses that he doesn’t make music to get famous. When he exclaims, “I work for the struggle I don’t work for dough, I mean what I say, I don’t do it for show,” he seems to suggest that the issues at hand are ultimately more powerful and more important than money or fame could ever be. If you were in his shoes would you feel the same way?
For more information about the current situation in Somalia, check this BBC country profile.