Rare Grooves on Vinyl from Around the World: Hear Curated Playlists of Arabic, Brazilian, Bollywood, Soviet & Turkish Music

Just as the cat­e­go­ry of “For­eign Lan­guage Film” has seri­ous prob­lems, so too does that of “World Music,” which names so many kinds of music that it names noth­ing at all. World music “might best be described by what it is not,” not­ed a 1994 Music Library Asso­ci­a­tion report. “It is not West­ern art music, nei­ther it is main­stream West­ern folk or pop­u­lar music.” The report adds some vague qual­i­fi­ca­tions about “eth­nic or for­eign ele­ments” then gives away the game: “It is sim­ply not our music, it is their music, music which belongs to some­one else.”

Per­haps one can see why the idea is now regard­ed by some as “out­dat­ed and offen­sive.” As the Uni­ver­si­ty of Minnesota’s Tim­o­thy Bren­nan argues in a his­tor­i­cal analy­sis of the term, “world music does not exist” except “as an idea in the mind of jour­nal­ists, crit­ics, and the buy­ers of records.”

But to whom can music belong? If Japan­ese musi­cians play jazz, are they play­ing Amer­i­can-owned music? Is it “Japan­ese jazz” or just jazz? Must it have Japan­ese instru­ments for it to be “World Music”?

How these ques­tions get answered can deter­mine whether most lis­ten­ers ever encounter the record­ed out­put of jazz musi­cians from Japan, such as that in an excel­lent thir­ty-minute sam­pler from the 1970s that we fea­tured just a few days back. In this mix, DJ Zag Erlat show­cas­es names that “will sound famil­iar,” wrote Open Culture’s Col­in Mar­shall, “to those of us who’ve spent years dig­ging crates around the world for Japan­ese jazz on vinyl.” That’s a select group, indeed, and one you may be inspired to join once you’ve heard Erlat’s mix.

The Turk­ish DJ has fur­ther done his part to dis­am­biguate World Music on his YouTube chan­nel My Ana­log Jour­nal. Here, you’ll find Erlat spin­ning sets of “Brazil­ian Grooves,” “Ara­bic Grooves,” “African Grooves,” “Bol­ly­wood Grooves,” and so much more—including a set of Jazz from the USSR in his tenth episode that is quite a reveal­ing lis­ten. Who knew such music exist­ed in the Sovi­et Union? Well, except for those Sovi­et jazz crate-dig­gers.

Now you know too, and you’ll learn a lot more about what the world’s been up to, music-wise. These are also, obvi­ous­ly, very broad cat­e­gories, and one might rea­son­ably object to them. But it’s a great start for get­ting to know some clas­sic pop sounds from spe­cif­ic regions in the world. Erlat does get more spe­cif­ic in some sets, as in his Japan­ese jazz from the 70s. (I’d espe­cial­ly rec­om­mend his “Turk­ish Female Singers from the 70s” mix.)

This is music of the mod­ern world—not “ours” or “theirs”—its basic ele­ments embed­ded in a glob­al cul­tur­al mar­ket­place. “It is 25 years since the con­cept of world music was cre­at­ed by enthu­si­asts in a north Lon­don pub,” wrote The Guardian’s Ian Bir­rell in 2012. “Per­haps it made sense then, as a mar­ket­ing device to pro­mote the sounds of the world that were lost in record shops and on the radio. But not now. Not in this mixed-up, messy and shrunk­en world.” Per­haps it did­n’t make sense then, when artists like Fela Kuti or Os Mutantes made music that was as much “West­ern” as it was African or South Amer­i­can.

It becomes increas­ing­ly impos­si­ble to seg­re­gate artists from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Genre mashups rule, and the more furi­ous­ly artists from around the world pick up and put down glob­al styles, the more they attract the pos­i­tive notice of fans and crit­ics in pop music. But per­haps we’ll con­tin­ue to refer to indige­nous folk tra­di­tions as “World Music,” and per­haps that’s what the label has always been meant to describe. In that case, as one writer for the Grammy’s offi­cial blog put it, “some­thing tells me that the rest of the world has a dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tion.”

Get famil­iar with sev­er­al oth­er groovy musics from else­where at Erlat’s My Ana­log Jour­nal.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A 30-Minute Intro­duc­tion to Japan­ese Jazz from the 1970s: Like Japan­ese Whisky, It’s Under­rat­ed, But Very High Qual­i­ty

Music Is Tru­ly a Uni­ver­sal Lan­guage: New Research Shows That Music World­wide Has Impor­tant Com­mon­al­i­ties

Stream a 144-Hour Discog­ra­phy of Clas­sic Jazz Record­ings from Blue Note Records: Miles Davis, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Ornette Cole­man & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.