Listening to the Beat of World Music
Graceland was early evidence of a new development in the music industry: World music. Go into any major record store today and you'll find that world music has become big business. Tahitian choirs, gypsy bands, African soukous, Jamaican reggae, and other international musical styles fill the racks. The recording industry trade magazine, Billboard, now publishes a weekly chart of "world music" albums.
Meanwhile, more and more Western artists are being exported. Madonna and Michael Jackson are as popular abroad as they are in the U.S., and MTV distributes a mix of local and international music videos worldwide through a network that includes MTV Europe, Brazil, Latin America, Japan and Asia. Musicians around the world are exchanging ideas and using this cross-fertilization to develop hybrid musical styles.
Despite all the promise in these developments, there's a chance that this globalization will turn out as one-sided as the Northern hemisphere dominance in exploitation of the world's resources. Led by six global-scale recording companies-Polygram, Thorne EMI, MCA, Sony, Time-Warner, and BMG, the "internationalization" of music could mean that other countries simply become markets for Western pop rather than players in a global music enterprise. As hybridization takes place, indigenous music may eventually become just another exotic rhythm in a homogenous world music driven by the record companies' promotion machines. Western musical acts have already become the standard by which performances around the globe are measured, and English has become world music's lingua franca.
Hopefully, the diversity of world music will not only survive but be enhanced by this globalization process, offering listeners around the world an even greater chance to use music as a point of entry to other cultures.
How to Make Musical Comparisons
Go through your collection of recordings or go to your local library or record store and choose a popular recording by an international artist. (If you don't follow pop music, choose a recording from Billboard's World Music Chart or ask for a recommendation from a salesperson at your local music store.)
Before you listen to the recording, look at the package.
Now that you've been introduced to this culture, be on the lookout for news of the country that it comes from. You may need to look beyond the nightly news or the local newspaper to find information. Try your library or local newsstand for publications that cover international news, and be sure to share your new interest with friends and family.