Music around the world: global sensations

The world is filled with music: new releases dropped left and right, artists rising to the top with one song up their sleeve, and subgenre upon subgenre upon subgenre born. People pride themselves on their music taste, trying to listen to the music they believe is the best, but this can be so overwhelming as there is simply unlimited music out there. No one person is going to be able to listen to everything, but it’s still possible to explore and branch out. On an international level, the musical world has a lot to offer.

Exploring new music types and communities

Heavy metal? Pop? Yes, other countries have those, too: “The main metal band I listen to is Sabaton, a band formed in the early 2000s who sing about history, mainly war. I have been listening to them for about four to five years now,” sophomore David Kopilenko said. “Another band I follow is Rammstein, a German metal band from the early nineties. I’d say I’ve been listening to them for about three years.”
“I’ve been listening to Kpop for about two years now, and since then, I have been listening to a large variety of Kpop artists,” freshman Serene Kalugdan said. “I think that what sets Kpop apart from American pop is that the idea of Kpop is a blanket term to encompass the music, artists, culture, and community behind it.”

Breaking musical rules and standards

Because of the dogma of Western music, people typically have a strict criteria of what sounds good or bad. However, through exploration of music from around the world, one can see that these rules are Eurocentric and arbitrary. Take, for example, Bulgarian choral singing. It sounds strange to the Western ear upon first listen, because it seems contrary to the musical rules of the West. The heavy use of dissonance and out-of-the-ordinary singing techniques could easily be dismissed but this music is beautiful to those who sing it, and to those who are open to hearing new things.
“I think that a lot of people tend to think of Kpop as a one-note genre when there are multiple different layers to it. All idols within a group have different specialties and backgrounds, so when coming together, fans get to experience a diverse performance of dancing, singing, acting, and rapping,” Kalugdan said.
“Music is known as a universal language,” Kalugan added, “going beyond the surface level of simply understanding lyrics. There’s a huge stigma against Kpop because a lot of outsiders believe that they can’t like the music because they don’t understand what the artist is saying. For me, not knowing the lyrics of a song helps me appreciate and notice different themes and rhythms within a song.”
International influence can also be found in the new music that people listen to on a daily basis. For example, the incredibly popular pop artist Billie Eilish released her sophomore album Happier Than Ever earlier this year. The third track on this album is entitled “Billie Bossa Nova,” and offers a techno-produced riff on the genre of bossa nova. Bossa nova was developed in Brazil in the 1950s as samba and jazz mixed together. Of course, modern adaptations will never be pure to the older genres taken as inspiration, but music is cyclical. Styles come back around.

Global styles and modern music

Kopilenko said, “This genre appeals to me because it’s not what I would call mainstream music. I prefer the general loudness of metal; it allows me to zone out easily and think,” Kopilenko said. “I also am interested in the stories some of the songs tell — if they’re from history or are personal.”
Though the music industry is focused on very specific styles, the world as a whole is not. There is so much music to be explored, and people are more than willing to do so. Music from around the world is alive and well, sometimes simmering under the surface, but often flourishing. It just takes a little bit of looking.
“I think that the reason Kpop has become so global is due to both the community and the artists. A lot of Kpop artists, either through their songs or through speeches, express messages that speak upon their own struggles, creating a sense of vulnerability and relatability, which adds a sense of humanity to the idol.” Kalugdan said. “This allows for a deeper connection between the idol and their fan base. For example, BTS has a campaign called ‘Love Yourself’, where they preach self-advocating and self-acceptance to their impressionable fans. Even if you are a fan of different groups, the commonality of Kpop is so strong that allows you to connect with people of different fanbases, an aspect that a lot of American pop fans do not have.”
There has never been a better time to explore the treasure trove of music the world has to offer. Music that was once tucked away in obscure corners of the globe is now available with a few clicks of a button. So, take some chances on what’s out there. There might be some gems to build a playlist.