BBC World Music Awards Are No More
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Have We Reached the Tipping Point of World Music?

Scale Two recent articles suggest a change in tone in media coverage about World Music. In "State of the World: How Globalistas Are Tearing Down Cultural Barriers," Exclaim Magazine's David Dacks argues this month "World music is no longer 'other folks' music'; this new world is multi-polar. Bands find themselves with greater diversity of fans than ever before, as the choose-your-own-adventure of online music leads passionate appreciators to choices they'd never considered. World music has evolved beyond a take-your-medicine embrace of cultural 'otherness,' it's about recognizing the multiple levels of cultural exchange — even the shallow ones — that are redefining the idea of 'mainstream.'"

Africa Meanwhile, last week rock critic Will Hermes argued in the New York Times, in an  article titled  "Changing Sounds of Africa," that "...
African artists are using digital technology to create musical hybrids and distribute them globally. At the same time Western fans of rock, rap and electronic music are using digital access to discover sounds that push familiar buttons in novel ways. Together these factors have helped dispel the notion of world music as a folk-rooted category geared strictly toward older listeners. Congolese acts like Konono N°1 and Kasai Allstars, for example, working with European producers and artists (like Bjork, who recorded and toured with Konono N°1), have connected their hypnotic, urbanized traditional music to Western fans of techno and psychedelic rock."

I have argued for years that global and cross-cultural music -- in spite of the pitfalls of the concept and term "World Music" -- will continue to be viable commercially and culturally, and better yet find growth in North America, regardless of what it is called. The Internet and other emerging connecting technologies, an increase in human migration (and thus a more diverse America), global urbanization (which brings people of diverse cultures into closer and more frequent interaction, and, in spite of fears about fuel prices, significant increase in global travel all converge to create a society that will discover and embrace a variety of global and cross-cultural sounds. It is inevitable. And I would argue further that it is not only the most extreme cultural hybrids that integrate hip hop, rock, or electronica that will find growth. Even traditional and folkloric music forms will thrive. And sometimes they will thrive in unexpected ways. Like the Korean communities in Queens, NY that dance to tango or the Chicanos in Southern California with Brazilian samba bands. Does anyone really think world music in America will die out when the white people of America die out? Quite the opposite.

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