The Birth of World Music
A number of "international" artists first gained recognition in the West
in the 1970s. Among them were Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar
and Cameroon-born multi-instrumentalist Manu Dibango, whose 1972
single Soul Makossa was the first African song to crack the Billboard Top
It wasn't until the 1980s, however, that world music gained a truly international
stature, with well known Western artists such as
Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne
incorporating foreign sounds and collaborating with musicians from around the world.
Byrne would go on to create Luaka Bop, a world music label that introduced Western
audiences to artists such as Zap Mama.
Until "world music" became the accepted term, the genre, over the years,
has alternately been dubbed "ethnic music," "folk"and "traditional
African musicians have long been a driving force behind the growth and popularity
of world music. Two sub-genres in particular - mbalax and raï - are now known
and beloved worldwide.
With his band Étoile de Dakar, iconic Senegalese singer and musician
Youssou N'Dour almost singlehandedly put mbalax, a
popular form of Senegalese dance music, on the world map. N'Dour
has also served as an ambassador for African music. Raï, a North African musical
genre, first emerged in the Oran region of Algeria, and artists such as Cheb
or Rachid Taha have since
thrust it onto the world stage by modernizing the Raï style.
Also contributing to the worldwide development of African music have been Salif Keita and
Mory Kanté. Drawing on his roots in mandingue
Afro-pop, the Malian-born Keita burst onto the international stage
with his 1987 album Soro, while the Guinean-born singer and musician
Kanté is best known for his mastery of the
kora, a 21-string West African harp. Kanté first enjoyed
international success with the 1988 single Yéké Yéké.
Other influential African artists include the late great Malian guitarist Ali
Farka Touré, Congolese singer/songwriter
Papa Wemba, Senegalese singer Baaba Maal
- who combines rare vocal clarity and power -, Malian
Toumani Diabaté, king of the kora, and Koffi Olomidé,
perhaps the best known practitioner of soukous, a genre of dance music popular in
African women, too, have made their mark: Beninese singer
Angélique Kidjo has been among the most successful
recording artists on the world music scene since the 1990s, together with South
African singer and composer Busi Mhlongo (aka the "Queen of
Maskanda") and award-winning Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist Rokia
Traoré. All three have achieved a brilliant synthesis between
the traditional musical styles of their respective countries and contemporary musical
currents. No shortlist of leading female world music artists would be complete without
the incomparable Cesaria Evora,
the barefoot diva and singer of morna, the traditional music of Cap-Vert.
Asian sounds hold a special place in the world music pantheon. Nusrat Fateh
Ali Khan, the Pakistani master of qawwali, a Sufi musical style popular
in India and Pakistan, conquered audiences worldwide with the incantatory power
of his voice. When Khan passed away in 1997, his nephew Rahat
Fateh Ali Khan and singer Faiz Ali Faiz were among
those who took up the torch.
Until his death in 2009, composer and sarod player Ali Akbar Khan
was considered a national treasure in India, and he is widely regarded as one the
most important musicians of the 20th century. India is also the birthplace of sitar virtuosos
Vilayat Khan and Ravi Shankar, while Mohammed
Sharif Khan is among the most accomplished of the contemporary
With over 2000 years of musical history, China draws on a rich tradition whose instrumental
mainstays include the guzheng (also known as the Chinese zither), the erhu
(aka the Chinese violin), as well as lutes, flutes, mouth organs, and the pipa,
a Chinese lute with four silk strings. World-renowned pipa virtuoso Wu Man
is among the Middle Kingdom's most important musicians.
The Old Continent
In Sweden, the group Väsen has used a mastery of the nyckelharpa,
a traditional stringed instrument, to offer a hybrid form of music blending elements
of jazz, classical and folk.
The music of Eastern Europe, for its part, is steeped in Slavic, tsigane and Ottoman
influences. The Bulgarian repertoire is one of epic chants with lute accompaniment,
and Traditional Bulgarian instruments also include the kaval - a wooden flute -,
the bagpipes and the oboe. Hungary's musical traditions, meanwhile, have endured
thanks in part to the group Muzsikás and to singer
Nothing says Spain more than flamenco. Yet the flamenco,
fundamentally, is a dance style of the Andalusian gypsies set to guitar, with the
performer also using hand claps and castanets. The flamenco sound has been modernized
in recent years with the addition of electric bass, and today's nouveau flamenco
artists borrow from rock, salsa, rumba and pop. Fado, the hugely popular Portuguese
folk tradition, has also evolved, with the likes of Mariza and
Misia lending it a more personal touch.
Celtic music is rooted in the rich cultural heritage of Ireland, and to this day
the music is sung in Gaelic and English, with the staples of the Irish repertoire
- the harp, fiddle, bagpipes, flute and accordion - providing the accompaniment.
The best known traditional Irish groups include Planxty and
Cajun music also holds a special place in the extended world community,
with groups such as the Louisiana-based Beausoleil leading the
way and young artists like Cedric Watson setting the course for
A Universal Festival
Africa has long held a place of prominence at the Festival. In 1989, percussionist
Ray Lema and saxophonist
Manu Dibango performed as part of La nuit africaine II,
and in 1995, Baaba Maal and socially engaged singer
Oumou Sangare took the Festival stage as part of Africa Fête.
Youssou N'Dour last
touched down at the Festival in 2004, performing songs from his album Nothing's
in Vain at the Métropolis. The same year, white Zulu
Johnny Clegg was among the star attractions at the
show Les 10 ans de la fin de l'apartheid. Then, in 2005,
Khaled thrilled Festival fans with songs from his new album
titled Ya-Rayi. Two years later,
Rachid Taha closed the Festival under the stars, accompanied by
Algerian-born Quebec singer/songwriter
In 2008, the traditional rhythms of Mali were feted during a double-bill featuring
Salif Keita and singer-guitarist
Vieux Farka Touré,
son of Ali Farka Touré. Then, in 2009, Nigerian
singer King Sunny Ade,
king of the juju, a mix of Yoruba rhythms and electric sounds, performed alongside
charismatic fellow countryman Femi Kuti,
son of Fela Kuti, the father of Afrobeat.
Lebanese musician Rabih Abou-Khalil, a master of the oud, the Arab
lute, gave a rousing performance at the 2002 Festival. In 2009, double bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons performed
as part of a remarkable flamenco duo with dancer Sabrina Romero.
Paco de Lucía,
the god of the flamenco guitar, has given some unforgettable performances since
he first appeared at the Festival in 1986.
The exotic sounds of India have also spiced up the Festival. The 2009 show Miles
from India gave Festival fans a chance to hear tabla virtuoso
Badal Roy, as well as eminent mandolinist
The Quebec-based group Gadji-Gadjo
has brought its special blend of klezmer- and tsigane-inspired musical
mayhem to the Festival site on numerous occasions, with clarinets, violins and the
accordion supplying the festive airs.
In 2009, Brazilian-born singer Bïa
presented her fifth album at the Festival, singing in Spanish, Portuguese
and French. The same year, the Montreal group
Kaba Horo brought its heady blend of traditional Balkan
music, jazz, funk and rock to the Festival.
The 2009 edition marked singer-songwriter
Lhasa de Sela's
final appearance at Festival - and what a night it was, with De Sela
performing alongside Patrick Watson. The 2010 edition will see
Elisapie Isaac make her Festival debut. The singer-songwriter
from Canada's North recently launched There Will Be Stars, on which
she sings in English, French and Inuktitut.
A Bumper Crop of World Music Artists for 2010!
In 2010, bassist, singer and songwriter
Richard Bona returns to perform tracks from his 2009 release, The Ten
Shades of Blues. Several world musicians will mark their debut
appearances at the 2010 Festival, among them singer
Diego El Cigala and pianist
Dorantes, two of nouveau flamenco's leading artists. Also
appearing at the Festival for the first time will be Lebanese-born
trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf.
The 2010 Festival will also welcome young pianist
Tigran Hamasyan, who combines the folk music of his native
Armenia with jazz and hard rock.