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Cesaria Evora,Youssou N'Dour, Angélique Kidjo, Salif Keita

World Music

The general category of "world music" covers a wide array of styles unknown to the main musical currents of the Western hemisphere. The catch-all term was first coined in the 1980s, as a way to denote traditional forms of music from the four corners of the globe - from Africa, Asia, Oceania and Northern Europe.  Our overview of the genre takes you on a short trip around the world via some of its greatest artists, among them Youssou N'Dour (Senegal), Khaled (Algeria) and Tigran Hamasyan (Armenia).

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 40.

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 music."

African Rhythms

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.

Salif KeitaWith 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 Mami, Khaled 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 the Congos.

Angélique Kidjo 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 World 

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 sitarists.

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 Márta Sebestyén.

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 The Chieftains.

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 the future.

A Universal Festival

Rachid Taha 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 Lynda Thalie.

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.

Femi Kuti 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 U. Shrinivas.

International Quebec

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.

BïaIn 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!

Tigran HamasyanIn 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.

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