A music blog, reviews and comment from an overly opiniated 26 year old London bloke

Coming to terms with World Music guilt June 13, 2009

There was a Guardian Music Weekly podcast quite a while ago which made me realise how wrong the concept of ‘world music’ is. I’ve railed against many a genre tag in my time (I remember being outraged at finding Onelinedrawing in the punk/metal section of HMV, presumably because Jonah Matranga used to be in Far) but it does seem beyond unfair that ‘world music’ seems to be the tag that’s attached to any music that doesn’t come from the US or UK.

Being a big liberal muso type, of course I believe that no genre or form of music could possibly be worthier than another. My theory has always been that if enough people like a certain kind of music, it’s got to be good, and only needs time spent listening to it to be appreciated. Of course sometimes too many people listening to an artist can be a sign that they’re actually especially awful, but for the most part it just takes time to appreciate something.

The thing is, is it bad to say I just don’t have time?

I’m sorry, but as much as I like to think of my music taste as fantastically broad, I’m not sure I’m going to get around to Malaysian nose pipe music, Nigerian alt-hip-hop-folk or Uzbek shoe gaze*. In all honesty, I do listen to a pretty broad variety of genres, but just about every artist is from the UK or US, with a selection from from Europe (and those artists are generally heavily influenced by UK or US artists).

Is that OK? Am I missing out? I haven’t listened to Amadou et Miriam, I’ve read about Tinariwen but what I’ve heard of them I’m not sure I get, and as for Manu Chao… well, what’s so good about bongos? Was Fela Kuti really as good a percussionist as John Bonham? And is Tony Allen actually that amazing? The drums in Good the Bad and the Queen added to the tracks in subtle ways that good percussion should, but was it really good enough for me to go and listen to his previous work?

What with it being cool for a while to say you’re like, totally Afrobeat now, I’m not sure I can be bothered to jump on the bandwagon. I love some of the results of genuine Afrobeat influence, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to finding out what these artists have been influenced by.

If it really is worth me not bothering to listen to the next Death Cab or Minotaur Shock album in favour of something with wind pipes, then I’ll do it. The guilt is too much. But otherwise, I’m just not sure I can be bothered…


* These genres are entirely invented, as far as I know anyway. I do not know nearly enough about world music to list one sub-genre, let alone three.

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