The mirror image of the “world music” phenomenon described in Topic A is the appropriation of Western musical instruments, sounds, structures, and styles by musicians whose cultural origins are outside the West. Recording by such musicians — also frequently referred to generically as “world beat,” “ethno pop,” or “world pop” — raise issues that are the obverse of those listed under topic A. For example:
1. Do musicians from non-Western cultures tend to sell their own musical traditions short when they merge these traditions with Western styles and techniques, usually in a pop or jazz groove?
2. Can music remain “traditional” while incorporating elements of Western musical modernity? What are the criteria for classification as “traditional” music?
3. Does the commercial success of fusion recordings tend to undermine the cultural authority of more traditional musicians in the non-Western countries from which these projects emerge?
4. Do these projects tend to produce music that wears well with time, or does the music appear in hindsight to have been slapped together quickly as a response to the music industry’s hunger for fads and novelty?
5. Even though native musicians are ostensibly in control of the projects, do they invariably end up being exploited by the entertainment business? (i.e., recruited, recorded, and rejected as soon as they fail to meet marketing goals).
Choose a recording from the attached list or a recording not on the list that meets the following criteria (if the recording you choose is not on the list, please let me know what it is):
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• The featured artist is either from outside the United States or has musical roots in a style or repertory outside mainstream American music (e.g., jazz, blues, pop, Anglo folk).
• The recording merges elements of traditional ethnic music with more mainstream musical styles and structures.
Write a critical review of the recording in which you:
1. Offer a concise description of the musical project presented on the recording.
2. Explain how the resources of Western musical traditions (e.g., instruments, styles, textures, cultural references, recording techniques) are merged with those of the featured non-Western tradition(s).
3. Discuss musical, aesthetic, and ethical issues that the recording raises, taking into account the list provided above.
4. Offer your critical judgment about ways in which the project succeeds or fails as music and as an exercise in developing cross-cultural understanding and relationships.
Topic B: Suggested Recordings:
• The Ravi Shankar Project: Tana Mara (a fusion of Indian raga, the technology of synthesizers and digital sampling keyboards, and Western popular music. Vocalists include George Harrison)
• Sheila Chandra (a fusion between Indian classical and film music and English pop)
• Ofra Haza: “Kirya” and “Fifty Gates of Wisdom” (Yemenite Jewish songs performed in a pop style)
• R. Carlos Nakai: “Feather, Stone & Light” (New Age Native American music featuring flutist R. Carlos Nakai, guitar player William Easton, and percussionist Will Clipman)
• King Sunny Ade and his African Beats: “Juju Music” and “The Return of the Juju King” (“Afro-Pop”)
• Ebenezer Obey: “Get Yer Jujus Out” (“Afro-Pop”)
• Baaba Maal “Firin’ in Fouta” (“Afro-Pop”)
• Yat Kha, “Yenisei Punk” (Tuvan “techno-ethnic-acid-folk music”)
• Shakti, “The Best of Shakti” with John McLaughlin, Shankar, Zakir Hussain, T.H.
Vinayakram (fusion of Indian classical music and jazz)
• Deep Forest, “Boheme” (samplings of music from Transylvania)
• “Deep Forest” (samplings of pygmy music)
• “Dead Man Walking” soundtrack album: cuts by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with
Eddie Vedder [see me for source recordings of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan]
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