"World" Music Recommendations

This “genre” is a thing so vast that I used to generally avoid it as I didn’t know where to start or where to best get exposure to it all. As the years have gone by I find myself listening to a decent amount especially from Africa. What are the contemporary and traditional tunes that you have come across that do it for you.

Edit: “world music” is a terrible term, but we all know what it means.

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Always struggled with the term - what exactly is ‘world music’? Non-western folk music? ‘World’ in relation to what? Is it like pornography in that you know it when you hear it?

Nevertheless here are a few recent finds:

…and an old one. Apparently this is a cosmic classic - I first heard it on an old Balearic Mike 'Alphonsus" mix


Return to this mix time and time again via the great Awesome Tapes From Africa


Start at the beginning. Amazing label. I’m particularly fond of the 60’s/70’s pop stuff.


i think many people mean 70s African with at least a slight “folk” or traditional African sound associated but ofc it’s a terrible name and not descriptive at all unless it includes literally all music made in the world and probably means 1000 different things
“Folk, World & Country” on discogs is basically a catchall for anything that doesn’t fit nicely into one of the other defined categories


Almost 20 years ago, their ‘Radio From…’ series was my gateway drug, leading me to Mississippi Records, Smithsonian, Votel mixes etc helped i lived near Honest Jons at the time of course (well, not good for the bank balance)


Oh, same. I often play them on shuffle. I’ll never get bored of them.


These were my first fave World comps.


An early favourite from the Mali superstar

Came across this artist recently

And a contemporary version of a traditional tune

Amazing label!

I have a couple of things from this label, but thanks for the prompt, ill dig a bit deeper.

Djivan Gasparyan, Armenian Duduk player. If you are looking for a chilled moment, you could do a lot worse. I heard him live once and it was mesmeric.


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The Sterns comps are a good jumping off point and usually pretty reasonable ont 'cogs.


I’ll put this here…

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A friend bought me an Oumou Sangare CD on spec a few years ago, I love it.

I don’t know what this song is about but it gets me every time.


That is lovely…
Looked up the lyrics. Glad they weren’t some inane twaddle as would deffo ruined it.

Djorolen kônô mi kan toula
My heart is hurting so much, I can hear it beating loudly

Djorolan, kono mi mi yôrôdjan
My heart is weeping, I can feel the tears falling

Ni fatema mi na kônô ni kan an ha toula
Oh mother, my heart is heavy and I can’t bear the pain

Fatila, fa ko miru
Please help me, I need your guidance

Djorolen kônô mi kan toula
My heart is hurting so much, I can hear it beating loudly

Djorolan, kono mi
My heart is weeping

(banjo solo)

Ni djôdôla
Oh mighty one

Ni djorola la bun kola
Please heal my heart and soothe my soul


You mean that’s not a Banjo? :rofl:


Sorry I deleted my comment, not sure why. Its appearance in the midst of all that heartfelt sorrow just killed me dead.


I got into world music all the way back in 1982 with the release of Juju Music by King Sunny Ade. It was a total game changer for me. I’d been into punk and some reggae and funk and a bit of hiphop, spinning in a tiny little club on Haight Street (San Francisco for the geographically challenged) called Le Disque. It was my first DJ gig and I was between mostly New Wave-y bands. Short sets in other words. Unpaid I think, or at best very minimally and probably mostly in liquid form. The place had been a gay disco, but now it didn’t really know what it was. A nice change from the very hippy place, Shady Grove, just down the street, that I’d hung out at previously. So, obviously I didn’t really know what I was either. Well, except for being as wild and bohemian as I could manage.

Anyway, once I got into this African stuff, I never really looked back and just kept exploring everything from anywhere that wasn’t Euro-American that I could lay my hands on. And there is a lot of it and San Francisco was a good place to find much of it. And world music is a wonky term that has provoked much controversy.

The drawback to it is that extreme diversity and the overwhelmingly variety available. It is basically a meaningless term, although I use it freely enough. There’s everything under its umbrella from extreme noise to the mellowest of gentle vibes, from traditional music that is often quite wild to cutting edge of today experimentalism, which can be soothingly atmospheric. And, needless to say, every country and region has its own sounds that have some claim to cultural uniqueness, although many are derived from and influenced by others. Without bothering to count them up properly, Africa alone must have, I’m guessing, better than thirty modern distinctive styles in the post-colonial period with some overlapping of approach, e.g. the soukous of Zaire migrating to Kenya and Tanzania and thence to the pico soundsystems of Colombia (as recordings, not live, although African musicians have crossed the Atlantic both to record new work and perform live), and also a range of how much is borrowed from tribal sounds. It’s a great big tangled mess.

So, when you want recommendations, I find it almost impossible to know where to begin. I’ll say that I still adore Juju Music and many other of KSA’s albums, which are generally hard to find - and that the last CD I bought is Trip To Bolgatanga by African Head Charge. I listened to three Youssou N’Dour CDs today from three distinct periods of his career - and before that to the excellent African Salsa compilation on Stern’s, which is all Senegalese artists. Other African countries also have Cuban influences in their musical expressions. I followed Youssou with the classic Thokozile by Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens with the Makonga Tsohle Band, South African mbaqanga somewhat revved up in my opinion for the Northern audience, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Funnily enough, I recently started reading Computing Taste : Algorithms and the Makers of Music Recommendation by Nick Seaver. You can guess what it’s about. I’m not very far into, but it readily displays why music recommendation is a complex task.

But, okay, head in lion’s mouth, I’m next looking forward to getting my hands on Piconema, a collection of Zairean-influenced East African music that has become big on Colombian pico soundsystems. Call that a recommendation if you wish.