World music is a very broad genre as it includes styles of music from all over the world, especially music that is not from the West. Many subgenres are encompassed within the genre; indigenous music, ethnic music, folk music and traditional music to name a few. Sometimes the label refers to a fusion between Western music and that of other cultures, such as pop music that uses Indian drones for example. Even Classical composers can be said to have created music within this genre, with Rachmaninoff for example, studying Russian folk songs and then creating lavish melodies and compositions from these simple tunes.
Due to the diverse nature of the music, an extremely wide range of instruments are used within World music. Both traditional and non-traditional stringed instruments feature, such as guitars, both acoustic and electric, violins, cellos, harps, and more, wind instruments, drums of many different styles such as Djembe drums and steel drums, instruments that are plucked or tonged, and also keys, such as keyboards and even synthesizers all feature within World music.
Alongside the alternative instrumentation, World music does not rely on Western traditions regarding structure either. For example, African music relies heavily upon call and responses and rhythmic aspects. Frequently there will two ‘voices’ or more, whether those voices be human voices or drums etc, and they will interchange rhythms I retaliation to one another. I.e, one voice will ‘sing’ a rhythm, and the other voice will ‘sing’ a different rhythm back as a response. Sometimes they will form loops and overlap the rhythms, sometimes with harmonies, but African music is not so melodically driven as Western music, and is centrally focused upon rhythms. The Pat Metheny Group is a jazz fusion group from the West, who cleverly used the African idea of rhythms within their ‘First Circle’ piece which begins off with clapping rhythms that gradually build. Equally, they play with vocal and instrumental rhythms and textures, often blurring the two.
Western scales and modes and standard pop structures of verse, chorus, verse, etc are also abandoned with World music, creating a very different style, which some may not find as accessible. Although, some artists have attempted to bridge the gap between Western music and world music. For example, Paul Simon’s ‘ Graceland’ album used some traditional Rock and Pop techniques and styles, however, he made the album after a trip to Johannesburg in Africa, wherein he collaborated with a number of African artists and singers, and made recordings of many different rhythms and melodies which he subsequently compiled and edited in order to create the album.
Evidently World music is very relevant in today’s society, however perhaps to us brought up in a Western culture, we may find it more difficult to accustom ourselves to due to the completely different nature of the music. Although, I firmly believe that we should make the effort to listen to a variety of World music as we can learn a lot about other cultures and discover many types of music that we may like that previously we were unaware of.