Where do you go if you want to find Tanzanian bongo music? What about Tsongi disco? South African synth-pop? Unless you happen to be an ethnomusicologist or visiting Africa, the answer is likely the website Awesome Tapes from Africa.
World music is a disingenuous marker for a genre. Besides presuming that popular forms of western (that is, American) music like pop, rock, rap, soul and country-western are something other than of the world, the term “world music” tends to flatten the rich idiosyncrasies and particularities of music coming from all corners of the globe. It makes filing CDs at your local HMV or Virgin Superstore easier. But that’s about it.
Eclecticism is a virtue too often touted by musicians and critics. Reviews and press releases formulaically repeat the cliché that “artist x blends elements of genre y with style z.” While this may be relevant to the archivists amongst us, such statements really say very little about the quality or authenticity of the music in question.