Music and Globalization: Critical Encounters

Music and Globalization: Critical Encounters

Music and Globalization: Critical Encounters

Music and Globalization: Critical Encounters

Synopsis

"World music" emerged as a commercial and musical category in the 1980s, but in some sense music has always been global. Through the metaphor of encounters, Music and Globalization explores the dynamics that enable or hinder cross-cultural communication through music. In the stories told by the contributors, we meet well-known players such as David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Ry Cooder, Fela Kuti, and Gilberto Gil, but also lesser-known characters such as the Senegalese Afro-Cuban singer Laba Sosseh and Raramuri fiddle players from northwest Mexico. This collection demonstrates that careful historical and ethnographic analysis of global music can show us how globalization operates and what, if anything, we as consumers have to do with it.

Excerpt

Bob W. White

World music—the umbrella category under which various types of traditional and non-Western music are produced for Western consumption—has been waiting to happen for a long time. At least since the invention of new technologies of reproduction at the turn of the twentieth century and the realization soon after that records, far from being simply a means of selling phonographs, were in fact themselves a lucrative and renewable resource. Relatively little is known about the marketing strategies of the first international record companies, but clearly these companies distinguished early on between “exotic” music for affluent European and North American audiences and music—perhaps no less exotic—intended for people elsewhere who wanted to hear the sounds of their own culture (White 2002). Yet today, listening to the various forms of music being marketed under the label “world music,” something appears to be different about this historical moment. From our current perspective, world music gives the impression of opening our ears to a vast realm of cultural and political possibilities but at the same time seems to usher in vaguely familiar forms of cultural expansionism and exploitation. If world music has indeed become the soundtrack for globalization, then music is not merely a manifestation of global processes and dynamics but is the very terrain on which globalization is articulated.

To begin, we must consider whether there is something distinctive about music— and not just world music—that enhances our understanding of globalization. The chapters in this volume suggest that music is particularly mobile and therefore easily commodified; indeed, nothing seems more characteristic of global capitalism than its capacity to transform culture into a commodity. But music is also . . .

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