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Exploring the International Language of World Music

by Paul Giangiordano

Copyright © 1998 Paul Giangiordano. All right reserved.

One of the greatest gifts the Internet gives us is the ability to meet people from all parts of the globe. It brings us together as if we're neighbors. We can share our ideas, establish commerce, make friends, and do everything that humanity shares in common, with people we may never otherwise encounter.

The Internet offers us the opportunity to cross language barriers. Music is often referred to as "the international language," and the Internet provides us a wealth of opportunities to listen to each other's heart and soul, whether we're in New York City or Beijing. The Web offers countless sites featuring the music of cultures from six continents, and these sites can take you on a musical tour of nations throughout the world.

Hardly anything speaks more for a culture than its music, so let these sites take you on a global, musical tour and give you a taste of what the World Wide Web has to offer.

Our journey begins on our own soil at the site of Charles Littleleaf, where you can delight in the spiritual sounds of this Native American flute player. The sounds of these wooden flutes, unique to the Native Americans, may be most familiar to you from the scene music in western movies and commercials. The sound of these flutes is centuries old, and the tunes at this site are simply moving. You can learn more about the Indian flutes through the links included at Littleleaf's site. One of the links offers zip file download samples of more Native American flute music.

For truly uplifting listening, and a refreshing Web-surfing experience, let Konpa Online bring the happy sounds of Haiti to your day. A beautifully designed and user-friendly page, this page features the Haitian music called "Konpa," a history of which is provided at the site. Take your pick of which groups to listen to; there is a streaming radio show on Real Player that allows you to just click once and hear this joyous music for as long as you like. On the right frame, you can click on other radio stations featuring Haitian music programming. This site is a must-see!

Next, on to the sound of the zampona, the Peruvian pan flute featured quite often in today's New Age and World Beat music. While most of the files at Peruvian Music produce brief clips lasting no longer than a minute and a half, you can still get a good taste of the Peruvian sound. The music ranges from Spanish classical guitar-driven hymns to the heartwarming, Andean sound of the siku, a variant of the pan flute. Try the simple, yet rhythmic and uplifting, "Jipijay" -- you might find yourself singing along!

Want to hear the big beats of the American cities brought to you from Africa? You'll hear it at Rumba-Kali Home of African Hip Hop. This site provides you with a constantly updated list of African hip-hop songs from groups hailing from countries such as Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa and more. Listen to the files at this site and get on down. The tracks sound just as good -- if not better -- in African languages as the ones in English, without compromising the groove factor. The rhyme styles are just as smooth and clever as those in American hip-hop, and in many cases the tracks are spiced with a reggae and dancehall flavor.

Mandinka Drum Master features traditional West African rhythms from various countries on the continent. This site, mainly a CD store, is worth a look for its brief sound samples of free-spirited, thunderous percussion.Musiques Afro-Caribéennes also provides some samples worth noting. Although these samples are few and far between throughout the site, the variety redeems the samples' scarcity. The site, written in French, includes African and Caribbean music in rhythm and blues, calypso, reggae and other styles.

Now we go up north to the Mediterranean, where the Internet Greek Songs Database brings you the sweet music of warm and coastal Greece. This site offers an eclectic blend of music sure to please the ear of any listener, whether native Greek or just a curious non-Greek listener. Here you can find anything from modern rock to traditional instrumental music comprising the bouzouki, a stringed instrument resembling the lute. If you're interested enough, you can spend quite some time at this site, as it offers sound files from over 50 Greek artists. One song in particular, "Lengo," by Giannis Markopoulos, features a captivating live vocal performance that's sure to bring ease after a long day.

On to the east, where you'll hear Turkish tunes at the Turkish Lyrics and Music Home Page, one of the most comprehensive music sites you may find on the Web. This site opens treasure chest of links to online Turkish radio stations, Turkish music stores, Turkish choir music, online Turkish instrument vendors, and much more. One of the most outstanding links listed at this site, the Turkish Music and Voice Library, categorizes the music by type and region. You'll note that in the Aegean regions much of the music overlaps with Greek sound, but if you click on the music of the more Eastern regions such as Anatolia, you'll hear the Central Asian roots of the Turkish people come to life in the entrancing sounds of the cura saz, a Turkish variation on the lute. This site, covering the complete gamut of Turkish music both traditional and modern, packs enough songs for a whole day's listening. Check it out!

Still further east, at Iranian/Persian Music, the mystical sounds of Persian music will charm your ears. Here, as at many of the other ethnic music sites, you'll find a range of pop, traditional, and classical music. Persian music has some very unique instruments and melodies, and you may find them pleasingly exotic. For more information on the instruments, direct your browser to the Persian and Iranian Music Gallery, which lists detailed explanations of the instruments used in Persian music, accompanied by sound samples.

If there is one nation with a most dominant presence on the Web, it may very well be India. Just key in the words "Indian music" in any search engine and you're bound to turn up hit after hit. Here's one definitely worth your time: Sangeet Mehfil. This site offers a dynamic, Java-based design, and it gives you a good taste of the wide diversity of Indian music. This site also includes some music from Pakistan, including the songs of the late, great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Russian Music takes you to the sounds of Russian pop and folk music. This straightforward site lists songs in two formats for your downloading convenience. The music from the various Russian pop groups carries sounds such as new wave and fusion. The music is truly original -- see for yourself by clicking on the song "Tupik" by the band "Urfin Juice." Also, for a taste of the more traditional Russian folk music, click on the list of songs by Peter Leshchenko. This site gives you the advantage of listening to either individual songs or the entire list of songs by the band listed so you won't have to keep clicking on each song.

One of the most straightforward, no-nonsense music sites on the Web, Chinese Music brings the harmonies of distant China right to your room. This site, although devoid of graphics, is easy to navigate so you may hear exactly what you choose. It offers music categorized by traditional, ceremonial and so on. The music speaks for itself in this site. Mostly composed of violin and flute, the traditional music will bring you back to nature whether you have your eyes closed or your window open to the streets of the big city. The ceremonial music, however, comprises mostly choirs and marching bands.

Surely one of the most unique sites in this world music journey,Yothu Yindi translates the ancestral chants and rhythms of the Australian Aborigines into a music to which Generation X can relate -- or even dance. This site is dedicated to an Australian Aboriginal modern rock and dance group called "Yothuyindi." This powerful mesh of modern synthesizer with tribal beats and wails makes for a truly mesmerizing listening experience. Captions accompanying the sound files provide fascinating stories about the songs and band members. The thoughtful design of the page is also worth noting, as it outlines traditional Aboriginal colors and patterns.

As you might expect, these sites require sound cards and sound software, and the investment in the components and software is well worth it if you don't already have them. Most of the files you'll find are Windows and Macintosh executable, and most of the sound samples are in .wav, .au, and .ra format. The .ra files require RealPlayer, which you can download. Rather than keep you waiting for a download, as is the case with .au and .wav files, RealPlayer will allow you to hear the streaming file, or listen to it as it's downloaded over your connection.

That wraps up our brief world music tour. The Internet grows more every day, and there are countless other sites on the Internet comprising music from many other cultures. Take some time to use the different search engines, simply type in the name of the culture you're interested in, along with the word "music," and discover the many sweet melodies the World Wide Web has to offer. Enjoy!


Paul Giangiordano is a fashion importer and freelance writer based in New York City, with a passion for world music, international cuisine and foreign languages.


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