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Travel the Musical World and Never Leave Home

by Paul Giangiordano

Copyright © 1998 Paul Giangiordano. All right reserved.

Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for the ride -- you are about to embark on a musical journey of the world, with the comfort of your chair and keyboard. Your phone line is your ticket and the Internet is the airplane that will take you on a tune-filled trip through nations on all corners of the globe.

Allow these sites to take you on a voyage through the universal, human medium of music. You'll go from one hemisphere to another, both sides of the equator, across all seas, and still have plenty of exploring left to do!

Before we embark to nations abroad, there's a melodic treasure waiting to be discovered in the Deep South. Buckwheat Zydeco's Discography presents the hybrid of French and African sound known as Zydeco. This dynamic site and CD store serves many tastes of the very unique brand of Cajun music known as Zydeco, performed by various artists. Zydeco music speaks for the history of its region and culture through the French accordion and the celebratory African rhythm. Echoing blues in many senses, Zydeco follows a tempo to keep up with, and a cheery tone in lyrics and melody.

Off we go down the Gulf and into the Caribbean, where enormous musical wealth brings paradise to your ears. Almost every genre of music to be found in the region has its own Web site; here are just a few. Mambo takes you 90 miles from the coast of the U.S. Mambo, the music and dance that flourishes in Cuba, offers resonant percussion and various melodic arrangements. There are many 30-second samples to try at this CD store, and the page arranges the different flavors of Mambo by category for your surfing convenience. The Calypso Tent of the Air offers long audio streams that allow your RealPlayer to take over with the Calypso of Trinidad & Tobago. Here you'll find spirited tunes and countless links to sites that will open up a treasure chest of other calypso resources. BM's Bob Marley Pages is simply a gold mine for reggae lovers and, more particularly, Bob Marley fans. The simple and user-friendly page compiles more than 12 hours of hard-to-find live performances by the late, great legend of reggae himself. brings you various sounds from the Caribbean, including R&B and hip-hop from the United States. This radio station broadcasts live from the Bahamas and provides great variety.

Further south we go to Brazil, where a world cup of music flourishes in the culture, where rhythm and dance is not only recreation, but a way of life. World-Wide Samba rings with the sounds of samba, one of the country's premier musical genres. Just click on the "music" link at the top of the page and hear samples from an array of samba artists from Brazil and around the world. The samples are lengthy, so you'll get a feel for the rhythm. What's more, if samba captivates your musical senses enough, there are links to plenty of resources at this site for further learning. Tenha o divertimento!

Next, across the Atlantic to Africa, where the dynamically designed Africa Online allows you to select and hear the music of various regions and countries of the continent. This wonderfully conceived site contains historical and ethnological information to supplement its many sound samples. Africa Online also contains news about select African nations, so you can educate yourself on aspects other than just music if you're curious. If you're just there for the music, you'll find it very diverse, ranging from Central African R&B to Moroccan traditional chant.

Still on the African continent, Umm Kalthoum is a straightforward site that offers streaming audio samples of an enchanting Egyptian singer, Om Kalthoum, from the earlier part of the 20th century. The simple and friendly site describes her story and her impact on Egyptian music. Those literate in Egyptian Arabic have an added advantage, as the site includes her lyrics in the language, but just her hypnotic and lovely voice alone provides enjoyment enough for the rest of us.

The next site, demonstrates Flamenco -- a world music in and of itself. This music, derived mainly from Spain's Gitano Gypsies, but also heavily influenced by the Spanish, and to a lesser degree by the Moors and Sephardic Jews, is quite versatile and as diverse as those influences. This site illustrates that diversity, as it gives you samples of different subcategories of this fascinating and inspiring genre of European music. Alongside the staple guitar melodies in all Flamenco variants, you'll hear the sounds of the castanets -- high-pitched percussion instruments played on the fingers, and the cajon -- a hollow wooden box upon which the player sits and taps for a bass percussion effect. This site is a must-see for the guitar enthusiast since the level of ability it takes to play certain songs is simply awesome. Disfrute la música!

Narada Celtic Samplers moves you onto the rugged and friendly Gaelic-speaking lands of the North. This site, similar to Africa Online, is more than just a music page -- it's a cultural site. The sound samples are not great in number or length, but they paint a picture of the instrumental range of Gaelic music. Enya fans may take a special liking to some of the samples here, especially that of Connie Dover, who parallels the artist with her powerful vocals. The site also includes lyrics in the Gaelic language, which in appearance and pronunciation is very different from the neighboring English language.

Now we'll fly south, but not because wintertime's approaching. The Middle East is the next destination, where The Virtual Jewish Music Listening Station brings you the varied and traditional sounds of the Jewish Diaspora. This site, packing over three hours of music in total, is another music store that acquaints your ears with the sound or rekindles memories of songs you might have heard growing up. The music is sung in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. For your listening convenience, there are a few samples from each CD played consecutively, and the scope of the music is enormous -- from jazz to lullabies.Shalom!

Next, across the river Jordan we travel for a stop deep in the Arabian Desert. The Arabic Jukebox is a rather rigid site as far as navigation is concerned, but it's worth mentioning because it serves as a primer to the Arabic music of Yemen. They're working on making the site compatible with the Netscape Navigator browser, so for now you'll need Internet Explorer with RealPlayer. The streaming audio plays seductive, mystic tracks for as long as you desire.

Now we make the journey through the Persian Gulf and down the Silk Road to Music India Online. We'll soon find that music merits the journey, as the site is truly out-of-sight in every respect -- design, navigability, and of course, sound. Click on any of the links in the left frame, and you'll get a choice of streaming music in any style you wish. Listen to the many water drums, vocal styles, and the plethora of instruments that make Indian music such a wonderful listening experience. Namaste!

On through the Himalayas to the deeply spiritual land of Tibet. Karma Thegsum Choyang Music and The Intelligent Tunes Music Network will both immerse you in the transfixing tones of Tibetan chant music. Both sites provide brief samples that hit you with a simple yet riveting sound unfamiliar to most westerners -- the sound of a special people with an ancient tradition steeped in the rugged and mysterious Tibetan plateaus. While you're there, you might notice that aside from its primary purpose as a CD store, Intelligent Tunes is also an excellent place in which to browse and experience a healthy abundance of world music.

Further east we go, where the once-unified "Hermit Kingdom" is now divided between North and South. You can hear the two Koreas at these sites: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Jun's Korean Music Page. While a large part of the latter is written in Korean, the album covers and RealAudio icons provide enough direction to acquaint you with some contemporary Korean pop artists.

Point your browser across the sea of Japan and hit land at the Japanese Independent Music Archives, where independent Japanese artists live in good length and variety. The files here are rather large, but if you have the time to download them you'll find that they're worth the wait. The many tunes here comprise synthesized new wave, jazz, rock, hip-hop, and funk. See what I mean and taste the Strange Fruits, for example!

Say "sayonara" and head back to the States, but to a place with a very unique culture and music -- we're in the 50th state. Hawaiian Music Island gives you the warm, welcoming sounds of Hawaii you might have heard on the tube over the years. The big difference here is that these sounds are genuine. Just click the album icons and let the wonderful song samples of ukulele and steel guitar take you away.Heahea!

And now…the next destination is your choice. The Internet can make you a world explorer in the classical sense. Let your browser be the ship that takes you over the seas, and allow your audio components to be your tour guide. Bon voyage!


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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