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Music From Around the World

The American and British music industries have dominated the international music scene for generations, but that does not mean that Western music is the only music to which young people listen to around the world. Most regions have their own form of popular music and a thriving music industry.

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Words to focus on

  1. influential
  2. genre
  3. inspire
  4. riddled
  5. collaborate
  6. distinctly
  7. intrigued
  8. contemporary
  9. symbiosis

Music From Around the World

Music From Around the World

Obi, 16, Nigeria

Musician Femi Kuti performs at a event in Lagos, Nigeria. The driving rhythms of Kuti's message follow that of his famous father
Musician Femi Kuti performs at an event in Lagos, Nigeria. The driving rhythms of Kuti's message follow that of his famous father Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who created the synthesis of pop and jazz fueling Afrobeat and served as one of the staunchest critics of military rule in oil-rich Nigeria.

Afrobeat is without a doubt the most popular music in my country. It had its origin here in Nigeria, and it has not only spread to the rest of Africa, but is a major influence on Western music as well. Fela Kuti, one of Nigeria’s most influential musicians, developed this music and brought it to the USA in the 70’s.

We also have our own version of Hip-hop, Naija, and this is what my friends and I usually listen to. This is the music you hear booming from the night clubs. It’s based on America Hip-hop, but with texts that African teenagers can better relate to. My favourites are African Kings and elDee.
Nigerian musicians have been great at developing some of our traditional music genres so that they appeal to my generation; for instance, Jùjú, which is based mainly on percussion instruments. King Sunny Adé is a hero of both my parents and me.

My country is quite small and has a complicated past, riddled with violence and corruption. It makes me proud that through all this, we have been able to spread so much joy to the world through our music.

Sajan, 18, India

Freddie Mercury had Indian parents and spent most of his youth at a school near Mumbai
Freddie Mercury had Indian parents and spent most of his youth at a school near Mumbai

In my country, the songs of the Bollywood films, called “filmi”, dominate the Indian music industry. These songs are influenced not only by the traditional music of India, but also by Western music genres like jazz, rap or disco. “Filmi” is the music you hear playing when walking in the streets of India – on buses, in bazaars and coming out of the windows of private homes.
Indi-pop, which has only existed since the 1970s, is very popular among people my age. Indi-pop is simply Indian pop music that is not related to films. Still, this music sounds very much like filmi. My all-time favorite Indi-pop singers are Alisha Chinai and Lucky Ali. What most Westerners don’t know is that India also has its own rock music scene – although it is quite small compared to the Bollywood and Indi-pop scenes.

In the 1960s and 70s, it became a trend among Western musicians to come to India. The most famous of them were the Beatles, who were inspired by our music, and collaborated with Indian musicians like Ravi Shankar. And did you know that one of rock history’s most famous singers and composers, Freddie Mercury, had Indian parents and spent most of his youth at a school near Mumbai? He was quite influenced by Indian music, especially the Bollywood star Lata Mangeshkar.

Asami, 17, Japan

J-pop is definitely the most popular music of Japanese teenagers. This genre includes every kind of music that is not of the classical or folk genres. Pop, rock, punk and rap all fall under the category of J-pop. Even though this music is distinctly Japanese, with a base in traditional Japanese music, it has strong characteristics from Western genres, such as R&B, soul, hip-hop and even gospel music. In fact, some songs can sound very similar to Western songs – and at the same time quite different.

Japan's teenage singer Hikaru Utada performs at Tokyo's Budokan Hall
Japan's teenage singer Hikaru Utada performs at Tokyo's Budokan Hall

J-pop is a music package complete with colourful costumes, creative hair styles and energetic dancing. The songs are usually sung in Japanese, but often include English expressions or might even have an English title. The music videos are breathtaking: visually influenced by anime (animated films) and manga (comic magazines). At our school we often have exchange students from Western countries. Many are intrigued by this blend of East and West in our popular music; others are totally confused as to what to make of it.

Personally, I enjoy listening to some of the many female stars of J-pop. Ayumi Hamasaki is considered the Queen of J-Pop – she’s as popular in Japan as Madonna is in the West. Hikaru Utada is also immensely popular in Japan, and has also had a couple of hits in the West. Shiina Ringo is a little different from the rest of the J-pop artists in that she writes her own songs. She also experiments with different styles of music: everything from mainstream pop to experimental jazz.

Khia, 17, Australia

Contemporary Aboriginal music is my passion! My favourites are the artists who have managed to combine aspects of our traditional music – like the instruments or the dances - with the modern sounds of the Western rock and pop music that is a part of youth culture all over the world.

My favourite group, Yothu Yindi, does exactly this. The group is made up of both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. They have managed to create a symbiosis of the sounds of Western Rock and Aboriginal music and dances that date as far back as 60,000 years!

Many of our musicians write songs about the injustice of society. Kev Carmody is a protest singer whose lyrics are often about life as an Aboriginal. He makes use of several music styles: country and western, reggae, pop, rock and more. Singer-songwriter Archie Roach became famous when he sang about one of the most shameful practices in Australia’s history – the government’s removal of children from families that were considered incapable of raising children. Both Kev Carmody and Archie Roach were such “stolen children”. It is an Aboriginal tradition to tell our history through music.


Sit in groups and set up an outline of the Norwegian contemperary music scene. Which genres are the most popular? What characterizes them? Mention some of the artists of these genres. Who are their main influences?


Write sentences using the following words:

Digital Skills

Search YouTube or other websites for videos with examples of music from:

  • Nigeria
  • India
  • Japan
  • Aboriginal music from Australia

(Perhaps you can find examples from some of the artists mentioned in the text.)

Compile your own playlist and present it to your class, explaining why you have chosen these particular songs. You can include the following points:

  • How are the songs you have chosen representative of their country and their genre?
  • Interesting information about the artists on your list.
  • What do you like or find interesting about this music?


Give a presentation about one of the following topics:

  1. Violence and corruption in Nigeria
  2. African percussion instruments
  3. Bollywood playback singers
  4. Anime and manga
  5. The “Stolen Generation” of Aboriginals in Australia
Sist oppdatert 13.05.2018
Tekst: Karin Dwyer Løken (CC BY-SA)



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