I Hate World Music, Too

David Byrne tells me what\'s on his iPod.  Whatever it is, it\'s not \

After 72 hours of blogging, I feel almost unburdened.  I’m pulling together stories and ideas that have fascinated me for years, but for which I have not had a proper table on which to place them.

Which brings me to an article by Talking Heads’ founder David Byrne that appeared in the New York Times in 1999.  Titled “I Hate World Music,” I reprise it here because it’s a brilliant social statement as well as a mission statement.  Byrne gets to the heart of the contradictions inside the phrase “world music.”  As a mission statement, Byrne’s ideas are continually in mind as we program music on PRI’s The World.

I have much respect for David Byrne, for these ideas, for his music, and, lest I ever forget, for his willingness to return to his hotel to retrieve his iPod when we were recording a segment some years ago “What’s On Your iPod?” (his repertoire ranged by the way from Debussy to Britney Spears), and he forgot to bring his iPod.

A final thought however:  I do think the label “World Music” has enabled many people to find and discover sounds they never knew existed.  The point of Byrne’s article is to make us think as we use the phrase.

\”I Hate World Music\”

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One response to “I Hate World Music, Too

  1. In a world that has no meaning, what is the meaning of world music ? Must it remain the reductive ‘ethnic’ category that it started as with when Nigerian King Sunny Ade crossed over 25 years ago?

    Increasingly, efforts are international, and virtually indistinguishable depending on the artists’ proclivities. Work by Asian artists to mirror their favorite Western rockers include minor to major references to their favorite indigeneous scales and melodies, heard on the recent underground recordings coming out of repressive Souther East Asian nation of Myanmar AKA Burma.

    So, I submit world music as a mindset first, increasinglt, and a music set second.

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