Thoughts on
World Music
Andrew Killick
University of Sheffield
Why teach world music?
 “Multicultural education” agenda?
 Increase “musicianship” skills by drawing on
a wider range of styles and principles?
 Develop understanding of what “music” is
as a phenomenon common to all humanity?
 Understand “one’s own” music better
by comparing it with others?
What is “world music” anyway?
 All the world’s music?
 Then why not just say “music”?
 Because (in education) “music” normally
means Western classical music.
 Other kinds of music get compartmentalised
as “popular”, “traditional”, “world” etc.
 Different modes of study are applied to them,
e.g. sociological, anthropological, economic.
 But all music circulates in the same world!
One world of music?
 Writers of “world music” textbooks still
seem to accept the compartmentalisation
(see handout)
 There is no book about “all the world’s music”
 …yet!
The Music Tree: an approach to
teaching “all the world’s music”
 The world now has a shared musical
language which can be imagined as a tree.
 The roots are all over the world.
 The trunk is in North America.
 The branches spread out all over the world.
 Fruit or seeds fall from the branches.
 The seeds grow into new trees (from the
same soil that nourished the roots).
 This course starts by tracing the roots…
The music we already know
is “world music”
 Example: the basic “rock & roll” beat
 The Ramones, “Rock ’n’ Roll High School”,
 Compare this use of drums and cymbals with:
John Philip Sousa, “The Liberty Bell”, 1893
 Rock & roll has a strong backbeat
(stress on beats 2 & 4 within 4/4 time).
 Where did the backbeat come from?
Backbeat before rock & roll
 Rock & roll emerged in 1950s USA.
 What earlier forms of music had a backbeat?
 Jazz
 Blues
 Gospel
 - all forms pioneered by African Americans
 - continuing a musical heritage traceable to…
General characteristics
of Sub-Saharan African music (1)
 (Jonathan Stock, World Sound Matters, p. 61)
 1. Continuous, varied repetition
 2. Overlapping call & response
 3. Successive entries of new instruments
 African American parallels:
 1. ►Chris Kenner, “Land of 1000 Dances”, 1962
 2. ►Aretha Franklin, “Respect”, 1967
 3. ►(Next slide)
Multi-layered texture of “riffs”:
King Curtis, “Memphis Soul Stew”, 1967
 (bass riff, beginning with repeated note)
 (spoken:) Today’s special is Memphis soul stew.
We sell so much of this, people wonder what we put in it.
We’re gonna tell you right now.
Give me about a half a teacup of bass. (new melodic bass riff)
Now I need a pound of fatback drums. (add drums)
Now give me four tablespoons of boiling Memphis guitar, this is
gonna taste all right. (add guitar riff)
Now just a little pinch of organ. (add electric organ tremolo)
Now give me a half a pint of horn. (sax riff, ‘across’ the beat)
Place on the burner and bring to a boil. That’s it right there.
Now beat well. (drums respond)
Sub-Saharan African music (2)
(►with African American parallels)
 Simultaneous contrasting rhythms
►Meade “Lux” Lewis, “Honky Tonk Train
Blues”, 1927
 Continuous rhythmic marking by percussion
►Any popular music with drum kit.
 Rattling or buzzing timbres
►Muddy Waters, “Hoochie Coochie Man”,
 Descending melodic contours
►Blues and any style with blues influences.
African and European rhythm
(Gunther Schuller’s theory)
 European metre is hierarchical:
different beats of the bar have stronger
and weaker degrees of stress.
 African rhythm is polyrhythmic: different beats
are stressed in different layers of the texture
so that overall, each beat has equal stress.
 When asked to play in European metre,
African musicians may have tended to make
the beats more “equal” by stressing “weak”
beats – hence the backbeat in rock & roll.
European/Euro-American contributions
to global popular music
 Hierarchical metre, especially 4/4 time.
 Melodies composed of balanced strains
with different pitch contours.
►a random example: “For Auld Lang Syne”
 Functional harmony, tonality & modulation.
►from classical music via older pop styles
 Songs in strophic and verse/refrain forms.
 Electr(on)ic technology for amplification,
recording, manipulation of sound.
 Instruments, e.g. keyboards, guitars; BUT…
Middle Eastern Origins
of European instruments
 Violin (rebec, Byzantine lūrā, Arab rabāb)
 Oboe (Arab surnay and relatives)
 Timpani (nakers, Arab naqqara paired drums)
 Guitar (lute, lauda, Arabic al ‘ud = “wood”)
 Piano (a struck zither, like Turkish kanun)
Dissemination of the hammered
dulcimer (from New Grove)
Ancestry of the drum kit
 Bass drum, snare drum, cymbal, “traps”
 Jazz drum set standardized 1940s
 “Trap” drummer in vaudeville, circus
 Pedal mechanisms develop c. 1890-1925
 Instruments from military marching bands
 Trace back from America to Europe…
 …and from Europe to Turkey
“Turkish Music”
by Western classical composers
 Mozart’s “Turkish Rondo” (Rondo alla turca)
Last movement of Piano Sonata in A Major,
K. 331
 Beethoven’s “Turkish March”
from theatre music The Ruins of Athens,
Op. 113
 “Turkish” percussion = triangle (triangolo),
cymbals (piatti), bass drum (tamburo grande).
Turkish music from Turkey
 Ottoman Janissary [Military] Band
 Famous percussion instrument makers:
 Zildjian, now based in USA, started in Turkey
The Ottoman Empire
Turkish asymmetrical metre
 9 beats, grouped 2 + 2 + 2 + 3
 Traditional Music from Turkey (on Naxos),
track 8 (free metre to 0:40)
 Ottoman Empire brought this to…
 Bulgarian bagpipe tunes
 Bosnian “Newly Composed Folk Song”
 Dave Brubeck, Blue Rondo Alla Turk
Another “root”: Latin America
The Latin Beat
 Compare the standard “rock & roll” beat…
e.g. Chuck Berry, “Johnny B. Goode”, 1958
(fastest notes go 8 to the bar)
 …with the beat of much popular music since
about 1970:
 Disco (The Bee Gees)
 Funk (George Clinton, Stevie Wonder)
 Rap (Grandmaster Flash)
 - Slower tempo but fastest notes 16 to the bar
João Gilberto, “A Felicidade”
from film Black Orpheus, 1959
samba ‘refrain’
march-like basic beat on
loud bass drums;
16-beat rhythm on large number
of percussion instruments;
call & response between
chorus & trombone
bossa nova ‘verse’
gentle basic beat on
low-pitched drum;
16-beat rhythm on shaker only;
“thinned-out” rhythm on
fewer instruments;
jazz-like melody and harmony;
smoother sound: solo voice,
acoustic guitar;
sustained notes on wind &
string instruments
samba ‘refrain’ interrupts…
Latin American genres historically
popular in Europe & North America
 Sarabande: possibly Native (South) American
origin, taken from colonies to Spain in 16th c.
 Habanera: 19th c. Cuban dance form, used in
Bizet’s Carmen and musical My Fair Lady.
 Tango: Argentinian dance, popular
internationally in 1910s.
 Son, Rumba, Cha Cha Cha, Salsa… 20th c.
Cuban dance forms widely disseminated.
 Bossa Nova: Brazilian “new beat” music
popular in North America from 1950s.
Rhythms used in “Livin’ La Vida Loca”
– Ricky Martin, 1999
basic 16-beat rhythm:
1 x x x 2 x x x 3 x x x 4 x x x
standard clave rhythm:
X - - X - - X - - - X - X - - reverse clave rhythm:
- - X - X - - - X - - X - - X Verse (reverse clave rhythm:)
- - She’s in - - to su- per- sti - -tions,
- - Black cats
and voo-doo dolls...
Refrain (standard clave rhythm:)
X - - X - - X - - - X - X - - Up - - side
- in - - side
- out, she’s
liv-in la vi(2)da - lo(3) - ca
Western musicians use “world” sounds
“Love You To” – The Beatles, 1966
 0:00 sitar strokes sympathetic strings
 0:10 unmetered alap-like improvisation
 0:34 metered melody begins; tabla, drone
 0:39 verse 1 (melisma on “me”); refrain
 1:10 verse 2 (melisma on “me”); refrain
 1:38 sitar solo (goes “across” the meter)
 1:56 refrain; verse 3 (melisma); refrain
 2:32 sitar solo to end; faster tempo
…and “world” musicians use
Western sounds and technologies
 West African “praise singing” traditions, see:
“AFRICA Salieu Suso: Griot” on Naxos, and:
 Adapted by musicians of “praise singer”
background, e.g. Salif Keita
 Many world music textbooks refer to “musics”
in the plural (e.g. May, Musics of Many
Cultures; Titon et al., Worlds of Music)
 In reality, all music exists in the same world
 Thanks to research and the Internet, we now
have the resources to study and teach this

Drumming and Singing - University of Sheffield