World Music and Globalization Essay

Oct 18, 2018 at Other Essay Samples

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The growth of globalization in the past decade has changed all aspects of people’s lives through exchange of ideas, politics, markets, and entertainment products between various cultures. The three authors, Bohlman (2002), Byrne (1999), and Fairley (2001), focus on the positive and negative effects of globalization in the music industry particularly and creation of the term “world music” from different perspectives. According to Bohlman (2002), world music is simply a traditional music repackaged and marked as popular music that owes its origins to the 1980s when the executives of record companies and advertising specialties determined that popular music from outside the Anglo-American and European mainstreams needed a distinctive name (p.4).

However, its origin is much more complex: world music is a construct of modernity through encounters “that was unleashed by Age of discover, the Enlightenment, colonial expansion, and the rise of the nation-state” (Bolhman, p. 6). The homogenization of all non-Western music into one genre enabled recognition of abundant music in the world for the passive listeners and facilitation of marketing in the music industry. On the contrary, Bohlman (2002) argues that its effect “threatened village practices as it privileges the global village,” and removed individuality of cultures and artists through cultural imperialism.

As the world music became popular, the debate between what local and global music is arose. Since the Western music is considered to be the mainstream music, the concern of categorizing non-Western music into one turn to the issue of cultural imperialism (Fairley, 199, p. 2). Although the categorization meant easier access in the music market, it took away the identity of each sub-genres and artists. Byrne (1999) argues that there should not be the rules about who can make a certain style of music because “authenticity depends on perspective” (p. 2). Apart from that, an opinion exists that creation of world music is a further “exploitation of cultures by the world’s wealthiest economy” (Bohlman, 2002, p.). This issue has intensified through collaboration of artists in the 1980s when inequitable copyright laws took credit of the artists from less-powered nations. For example, Paul Simon’s album Graceland was questioned about appropriation and power for taking “musical credit of originators of material” (quote). Moreover, Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded an album with Simon as a producer and went on to sell 100,000 copies. Collaboration between First-Wworld and Third-World artists formed a sense of hybridity: namely, new genres were formed with different musical elements from all over the world. Nonetheless, the main concern was that sharing of accrued benefits was unequal due to inequity in power relations.

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Alongside with the debate about cultural imperialism, people started questioning about who and how local and global music is defined. According to Fairley (1999), global and local are “ill-defined terms, offering multiple vantage points” (p.1). I believe that the definition and categorization is dependent on the perspective. In other words, a certain musician or music could be considered as local with respect to a particular group, while the rest feels completely opposite. To illustrate, Cesaria Evora, a musician from the Cape Verde islands, performed in local piano bar and later recorded for Melodie and became popular in Europe (Fairley, 1999). The question whether or not her music is local or whether the advancement of technology made her music global at some point clearly shows that the boundary between the two is unclear. 

Conversely to all the negative impacts of globalization on the world music, it also provided positive outcomes in many ways. Drawing upon Bohlman (2002), globalization has encouraged artists to recognize connection and lay foundation for music progressiveness. Not only was there more availability of genres for listeners, but curiosity and understanding of other cultures also emerged. Despite that the authors present music as a culture throughout the articles, I am confident that it is a product for sale in macro level. When one looks at it from an economic viewpoint, globalization has improved the music industry and contributed to the income of the artist. Byrne (1999) brings up an argument that there is a sense of cultural dignity by presenting the non-western music as “exotic” or by definition, not like us (p. 1). By just twisting the same argument, I believe that getting a hint of each other’s culture through music makes one feel familiarized and the feeling of alienation changes into intimacy.

The networking relationship in the music industry today was accomplished through advancement of technology. The internet and development of technology in recent years stimulated the growth by making world music easily accessible through computer, radio, etc. As I stated in the introduction, the construction of world music was largely performed through encounters. Following Bohlman (2002), “technology mediates the encounter with world music, and with each technological advance . . . they can gather more details about world music.” The advancement of technology in the 1990s stimulated participation of musicians because it “made it possible for almost anyone to enter the field to encounter world music” (Bohlman, 2002, p. 142). Along with formation of hybrid music through encounters, it also set limitations on individual artists. recordings and exchanges are the greatest discourses for encountering diaspora (Bohlman, 2002, p. 145). However, the debate of whether this discourse is clear and fair is put on the table due to unequal access to technology. I think that Western music business promotes Western music as popular mainstream music. It is getting harder for musicians to balance their style and finding an audience which effects the arrangement of their music. (Fairley, p. 44)

After reading about different arguments about the meaning of world music and its effects, I believe that each author is reasonable in their own way. I agree with Byrne’s (1999) standpoint that there is cultural imperialism evident in the music industry. Nonetheless, inequality is inescapable to a certain extent because the western music industry has a competitive advantage in the field. Westerners are the creators of the industry and have the fastest access to technology and wealth in both history and today. As for the debate of artists losing their identity and color, I am confident that growth of globalization is not a sole factor. Even in the local music market, it is hard for a musician to balance out one’s own musical interest and audience’s demand. It is the artist’s choice to stay authentic or commercial after weighing the pros and cons. All the arguments are neither completely wrong nor right. The associated meaning of the term “world music” is much more complex since there were many historical and theoretical encounters before its contemporary conceptualizing. I think that globalization and categorization of music as world music could have had more positive effects if there was a mutual respect and co-existence of different genres in the field.

References

  1. Bohlman, P. V. (2002). World music: A very short introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. Byrne, D. (1999, October 3). Crossing music borders: ‘I hate world music.’ The New York Times.
  3. Fairley, J. (2001). The ‘local’ and ‘global’ in popular music [PDF document]. In Cambridge companion to pop and rock online (pp. 272-289). Cambrdige, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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