I like to discover new music, but I don’t like the algorithmic approach that calculates suggestions and tends to make us listen to whatever most people listen to. Yes, online music listening services tell us that they let us “discover” new music, but I miss something essential. I miss the romantic idea of discovering by coincident.
Of course, I can go to YouTube and listen to completely random tracks, but that will only make me numb and unable to absorb any new sounds.
When I was hitchhiking in Sweden and an older man, who was on his way to the birthday of his brother gave me a ride, there was this wonderful song playing on the radio and I looked out of the window at the long straight road lined with sturdy fir trees. Or when my new couchsurfer friends in Moscow played a video they really liked for me. Or when I was staying with friends in Dakar and they introduced me to Senegalese hiphop. That is the kind of musical discovery I like.
I like diversity of styles and languages in the music I “discover”, yet with the vast majority being English popular music, and with me unwilling to travel the globe as much as I used to do, I have to find new ways of discovering interesting music.
There are the obvious social music sites and there is YouTube (try searching for words that are likely to be part of a song’s title, translate it in Google into Bosnian, Wolof, or Khmer, and see what happens) – but nothing beats a friend’s recommendation.
So I am making a playlist with music from every country. The idea is that the music:
- is composed and performed by an artist from that country
- is preferably vocal, and in the local language
- has an authentic and unique sound
- can be considered representative for the country (for example, a fado for Portugal, a chanson for France, etc)
Any suggestions are welcome! Here is the public playlist so far, with music from France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, South Africa, Sweden, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Colombia, Armenia, Burundi, Australia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kazachstan, Netherlands:
There are now 120 countries in the playlist, and I’ve made some amazing discoveries. I’ve traveled around the world several times, listened to a mesmerizing Japanese jazz singer, a Norwegian sami voice, funky beats from central Africa, Caribbean jazz, Arabic groove, Lao rock, and much more. If you see your country on the list but you know a much funkier artist – don’t hesitate to comment below.