Plugged into the Global Frequency
April 6, 2023
I find it remarkable that within a century (or even half of one), it has become so accessible to find music from around the world. Derrick Gee covers it well here. Before the Beatles, could the average American find or even care about music from across the pond? Even after the dawn of the Internet connecting anyone around the world, other global sensations like BTS have pushed past the limits of language and culture when it comes to garnering fame. Considering how much of modern music today is derived from Black American culture, it is no surprise that both of these groups have reaped the benefits of drawing inspiration from Black music and innovation. As musicians and performers on a global level, they have had access to the circles, equipment, and personnel that make it easy to spread their music far and wide to places that never would have heard their melodies before the past century. But what about the average person online? Or how about those small, niche songs that suddenly blow up online? Or recordings rediscovered decades later and digitized for the first time? With social media, streaming services, and digital music in reach for (not everyone or everywhere in) the world to use, it is commonplace to hear sounds from across the globe both online and in person. Here are some songs from around the world and how they made their way into my life:
Food from the West Indies by Lord Kitchener: This song was featured in a TikTok by a mom documenting her son making Korean ramyeon and bulgogi for dinner. As one of her mom’s favorite songs from Trinidad, she was surprised to see it had been already uploaded onto TikTok. While it only has two videos credited to the song as of now, hundreds of thousands heard this song due to this one viral video. “Food from the West Indies” turned into food from South Korea to the United States to the World Wide Web.
hikikomori rock by Haze: I stumbled across this one almost simultaneously on Tiktok, my Spotify Discover Weekly, and on this random review on YouTube. At first I figured it was a misspelling of Korean singer Heize (which was also inspired by rapper Angel Haze, or ROES as she is known today). After hearing the song, this Japanese rock quartet has won over the hearts of everyone I have played the song to. It’s a grisly track accented by growly vocals: overall, a notable listen.
NITEVISION – BAMBII (feat. Pamputtae): This was an insane find for me. A definite contender for my Spotify Wrapped year, this BAMBII track is a heady club and party essential. I got this off of a Spotify playlist from Jyoty, DJ and host of RINSE FM. She’s making headlining gigs around the world, and her mixes are always fresh and fun. This is just one of many I have found from her Boiler Room, Hör Berlin, and RINSE FM sets.
Figa de Guiné – Mc Tha: To compile my very first WVAU radio show, I was searching for Brazilian mpb music I enjoyed to put together a more modern take on the genre: nova mpb. This is when Mc Tha popped up on my radar, and her song Coração Vagabundo made it onto the list. I didn’t listen to much else from her discography, but I did recognize her name on Spotify’s Release Radar playlist which updates weekly with new songs catered to each listener. This track sat in my library for a while before some new information helped it recapture my attention: this was actually a rendition of a Brazilian samba classic by Alcione. Mc Tha’s version hits the same addictive beats while keeping the modern soulful style her music is known for. While a Brazilian audience may hear “Figa de Guiné” and immediately associate it with the original, others like me will go through this process in reverse and hear the remake first.
Aye Say Bah – Side Effect: Growing up watching Anthony Bourdain greatly impacted my interest in food and culture, so rediscovering this band in my early 20s was quite serendipitous. A brief period of supposedly negative peace occurs in Myanmar while Bourdain films a Parts Unknown episode in the tourist-allowed areas. There, he meets the band that made this song. Dealing with censorship, internet suppression, and likely the more recent military coup, not much has been heard from this band since they released an album in 2018 and a single in 2021 on streaming services. While I hope they reach their dream of performing at SXSW someday, their music has still traveled to so many different places across the globe.
국밥 한 그릇 – 임도나: The combination of having 3 monthly listeners on Spotify at the time of writing and a title only in the Korean alphabet meant that I lost this track for a few months. Fortunately the algorithm brought it back to me, so I will be sure not to forget this song anymore. The title unassumingly translates to “a bowl of rice soup,” but the grand instrumental makes it feel like an opulent declaration of love.
Pua Noanoa – Mahealani Uchiyama: I was introduced to this song—and this genre as a whole—after taking an ‘Ori Tahiti dance class online that I found on Instagram. This was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cultural practices that relied on community had to adapt to survive. This is exactly what happened with ‘Ori Tahiti: a style of Polynesian dance from the island of Tahiti. During performances, the music is often performed live with ukulele and drums. For the sake of convenience and public health, mostly recordings were used in my online class which led me to this choral track. While we may only get a small glimpse into the preservation of a beautiful storytelling art, this song is yet another example of the way music transcends oceans, mountains, and borders.
As we consciously become more globally connected in our music listening habits, I hope we continue to question the systems of power that decide what is good music. At the Grammys, they perpetuate colonial legacies in their global music categories. Genres like reggaetón and K-pop continue to gain popularity outside their home regions, and African music of many different countries and genres experienced massive growth outside the continent in past years. So where do we go from here? We have to continue listening: not just to the songs that pop up on the algorithm, but to the artists and cultures that pioneered the sounds that fill our playlists.