Phygrian Domination
March 31, 2007 12:03 PM   Subscribe

There's probably a way to ask this question that doesn't expose my ignorance of world music, but I can't think of it. Please help me get my block-rocking culture on.

Because I'm prone to picking English lyrics apart and missing the song which contains them entirely, I've come to really enjoy music in foreign languages. I'm keen to expand my collection of swinging songs from cultures other than my own, and would really appreciate some advice on where to start exploring. Now, asking "tell me about all the music in the world" is pretty broad, so let me narrow this a bit.

I've been listening to this song by Shakira about a dozen times a day for a week now. Maybe my mind is just clouded by the belly dancing, but I really enjoy the sound of this song and I'd like to hear more like it. I love the drums, the backing vocals, the way the lead vocals respond back, pretty much the whole of it.

I asked the internet about Ojos Asi a couple times. Turns out it's written in Phrygian dominant scale - a quality it shares with a lot of flamenco, Klezmer and Arabic music. I took note of this, as I've caught myself tapping my toes to music from every one of those genres when I've had occasion to hear it.

So in the main, I'm most curious about music similar to the song posted. I'm interested in finding out what genres to pursue, and especially interested in specific artists or songs. The Arabic elements are my favorite part of this song, so I would really like to discover some wonderful Middle Eastern music. But please don't hesitate to suggest music from anywhere in the world if it has the qualities I'm looking for.
posted by EatTheWeak to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
The record label Putumayo puts out a ton of quality world music comps. The main problem you'll run into with world music is that it's very starbucksy and yuppified, but some of it is truly excellent.

I recommend Putumayo's "African Groove" and "Arabic Groove" [iirc]. "African Groove" is actually one of the best albums I have ever listened to, and I have pretty broad-ranging taste. Definitely check it out.
posted by nasreddin at 12:14 PM on March 31, 2007

I'll tell you, I've discovered that this is the exact reason MySpace was invented. I've been exploring the music of Mexico lately. I just type in a few search parameters, select that the music should come from Mexico, and then listen to the music that bands have uploaded. If I like it, I work my way through that band's friends list; there's usually a few bands they've befriended who are equally excellent.

For more on-the-beaten-track stuff, NPR has a book out that's an introduction to world music.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:25 PM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also really like that song, and find it appealing for reasons similar to yours. I can't pretend to know anything formal about music, but want to at least pass on some names that grab me in the same way this song does:
  • Balkanarama: fast roms, some klezmer-like stuff, beautiful vocals, some good background singing, some songs have strong percussion like you identified in Ojos Así.
  • Amistades Peligrosas: Spanish pop-rock-ish. bunches of duets, response, lots of songs with Middle Eastern infleunce.
  • Have you been to It was posted to MeFi ages ago and has some fantastic, fantastic music from the 1930s on. One of the favorites I have from there has been Anwar Abdul Wahab.
    Those are three very very different directions to go in, but I find that these songs I like for a lot of the same reasons...

    Also, in addition to AskMe, have you considered using Pandora to find other things it requests based on using Ojos Así as a root song?

    It'd also be great if you can pin down the genres and regions better, using some of the recommendations you get here. Saying you're after "world music" will probably lead you into lower quality and less interesting music than when you say "I want klezmer," etc. I have a lot of non-English music, but I would never ever want to say I'm into "world music" exactly because of the pre-packaged pablum that translates to when you go to find it online or in a store.

  • posted by whatzit at 12:35 PM on March 31, 2007

    If you haven't heard of Selda Bagcan (the only other question tagged with turkishmusic regards her), I think you might like her.
    posted by gauchodaspampas at 12:38 PM on March 31, 2007

    I also recommend as a way to get to know new music, either by band or style. I've found many good bands in the genres I've been listening to, namely in the 'viking metal' sphere of things. Also lets you mark favourites, skip over songs you don't like, ban songs you hate, etc.

    'Middle Eastern' as a tag should literally give you a world of new music to listen to.
    posted by spinifex23 at 12:42 PM on March 31, 2007

    Response by poster: whatzit, nasreddin - I get the feeling the "world music" gets slapped on albums in American stores because the genres they're actually from represent such small niches in the domestic market that you have to mash them all together to fill up a store shelf. It's a nice way of saying "not in English."

    I agree the term is not ideal. The fact I had to use it in asking reflects what a clueless position I'm starting from. So I really, really appreciate these suggestions and look forward to more.
    posted by EatTheWeak at 12:43 PM on March 31, 2007

    Best answer: If you like dancable stuff with a sort of disco-meets-the-Middle East groove, a few of my bigger obsessions are Turkish megastar Tarkan , rai bad boy Rachid Taha Alabina, a Spanish Gypsy band with an Israelie lead singer. Here are a few YouTube clips of the tracks that grabbed me cold in much the same way as "Ojos Asi" --

    Tarkan -- Simarik

    Tarkan -- Bu Gece

    Alabina -- Salma Ya Salama

    Alabina -- Eshebo

    Ishtar solo -- Habibi Sawah

    Rachid Taha -- Barra Barra

    Rachid Taha -- Ala Jakoum

    And I probably shouldn't leave out the eminently danceable remix of Ofra Haza's Im Nin Alu

    (Did I mention Alabina's Ishtar is also a belly dancer?)

    You might also like Natascha Atlas, some other rai stars like Khaled or Faudel or Cheb Mami, and South Africa is full of amazingly catchy, lovely music -- I'm a huge huge fan of Johnny Clegg's various bands. But these are tops on my list for artists that I had a similar jaw-dropping "I must hear more of this person, stat" reaction on first listen.
    posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

    an oldie but goodie: dead can dance!
    posted by thinkingwoman at 1:28 PM on March 31, 2007

    Best answer: I think you'll like Divahn, a new group formed by the granddaughter of a famous Iranian jewish singer (proving that the two are not as incompatible as is normally thought). Her name is Galeet Dardashti, and her voice is amazing.

    Disclosure: She is a friend of mine, but I would make this recommendation even if she weren't.
    posted by umbú at 1:36 PM on March 31, 2007

    (also search for lisa gerrard, who went on to a solo career)
    posted by thinkingwoman at 1:41 PM on March 31, 2007

    For years the best selling CD in Amazon's Purchase Cilcles for Egypt was Buena Vista Social Club. There's a reason.

    The question leads me to suggest popular, as opposed to traditional, authentic, or significant, music. So you're getting a bit more recent, produced stuff in this post, and so far in the thread.

    --Alabina, Rachid Taha, yes.
    -- Amr Diab, whose most accessible--read: pop--song is "Amarain."
    --You'll dig Khaled, esp. his single Didi.
    --As a rule, the Moroccan and Algerian skews slightly more Francophone.
    --Outlandish mix latin, hiphop, and Middle Eastern. They cover Khaled's "Aicha", the ubiquitous slow love song, as an R&B song.
    --I agree about the Putomayo CDs. And yes, "World Music" when used by Americans is patronizing, but unconsciously so. Like the famous British newspaper headline, "Fog in Channel. Continent Cut Off."
    --There's great music in the chase scene towards the beginning of the movie "The Fifth Element," I think it's Khaled, as mentioned above.

    I have yet to really get Om Kholthoum (spelling varies), the Egyptian amalgam of Elvis, the Beatles, and Sinatra, whose subtlety,voice, emotion, and artistry--and twenty-minute songs--made her a beloved figure. Supposedly a million people attended her funeral.
    posted by Phred182 at 1:47 PM on March 31, 2007

    Another toe tapping Arabic album, Arabesque

    It's a bit more mainstream, but anything by Afro Celt (formally Afro Celt Sound System) for a fusion of African and Celtic. Sounds odd, but I love it!
    posted by floanna at 1:53 PM on March 31, 2007

    Thank you for asking this question! This is my sort of music as well!
    posted by divabat at 2:09 PM on March 31, 2007

    Oh, also: try looking for nasyid songs. They're "Muslim gospel", in a sense, and while most are more chanty-religious types, there are those that add an interesting dance groove to them. Yasin is a good Malaysian example of this style.

    I think M. Nasir and Siti Nurhaliza (both Malay, I think M. Nasir is Singaporean) have done songs along this vein too.
    posted by divabat at 2:15 PM on March 31, 2007

    Best answer: Some links:

    Yasin, Joe Flizzow, Daly & Akhbar - Alhamdullilah - Interesting mix of Arabic chanting & music and hip-hop

    Siti Nurhaliza - Lagu Rindu
    posted by divabat at 2:24 PM on March 31, 2007

    OMGWTFBBQ -- That Shakira song is fantastic! Thank you!

    A lot of Bollywood music has Arab/sufi influences, and this kind of recognizably Western pop structure also, which might be right up your alley. Me, I don't necessarily want authentic folk stylings or intellectual classical music in some ancient tradition. I just want groovy dance music with an unusual flava, like your Shakira song. Which I am downloading right this second.

    Here's a list I gave last summer: BW Music Since then, naturally, they have made more. Email me if you need the updates.

    I would also like to big up the Bhangraton -- an English fusion of bhangra, and reggaeton -- as well as English bhangra generally. Not as similar to your song in feeling, though, and decidedly more hip-hop than pop.

    Some songs:
    Balle Sukshinder Shinda
    Ishq Hai Jhootha Kunal Ganjawala
    Dil Nai Lagda Aman Hayer Feat.Vinni
    Kawan (Jay Dabhi's Bhangraton Mix) Gunjan
    Pharangi Rall Ke Specialist n Tru Skool
    Sexy Boy Hard Kaur
    Challay Mundian Joti Dhillion
    Dance With You (Diwali Bhangraton Remix) Rishi Rich

    In my opinion, Sukshinder Shinda, Rishi Rich, and Aman Hayer are making the most interesting English bhangra/bhangraton these days. Check it out.
    posted by Methylviolet at 2:45 PM on March 31, 2007

    And oh, yes -- in Arabic, Diana Haddad (for example).
    posted by Methylviolet at 2:59 PM on March 31, 2007

    Best answer: Love Claudia Shamali—Habeeb El Routh's singing. The music is hot as hell. She's Lebanese Arabic. UToob's choices aren't the best of her stuff. Really.
    Thanks for asking this, Eattheweakm, I've been looking for her since I lent a tape to someone who promptly lost it.

    Cheb Khaled—Didi is westernized some, but great. The UToob offering is some mighty poor sound. Didi rocks. Chebba, another good song, older Khaled.
    Najma Akhatar has an amazing voice, wicked —"Qareeb" & "Ghazales by Najma" are great Cd's. On her site you can d/l songs and video. UToob's offering is slack. Don't listen to the 1 video, it's a misrepresentation of her voice. Ouch.
    A top Moroccan singer, Najat Aatabou is definitely more hard core, whadda voice though./

    methylviolet, I have Balle Balle Hogay Mitro by Dj Sanj-Karan MC, great stuff. Try Das Ja by DJ Sanj. I have his 50 cent remix. heh. Find "I Can Feel It" by DJ Sanj with Sabrina. Whoa. It may be here, If you've never been to a dance featuring this music, go, it's off the hook.

    I also suggest RDB, Rhythm Dhol Bass for wicked producers. More RDB.

    ok, I'm signing up for some Arabic lessons.
    posted by alicesshoe at 3:25 PM on March 31, 2007

    The record label Putumayo puts out a ton of quality world music comps.

    posted by fourcheesemac at 3:52 PM on March 31, 2007

    Oh hell yeah, Alice -- both of those guys are great, you're right. Both have a more disco/techno sound than the mostly hip-hoppy bhangra I recommended, which the OP may like better. On that note, he might like Bally Sagoo, who is more Western pop-sounding still (I'm not a fan). Even my daughter's friends like "Yaari" (RDB) -- "Today, they survive as DJs of fortune..."

    Now I have to go find "I Can Feel It" -- I love me some bhangra with female vocals. (Gunjan, Hard Kaur, Ms. Scandalous...)

    But watch out EattheWeak -- this might happen to you.
    posted by Methylviolet at 4:50 PM on March 31, 2007

    It will definitely happen to him, methylviolet. When the whole audience is dancing like that, and they do, you can bust through to the next floor down, lookout./

    My picks were dance oriented, ok, and vocals....that Shakira is good, even though it wasn't my first pick to listen to...blame it on MTV.

    Great lists all though. The fact I found Claudia Shamali is great. I first heard her in a store and asked the owner what he was listening to. You like that¿ Oh yeah, I said. I'll tape it for you. And he did. Nice town this.
    posted by alicesshoe at 5:04 PM on March 31, 2007

    Now I'm feeling dancey. I love this question!

    You might like Ekova: the singer is French and rarely uses English (or any language; she just vocalizes) and the two other band members are, I believe, Iranian and Algerian. Their first album is acoustic, their second is a bunch of club remixes of the first, and the third has a more electronic feel.
    posted by cmyk at 5:27 PM on March 31, 2007

    All this talk of bhangra and nobody has mentioned Daler Mehndi yet?

    And while I'm poking through my playlists, here's the Outlandish version of Aicha, and the original Khaled version...definitely in his more westernized mode, but quite lovely.

    If you don't mind stuff leaning more than a bit towards metal, Orphaned Land have some gorgeous songs.
    posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 5:53 PM on March 31, 2007

    Smilla's Sense, then there's the Death in Vegas w/ Iggy Pop's version of Aisha. The song is good, the video, feh. Too obviously wrong. As for rock bands tapping eastern sounds, Tea Party.

    I have to take back a recommendation that may not exist...Dj Sanj featuring Sabrina, 'I Can Feel You'. Nope. It was not only mis labelled, my ears betrayed me also upon, ahem, preview...
    posted by alicesshoe at 7:34 PM on March 31, 2007

    Best answer: Well, give Nasreddin credit; what s/he said was:
    "The record label Putumayo puts out a ton of quality world music comps. The main problem you'll run into with world music is that it's very starbucksy and yuppified, but some of it is truly excellent."

    That's a perfect way of putting it; while there's nothing that bad about the Putumayo comps, their problem is that they make every region sound like ALL it produces are safe, laid back, Norah Jones-ish tracks (very slickly studio-produced of course) that wouldn't interfere with a quiet coffeehouse conversation.

    If you're looking for ass-shaking, danceable middle eastern fusion my highest recommendation is Raquy and the Cavemen. Incredible, virtuosic, not over-studio'd, and not "safe."
    posted by lorimer at 7:45 PM on March 31, 2007

    I recommend the Buddha Bar series of albums. I have several songs from the series, and I enjoy them.

    Listening to the video on the other side of your link, I definitely recommend them (or at least the songs I've heard).
    posted by philomathoholic at 9:16 PM on March 31, 2007

    Best answer: I just watched this. Hella cool song, and belly-dancing aplenty by the sex bomb of Bollywood, Mallaika Sherawat. I think I'm gay now.
    posted by Methylviolet at 8:57 PM on April 1, 2007

    Response by poster: Thank you so much, every one! If it seems I've been too liberal with the best answers, know that I was tempted to just paint this whole thread. I really appreciate all of these suggestions, and plan on seeking out more of just about all of these artists.

    umbú - I've got no problem at all w/ the friend-link. The internets make "dude, you gotta hear my buddy's band" possible on a global scale. And Divahn rocked!
    posted by EatTheWeak at 9:21 AM on April 5, 2007

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