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MUS 2433 Writing Assignment:
Critical Review of World Music Recording Choose either Topic A or Topic B.
• Suggested length: 3 pages or 600 words.
• Final Paper Due in Module 5
• Completion Time: Final draft – 4 hours.
Topic A:
A defining feature of world music, world beat, or ethno-pop, as it has variously been called, is the production of recordings by well-known American and European pop musicians that include traditional musicians from other cultures performing in a back-up role, or that call attention to themselves by the use of musical exotica extracted from traditional cultures. Such recordings suggest a range of issues and questions that invite critique and debate. Some of these are listed below:
1. How do a recordings musical arrangements, title, graphics, and accompanying notes represent the relationship between Western lead musicians and participating traditional musicians?
2. Is music on the recording attributed to an author, composer, or arranger? Who holds the copyright? What do attributions and credits suggest about rights to, and ownership of, the music?
3. Are the musical and personal relationships negotiated through the production of the album compatible with beliefs about rights to, and ownership of, music in the imported tradition represented on the recording?
4. Does the lead artist show musical respect for the imported tradition(s) represented on the recording? What is musical respect and how might it be shown or not shown?
5. Do artists who employ traditional musicians have obligations not only to the musicians but to the political entities or cultural traditions that they represent? What factors would determine whether they do or do not?
6. Should traditional musicians be implicated in the capitalist culture of risk that is an inherent part of the record business? That is, should traditional musicians get
Page 2 of 5 a fixed session fee for participating in a recording, or should they be paid royalties based on sales?
7. Are cross-cultural world music and world beat projects inherently opportunistic and exploitative?
The Assignment:
Choose either a recording from the attached list or a recording not on the list that meets the criteria of a cross-cultural fusion in which Western musicians work with artists or musical material from traditions different than their own. If you choose a recording not on the list, please let me know what it is before you begin your work.
Write a critical review of the recording in which you do the following:
1. Offer a concise description of the musical and aesthetic concept behind the recording, or answer the question, What did the artists or producers set out to do?
2. Discuss the way in which roots music is incorporated into the musical sound.
3. Discuss musical, aesthetics, and ethical issues that the recording raises, taking into account the list provided above. Think about the relationship between aesthetics (what is beauty?) and ethics (what is good?). You are welcome to consider issues on the list provided above as well as issues not on the list.
4. Offer your critical judgment about ways in which the project succeeds or fails as music and as an exercise in developing cross-cultural understanding and relationships.













Topic A: Suggested Recordings:
• Paul Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints (with Latin American musicians).

• David Byrne, Rei Momo (with Latin American musicians)
• Peter Gabriel, Passion (created for the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ based on Middle Eastern Music); (may discuss together with Gabriels Passion Sources)
• Kate Bush, The Sensual World (with Bulgarian women)




• Mickey Hart, Planet Drum and At the Edge (world percussion)






• Paul Winter, Earthbeat (jazz and Russian village music)




• Outback: Dance the Devil Away and Baka (Aboriginal music combined with folk guitar)
• Spirit of the Forest (Baka Beyond) jam sessions with Baka Pygmies and composer/guitarist Martin Cradick
• Linda Ronstadt, Canciones de mi padre (with Mexican and Mexican-American musicians) Page 3 of 5
• Talking Heads, Reamin in Light (appropriation of scratch, funk, Afro-Beat and jùjú rhythm)
• A World out of Time Vols. 1 and 2 (Pop/avant-garde guitarists Henry Kaiser and David Lindley join musicians in Madagascar)
• Talking Timbuktu (Guitarist Ry Cooder grooves with griots from the Sahara)
• Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble, Music for the Native Americans
• The Sweet Sunny North (avant-garde musicians Henry Kaiser and David Lindley jam with traditional musicians in Norway)
• Paul Simon, Graceland
• Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, No Quarter. (collaboration with musicians from Egypt)
Topic B:
The mirror image of the world music phenomenon described in Topic A is the appropriation of Western musical instruments, sounds, structures, and styles by musicians whose cultural origins are outside the West. Recording by such musicians — also frequently referred to generically as world beat, ethno pop, or world pop — raise issues that are the obverse of those listed under topic A. For example:
1. Do musicians from non-Western cultures tend to sell their own musical traditions short when they merge these traditions with Western styles and techniques, usually in a pop or jazz groove?
2. Can music remain traditional while incorporating elements of Western musical modernity? What are the criteria for classification as traditional music?
3. Does the commercial success of fusion recordings tend to undermine the cultural authority of more traditional musicians in the non-Western countries from which these projects emerge?
4. Do these projects tend to produce music that wears well with time, or does the music appear in hindsight to have been slapped together quickly as a response to the music industrys hunger for fads and novelty?
5. Even though native musicians are ostensibly in control of the projects, do they invariably end up being exploited by the entertainment business? (i.e., recruited, recorded, and rejected as soon as they fail to meet marketing goals).
The Assignment:
Choose a recording from the attached list or a recording not on the list that meets the following criteria (if the recording you choose is not on the list, please let me know what it is): Page 4 of 5 • The featured artist is either from outside the United States or has musical roots in a style or repertory outside mainstream American music (e.g., jazz, blues, pop, Anglo folk). • The recording merges elements of traditional ethnic music with more mainstream musical styles and structures. Write a critical review of the recording in which you:
1. Offer a concise description of the musical project presented on the recording.
2. Explain how the resources of Western musical traditions (e.g., instruments, styles, textures, cultural references, recording techniques) are merged with those of the featured non-Western tradition(s).
3. Discuss musical, aesthetic, and ethical issues that the recording raises, taking into account the list provided above.
4. Offer your critical judgment about ways in which the project succeeds or fails as music and as an exercise in developing cross-cultural understanding and relationships.
Topic B: Suggested Recordings:
• The Ravi Shankar Project: Tana Mara (a fusion of Indian raga, the technology of synthesizers and digital sampling keyboards, and Western popular music. Vocalists include George Harrison)
• Sheila Chandra (a fusion between Indian classical and film music and English pop)
• Ofra Haza: Kirya and Fifty Gates of Wisdom (Yemenite Jewish songs performed in a pop style)
• R. Carlos Nakai: Feather, Stone & Light (New Age Native American music featuring flutist R. Carlos Nakai, guitar player William Easton, and percussionist Will Clipman)
• King Sunny Ade and his African Beats: Juju Music and The Return of the Juju King (Afro-Pop)
• Ebenezer Obey: Get Yer Jujus Out (Afro-Pop) • Baaba Maal Firin in Fouta (Afro-Pop)
• Yat Kha, Yenisei Punk (Tuvan techno-ethnic-acid-folk music)
• Shakti, The Best of Shakti with John McLaughlin, Shankar, Zakir Hussain, T.H. Vinayakram (fusion of Indian classical music and jazz)
• Deep Forest, Boheme (samplings of music from Transylvania)
• Deep Forest (samplings of pygmy music)
• Dead Man Walking soundtrack album: cuts by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with Eddie Vedder [see me for source recordings of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan] Page 5 of 5
• The Bulgarian Voices Angelite Featuring Huun-Huur-Tu and Sergei Starostin, Fly, Fly My Sadness (Bulgarian female choir joins forces with Tuvan overtone singers)
• Planet Soup: A Stirring Collection of Cross-Cultural Collaborations and Musical Hybrids [3 CDs] (from the liner notes: Three hours of compelling global music created by over 200 musicians in over 35 countries)