Around the World in 17 Songs

Our international playlist as featured in the magazine

Our international playlist as featured in the magazine

Angie Cummings and Isabel Hadly

Music is a universal language. Anyone anywhere can listen to the same song and experience the same feeling. Although the love for music does not vary from country to country, the music that tops the charts in each country does.

Without experiencing other countries first hand, it can be hard to grasp what their cultures are about. One way to learn more about these individual countries, is through the art that the people who inhabit it create. Different cultures have different music for dancing, festivals, and for listening just for fun.

Reggaeton, a mix of hip hop and reggae, is a popular genre of music in Latin America. Some of the more popular artists in this genre are CNCO, J.Balvin and Danny Ocean. Reggaeton became super popular in the 90s, and has been growing as a genre since. It is typically sung in Spanish, upbeat and easy to dance to.

Bollywood music has been popular in India since the 1930’s. Now, people have combined the traditional aspects of Bollywood and added hints of rap, R&B and pop. This hybrid of traditional Indian and popular American genres is what most of India’s top music charts consist of.  Artists like Arjit Singh, Zack Knight and Jasmin Walia are all part of this new style.

In Brazil, the top charts resemble American charts very closely, but in addition to the many Reggaeton songs, you’ll find some pop and rap songs in Portuguese. Karol Conka and MC Livinho are both prominent, Portuguese singing artists from Brazil, some of their songs resemble American artists like Nicki Minaj and Justin Timberlake.

Static & Ben El Tavoriia are a very popular musical group from Israel, who produce albums consisting of pop and “club” songs. Hints of traditional Israeli music are mixed into beats that are easily recognizable as electronic, club music.

Stromae, a Belgian hip-hop singer/rapper, has many American influences within his music, the most prominent being jazz. The Belgian youth battles the same struggles of sexuality, gender equality, and race as we do in the United States. These cultural struggles are clearly visible in Stromae’s songs, since he is Rwandan and androgynous. In his music video for “Tous Les Mêmes,” which translates into they are all the same, Stromae dresses as part woman and part man to highlight stereotypical interactions between men and women.

Some big names in the Russian rap industry are Rem Digga, Jah Khalib, MiyaGi and Endshpiel. The songs these artists have produced resemble popular American rap songs with low beats and softer instrumentals to compliment their harsh tones. Despite common assumptions regarding Russian pop culture, defining it as nonexistent or dated, these songs tell stories of heartbreak, love, parties and flings.

American influence is common throughout most popular music in China but one thing that most may be surprised to hear is the popularity of hip-hop in China. Unlike American artists, artists in China must obey the strict censoring laws, restricting anything that may offend or threaten China’s s governmental and societal balance. As a mix of both English and Chinese rap, the groups such as Higher Brothers are breaking down stereotypes by proving that good hip-hop can be found anywhere in the world, despite differing cultures.

Wiley and Skepta are some big names in Grime, a popular British genre. Grime is a mix of hip hop and garage music with strong hard hitting lyrics. It’s the inner city music scene of London.Another popular type of music in Britain is the mix of Indie and Folk. Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde, more famously known as Birdy, is a singer-songwriter whose new sound has not only become extremely popular in England, but has spread to America as well. Her voice is haunting yet uplifting, and can be recognized in films such as The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars.

Much like America, one of Albania’s most famous genres is pop, but when listening to their music it is clear that it includes a unique element of native tone and modern beats that America does not have. An artist who is cruising to the top of all the Albania’s music charts is Era Istrefi. Her most recent song, Bonbon, has a catchy tune with a unique beat and has not only spread all across Europe, but has landed her a record deal in the US.