Book: Trajectories and Themes in World Popular Music
Chapter: Globalization and World Music
Chapter 3 is rooted in the 1980s when many music consumers in the west yearned for new, more authentic and meaningful music as rock and punk’s appeal began to wane and popular culture was dominated by a glitzy, artificial world of chart-friendly pop. The “new” soundtrack of globalization was the commercial pseudo-genre of World Music, which was constructed on notions surrounding authenticity, difference, and otherness. Using the notion of genre as a sociocultural framework, the World Music genre is seen here as a sub-field referring to specific musical and extra-musical conventions that are pertaining primarily to the sphere of production. The branding of World Music illustrates the way that popular music is organized and maintained as genres as a means for music industries to streamline production, and as a source of pleasure or identification for audiences and consumers. The commodification practices surrounding World Music discourses were shaped by concepts of authenticity, difference, and otherness. Genre is thereby a constructed, flux concept, and this is well illustrated by how and why musicians become constructed and (in some cases) successful as World Music stars within the World Music brand. Commercial interests in World Music were characterized by a certain academicism among consumers coupled with a “serious” educational interest in the music cultures they encountered, thereby distinguishing themselves from others through their specialized musical knowledge and cultural interests in more “authentic” musics. Yet World Music is characteristic of both hybridity and authenticity, which resembles some kind of paradox between the mixing of musical styles, on the one hand, and a desire to leave a musical “tradition” intact, on the other. Artists who “make it” as World Music stars must therefore navigate carefully between hybridity and authenticity, western consumers’ ideas and expectations of “authentic hybridity”.