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World Music Trends to Watch for in 2013


We've looked at our favorite world music of 2012, and now it's time to look to the future. What can a world music listener expect to see and hear in 2013? Unsurprisingly, the answer is, "Lots of stuff! And, y'know, diversity. This is world music, after all." But there are some emerging trends that are worth watching out for. Here are a few of them.

K-Pop, J-Pop, C-Pop

K-Pop Star Psy
Psy (c) Christopher Polk / Getty Images

K-Pop star Psy's "Gangnam Style" was, I think, a massive clue-by-four to the head for American listeners who may not have realized how vibrant and fantastic the pop music scene in Asia is at the moment, particularly in Korea, Japan, and China. I predict that "Gangnam Style" will be just the first of several hits from these genres, most of which will initially make their way into the American popular culture via quirky YouTube videos. I also predict that the hook-laden, danceable, slightly campy aesthetic of a lot of this music (or at least the sort of Asian pop that American listeners seem to be drawn to) will have quite a bit of influence on American and Europop as well.

Names to Watch: BIGBANG, BoA, 2NE1, Halcali, B'z, G.E.M., Khalil Fong

Vintage French Music

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin - "Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus"
Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin - "Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus" (c) Verve Forecast Records

Vintage French music is kind of the LBD of international popular music, in that it never goes out of style, but I think we're on the precipice of a major mainstream resurgence that emulates the swing revival, ska revival, and rockabilly revivals that we've seen in the last couple of decades. Putumayo World Music seems to agree with me, and has a disc focused on classic French music on the way this Spring. We'll see which specific classic French era the overall zeitgeist settles upon, but look for lots of Django-style Parisian manouche jazz bands out on tour, hipsters going crazy over yé-yé revival starlets, and lots and lots and lots of opportunities to announce that you've been an Edith Piaf fan since before it was cool.

Names to Watch: Possibly new-to-you names include Stephane Wrembel and Mareva Galanter, but you'll be best-served by arming yourself with solid knowledge of classic French songs and artists.

Ethiopian Hybrids

Debo Band
Debo Band Horn Section (c) Megan Romer, 2012 / Licensed to About.com

This Ethiopian-music-meets-all-sorts-of-other-stuff wave has been building up momentum for quite awhile, but critical mass has been reached, I think, and it's officially becoming a thing. Ethiopian pop and traditional music is very different than the West African music that so often dominates the international scene, and even other East African music, and in the hands of the more capable fusionmasters on the game, the sounds that are being created are fresh and fun and have broad appeal.

Names to Watch: Debo Band, Samuel Yirga, Dub Colossus, Meklit Hadero, Invisible System, Krar Collective, and if we're lucky, a reprise of Bole2Harlem

Cutting-Edge First Nations and Indigenous Artists

Tanya Tagaq
Tanya Tagaq (c) Nadya Kwandibens

The folks at Winnipeg's Aboriginal Music Week have made it their work to pull together contemporary native sounds for a young, urban native audience and anyone else who'll listen. Well, we're listening, and you should be, too, as there is some seriously good music coming out of this far-flung scene, from all sorts of genres (alt.country, hip-hop, blues, global bass, avant-garde/art music, punk...), all which is tied together with some element of Native music and themes that touch on the Native American and First Nations experiences.

Names to Watch: Tanya Tagaq, A Tribe Called Red, Samantha Crain, Nake Nula Waun, Josh Halverson, Blackfire

Global Bass

M.I.A. (c) John Sciulli / Getty Images

Global Bass is rising fast, though, like most genres, it's not deeply defined enough to make a clear-cut tally of any specific metrics. I just know that it's buzzing, buzzing, buzzing in both the world music scene and the electronic music scene. Suffice it to say, if you're not already listening to at least some global bass (M.I.A. being the most likely suspect), but you enjoy any kind of electronic music, you'll probably be listening to it soon. Blending indigenous and contemporary sounds from all over the place (the less recognizable, the better, as far as I can tell) with all sorts of dance music elements by brilliant DJs the world over, this is global music for a new era.

Names to Watch: A Tribe Called Red (again), ZZK, Watcha Clan, DJ Zhao, Santigold, DJ/rupture, Sarah Young

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