World Music

Music is a structured approach to making harmonious sounds between voices and instruments. Through the ages it has come to be divided into a number of genres. Over the years many definitions of music have been formulated. The most traditional definition is the combination of sounds, instruments and voices to create a pleasurable listening experience. The etymology of music has been debated for a long time by scientists and philosophers. Some defined music as an art whereas others said it was a science. Music has many parameters upon which it is defined like organization, technique, listener engagement and sometimes negative experiences. The word comes from the Greek and Latin words Mousik and Musica. In ancient times music meant singing praises to the Gods. Later, poetry was converted into music to introduce instrumental and classical music. Due to a wide range of cultures which have defined music in their own way, there is no telling where the word actually came from. Inuit culture for example does not have a word for music. Giving expressions to sounds was music for West Africans and Mexicans. Schaffer says that in the Middle East, many words cover the concept of music although there is no actual terminology for it. The different styles of modern music have influenced one another and therefore we can say that music is technically one big genre. In today’s day and age music is a form of entertainment. People listen to music to unwind and relax. They also go to music festivals to see their favorite artists perform.


Types of Music

All music begins with a buildup and ends with a follow up. It is much like an essay in which there is an introduction, body and conclusion. This is why music is an art. It takes months to find the perfect harmony which people will enjoy and listen to repeatedly. To suit different tastes, music is categorized into specific genres. A genre is defined as a style of music generally preferred by a person or a group, out of which they get the maximum satisfaction. For example, an old person will lean towards Classical Music whereas a person from Generation Y might lean towards Rhythm and Blues or Hip Hop music. Musicians can be classified as amateur musicians, who are novices at the art, and professional musicians, who have dedicated their lives to it and make a living out of it. Some people may argue that music is an inborn talent, but with practice musicians can sing and also play a variety of instruments. Each genre of music can be further classified into various categories depending on the influence, culture and origin. Blues, for example, has many genres the main ones being Jump Blues, Delta Blues and Chicago blues. Classical music can also be classified into Symphonies, Orchestras Choral Music and Chamber Music. A music style differs from a genre with respect to the way a particular message is brought across to the audience. A musical style is not confined to a particular genre, and many musical styles can be amalgamated into a single song. This is where it is critical to remember the build up and follow up. If the build up is good but the follow up does not match it, then the song becomes a cacophony rather than a pleasurable listening experience.

Western Music

There are many theories as to how western music originated. It was used in prayer as well as in the stimulation of manual labor. Some ancient musical instruments were found in Mesopotamia, but it was in the southern part of the Mediterranean where most evidence of western music was found. When the Romans invaded Greece, they adopted their traditions and way of life, including musical styles. In those days, music was subdivided into two main schools - The School of Dionysus and The School of Apollo. One genre was mainly romance and the other genre was made for public listening pleasure. Many philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates also believed that music had a karmic aspect and proclaimed that the music made would have a direct effect on the Greeks’ entry into heaven. Music was also focused on education and physical training in which many playwrights wrote poetry and songs relating to physical duress and enlightenment. Romans made a local dialect of Greek forms of music and stressed on the listening pleasure rather than the ethical factor. They modified the notes to their liking and made music according to musical style rather than giving importance to the length of the song. The Renaissance Period or the Tonal Era marked the beginning of modern western classical music. Initially the Baroque style was considered a demeaning style of music, literally translating into “strange music”. However it evolved into a sophisticated style very different from the Ancient Greeks and Romans. It combined technique and musical composition. This in turn gave rise to two main genres of classical music – Stile Antico, which was common to sixteenth century music, conforming to traditional music of that time and Stile Moderno, which was more exaggerated and originated from Italy.

Classical Music

The Renaissance Period marked the advent of what is modern classical music today. It was Dufay who began to compose religious songs sung in churches. In the 1500s classical music was more of poetry and was done in an acapella fashion often with no musical backing. It was highly emotional and intense. Luca Marenzio is one of the more renowned composers of this style. In this period, music was either classified as vocal music or dance music. Praetorious invented the ‘Volte’ names after the Greek musical style. However there was no indication of whether any musical instrument was used or not. The late 18th century was known as the Classical Period and was the transition between Baroque music and Opera Music. This was also when the concept of symphonies was formed, in which multiple instruments would play in a specific musical pattern, often with a conductor. Opera music was initially composed to relive the great dramas written by the Greeks. It is a combination of music and words in which the lines are generally sung in varying tones. Operas are also further divided into categories, ranging from Comic and Serious operas to Opera Semiseria (those which have a serious story and happy ending) and Opera Verismo (Operas based on common people). A symphony is played by an orchestra, which can have up to a hundred musicians and various types of instruments. It is generally long and drawn out spanning a number of minutes. Chamber and Choral music have a smaller number of performers, in which the music is written for occasions such as commemorations and memorials. An extension of this is the Gregorian chant, mostly sung in churches.

Eastern and Middle Eastern Music

Eastern music is the broad term used for music which originated in the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East. Indian classical music was formed in the ancient times, when scholars formed it out of the Vedas. Indian music is a big part of Indian culture and can be divided into North Indian, South Indian and East Indian music. There are various scales in Indian classical music. Sangeet is considered as the amalgamation of vocals, instrument and dance music- Rag and Tal are two important aspects of classical music. Rag is the melody and Tal is the rhythm to which the Rag is made. Gharanas are classical tunes and are a prominent part of Indian Music. Carnatic music is South Indian Classical music, known to originate from the Hindustani School. There are seven scales of Indian music, ranging from Sa to Pa which is similar to the Do Re Mi or Western Classical music. Some popular Indian instruments are the Harmonium, Sitar, Flute and Santoor. Ghazals and Shayaris are forms of Pakistani classical music. They can be written in the form of verse or couplets and songs about Arabic literature. Bollywood, or Indian film music, has some roots in the classical forms but mostly has a fast beat and is more elaborate, involving song and dance. Fusion music originated in the United States in 1955 and came to India where classical twists were put on music with various instruments and beats. In this form, there are no vocals and the music is similar to lounge music. Middle Eastern music was considered spiritual music as it sung about the tenets of Islam. Since religion was a huge factor in Sufi music, it was frowned upon. Most music in the Middle East is confined to singing chapters from the Quran, and teaching people about religion. Folk music bands comprised of one vocalist backed up by a band, had a slow rhythm and songs which were based on every day life. In the modern world, there are many forms of Middle Eastern music which are used for belly dancing. The Muwashaha form and the Egyptian Ballad are two such examples. A variation of these is the Saidi. The Middle Eastern counterpart of Bollywood music is the Debke, which is also popular belly dancing music.

Oriental Music

Music which was made in the Far East is Oriental music. Chinese music dates back to as far as 1122 BC in the Zhou dynasty. The Confucian system relied on yayue, or the virtue of the individual on which ancient music was based. The first documents of Ancient Chinese music were recorded in the Tang dynasty. Chinese classical music is defined by the term ‘Guoyue’ and is an umbrella definition for modern Chinese Classical music. Popular Chinese instruments are the dizi, sanxian, sheng, erhou and zhonghu. Chinese classical music is sung in a falsetto voice by a single person. Chinese opera can be classified into many categories some of which are Clapper Opera, Pingu Opera and Puppet opera.

Japanese music is either Buddhist chanting, or Gagaku, which is orchestra music, that has been performed since the ancient times. Korean music is the more elaborate form of Oriental music in which dance accompanies the tunes. Korean music is also sub-classified into many categories, each with a distinct style and character. Dongbu music is a re-enactment of ancient Korean texts and is mostly played on the traditional instruments. Pansori music is a type of percussion music with a two man band- one singer and one drummer. Pungmul and Sanjo music are more contemporary forms of Korean music with faster beats.

Contemporary Music

Over the years, there have been a number of famous musicians who have displayed their talent across many genres. Rock music originated from rhythm and blues, country and rockabilly. Although one cannot pinpoint the exact date when rock originated, it is easy to say that by the 1950s it was a regular part of Western culture. It was initially dance music with a fast beat to it. This is also when Classic Rock was born. Some famous rock musicians are Freddie Mercury from Queen, DefLeppard, Aerosmith and the Eagles. In the latter half of the 19th century, metal and death metal came into existence. Heavy metal music is an ancillary branch of classic rock. It is not the same as classic rock and is far noisier. Metal music depends on guitar solos and deep vocals. It is an exaggerated form of rock. People who listened to such music were dubbed as metalheads. Some popular metal bands are Led Zeppelin, System of a Down and Metallica. In the United States, along with rhythm and blues and country music, Jazz was born. Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and BB King are some of the most famous names in the Jazz world. The roots of jazz lie in inspiration and then forming a tune around it. It revolves around life experiences. Another popular contemporary form of music is rap, hip hop and rhythm and blues. Closely related to one another, many hip hop songs may have rap, and rap songs may infuse a bit of rhythm and blues. Originating in the late 1960s, these genres also have origins in Jamaican reggae music. The different types of hip hop can include political hip hop in which the artists focuses on the political situation of a certain region. Christian Hip Hop, Inspirational Hip Hop and Comedy hip hop are some of the most listened-to music in this genre.


Music is a diverse topic and it is impossible to unearth all information about it. Over the ages, it has been divided and sub-divided according to taste, composition, vocals, lyrics and experience. People mostly condition themselves to liking certain genres of music and might be averse to exploring newer styles of it. Studies show that listening to music has many advantages. Not only does music improve one’s verbal IQ, but a recent experiment also showed that younger children, who participated in musical training like rhythm and pitch, were able to communicate better than those who did not. In older people, music keeps the brain alive and alert, and to some extent, also cures people who have suffered minor brain injuries. From the psychological perspective, music is said to release endorphins into the system and make a person more affable. It also reduces the risk of heart diseases and high blood pressure. It reduces depression and also improves sleep quality. With the advent of technology, finding new music and listening to different types of music has become much easier. One can simply download a song off the internet through softwares like Limewire, Spotify and Vidtomp3. Sharing music through Soundcloud and Facebook is easier and gives one the option to take music from friends. One can discover that a genre they did not like before might just appeal to them. Radio and crowd sourced music like Twitter Music is another way where people find songs they may like. Billboard charts are formed when there is a popular demand for a certain genre of music or song. It is common to think that if many people like the same type of music, you will too. This may not necessarily be true and that is why people browse sites like Youtube and happen upon songs. Along with the health benefits, music was, and always will be a popular form of entertainment for the years to come.


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