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Why is the term "World Music" controversial?

Feb 20, 2023
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The term "World Music" has been the subject of controversy and criticism, particularly in academic and music industry circles.

One major critique of the term is that it is too broad and vague, and can be seen as a label that exoticizes and homogenizes non-Western music. Some argue that "World Music" creates a false binary between "Western" and "non-Western" music, and that the term reinforces stereotypes about certain cultures and musical styles.

In addition, some critics argue that the use of "World Music" as a category is primarily a marketing tool used by the music industry to sell music from other cultures to a Western audience. This has led some to argue that the term perpetuates unequal power relations and economic exploitation within the global music industry.

As a result of these critiques, some music scholars and organizations have moved away from using the term "World Music" and instead use more specific descriptors to refer to different musical styles and traditions from around the world.

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What other terms can be used to define world music?
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Instead of using the broad term "World Music," more specific and culturally sensitive terms can be used to describe music from different regions of the world. Some alternative terms include:

- Global Music: This term is often used as a more neutral alternative to "World Music" and can encompass music from a variety of cultures and regions.

- Ethnomusicology: This term refers to the study of music in its cultural context, and can be used to describe music from non-Western cultures.

Traditional Music: This term is used to describe music that is passed down through generations within a specific cultural or ethnic group.

- Folk Music: This term generally refers to the music of a particular region or ethnic group that has been passed down through generations, and is often associated with rural or agrarian cultures.

- Regional Music: This term can be used to describe music from a specific geographic region, such as Latin American music, African music, or Asian music.

- Indigenous Music: This term can be used to describe music created by and for Indigenous communities around the world, often rooted in traditional practices and cultural beliefs.

It is important to note that the most appropriate term to use will depend on the specific cultural and musical context, and it is always best to use language that is respectful and culturally sensitive.