Dialectic of Pop, 169–186


IV. Globalised Local Colour


The unresolved dialectic between roots and uprooting affects all popular music, which, for better or worse, is tied to a certain idea (albeit a critical one) of authenticity. But we find perhaps the most extreme tension in what, from the 1960s, became known as ‘world music’.

The term ‘world music’ was initially used in relation to the traditional music, whether classical, serious, or popular, of peoples, communities, or ethnic groups, generally but not exclusively those of non-Western countries. This ‘world’ category of popular recorded music brought together music seen as rooted in and bound to specific territories, territories conceived as islands of cultures as yet untouched by the global culture issuing from Western domination. But from the 1980s on, ‘world’ no longer designated not only the specific music of preserved local traditions, but music that emerged from the mixing of mainstream global pop music with these musics prized for their specificity. From one signification to the other, the meaning of the word ‘world’ altered, now seeming to invoke contradictory principles: resistance to globalization on one hand, a globalised aesthetic on the other, specificity on one hand, mainstream universality on the other. Quite a paradox: it is under the totalizing label ‘world’ that both ethnomusicology and the music industry have placed that music supposed to resist the effects of a dominant globalization—as if it were enough to invoke the ‘rest of the world’ in order to give due recognition to everything is not the West…