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Photo copyright (c) 1999 Keith BramichSite seeing
Stars of World Music

with Daniel Rowe



'World Music' seems to be the most popular current term for ethnic or multi-cultural music outside of Western Europe and North America. I'm sure it occurs to all such a term is relative ( as well as nebulous ). To a didgeridoo player in Australia's outback, bluegrass music of the American South must be quite exotic. And just as 'ethnic'. However, for the purposes of this article, we will use some non-Western examples of 'World Music'.


Zakir Hussain

Zakir Hussain, tabla player, is possibly the most famous Indian musician, after Ravi Shankar. He is the son of Alla Rakha, Ravi Shankar's longtime tabla accompanist. Strictly raised in the Hindustani ( or North Indian ) music tradition, Hussain was one of the first Indian virtuosos to embrace other traditions, beginning with the Carnatic music of the South. 'Shakti', a mid-1970s group that included jazz-rock guitarist John McLaughlin and violinist L. Shankar, is a wonderful example of that spirit of exploration. At age 48, Hussain is certainly the most prolific and in-demand tabla player on the scene, and an acknowledged master of rhythm.

A great link:



Fairuz ( or Fairouz, also Fayrouz ) is a much beloved singer from Lebanon. A great musical hero throughout the Arab world, despite the fact that she is a proud member of the Greek Orthodox church. After a 40 year career, she is mostly retired from live performances, but recently made a rare appearance in Las Vegas. For her show there, the MGM Grand invested around $1.5 million, paying her fee and advertising expenses and flying in her 48-member entourage. The 34 musicians included ten backup singers, nine violins and an Arab instrument section composed of a zither, a tambourine, an oud, a hand-held drum and a nye ( a reed flute ). Not your everyday Vegas act! ( many RealAudio files of her music )


Ali Akbar Khan

Ali Akbar Khan is acknowledged as being the greatest living sarod player. ( The sarod is a North Indian lute. ) He is the son of Padma-Vibhusan Acharya Allauddin Khan, who also taught Ravi Shankar. The two friends have done many concerts together. Generous in sharing his knowledge with the West, Khan opened the 'Ali Akbar College of Music' in San Rafael, CA, in 1967 where he is still active today as a teacher. ( Khan has also been doing concerts with Zakir Hussain; one is coming up this month in San Francisco. A good biography of him:


The Master Musicians of Jajouka

'The Master Musicians of Jajouka', from the Rif mountains of Morocco, have been called 'the only band in the world with more than 4000 years of history.' That is, their style is wholly unique, and allegedly unchanged through the centuries. Currently led by Bachir Attar, the ensemble features the ghaite, an oboe-like instrument; the gimbri, a four-stringed lute covered with goat skin; the lira, a wooden flute; and the tarija, a sort of percussion. Once heard, never forgotten. The original 'rave' music?


Tuvan Throat Singers

Picture someone singing a low, droning sound while simultaneously, someone whistles a melody. Now, imagine it all being done by one person, live, using amazing control of harmonic overtones. This is an actual traditional singing style from Tuva, a small country near Mongolia. Their most famous vocalist is Kongar-ol Ondar. ( A good link to the Tuvan scene- )

There is also a fine documentary, 'Genghis Blues', dealing with Tuvans, and a blind American blues singer who masters their unusual vocal style. (

Copyright © Daniel Rowe, November 30th 1999



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