The universal language?

Discovering the music of a foreign country can be one of the most fascinating and rewarding experiences that a music lover can have. Ethnic music, it is generally acknowledged, is an open window to any culture's idiosyncrasies and it's people's lives, and is the purest expression of that country's soul. In addition, there is a very interesting link between the sound and rhythm of a language and the music of that country. Would any of you fellow Audiogoners like to share any experience(s) you have had, positive or negative, with the music of a foreign country; or of your own native country? These can be through recordings (please recommend) or live performances you attended in or outside of that country. I look forward to your responses.
Frogman: Ethnic traditional folk and modern music has always been an exciting and enjoyable listen for me. Bella Ciao music has been my latest phase with my favorite being "Chansons du peuple en Italie" on HMA label. My wife has been listening to Klezmer jazz which is the only jazz that she cares for. "Brave old World" on Flying Fish label and "New Orleans Klezmer All Stars", Stretchy Records are her favorites. For modern Basque music there is "Kepa Junkera, Bibao" a two CD set on Alula records. Traditional Tango is also something that moves me (cannot locate my discs off hand) but recall that one is entiltled "Forever Tango". Gospel and choral music can also have a local twist to it and I listen to Tiny Powell (recordings from the 40's and 50's), A Haitian choir (can't locate the disc right now) and just picked up a CD by "Sisters of Freedom" the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble" that is a recent release but has the feel of early Aretha instead of sounding like techno disco or later R&B, more traditional I guess. Another CD that I just picked up is of folk songs from Soviet Georgia (I live in a small Russian community and will look for more of this music in the thrifts from now on). We picked up the Basque CD when my wife was reading "The History of the Basque".
Dekay, the Basque recording intrigues me, I'll try to find it. For tango, try Astor Piazzola's music; very passionate stuff. There has been quite a lot of interest in his music as of late by well known artists; Gidon Kremer is high on the list. A good starting point is "Zero Hour" recorded with his own group. More sophisticated than much traditional tango, but every bit as sexy. Enjoy.
Frogman: Thanks for the leads. is listed on the Basque CD liner. DanVet (Charlie) has also listened to the CD and might be able to give another view of how good it is. We love it, but not all of our friends do. When I first got interested in Tango I was looking for something like the background music used on "The Adams Family" television show, but discovered with my first purchase of a used CD that it goes well beyond that. It was kind of like listening to the BV Social Club for the first time and as you have mentioned above it reflects a way of life as well as the history of a people.
Man! I love that Kepa Junkera disc set. That accordian really pops, and many of the cuts are meshed well with a more modern feel, so you get a bit of it all. (One of the discs has various guests on differing cuts and makes for a great combo.) The comment is correct that not everyone likes it, but my kids have no choice if my truck is going fast enough. Thanks Dekay for the lead. It is 88 degrees here today, and I am ready for a few months of sweaty latin beat and cold beer. Juan-Carlos Formell's "Songs From a Little Blue House" is excellent Cuban music. If you like BVSC, you must have it. Charlie.
Good potential for this thread Frogman. I've enjoyed expanding my musical horizons via the music of other cultures for many years now. In particular, Indian classical music has become a favorite. Several years ago, I got a chance to see phenomenal musician live, Budhaditya Mukherjee (sitar). He and his tabla player, Subhen Chatterjee, were on fire that night-absolutely incendiary. Probably the the best concert I've ever attended. The sarod (indian lute) is a wonderful instrument and Ali Akbar Khan is an excellent ambassador for it. He's got a large discography and I've never bought a bad one. A good introduction is "Garden of Dreams" on the Worldly Music label. It's not true classical, but rather, Akbar's own shorter compositions. My favorite musician from India is Buddhadev Das Gupta, an elderly sarodist that absolutely is beyond belief. His playing traverses the gamut from extreme delicacy to frenetic and muscular. His rapid fire improvisatory talents leave me awestruck at his licks. Another great uknown talent is the Japanese composer Minoru Miki (Camerata label.) His music was the delicate background music NBC used during some of the Nagano Olmypics broadcasts. "Selected works, volume 1 & 2," are great intros to this excellent music that combines Japanese and western classical musical traditions. Lastly, Javanese gamelan orchestral music is an interesting genre if you like percussion music. The Seven Seas label (Japan) has many excellent performances in this and many other Asian genres. An excellent catalog for the intrepid musical traveller.
This thread makes me think back to my college days at Wesleyan University, which had (and still has, I hope) a _great_ world music program. If I remember correctly, Wesleyan had the second Javanese gamelan orchestra in the U.S. (with Berkeley having the first). The all night (literally) wayang kulit’s (shadow puppet theater, with one puppeteer performing the whole way, backed by gamelan) that were held once or twice a year were awe-inspiring. There was a terrific complement of Indian musicians, with the chief instruments represented being sitar and tabla from the North and vina and mrdangam from the South. Unfortunately, the only musician’s name I can remember is the violinist L. Shankar, who has since recorded with many Western artists. During Ramadan, you could go to two or three Indian concerts a week (all free and held in very intimate spaces). There was lots more going on, including Jeanie Redpath and her traditional Scottish music and Doogie Mitchell, a leading exponent of American Indian music who unfortunately died young. For my own part, I took lessons in shakuhachi (Japanese vertical bamboo flute) for four years. I continued only for a few years after I graduated, but the memories of the weekly time I spent sitting a few feet in front of four of the six then-living descendants of the original lineage listening to them show me how that powerful and haunting instrument was supposed to be played are irreplaceable. Then there were the ancillary experiences, like helping one of the masters get acquainted with some methods of mood enhancement that were prevalent on American campuses at the time but not acceptable in Japan... but, hey, I’m out of time. I can barely remember what I majored in at college, but the music... man!
If your a fan of the blues, there is a facinating correlation between the blues of the United States and the music of West Africa, particularly of Mali. The evolution is obvious and not hard to trace from West Africa to the Carribean, to the South Lands where Blues evolved. What is amazing is how so much has remained the same. You can hear the similiarities between the guitar licks of Taj Mahal and the plucking of the Kora by Toumani Diabite. In fact, there is a great recording of the two of them playing together called Kulanjan. Also, the great Ali Farka Toure of Mali did a wonderful collaboration with Ry Cooder called Talking Timbuktu. Other Mali greats that you should check out are Salif Keita (his album the Mansa of Mali is wonderful) and the newest star in the pantheon of Mali greats, Habib Koite, whose recordings can be had on the Putumayo label.
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali from 95-99...that's how come I know about these guys.
Glad to see such honest interest in the wonderful music of other nations. There is so much to appreciate and learn; I am mystified by the fact that many music lovers don't tap these resources more often. Tracing the evolution of more familiar music, as Issabre points out, can be fascinating. By the way Issabre, I first heard the music of Saleif Kaita in 1985 when my sister moved to Africa to work for the UN and insisted that I check his music out; I was knocked out. His recording "Soro" is one of my favorites; I'd be curious of your take on this record. It is so easy to dismiss the sounds and tonalities of some ethnic music as strange or even too "primitive" because our ears, used to the tonalities and rhythms of Western culture-rooted music don't know quite what to do with them; and unfortunately many of us don't give them enough of a chance. Jayboard, I am reminded of the first time I heard traditional Japanese folk music; I just couldn't get it. But it was after having had the opportunity to familiarize myself with that culture that the door began to open, and I began to understand how soulful some of that music can actually be. Soulful was not an adjective that I ever would have used to describe that music previously; man was I wrong. I realize that not everyone will have the opportunity to travel to Japan (or other countries) several times, as I have had; but this brings up another interesting (to me) experience. I find that the experience of learning to appreciate the music of another country is enhanced by exposing oneself to other aspects of that culture; the language, visual arts, and most fun to me, the food. They are all interrelated on certain levels. Regards to all and keep the recommendations coming.
Very nice suggestions to the ever expanding music wish list!!!!
Frogman may I suggest Madredeus from Portugal, for starters Os Dias da MAdredeus is a great CD for me, by the way Teresa Salgueiro sings very nice... they say it's Fado type music but this one in spite of labelling it I put close to my heart!!!
Have other suggestions like Strunz and Farah Primal Magic, it is also one of my reference CD´s for testing my system with Brazilian´s Leila Pinheiro Na Ponta do Lingua
Let's keep the suggestions exchange
Very well, i got my list too: 'Krusevo' Vlatko Stefanovski on MA recordings (Yugoslavia) 5 STAR sound&performance! 'The Guitarist' John Williams (SONY)prforming the works of Mikis Theodorakis (Greece) Carlo Domeniconi (Asia Minor influence) 5 Star performance 3 sound. 'Huun-Huur-Tu' old songs and tunes of Tuva ( was out of print on, but you still may find it on E-bay) Jamshied Sharifi (Iran) 'A prayer of Soul of Layla" Alula records offers some of the greatest sounding titles of the World music CD's!