10 International Artists That Every Music Lover Should Know
While it is fairly simple for a music fan to name off popular Western music stars, it is less common to hear names of international artists like Mulatu Astatke or Red Baraat. While these international artists lack the world-wide acclaim of pop stars, they certainly don’t lack musical talent. Whether it is a gorgeous tenor voice or guitar-driven regional hymns, these 10 international artists are amazing musicians that every music lover should know.
Formed in 1979, this Algerian band has been making music for quite some time yet did not receive attention outside of their home-region until the early 2000s thanks to a number of successful releases and performances. Tinariwen’s music is primarily guitar-focused, with some calling it a mixture between Blues and their regional hymns.
Fun Fact: Tinariwen recently won a Grammy in 2012 for Best World Music album and are currently in the process of planning an album/tour.
After spending some time in the United States in the 60s, Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astake became extremely interested in jazz, particularly that which contained Latin influences. Yet rather than joining a Latin Jazz band, Astatke was inspired to move in his own direction by creating his own genre of music: Ethio-jazz. Similar to Latin Jazz, Ethio-jazz incorporates a mixture between traditional jazz and Latin instrumentation, yet Astatke also added Ethiopian drums, the conga and bongo, both of which became staples of the Ethio-jazz sound. Mulatu Astatke is still creating music and in 2012 was the recipient of an honorary doctor of music degree from Berklee College of Music.
The Spanish singer Buika, who’s also known as Concha Buika, began her music career in Spain playing the bass and drums. Although she would eventually become a sensational recording artist, Buika first made a name for herself by singing at late-night Spanish nightclubs. Yet in 2000, Buika was able to release her first album, Mestizuo, which drew comparisons to Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.
Drawing heavy inspirations from North Indian Bhangra, jazz and rock and roll, Red Baraat has a particularly unique acoustic sound. Noted by NPR as, “the best party band in years,” Red Baraat have truly made a name for themselves with their thrilling and intriguing live performances. As of late, Red Baraat have been touring and recently released an EP in 2016 called Livewire.
La Santa Cecilia
With influences ranging from Led Zeppelin to Mariachi, it may come to no surprise that the Mexican-American band La Santa Cecilia is a cultural blend of a number of musical styles. While blending styles may be difficult for most bands, La Santa Cecilia clearly has no trouble with this feat as they recently won a Grammy in 2014 for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album. At the moment, La Santa Cecilia is on tour backing their recent 2016 release Buenaventura.
The Malaysian artist known as Yuna started her singing career in 2006 while attending law school. Soon after her first performance, Yuna released her music on Myspace which led to her eventually being signed by Fader. Although an international artist, Yuna has received support from Western audiences and artists alike, especially after recording the song “Live Your Life” with legendary producer Pharrell Williams.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
The Mexican guitar combination of Rodrigo y Gabriela may not be known by name, but their music is no stranger to Western audiences. In fact, as of 2016, Rodrigo y Gabriela have collaborated on a number of major motion pictures, such as Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean, and even performed for President Barack Obama in 2010.
For those looking for calming acoustic music, Rodrigo y Gabriela would be the perfect fit so check out the song “Tamacun,” which can be found on YouTube or Spotify.
Starting his first band at the age of 14, the Algerian performer Khaled didn’t take long to discover his talent and passion for music. Eventually, Khaled left the band and switched his focus to more solo material. Although not as well known in America, a number of Khaled’s music has found favor with European and Middle Eastern audiences, with his 1996 album Sahra almost reaching the #1 spot in the French charts (it peaked at #3).
One of the more modern bands of this list, Alphabeat is a Danish pop band that started achieving acclaim with their 2007 hit “Fascination.” Their sound has been described by many as “wonky pop” as it features an interesting mix of pop music with alternative or “wonky” influences. As of late, the band has not been as active due to band members focusing on solo or other projects.
The Belgian artist Stromae is an eclectic mix of musician, singer, rapper and songwriter who found much of his success within the European electronic and hip hop communities. His most commercial album to date is titled Racine Carree, which sold over 2 million records in France alone.
Although these artists release most of their material records via international labels, you can still find their material online via YouTube or online streaming services such as Spotify. As music educators, it will be important to provide your students with a wide array of music to expand their curiosity and understanding of music and culture, so don’t be shy from exploring the international artists mentioned above and maybe even incorporating some of their songs into your lesson plans!
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