Document Type

Journal Article


Music has been neglected in geography, yet the rise of 'world music' exemplifies the multiple ways in which places are constructed, commodified and contested. Music from distant and 'exotic' places has long entered the western canon, yet the pace of diffusion to the west accelerated with the rise of reggae and the marketing of Paul Simon's Graceland (1986), which pointed to the modification and transformation of distant, 'other' musics for western tastes and markets. Fusion and hybridity in musical styles emphasized both the impossibility of tracing authenticity in musical styles and the simultaneous exoticism and accessibility of distant musics. 'Strategic inauthenticity', romanticization and the fetishization of marginality were central to the search for and marketing of purity and novelty: simplistic celebrations of geographical diversity and remoteness. The formal arrival of world music in 1987 was as a marketing category with commerce and culture entangled and inseparable, in a form of appropriation for western, cosmopolitan audiences. Yet, for musicians, world music was an expressive project, which created identities that fused the local and global, traditional and modern. For some, international success required artistic compromise, essentialized identities and the resources of transnational companies. Others simply resisted categorization. The expansion of world music exemplifies the deterritorialization of cultures and emphasizes how the rise of a particular cultural commodity (world music) is primarily a commercial phenomenon, but could not have occurred without the construction and contestation of discourses of place and otherness.