Music and Language

Find resources for World Music from a variety of countries and cultures here. Other fans of World Music are waiting to chat right now.

World Music encompasses a lot of styles from a lot of different countries. As a result, World Music also includes a lot of different lyrics in different languages. Many of these languages are only spoken in those particular countries -- African dialects; French in France and Quebec; German; Hebrew; Spanish in Latin America and Spain . . . the list goes on.

This linguistic diversity can be one of the most appealing aspects of World Music. Songs become windows into the particular culture of the artist in every way from instruments to language. In some cases, music becomes a way in which a person learns another language. When I was a student, I found a good way to remember almost anything was to put it to a backbeat. I'm not alone -- I once met someone who memorized the entire Periodic Table of the Elements by setting it to a tune.

How does this apply to music and language? If someone studying French and was struggling, then all of a sudden discovered a French-language artist with an intriguing sound, all of a sudden conjugating those verbs would become a whole lot more interesting.

But simply the act of listening to music in a particular language is not enough to cause one to become fluent. The only way to master a language is to live for a while amongst native speakers. I learned French not only because I was totally captivated by Paul Piché and Francis Cabrel, but because I immersed myself in French culture by reading French books and magazines and writing e-mail messages in French to my friends in Montreal.

As a World Music afficianado, however, I listen to much more than French music. It's unrealistic to expect that I will learn every language in which I hear someone sing any more than I will learn how to play every musical instrument used to create the music. It raises lots of questions from others, with one in particular: Why listen to songs with lyrics you don't understand?

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