Thursday, April 27, 2006

Starting an International Music Collection

There are people who lift their eyebrows when I say I like to listen to international music. They probably have visions of "jungle music" or Gregorian chanting. They just don't seem to "get" that listening to many different music styles helps the world seem a little bit smaller. It's a strange concept to them that I'm not a "typical" person who listens to more "normal" music such as rock 'n roll, pop, country, etc. There are countless advantages to having a collection of music from around the globe; for those of us who love the idea of hopping on a cruise ship and seeing the ancient wonders of the world, it brings us a little bit closer to the cultures we love to study.

I didn't actually formally "start" an international music collection; it just happened. A Latino CD here, an Arabic CD there, and so on. Whatever looked good, I bought. As time went on, though, I realized it was indeed becoming a collection, and I decided to make it my goal to have music from every major language of the world. I've found that organizing my CDs into separate genres helps to organize the CDs. I try to keep the Celtic music in one place, the Middle Eastern music in another place, etc.

Before buying an international CD, here is a helpful tip to keep in mind as you shop: If you know someone who can translate the music in question, go for it. After all, if you're buying for kids or teenagers who enjoy the ethnic groove, you really have no way to know if there are "dirty" words if you can't comprehend the language. If kids go and look up what the songs mean on their own, there could be some trouble.

Another tip is that if you're buying online, it's a good idea to go to a site such as or and listen to clips of the music. My own personal philosophy is, if I like at least three song clips I play, I'll probably buy the CD. If I don't like even two, or don't like the sound of the person's voice, it's a no-sell. You can tell if you will like most CDs by listening to the person's voice; if it's too high, nasal, difficult to understand or screechy, there's a very good chance you won't like the rest of the CD either.

There is so much available these days in the genre of international music. You can either buy folk music or contemporary music. In Germany, for instance, the "folk" music will be the polkas, waltzes and folksy tubas that you usually imagine when thinking of German music. Contemporary, however, will be a German person singing in German, but the songs will have a modern pop, rock, gospel or easy listening sound. If you're into religious music, there are also two kinds in that sub-genre. This is where those Latin chants would be. Many Latino and other ethnic groups have contemporary worship CDs; songs popular in this day and age, but sung in their own language.

It is a wonderful experience to have music from every corner of the globe. Try inviting some friends over; you never know when a song might touch someone and make them want to start their very own collection. Don't make the mistake of thinking international music is "extra expensive" and hard to find. Many CDs aren't priced any higher than English language tracks, and there are lots of places on the wonderful "World Wide Web" that sell such items. Watch the shipping; if it's coming directly from another country, shipping is bound to be high, and it might be difficult to convert U.S. dollars. You'll probably want to order from an American company that has imported the CDs previously.

Some of my favorite ethnic CDs have been found "by chance," and come from a variety of countries. Among favorites are "Youm Wara Youm," a fast-paced Arabic CD by Samira Said; "The Farthest Wave," hauntingly beautiful Celtic tracks from Cathie Ryan; and "Tercera Dimension," a modern Latino pop CD by an artist known as Julio. There really are very few countries that you can't find music from. One of my tapes is actually from a group in Iceland! The possibilities for your own collection are as big as . . . the world!

By Lacie R. Schaeffer