The genre of world music is insanely hard to put boundaries on. As a term, “world music” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “popular music originating from or influenced by non-Western musical traditions and often having a danceable rhythm —usually hyphenated when used attributively.” If music were to be categorized according to that definition, then a lot more artists and songs belong in the genre of world music. The genre was created over a quarter of a century ago in 1987 to create a place where the public could look for diverse products that were rising to commercial success. Although the term was coined in the early 1960s, the term became an official genre in 1987. Before the creation of the genre, artists of different countries were bounded to their origins, and opportunities to expand were rare. This new marketing tool marked success at the beginning, but today world music as a genre seems to be exclusive. It seems contradictory to its original purposes as many artists see limited success in the genre. World music as a genre seems outdated, a category that doesn’t match its dictionary definition and is counterproductive to its artists.
Ravi Shankar is the godfather of world music. Shankar popularized Indian classical music in the United States and unintentionally brought world music into the light before the term even became a genre. He was and still is the symbol of world music. His performances at the Monterey Pop Festival and collaborations with George Harrison were historic. His sounds represented traditional Indian culture and were the best symbols of foreign culture. Over the course of 40 years since Shankar’s prime, cultures have changed but world music seemed to have stayed the same. K-Pop is arguably the defining genre of modern Korean culture, yet it is not under the tag of world music. K-Pop culture is very foreign. The fandom for K-Pop vary from group to group, and many call themselves clubs. Each “club” has a different name and is fanatical about its respective artist. Fandoms are so common that websites like AllKPop have rankings for individual “clubs.” K-Pop is also different from western popular culture when it comes to individuality. All artists in K-Pop are almost carbon copies of each other from the rigorous systematic training process. Individuality, a trait that is hunted for in Western culture, is completely erased in K-Pop. The fact that the music industry is government-subsidized is even weird to us. In a paper, Gil-Soo Han mentioned the nouveau-riche racism among Koreans and its “jealousy and hatred against past colonial countries around Japan, China, and the USA.” K-Pop nationalism and its lack of acceptance is something that is frowned upon especially in the US. Almost everything about K-Pop is foreign, yet it is not a part of world music.
In Roshanak Kheshti’s paper, she stated the genre as exploitative and counterproductive. World music has a lot of cultural variation, and most of its western listeners will not understand the language used by the artists. Kheshti stated that this could be problematic, as psychical and structural limits are put on how we can perceive these performers or the affective and imaginary roles they have been cast to play. The genre pigeonholes its artists and although unintentionally, still limits the success of its artists. Artists like “Spoek Mathambo” and “M.anifest” are stuck in the genre because of their African origins when they really belong in hip hop, a much larger category. World music is an outdated genre that needs change, otherwise it will continue to hold back the potential of its members.