I've been wanting to do this MyTake for a while, but never got around to it. I had originally intended to post 5 songs for each country, but the way GAG is set up, it will only allow me to post 15 videos per MyTake. So I had no choice but to post one song per country. But hopefully this list will inspire you to research the music of these countries further.
That being said, here are the Top 15 countries, which I think have the best music. I've based my list on variety of genres, quality of the music and international popularity, though it is mostly based off rock and folk music, as that is what I am most familiar with.
Now, I have not listened to music from every country on earth, so if you think there is one I should've included, disagree with the ranking, or think this MyTake is somehow racist, let me know in the comments section.
Latin American has no shortage of good music, but Brazilian music has only recently hit the international mainstream, with the success of artists like Don Omar and Gustavo Lima, thanks largely in part to their involvement with the Fast and Furious franchise, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Brazilian metal band, Sepultura is the only other band to achieve success outside of the country. Other Brazilian artists, like Emanuel also produce good music, but have not achieved much fame outside of the Portuguese speaking countries. In addition, to great contemporary music, Brazil also brought us some great traditional music such as Bossa Nova and the world famous samba, as well as many genres that have been influenced by traditional African music. Brazilian music is truly diverse. If you ever end up traveling to Rio, I promise you will have no shortage of good music to dance to.
14. Puerto Rico
I'm gonna be honest, I'm not a huge fan of contemporary music, especially if that music is pop, but Puerto Rico is one island that got it right. We have Ricky Martin to thank for that. He was the first artist to take a risk, and produce what we today know as Latin Pop, which combines traditional Latin horn lines, with contemporary pop vocals. This paved the way for many artists after him. It was the success "La Vida Loca", that brought Latin pop into the mainstream music scene, and other Puerto Rican artists like Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, as well other Latin artists like Shakira and Gloria Estefan, began copying Ricky's style. This lead to a sort of renascence of the Latin sound, and today Latin pop is enjoyed world wide. Although Latin America has no shortage of excellent music, Puerto Rican music is some of the finest. Even though I am a rock guy at heart, I am not ashamed to say that I love Ricky's music. If Ricky Martin doesn't make you get up and dance, there's something wrong with you.
Mexico is most famous for its mariachi music (which I personally can't stand.) Okay, El Cascabel is pretty sweet! Luckily, some Mexican at some point also thought, "Enough of this shit!" and decided to create something new, rescuing the country's music culture. Mexico's music is now some of the finest in Latin America, and makes you want to get up and dance. One genre that's distinctly Mexican is tribal music, which is basically electronic pop. The most famous tribal band in the country is 3Ball MTY. But there are many other great genres to, including Mexican pop, and my personal favorite, Mexican cumbia. The country also has a small rock scene, but traditional folk music still reigns supreme. A lot of Mexican music includes some elements of traditional music, creating quite an interesting sound. Thanks to the large Mexican community in the U.S., Mexican music has become the most popular genre of foreign music in the U.S., and even has it's own radio stations devoted to it. Like most of the music on this list, Mexican music is something I only recently acquired a taste for, and it turns out you don't have to be Mexican to enjoy their music.
Peruvian music is probably some of the most underrated in the world. Although most people have probably heard it in a travel show at some point, and might've heard Simon and Garfunkel's cover of "El Condor Paso", not many people appreciate just how great Peruvian music really is. In fact, I myself only delved deep into Peruvian music, when I was looking for background music for a travel video. And it's pretty obvious what I think of it. When most people think of Peruvian music, they think of Andean flute music, which you will definitely know if you watch South Park. And I will be honest, although Andean music is the main reason Peru makes the list (this stuff rocks), Peruvians have also created excellent music in other genres. The band Alborada has combined rock n roll with Andean folk music, creating one of the most unique genres in the world. They are currently one of the most popular bands in South America. In addition, the country is also home to more Spanish influenced music, more traditional rock, and some successful pop artists. But honestly, the Andean stuff is still the best.
Okay, Ukraine doesn't have much of a thriving music scene. The Polish-Ukrainian folk rock band Enej, was really the first to bring Ukrainian music into the international mainstream. And even THEY aren't very well known outside of Eastern Europe. Although the country has some good folk-pop artists like Natalia May and Taisa Povaliy, they aren't very well known outside of Ukraine. But sometimes, the best stuff is the most obscure. The biggest thing Ukraine has going for it is its wonderful folk music, and sadly even this isn't very well known outside of Ukraine, aside from a few songs that have been translated to Polish and Russian. This is a real shame as Ukrainian folk music is extremely catchy and upbeat, and some of the best in the world. These songs are fairly popular in Ukraine, and have been covered by local rock and pop bands. But when it comes to folk songs, nothing sounds better then the original.
Ireland is one nation where both the folk music and contemporary music are, for lack of a better term, "badass!" It's also one of the few nations where both traditional folk music and contemporary rock n roll have gained global notoriety. In fact, Irish folk music has become so popular that even contemporary bands, like Massachusetts punk band, Dropkick Murphy's, use elements of the genre in their songs. In addition, the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy recorded a cover of a popular Irish folk song. Irish folk performances are also popular in the U.S. Honestly, it's hard for me to say which genre I like better. I LOVE Thin Lizzy and U2, but damn, those Irish sure play a mean fiddle.
Sorry Japan, but your annoying J-Pop just cost you a spot on this list. Actually, I'm not a fan of Asian music in general, but there is ONE Asian nation that deserves a spot on the list. That nation is Taiwan. Okay, it's not "officially" a nation, but that's for another MyTake. I only discovered Taiwanese music last year, while looking for good background music to my travel video, and it's safe to say I found it. My immediate reaction was, "Damn! I wish I'd known about this stuff sooner!" Although there are some good Mandarin artists like rocker Chen Lei, it's the island's indigenous and Hokkien music that really earns it a spot on the list.
Hokkien is a Chinese dialect widely spoken in Taiwan, and when it comes to music, it's a lot easier on the ear then Mandarin. I really don't know how to describe Taiwanese music, as it sounds like no other Asian music I've heard. Even the songs that use traditional instruments have a heavy sound. The same thing can be said about folk songs from the island's many indigenous tribes, which have a reputation for being cheerful and upbeat.
Hell, these guys can even make bamboo mallets sound badass! This probably has a lot to do with the fact that many young people from tribal areas, have been getting into rock n' roll, much to the displeasure of their grandparents. If THAT isn't enough, combine Hokkien vocals with fast pace guitars to form bands like Wu Bai & China Blue, and you've got a nation that produces some pretty kickass music.
As is the case with Taiwan, I was completely unaware of how great Greek music is, until I visited and heard some. I ended up purchasing a CD, and found some more awesome Greek songs online, and the rest is history. There was a two year period where I was completely obsessed with Greek music. These days, I only listen to it occasionally, because hearing it brings back memories which makes me miss the country too much. In fact, I am already slightly tearing up, and I haven't even started talking about the music yet. Although the metal band, Incubus has gained some international fame, and some Greek pop stars have gained success with covers of other European songs, contemporary Greek music isn't all that great.
It is the country's incredible folk music that earns it a spot on this list. If I'm honest, I consider anything with violins, a bouzouki, and Greek vocals to be Greek folk music (I'm talking about Glykeria, who is more of a contemporary folk artist.) The official name for the genre is "Greek Classical Music". The name is a little misleading, as it sounds nothing like Mozart. The most famous Greek composer is Mikis Theodorakis, who composed the country's most popular folk songs, and later got singers, like Maria Farantouri to accompany his orchestras.
A known Communist who was tortured by live burial during the Junta rule, Theodorakis's songs are mainly about political oppression, but also about Greek geography and culture. He also composed the soundtrack for the movie "Zorba: The Greek", which actually ended up becoming the country's most popular folk song, even though it was originally composed specifically for the movie. A popular Greek folk artist is Giannis Parios, who even performed at the opening ceremony for the Athens Olympics. Really, I would need all day to describe in detail how great Greek music is, but I will conclude by saying, it sounds nothing like any folk music I've ever heard. In fact, I will openly say that Greek folk music is the best in the world.
Germany is an interesting one. Most people have heard of Scorpions, and everyone knows Nena's "99 Air Balloons" and Peter Schilling's "Countdown". And bands like Modern Talking, Kraftwerk and Dschinghis Khan were popular in Europe in the 80s. But the first German language band to achieve international success is of course industrial metal band, Rammstein, the biggest band to come out of Germany since Scorpions, and one of the biggest bands in the world right now. They're also the most successful foreign language band in history. In fact, Rammstein put the German music scene on the map, as up until that point, the only popular band from Germany were Scorpions, and to a lesser extent Accept, who both sang in English. Rammstein has created a resurgence of interest in German music, and now forgotten bands like Warlock, who have been credited with the invention of "German Symphonic Metal", as well as new contemporary German bands are starting to come back into the mainstream. Rammstein's success also inspired singer Till Lindemann to record an English language album. And Kraftwerk is still the most popular electronic band in the world. Really, Germany deserves to be on the list, just for inventing so many unusual genres.
Canada is one of the major rock nations, and although it can't compete with the U.S. and the U.K., Canadian rock is still pretty damn good. Currently the biggest rock band in Canada is Nickelback. The band is actually quite hated world-wide, but it's personally one of the few alternative rock bands I actually like. The country's classic rock is also badass, with the most famous artists being Rush, Triumph, the Guess Who, and Bryan Adams, in addition to lesser known bands like April Wine and Saga. And of course there is Neil Young, the greatest folk rocker of all time. Although he technically started his career in the U.S., he was born in Canada, and with the shameful atrocity that is Justin Bieber, Canadians are grateful to have an icon who is a true representation of Canadian music and culture. The country also has some good contemporary rock bands, like the heavy metal band Three Inches of Blood, which hails from Vancouver Island. The current singer of Uriah Heep, also hails from Victoria. The country has also produced some great pop icons like Avril Levigne and Alanis Morissette. In general, Canadian people are very talented, except for Justin Bieber.
I know what you're gonna say "You're only including Poland, because you yourself are Polish." YES! That is ABSOLUTELY the reason! Because if I weren't Polish, I most likely would have never been exposed to their amazing music. Obviously, my favorite is rock, but there are many other popular genres that have contributed to Poland's thriving music scene. These include jazz, Polish reggae band DAAB, psychedelic 60s bands like Anna Jantar and Breakout, contemporary Polish-Ukrainian folk rock band, Enej, and of course the country's incredible folk music and world famous Polka. English language pop band Blue Café, and black metal band Behemoth, are also from Poland.
But once again, my favorite is rock. In this case, the country's most popular bands also happened to be their best. These bands include Budka Suflera, Perfect, Lombard and Lady Pank, some of whom created a unique sound, that can only be heard in Polish music. Not only does Poland have so many diverse genres, but their music is really, REALLY good. This is largely due to the fact that Poland has always had a very strong passion for music, which continues to this day. Just Google, "Polish music festivals." In general, the Polish music scene is very similar to the American music scene, apart from the different language. This is because a lot of Polish bands took their influence from popular international bands, especially ones from the U.K. and Australia. Google the band TSA, and tell me you didn't just watch the Polish AC/DC. Speaking of AC/DC.....
Okay. I'm gonna be honest, AC/DC is reason enough to put the Aussies at number 4. Although only one of the original band members is actually an Aussie. The rest are all British, but the band formed in Australia, and the Aussies have no problem calling them their own. I don't have to explain how awesome AC/DC is, do I? Okay, didn't think so. But I will talk about some of the other great bands to come out of Australia, the most notable being Jet, Midnight Oil and Wolfmother. Midnight Oil has to be the most Aussie band ever. Just watch the video for "Beds Are Burning", which was the theme song for the Sydney Olympics. Jet and Wolfmother are more newer Australian bands, but rock just as hard.
They have progressed with the times, while at the same time keeping true to the old school sound, and combing both styles. You gotta respect any band who embraces the new, while keeping the old. The Aussies also have some great folk music. Their folk song "Waltzing Matilda", is one of the few folk songs to achieve international fame, and it is often regarded as the country's "unofficial national anthem." In addition, there are several great Aussie bands that have never hit the mainstream, and you won't even find on Youtube. But yeah, Aussie music is pretty great! Did I mention AC/DC is from there?
As much as I love rock, I didn't think it would be fair for rock to have the top 5 spots. So I've given third place to Jamaica, and I'm not just being nice. I really feel Jamaican music deserves to be number 3. The island is the birthplace of reggae, which has had an influence on people all over the world. I don't think there is a single country on earth, where at least one person hasn't at least heard of Bob Marley. The man was a legend, and started a movement which has influenced many lives, including mine. In fact, it is now my second favorite genre after rock. Contrary to popular belief, reggae songs aren't just about smoking weed. There are many songs about corruption, oppression, war, poverty, and simply just loving each other. And despite the fact that every single reggae song on Youtube is by Bob Marley, he was just one many artists who contributed to this amazing genre. Other notable names include John Holt, Wayne Wade and Linval Thompson, as well as international reggae bands, such as Steel Pulse, The Toyes and Baha Men. But as great as reggae is, it's not the only genre of music in Jamaica. The island also has some well known Soca and Calypso artists like Jimmy Cliff and T.O.K. But in the end, no genre comes close to reggae. The genre has become so widespread, that it's as synonymous with the Caribbean as Brazil is with soccer. You're not officially in the Caribbean, until you're dining on fresh fish and drinking local beer, while listening to Bob Marley.
2. United States
This one was a given, and some people might even argue that it should be number 1. There is probably no nation on earth that has such a musical diversity as the U.S. Virtually every type of musical genre you can imagine, can be found here, so if you can't find your sound in the U.S., there is something seriously wrong with you. Really, if I were to list all the great musicians that shaped American culture, I'd be here all week. So instead, I will list some of the great genres we invented. Rock n Roll, Punk, Grunge, Alternative Rock, Hip Hop, Rap, the Blues, Country, Soul, Jazz, 80s music. If I missed any, just post them in the comments.
This is where GAG's 15 video limit really screwed me over, as there really is no ONE representation of American music. I know my fellow rockers and metal heads will roast me for posting an Iggy Pop song, but the guy started an entire movement, which influenced so many great artists from different genres. He's a true American music icon, and his music kicks ass, whether you like it or not.
1. United Kingdom
Again, you can argue that this spot should go to the U.S., but the truth is, even though the U.S. started it, the Brits perfected it. And when I say perfected, I mean TRULY perfected it, creating music that was well ahead of its time. The Brits have contributed many things to society, but their greatest contribution is their kickass music! British rock bands are legends, known the world over. The U.K. is also home to a variety of genres, and just like with the U.S., it's impossible to list all the incredible British rock artists, but you know who they are. These guys started a cultural revolution. Their music influenced bands all over the world, and helped change the world and bring people together. Despite several efforts, no one, except perhaps AC/DC has been able to outdo these British legends. And even most of the guys in AC/DC are British, which should be saying enough. Have you ever heard of the "American Invasion"? Didn't think so.
These guys have serious talent! Even the British Punk movement outdid the American one. Music this great will never be made again, and I guarantee you, we'll be reading about these bands in the history books 500 years from now! In addition, the Brits have also produced some great pop icons like Adelle and Sam Smith, as well as popular reggae band, Steel Pulse. Even those Scottish bagpipes have earned them a spot on the list. And did I mention it's also the birthplace of heavy metal? On second thought, it's no contest. Brits win hands down! I mean, who's ever walked away from "Highway Star"? Exactly, no one.