Music is a universal language, people all over the world listen to a vast amount of it and the biggest artists have fans from every corner of the Earth. But what are the areas with the richest music heritage? And when I say music, I’m talking about contemporary, popular genres. Here is a list of what I think, although I’m aware that this is a pretty touchy and subjective topic, are the three destinations that have had the biggest impact on music.
It is impossible to talk about popular music without eventually mentioning the incredible impact Jamaica has had, particularly for such a relatively small place. As Jamaican artists looked to stay fresh and relevant they moved away from the traditional dance hall sound that gave birth to Rock ‘n’ Roll and, thankfully, Ska was born. During the 1960s and 70s swathes of Jamaicans came to Britain looking for a new life and brought this new genre with them, this was the initial spark that would eventually explode 2 Tone onto the music scene and give rise to timeless British bands such as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter.
Ska of course is not the only music to come from Jamaica. Rocksteady was an important Jamaican export but didn’t have the influence of Reggae, which is arguably what Jamaica is most famous for (sorry Usain!). The most instantly recognisable Jamaican is none other than Reggae maestro Bob Marley, whose unperturbed brand of music has gifted us with a catalogue of classics. As with Ska, Reggae has been extremely well deployed by various artists from outside of Jamaica and its clear influence can be heard on tracks by The Police, Elvis Costello and UB40.
Although I’m not including it as a destination of its own, I am not happy to talk about Caribbean music without mentioning Trinidad and Tobago. The reason for this is because these magnificent islands gave us steel drums and Calypso music, which entirely by coincidence is one of my favourite genres!
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Quite frankly this one was an absolute no brainer, you could sit down at the age of 20 to write a comprehensive book about Africa’s influence on music and still not be done by the age of 90. Although Afrobeat, Africa’s take on funk, is not as internationally recognised as genres such as Reggae or Rock ‘n’ Roll, its influence among musicians is surprisingly far reaching. Afrobeat pioneers of the 60s and 70s like Nigeria’s Fela Kuti influenced producers such as Brian Eno and Talking Heads singer David Byrne.
Perhaps Africa’s “big break” came in the shape of Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland, the record was clearly influenced by the great continent and featured some of South Africa’s brightest musicians. Arguably the most famous African group to get a big boost from the success of Graceland was Ladysmith Black Mambazo who sang on ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ and have gone on to perform with the likes of Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton.
There are numerous destinations in America that have seen the rise of many great music scenes, take Nashville’s affinity with Country and Americana or Detroit, the city that gave Motown its name. During the 1960s however America was undergoing a radical change in attitude, and it was San Francisco supplying the soundtrack. California, arguably the most famous of all the American States, attracted young people in their droves, many of whom were hoping to visit San Francisco to soak up the vibes in bohemian utopias such as The Haight.
San Francisco at this time was a hotbed of bands pioneering the psychedelic music that would act as the enduring soundtrack to the fierce opposition of the Vietnam War and the fight for both gender and racial equality. Bands such as Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Sly and the Family Stone achieved a sound that was entirely fresh, unique and still resonates to the present day. The influence of the San Francisco Sound should not be underestimated as it laid the foundations for later Heavy Metal troubadours such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to become some of the most successful bands the world has ever known.
So there you have it, the three destinations that in my opinion are the most influential musically. Maybe you don’t agree? If you think I’ve made a glaring omission feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you’d change.