Why isn’t Asian music more popular?

Going back to some old requests, Eric H., a loyal and perceptive MR reader and commentator, asks:

Why do the US (a wealthy country) and Africa (a poor continent) put out
more influential modern music than Asia (a populated continent of both
wealthy and poor extremes)?

Where do I start?

1. Most African music has scales very similar to those of European music and thus we are arguably considering a unified and indeed accessible style.

2. Many African musics emphasize rhythms and rhythm is arguably the most universal element of music and thus it is relatively easy to export.  American music has in this regard a strong African component, for obvious historical reasons.

3. The micro-tonal musics, as we find in India and the Middle East, don’t spread to many countries which do not already have a micro-tonal tradition.  Cats wailing, etc., though it is a shame if you haven’t trained your ear by now to like the stuff.  It’s some of the world’s finest music.

4. Many Asian musics, such as some of the major styles of China and Japan, emphasize timbre.  That makes them a) often too subtle, and b) very hard to translate to disc or to radio.  African-derived musics are perfect for radio or for the car.

5. African music is really, really good.  And America is really, really good at entertaining people.  It’s an unstoppable alliance.


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