There are very few countries in the world, if any, that have served as the point of origin of more world-changing music than England. We can take a step back and ask ourselves why English-language music and culture dominates the global culture as it has, why songs written with English lyrics and “Western” rhythms have a disproportionate sway over, let’s say, music from China or even the Middle East where billions of people have lived and made music for thousands of years, but those questions are probably beyond our current scope. Instead, let’s stay oblivious, putting that kind of broad questioning aside to marvel at the sheer volume of musical genres that have originated in, and/or developed in, England…wow.
While Western Classical music arose primarily from other European nations – Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, France – and its influence on the world’s “high art” music is still unrivaled, one can trace so much of the world’s current popular music back to simple, lyrical British folk songs. (Learn about “The Child Ballads.”) British songs traveled with colonizers of North America to form the basis of American country and folk, which in turn fused with African-descended forms, like Delta blues, to return to England, inspiring bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to invade the colonies again. This intercontinental feedback loop has repeated many times since the 1960s, which British-related music of the world (let’s say, as an example, Jamaican ska) returning to the UK carrying “new world” (often African-inspired) spirit and rhythms, which British artists would churn back into their art to create new globally-influential forms (let’s say, as an example, ska-powered British punk). So much of today’s international popular music has at least some British DNA – think Korean “K Pop,” with its fusion of West and East. think electronic dance music that is ubiquitous in the nightlife of almost every city in the world – that the influence of England’s music on the shared global culture seems almost invisible. It runs so deep that it doesn’t seem present. It’s less like water than air.