Sounds from the Past

Meet 4 Bands Showcasing Their Cultural Music Heritage on the Global Stage

Today’s era of digitization, instantaneous connection, and practically limitless streaming has made music more accessible than ever before. But with more to discover and listen to each day, artists are hard-pressed to stand out in the crowd.  

So how do you find that “new” sound to rise above the noise? Well, turns out, new isn’t always better. In fact, many indigenous artists are discovering that sometimes the key to getting ahead means going back to your roots. 

In this article we’ll take a look at the mechanisms that are contributing to the rising cultural music phenomenon – and check out a few indigenous/folk bands and artists that are stepping into the global spotlight. 

The Intersection between Modern Music and Cultural Identity 

Music is a uniquely human tradition that shaped our cultural evolution long before the written word as means of expression, storytelling, and historical accounting. Today, ancient musical traditions remain a hugely important part of the cultural identity and heritage of indigenous groups across the world.

Over the last few decades many indigenous/folk bands and artists have put a modern spin on ancient traditions as a way to celebrate the intersection of their identities, past and present.   However, until now, these groups have remained largely unknown by the masses. It’s only in the last 2-3 years that the fusion between modern music styles and cultural traditions has entered the mainstream. Why? 

Can we just chalk it up to the latest music trend that will disappear over time? Are these new artists simply more innovative than ones that came before? 

While anything is possible, perhaps there’s a larger influence at work… 

The Impact of Globalization

As much as we may like to characterize globalization as simply good or bad, like most things, the concept isn’t black and white, but sits squarely with the realm of grey. Take music for example. Globalization has profoundly transformed popular music, offering artists greater opportunities to connect with larger audiences. At the same time, however, it can be argued that globalization has led to the homogenization of music as a whole. This is particularly true of pop music, which relies primarily on repetitive, formulaic melodies to appeal to the masses.

Similarly, globalization may also indirectly contribute to the erasure of culture and identity of minority groups. The irony of living in the age of hyper-connection is that the more tuned in new generations are to the world, the easier it is to become disconnected from their own cultural identities – language, traditions, histories, etc. Instead, there’s a desire to garner social capital by following popular trends, consuming popular media (often in English), and even changing physical attributes to meet societal beauty standards. But here’s where a new shift starts to take place… 

When everyone and everything starts being just a bit too uniform, individuality (in whatever form it can take) becomes novelty, and therefore a very powerful social commodity. In this way, the effects of globalization create the perfect conditions to catapult the cultural music movement into the forefront of social consciousness. It serves a dual purpose, both as a refreshing change from the monotony of pop media for consumers, and a proud declaration of ownership and preservation of culture and identity on the part of the artists. 

4 Indigenous/Folk Artists Bringing Cultural Music to the Spotlight 

  1. OTYKEN 

Originally formed in 2015, OTYKEN is an indigenous Siberian music collective that rose to fame in 2022. Part of what makes the band so unique is its integration multiple traditions, cultures, and music from different Siberian nations. Their music, which can be described as ethnic rock fusion, tells stories about Siberian nature, friendship, and offers poignant wisdom. Their music has collectively amassed millions of streams and, in 2022, the band was nominated for a Grammy award for their song ‘Genesis’.

  1. The HU 

In 2018, four young Mongolian musicians made their debut on YouTube, catching the attention of millions who were struck by their unique sound and stunning music videos that showcased breathtaking Mongolian scenery. The HU inspired the creation of a new music genre called “Hunnu rock.” This new genre blends heavy metal with traditional Mongolian folk instruments and throat singing into an unexpectedly striking composition. 

  1. Laura Niquay

Laura Niquay is a Quebec-Atikamekw artist who has dedicated her career to the preservation of her native language, Atikamekw. In fact, the 2021 release of her second full-length solo record, Waska Matiwisin, (Atikamekw for “circle of life”) was the result of three years of rigorous research and consultation with elders and “techno-linguists” to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the language. When asked about her dedication to preserving her native tongue she said, “Our nation has three distinct communities that all speak Atikamekw slightly differently. I have nephews and nieces who live in the city, and who are slowly losing the use of our language, and this affects me a lot. It’s important for me to sing properly in our language.” Take a listen.

  1. Wardruna 

Wardruna is a Norwegian folk band that’s breathing new life into ancient Nordic folk music. The band’s unqiue sound comes from combining the haunting melodies with dark, brooding influences of the black metal genre. With songs featuring Scandinavian myths and historical instruments, their music transports the listener to an age of iron and mysticism. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, or Assassins Creed: Valhalla (which features music composed by Wardruna’s founder Einar Selvik) this band is well worth checking out.

Got a favorite indigenous or folk artist you think deserves some love? Drop their name in the comments!

About the Author

Macyn Hunn

Macyn Hunn is the designated copy and content writer for NEWM, with nearly a decade of experience writing sales and marketing copy for companies ranging from startups to multi-million dollar enterprises. A born writer and Texas-native, she made the decision to move to the Middle East (at the befuddlement of her family) in 2016 in pursuit of culture, adventure, and of course, a good story – and she found it. She currently lives in Jordan with her husband.

Leave a Comment

Stay informed

To get all our amazing stories and know more about Crypto, Music and projectNEWM overall, make sure you register for our NEWMag newsletter!