Blasts From The Past: Classic World Music Videos

As featured in the January/February 2009 (#57) issue of Songlines, Nigel Williamson unearths the endlessly rich source of archival world music footage available online at YouTube.

Everybody knows that YouTube is for pop kids. It’s all Britney Spears and indie rock bands with little or no interest to mature and serious fans of global music, right?

Well, wrong. You don’t have to look very hard and you will find that just about the entire history of what we have come to call ‘world music’ is there on YouTube.

You never got the chance to see Fela Kuti, Celia Cruz or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan live in concert before they died? Never mind, there are dozens of YouTube clips waiting to enlighten you.

If you want to remember what a stunning figure the youthful Miriam Makeba cut when she first left South Africa 50 years ago, the memories are all readily available.

And all those old guys from Buena Vista Social Club who are no longer with us? Well, they’re up there at different stages of their long careers, and you can also check out footage of Beny Moré from half a century ago and see why most Cuban musicians to this day still rate him as the greatest of them all.

We present our favourite YouTube moments that we’ve come across on YouTube. But they are the tip of the global iceberg. Don’t forget to let us know what you find too...