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International Collaborations



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It’s a cliché that music transcends national borders and even that it is a universal language. The ease with which pop music in English disseminates seems to prove this point. But music in Dutch, Swahili, Chinese and many other languages travel less easily. In short, although I agree that music appeals to universal human treats and influences (such as hearth rate), I want to stress the connection between music and culture, and especially language.

  • The dominance of English language pop is historically specific.
  • Dutch, Tanzanian, Chinese and most other musicians with success in the West either make instrumental music (such as jazz or dance), sing in English (pop and rock) or their lyrics lose semantic meaning (world music).


China has so far not exported its music outside of its linguistic base in any significant numbers.

  • By comparison, visual art, film and even something as bound by language as literature have done better with international audiences.
  • By comparison, Japan and South-Korea have been more successful. Both these nations have spend decades building a popular music industry. Although Hong Kong and Taiwan have continued to develop Chinese popular music since its advent in the 1920s, its largest market, the mainland, has yet to implement a copyright regime or develop an alternative business model.
  • As with sports (the Olympics), also in music the Chinese long for international recognition. Official support for internationalization could perhaps help (see Soft Power and Internationalization above).


For the complete chapter, please download the PDF below