“Traditional Music” is a term that can be interpreted narrowly or widely. In some relativist, po-mo, yada-yada sense it could be used to denote any type of music that forms a part of any given groups sense of cultural continuity (indeed, we at AT have probably spoken of “traditional black metal riffs” or some-such at one time or another). The other extreme would be to rigidly define “traditional music” as only the music of one given religious tradition or culture. There are of course countless of other definitional exercises that could be undertaken – use the term as synonymous with “world music”, deny it makes any sense what so ever, etc. Sometimes, however, doing is better than talking. Traditional Music Channel, while not showing any overt interest in theoretical work on terminology, is probably the best collection of folk, world and traditional music I’ve found so far online – at least as far as the musical content goes (w00t? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that).
The range of materials presented in the videos, each of which consists of an image and an audio track of between half an hour and way over an hour, is astounding. In the field of spiritual music, everything from Andalusian Islamic Music and Serbian Orthodox Chants to rituals of Mexico’s Mazatec Indians and Native American healer music is represented. The vast majority of this material is far superior to much of what is commonly known as world music, at least to the extent that you’re a sucker for “authenticity”. The recordings are often straight from the source, with only the bare necessary minimum of production and additional effects added for accessibility.
There is also a massive selection of ethnic and folk music available. This category includes incredible amounts of European music from the Balkans, from Scotland, from Romania and so on. In addition there are of course well-known world-music staples such as the rather well known music of the Andes and modern interpretations of Inca music. Obviously the ethnic elements and the religious sentiments often overlap – have a listen to the Kashmiri Sufi music or the songs of the Punjabi Sikhs for elaboration of this point.
The only problem with the channel is the amount of information available on the various recordings. While each entry is substantial enough to give you a pretty good feel of the musical tradition covered, there is no track listing, and no information about performers or labels or recordings. This may not pose such a huge problem if you’re trying to locate tracks from the (absolutely fucking awesome) American Cajun Music post or the equally grand Brazilian Forró music, but does become an issue if you’re thinking of purchasing some select favorites of Serbian Gypsy Music or Tuvan throat singing on physical media or for download. This is a pretty weak criticism though, and one that shouldn’t cloud the magnificent, evolving Youtube accomplishment that is Traditional Music Channel.