Exploring Some of the World’s Best Music Scenes and Festivals

If you’re a music buff you certainly keep tap on all the festivals and events related to music. With so many genres to explore, music has a way to connect people’s culture and traditions. From twang of the guitar to beat of the table, music has mesmerized its aficionado of every era. If you too enjoy music then read on to learn about the best music scenes and festivals around the globe. Immerse in the magic of music at these vibrant cultural festivals where music is celebrated with all the zeal. You could be a fan of hip-hop, jazz or ethnic, or your soul dances on country, blues, electronic or rock, just pack your bags and explore the music scenes worldwide, you certainly won’t regret it!

1- New Orleans, USA

Mardi gras celebration in New Orleans

Anyone in New Orleans will relate to its music culture, as diverse as its people, New Orleans’ music has a deep connotation of the history of its inhabitants. Being home to African slaves, nomads from Germany, Sicily and Ireland and those displaced from Mexico and Central America, the music relates to all things hope, resilience and journey to oblivion. It’s where jazz was literally born, by maestros like Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, Pete Fountain, Louis Armstrong, The Marsalis Family, Louis Prima, Harry Connick Jr.

But jazz is not all that New Orleans has to offer. The blues scene is equally as strong thanks to Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Walter Wolfman Washington and Irma Thomas. Blues enthusiasts should never miss an annual Crescent City Blues & BBQ festival where blues is celebrated like crazy.

The Diversity and Music Go Hand in Hand 

To all those who crave for funk and hip-hop, brass music is very much a thing of NOLA too, from wedding ceremonies to funerals, the sound of this genre is always resonating. Big names like Trombone Shorty, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Original Pinettes, the Hot 8 Brass Band and the Sound Rebels always grace the brass festivals from time to time.

New Orleans is all about partying and having the time of their lives with family, friends and everyone who wants to have fun. No wonder the Cajun Zydeco music is as popular here as Jazz. Every year in June Cajun-Zydeco Festival is celebrated, so if get lucky, pay it a visit to dance to the grove with all your heart 

New Orleans is all about festivities and music. From venues like Gasa Gasa, Music Box Village and Vaso, to annual music festivals like Mardi Gras Indians, Crescent City Blues, or the famous Jazz Fest, the crescent city has a variety to cater to the ears of all kinds of music lovers. And not to forget, many such festivities are free of cost, an example of French Quarter Fest, where you only pay for food!

Whether you go gaga over Bounce or Indie, or you’re a traditionalist and want to savor the Gospel music, you need to check the NOLA music scene to have the time of your life.

2- Havana, Cuba

The cuban dance performers

Anyone who believes music is more than just a melody, Havana music culture is worth an exploration. This intimate Caribbean Island has the wealth of music that reflects on its bleak past and has evolved with it too. Once known for its slave trade and the colonization by the Europeans, the place has contributed widely to the Latin music. The salsa over which you groove, or the rumba that lets you feel the joy, all of this is a gift from Cuba. Post 1873, for some 300 years, African slaves were forced by the Spanish colonizers to work in gold mines or the cultivation of tobacco. These people mainly from Angola, Nigeria and Congo altered the music culture of Cuba by bringing their religious music along with the earthy tones of their instruments. Soon a new religion emerged by the name of Santeria and with it, its music too. 

The diverse variety of Afro-Cuban music now rules most parts of the world for its festive feel. If you are into folk music, guajira and campesina will enchant you with its earthy, rural acoustics made famous by folk musicians like Celina González. If you’re more inclined towards something soft and melodious with hints of European rhythms, then opt for Danzon and Charanga. Some famous names associated with Danzon are Miguel Failde, José Urfe, Enrique Jorrín and Antonio María Romeu. 

The Music that Shares History

If Afro-Spanish is your thing then Son would certainly take you off your feet, with Spanish guitar and African rhythm, it is earthy yet soulful, quirky yet fun, a sure tune to dance to. Rumba, like those of its inventors, is lively, connotes the adventurous life at sea and is one of the most famous genres of Havana. It even makes way for the Salsa music we all adore. Those who are in Cuban music know-how names like Beny More, Desi Arnaz Juan Formell, Alexander Abreu, Candido Fabre, Compay Segundo, Orestes Lopez, and Barbarito Torres cannot be neglected. They literally brought Cuban music to the masses. 

If you happen to be in Havana, pay a visit to Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Cafe Teatro Bertolt Brecht, La Zorra y El Cuervo, Habana 309, and Casa de la Musica Miramar for the immersive music experience. But if you’re on a long vacation, catch up on Havana Jazz Festival, International Jazz Plaza Festival mainly in January or

Boleros de Oro Festival in June. But if you want to experience fun with salsa then Havana World Music Festival and Havana Salsa Festival are for you. For all the classic music lovers, Havana also organizes the Havana International Ballet Festival in October. Time to pack your bags if you haven’t already.

3- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The carnival in full swing

Rio de Janeiro is all about festivities, fun and tons of music. Similar to rhythms of many regions, Rio has its musical roots from Africa and Native American. The sound of rhythmic drum beats brought by the African slaves and the lamenting ballads played with cavaquinhos, mandolin and bagpipes brought by colonists from Portuguese made a unique blend of music that is both harmonious and lively. Along with music, the captivating dance moves from Africa and the quirkiness of tango from Europe up the music game of Brazil all the more.

The People Who Celebrate Music 

Some Brazilian genres that you so happily dance on comes from Africa. An example can be Samba, a carefree euphony has its origination from Africa. Some popular names associated with Samba are Cartola, Zeca Pagodinho, and Martinho da Vila. Some other African influenced genres are maracatu and baiao. The bossa novo and choro genres that gained its popularity through Jacob Do Bandolim and later by Hamilton De Holanda are the most festive genres of Brazil. Jacob redefined the choro music by joining the band Epoca De Ouro. Together they represented how folk music can be as sophisticated as the other types of music. Interestingly, Samba and Bossa Nova is explored with Jazz by American bassist John Patitucci and Yotam Silberstein and also by a guitarist from Brazil, Chico Pinheiro.

While Samba, Bossa Nova and choro are famous, other Brazilian genres worth giving ear to are Carioca funk, Sertanejo, Tropicália, and Rap. If you are new to Rio music, give ear to MC Cidinho & MC Doca, MC Kevinho, and MC G15, Racionais MC, Criolo, Emicida, Tim Maia, Chico Buarque, Jorge Ben. Paula Fernandes, Michel Teto, Luan Santana, and Zese Di Camargo and Luciano. 

For music enthusiasts, Rio Music Carnival, Ultra Brasil in Sambodromo are some of the best musical carnivals in Rio but if you can’t manage to attend one, you certainly can have the time of your life at Bip-Bip for samba, Vinícius Show Bar for bossa nova, Renascença Clube for jamming sessions, TribOz for jazz and Casarão Ameno Resedá for classic music.

4- Kingston, Jamaica

Bob Marley the singer the influencer

You know you like Jamaican music, if jumpy, upbeat music is your thing. The music that initiated the counterculture movement in America has a rebellious melody to it but that is what makes it unique. With its themes around politics, love, equality and resilience, Jamaican songs like “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Get Up, Stand Up”, Jamaican reggae gave voice to those oppressed, the reason why reggae is not just a music, it is a movement. From the week-long Reggae Sumfest to Reggae Month to celebrate Bob Marley’s birthday, in Kingston, Jamaican music is all about reggae and its glory. But you can experience the electro dance fest too in December by the name of Major Lazer and Friends.

Music for Social Change

Anyone familiar with reggae knows Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh for their music and songs highlighting the socio-political ills of the time. But apart from reggae, Jamaican music is in all other genres of music that have a zealous feel to it, from hip-hop to electro, you cannot overlook the Jamaican music hints in it. Though reggae is all the rage for Jamaicans, ska, a louder genre is another classic from the region. With amalgamation of calypso and mento from the Caribbean and jazz and blues from America, ska gained popularity during Jamaica’s freedom from the UK. 

Another fun genre that has Jamaican roots is dub music, initially, it was utilized as a sound system checking noise, thanks to Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby who introduced the world to the genre. But it was DJ Kool Herc that inspired the hip-hop culture we all so enjoy all the time. 

That said, do you even wonder that without Jamaican music, we might never experience famous bands or artists like Skrillex, The Police or No Doubt. Well, thank god that is not the case! So if you want to immerse in all things reggae or dub hub, don’t forget to visit Bob Marley Museum, Trench Town Culture Yard, Kingston Dub Club, Rockers International Records, or Redbones Blues Café next time you go to Jamaica.

5- Manchester, UK

Music performance in Manchester

We all have grown up listening to Pink Floyd, The Spice Girls, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, the famous names attached with the popular genre, but have you ever wondered what the history of British music is? The broadside ballad, which was sold cheaply during the sixteenth century, made people interested in music. While the world knows Britain for its popular music, Britain has a lot to offer in other genres like punk, the famous 1970s genre, with bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Heavy metal is also contributed by Britain through their music band Iron Maiden and Motorhead. From ragtime, jazz to rock and rolls, and hippie culture, Britain has seen all that and more when it comes to music.

Music of the Millennials

Millennials are surely aware of the strong music culture of Britain as they experienced the famous genres and bands in their teenage years, through Radiohead, Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Massive Attack, the pop bands that changed pop culture music in the US. The Beatles in the 1960s with their “Please Me, please” won hearts but then in the 1980s, hip hop and rap became the most liked genres of Britain with bands like Adam and the Ants. 

Britain has a lot for those who crave good music, the number of music festivals in Manchester can be attended by anyone and everyone. So, if you plan to go to Manchester for vacations or long holidays, plan ahead for these music festivals. Manchester Fringe Festival, for music, theater and all things between, Manchester International Festival for music, dance and all forms of art, Blackthorn Music Festival if you want to listen to new artists and bands, Manchester Jazz Festival for the jazz lovers and Sounds of the City and Parklife at Heaton Park for live music and DJs. 

For those who enjoy the experience by getting up close with the music, Albert Hall, The Ritz, Band of the Wall, Yes, Gorilla and The Deaf Institute Café Bar & Music Hall are some of the live music spaces.

6- Tokyo, Japan

One of the music carnivals in Japan

Unlike music from other countries, Japanese music is very much culturally inclined. The art of music has almost spiritual significance and is used as a medium to emote emotions and feelings through instruments and sounds, the example could be how they dance to music at funerals in order to calm their emotional stress and soothe the dead. But soon the influence of Korea, China and Tokyo in the seventh and eighth centuries gave birth to court music, the Gagako. And from it started the Hikiyoku music in the 12th century. But it was not until the 19th century that western music found its way into the hearts of the Japanese people.

From Traditional to Experimental: The Japanese Music 

Thanks to RateYourMusic and Reddit, with time J-Pop with its notes into western, European music, start gaining popularity and now it is doubtful if music buffs worldwide are not familiar with big names like Yoko Ono and Merzbow, Hikaru Utada and Toru Takemitsu, Boris and Cornelius. Though they are amazing at what they do, some bands and music that has influenced the music globally are Boredom. Their experimentation in a variety of genres like aggressive noise, krautrock, psychedelic rock turntablism and minimalism in their Albums (Creation Newsun, Super ae) have inspired many big names in the US music industry. Another band worth mentioning is Fishman, this dub band experimented in neo-psychedelia and dream pop taking inspiration from Shinji Sato and Yuzuru Kashiwabara for their vocals and bass respectively. 

The inventor of techno-kayo, Haruomi Hosono, keeps the pop music culture alive in Japan. They are also considered as the inventors of electronic pop in Japan. But if your taste is more into classic Japanese music then Yasushi Yoshida, Humbert Humbert and Yoshida Brothers will sooth your souls with their contemporary music blended in with the classic.

You need to up your music game by attending one of the famous music carnivals that happen in Japan. Whether it be the Fuji Rock Festival or the Rock in Japan Fes,a Summer Sonic Festival or Sweet Love Shower, Japan knows how to make you tap your feet and swing with all the joy at their beats. But by any chance if you miss the festival scene of Japan, do visit Ruby Room for its indie music scene, 7th Floor to experience music with no smoke from cigarettes filling your nostrils as its smoke free venue and Shimokitazawa 69demonai46 for the rock scene.

7- Seoul, South Korea

The famous K-music singer performing on stage

You must be living under the rock to not be familiar with K-Pop, the music that is on the playlist of every youth’s mobile phones has a history dating back to 1885 and it has its influence from American missionaries. When Henry Appenzeller started teaching changga at schools, its western rhythms became popular with the Koreans. 

While most of us are familiar with Korean hip hop because of their famous bands like Simon D, Epik High, Dok2, Jay Park, and Zico, there are other genres worth listening to when it comes to Korean music. The most unconventional being the Ballad! While it’s not a genre for many, for Korean music it is as some singers gain all the fame through singing only the ballads. Some popular names in this genre are Park Hyo Shin and Im Jae Beom. Its popularity is influenced by the fact that it can be merged with pop, rock or trot music, and it will still be pleasant to the ears and compliment the genres.

The Gen-Z Music

Korean indie music experiments well with guitars, bass and drums and has more rock influence to it. Those who are famous in this category of music are Seo Taiji and the Boys, CNBLUE, and Crying Nut. As popular as it is, the genre was influenced by American soldiers during the Korean war. Another not so popular genre is trot pop, which has started from the original K-Pop music.

 All the K-Pop crazies can have some fun at Korean music festivals and carnivals organized on a regular basis. With tourism becoming a norm for many, schedule your vacations around the time of these music festivals in Korea, the most popular ones are

Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, World DJ Festival, Seoul Park Music Festival and Rapbeat Festival.

But if concerts or crowds are not your thing, go for live music sessions at Olympic Hall, Boogie Woogie for your jazz dose, Club FF for indie rock music and All of Rock for rock and roll.

Conclusion:

These places let you savor the music in all its raw form, but it’s certainly an experience worth having in a while. Music has the power to connect cultures and bring people together under a platform to enjoy, peace, love and lots of joy, so why not schedule to attend one of the regions to get an overdose of the genre your ears adore.

Curious about the origins of some of the world’s most renowned music festivals? Check out our article on ‘Which Are the Oldest Festivals Still Celebrated Today?’ to discover the rich history behind these cultural celebrations and their enduring significance in modern times.