Bands/Musicians The Best World Music Artists  

Reference
2.8k votes 494 voters 53.3k views 346 items

World music is an easy way for people to describe the melding traditional and nontraditional music from foreign countries. Generally, world music refers to sounds from the non-Western part of the world. Known for its fusion, world music was term coined in the 1960s and also includes the incorporation of traditional instruments from other parts of the world that haven't been used primarily by Western artists. The beauty of World music artists is that their sound, while entrenched and grounded in Eastern music, it can mean any type of traditional sound as long as it's from there.

So, what are the best World music artists? Any list needs to have Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jonathan Scales, Trilok Gurtu and Loreena McKennitt on any world music artists list. These are among the most well known artists in the genre and their music is as unique as any. They incorporate new age and foreign sounds that is not only unique, but allows for them to stand out from many of their contemporaries.

That said, it's up to you to decide what are the best World music artists. It's not an easy question, but ultimately it's your job to decide. If you notice someone is missing from the list, feel free to add them. This list answers the questions "who are the best world music bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest world music musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular world music bands that you might've heard of. (346 items)
Ranker may collect a commission from links on this page. Prices & inventory are accurate as of publish date.
list ordered by

1
134 33
Ranker Video
RagaNet added Worldbeat, North Indian classical Sitar music, Raga Jazz

Legendary sitar maestro has just released his third World music album called “Sitar Power III.” Standout songs are 'Sitar Trek,' a raga rock out excursion and 'East Indian Meets West Indian,' an amazing calypso-n-raga fusion where Ashwin adds vocals to his melodic composition. Ashwin has been in the Bay Area since the early 70s and is a pioneer in the field of “Raga Rock” and “Raga Jazz” fusion music. He was one of the first to bring sitar into the world music field, second only to Ravi Shankar. But, unlike Shankar’s approach, Ashwin has a more gut level, and often dance-able, style that has enticed western audiences, especially the younger set. Such light hearted song titles such as ‘Bombay Boogie,’ ‘Sitar Mania,’ ‘Raga Rock,’ and ‘Surfing with the Sitar Man,’ all express the humorous side to Ashwin's personality. But, the content of Ashwin’s music is quite the polar opposite, often hailed as a rich musical adventure that is not only a joy to listen to but also a heightened experience when seen live.

"My live sets are a total blast as I work on giving it my all in every concert. I do not hold back any punches. I want people to feel the song and to hear it the best way possible." It's this drive that makes Ashwin's music so intoxicating.

"Whether or not you’re familiar with the music, your mind is likely to be delightfully blown by what Batish creates." SF Weekly

Ashwin is deeply aware of the Indian classical traditions of which he studied under the guidance of his legendary father Pandit Shiv Dayal Batish who was arguably one of India's greatest vocalists and composers. It was his father that supplied the music in the Beatles’s movie "Help", playing the rare North Indian slide instrument called the Vichitra Veena. His father also taught George Harrison's wife (at the time), Patti Boyd, how to play Dilruba, an exotic bowed instrument of North India. Both father and son have written several Indian music related educational books and instructional videos which are currently being published under the Batish label.

What stands out with Sitar Power is its ground-breaking and genre-shattering concept and style. What Ashwin has done has never been attempted before and still stands as a testament to his style of creativity.
The Sitar Power Band features some of the finest musicians including Ashwin's son Keshav Batish who at only 16 years of age commands the stage with his incredible knowledge and skills at playing the tabla, pakhavaj and drumset. Vocalist Meena Batish, Ashwin's sister who has recorded several CDs with Ashwin, Myron Dove (Santana, Robben Ford, Tony Furtado) and Keyboardist Murray Low.

2
58 24
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Qawwali, Ghazal, Fusion

3
14 1
Ravi Shankar is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Ferry73 added Film score, Hindustani classical music

4
47 23
Loreena McKennitt is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best World Music Artists
New Age music, World music, Celtic music

5
49 29
Jonathan Scales is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best World Music Artists
World music, Jazz fusion, Jazz

6
23 8
Ali Farka Touré is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Folk music, World music, Blues

7
20 7
Dead Can Dance is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Neoclassical Dark Wave, Gothic rock, New Age music

8
32 18
John McLaughlin is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Kozmigroov, Rock music, World music

9
15 3
Ephemeral Mists is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best World Music Artists
vistacorran added Ambient music

10
22 11
Ofra Haza is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Ethnic electronica, Synthpop, Pop music

11
10 1
Fela Kuti is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Ferry73 added Highlife, Afrobeat

12
21 12
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Mbube, World music, Isicathamiya

13
9 1
Angélique Kidjo is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Ferry73 added Worldbeat, Latin American music, World fusion music

14
12 4
Niyaz is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Folk music, World music, Electronic dance music

15
18 10
Joe Zawinul is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Romantic music, World music, Jazz fusion

16
8 1
Bulgarian State Radio & Televi... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Bulgarian music, Folk music, Music of the Republic of Macedonia

17
11 4
Afro Celt Sound System is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Ethnic electronica, Celtic fusion, Worldbeat

18
12 5
Enya is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best World Music Artists
New Age music, Folk music of Ireland, World music

19
19 12
L. Subramaniam is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Fusion, Carnatic music, World music

20
7 1
Manu Chao is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Ska, Rock music, Latin American music

21
9 3
Idan Raichel is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Pop music, Folk music, World music

22
9 3
Babatunde Olatunji is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best World Music Artists
World music

23
12 6
Inti-Illimani is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Andean music, Folk music, Latin American music

24
12 6
Dhafer Youssef is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best World Music Artists
Qawwali, New Age music, World music

25
13 7
Azam Ali is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best World Music Artists
New Age music, Rock music, World music