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Global Rhythms: Icons of World Music

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This five-week course will offer a wide-ranging introduction to the style and influence of five major figures in non-English language music of the 20th century. Works by artists such as Serge Gainsbourg (France), Caetano Veloso (Brazil), Asha Bhosle (India), Ali Farka Touré (Mali) and Demis Roussos (Greece) will be discussed in detail. Discussion will be illustrated by a variety of audio and video extracts.

Course Details

Special Information

Students may wish to purchase copies of each of the five featured albums, but this is not necessary.

Content of Course

1. Serge Gainsbourg

This session will explore the life and career of the mercurial French polymath (1928 – 1991). We will discuss his engagement with a variety of genres, including jazz, chanson, pop, rock and roll, reggae and will also reflect on his film career. There will be a close, detailed discussion of his celebrated 1971 album Histoire de Melody Nelson.

2. Caetano Veloso

This session will consider the life and career of the Brazilian singer-songwriter and political activist (b. 1942), with a special focus on his involvement with the Tropicália movement of the 1960s and his collaborations with contemporaries such as Gilberto Gil and his sister Maria Bethania. We will focus on his 1979 album Cinema Transcendental as well as his live record Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta from 1997.

3. Asha Bhosle

This session will explore the six-decade career of Indian singer Asha Bhosle (b.1935), best known for her extraordinarily prolific work as a ‘playback’ singer for Hindi cinema. We will discuss her partnerships with musical directors such as OP Nayyar and AR Rahman as well as her 2005 collaboration with the Kronos Quartet, You’ve Stolen My Heart.

4. Ali Farka Touré

In this session, we shall explore the career of celebrated Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Touré (b.1939 – 2006), placing him in the context of both traditional Malian music and the Blues (he was often known as ‘the African John Lee Hooker’). The session will include in-depth analysis of his 1990 album The River.

5. Demis Roussos

The final session will delve into the colourful, eclectic career of Greek singer and bandleader Demis Roussos (1946 – 2015). We shall trace the development of his work from the psychedelia of his 1960s prog-rock band Aphrodite’s Child to his popular solo success in the UK and across the world in the 1970s. His collaborations with bandmate Vangelis and Michel Elefteriades will be explored and the session will include an in-depth analysis of Roussos’ solo 1973 album Forever and Ever

Teaching method(s)

The course will be taught in a seminar style. The tutor will provide context via a PowerPoint presentation which will include quotes from scholarly sources and interviews as well as audio and video clips. The class will listen to a selection of songs from the featured album and will then be divided into groups of 3 or 4 to discuss a variety of questions relating to both the broader issue of the artist’s career and the featured album.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Appreciate, analyse and critically discuss the term ‘World Music’;

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the historical importance and influence of the featured artists with reference to cultural, social and political contexts;

  • Apply an analytical approach to musical extracts.


Core Readings


  • Bohlman, Philip V., 2002. World Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


  • Miller, Terry E. and Shahriari, Andrew, eds., World Music: A Global Journey. London: Routledge.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.