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by World Music Network July 30, 2012


New Rough Guide Releases: The Music of Scandinavia & The Music Of China

Out on the 30th of July, these two brand new compilations are must-haves for your music collection. The Rough Guide to the music of Scandinavia showcases some of the most adventurous sounds from the Nordic countries. With a long tradition of innovation,

The Rough Guide to the music of China is a hugely diverse album, reflecting the country's over 1 billion population. Glimpsing in the cultural side of this world economy, the music included on the album ranges from ancient to modern to contemporary music, with genres spanning folk, pop, jazz and the latest underground sounds.

ScandinaviaThe Rough Guide to the music of Scandinavia opens with the tinkling sounds of ‘Lóri’ by Icelandic ensemble Amiina(pictured below). Other Icelandic contributions come from Valgeir Sigurðsson and múm. Heading east to Norway, the music of Arild Andersen, Benedicte Maurseth and Annbjørg Lien takes on a distinctly jazz-inflected tone. Sorten Muld are a Danish folktronica band who mix traditional lyrics with techno soundscapes. 

Swedish artist Katzen Kapell heard here draws on influences as broad as Nino Rota, Astor Piazzolla and Frank Zappa, all mixed in with Arabic and Eastern European flavours. Johan Hedin and Gunnar Idenstam excitedly explore the matching of organ and nyckelharpa. A contributionAmiina from the late and legendary Swedish keys player Lars Hollmer is a real treat too. Hollmer fused folk and progressive rock to produce ecstatic creative music.

Finnish musicians also make a sizeable contribution to the track list of this Rough Guide. Maria Kalaniemiand Timo Alakotila, Värttinä and Milla Viljamaa fuse flavours of Karelian, classical and electronic musics together into a tasty mix. Wimme Saari is one of the best-known sami joikers from Finland and features on the glorious techno-ambient track ‘Texas’.


Have a listen to 'Tuonen Tyttö' (Maiden Of Death) by the Finnish quartet Kardemimmit. Their albumcomes as a bonus disc with The Rough Guide to the music of Scandinavia. With the sounds of the kantele-a zither that also is Finland's national instrument- interwoven with the four friends' angelic voices, Kardemimmit contributes to the revival of this ancient instrument. 

Below is a music video from a powerful, drum heavy performance of the track 'Kelling' by Danish/Nordic folktronica group Valravn which features on The Rough Guide to the music of Scandinavia.

Today China is set to become the world’s largest economy, probably within the next five to ten years. Despite Chinaposition of power most in the West know little about China and its people. The Rough Guide to the music of Chinaoffers an insight into the ancient, modern and contemporary cultural history of China, and perhaps even a glimpse to the future...

The album includes music inspired by several era's ; Zhang Yi Wen are a group that draw on by pre-communist sounds, whereas ‘My Motherland’ by Guo Lanying is one of the greatest tunes of the Mao years. Also included are artists from the post 1980s rock explosion such as Cold Fairyland, Xie Tian Xiao and Second Hand Rose are all active rockers on the contemporary scene. On top of this, ancient instruments that date back to well over 3,000 years and were introduced to China via the Silk shanrenRoad trading routes such as erhu, pipa and guzheng,are given a central focus in some of the pieces on the album; ‘Yangguan Pass Melody – Three Variations’ by Min Huiffen is a well-known work for erhu. ‘Sai Ma’, a song that reflect the galloping of the horses, by Mieko Miyazaki & Guo Gan mixes tradition with cross-cultural collaboration as erhu player Guo Gan is joined by Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki.

Included with The Rough Guide to the music of China is a hugely popular album by Hanggai.These Beijing-based musicians are at the forefront of a musical movement in China that finds inspiration in native folk traditions. Mongolian folk revivalists Hanggai contributes to the preservation of songs and traditions that otherwise would be lost.


Have a listen to the opening track of the album, 'Shanghai Xiao Jie' (Miss Shanghai) by the group Zhang Yi Wen via SoundCloud below. This neat retro number dates back to the 1940s that reflects Shanghai's pre-Communist large foreign population. In those days Chinese folk was mixed with jazz to create some of the most evocative music in the country’s history.

If you are into animation, definatively watch the following music video of Shanren's track '30 years' (group is pictured above). Not only is the animation award winning, '30 years' itself was proclaimed as the official song of the Festival Asia in Barcelona 2010. The song is originally a composition from the Yunnan province in South-West China, and narrates the story of rural citizens moving to the cities to seek better fortune.