The whole world is listening: Global Rhythms from Adobe Stock audio

Abstract colorful sound waves against shades of blue and yellow.

Image source: Adobe Stock/Barry Bödeker/Stocksy.

The term “world music” is deceptively simple, and means just what its name infers. World music’s influence is just as large too with crossover hits ranging from Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata” (number 2 on the US charts in 1967) to Panjabi MC and Jay-Z’s “Mundian To Bach Ke” (which reached number 33 on the US charts in 2003).

Now, and especially over the past year, globally focused music has emerged in a vastly different way, especially within the realm of technological advances and social justice movements. Inspired by this, the Adobe Stock team has named Global Rhythms (a nod to the ubiquity of compelling beats worldwide) as one of our 2021 audio trends.

One of the major components of this trend is the “democratization of music production,” according to Cyrille Mailliard, head of music and artist services for Adobe Stock audio partner Jamendo.

“It’s getting easier and easier to really record decently, with a high quality, and a lot of different instruments,” Mailliard explains.

Access to suites of digital sounds has helped to push the trend forward. “You have instruments like balafon or marimba, for example, that one can hear more widely and often than before,” says Mailliard. “I think it’s also linked to the fact that you can now access great sounding virtual instruments. You can have multiple instruments you didn’t know about that you try, and then decide to add to your percussion, for example.”

While audio technology has opened a new world of sound for musicians, social media is doing the heavy lifting when it comes to cross-cultural exposure.

“Every year, the world gets a bit smaller and a bit more connected,” said David Slitzky, director of music development and special projects for Adobe Stock audio partner Epidemic Sound. “And with that comes more accessibility and more curiosity about the world.”

Image source: Left: Adobe Stock/Natalia Maca. Right:jim welch/EyeEm.

Rising mainstream interest in cultural discovery

This curiosity has grown with the powerful social justice movements of the past year. The increased global visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement has “really encouraged people to educate themselves,” Slitzky says.

One subset of this cultural trend has been musical exploration — consumers are now “more open to discovering, embracing, and prioritizing not just new things, but the authentic reflection of new things,” as Slitzky explains; “more and more people are approaching rhythms, sounds, and cultures that they might not have grown up with, with more openness and curiosity.”

Openness is at the heart of the Global Rhythms audio phenomenon, according to Mailliard — “the trend is paying tribute to cultural diversity, and the fact that we all are connected and that we discover each other’s culture,” he says.

Industry heavyweights have also contributed to the rise of global music. “The global rhythm trend was inspired a lot by Beyonce’s ‘Black is King’ video that was released earlier this year on Disney,” says Thomas Spota, head of motion and audio at Adobe Stock. “That got me thinking about the importance of brands and advertisers not just catering to their countries but incorporating a lot of traditional music into rock or electronic, and having more of a global reach.”

Image source: Adobe Stock/Milles Studio/Stocksy.

Global soundtracks in major brand campaigns

The trend in global rhythm has led to a variety of approaches from brands, each with a distinctive sound at the center. For Coca-Cola’s post-COVID short, “The Great Meal”, the brand opted for a wholly global focus — the short featured a worldwide cast of families cooking traditional dishes in their kitchens, set to Malian duo Amadou & Mariam’s track “Sabali.”

Google went for a beat-driven style — “Introducing Google Workspace”, creating the story of a remote team’s progress to English-Ethiopian singer Izzy Bizou’s intensely percussive “Work,” which also included a sample from the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.

Some brands, like Allstate, have gone for an added retro feel — the insurance company selected an Edith Piaf tune for its “Smooth”spot, in which multiple drivers leave forgotten items atop their cars. Others have opted for a distinctly modern take — meal delivery service Grubhub selected a song by Bomba Estereo, a group known for their fusion of genres, as the featured track for its animated “Delivery Dance” commercial.

Image source: Left: Adobe Stock/世森 卢/EyeEm Right: Tasphong.

For those in the music industry especially, watching this trend grow has been exciting. For Slitzky, it’s the fusion aspect that stands out — the “hybridization of different global influences with other kind of popular styles and music,” as he explains.

Equally compelling are the trends within the trend, to which Maillaird is particularly attuned. “For example, Latin rhythm is really huge right now, in pop music — the reggaeton rhythm pattern,” he says. “It’s becoming the new standard — you can hear it everywhere.” But what Mailliard finds particularly interesting has been observing the evolution of the Global Rhythms trend up close. “You get to watch the new musical cultures emerge,” he says.

Travel the world through sound with our curated selection of Global Rhythms audio clips on Adobe Stock.