Brian Martinez
Catherine Williams


Exploring the World of Music. 1999. Produced by Pacific Street Films and the Educational Film Center. Annenberg/CPB Project. Burlington, Vermont."

  • This series features 12 30-minute segments that each explore a different aspect of how music expresses culture. Although the series does not necessarily focus on any one region or style of music, each volume in the series draws upon several styles of musics from around the world in order to illustrate various concepts. Volumes include: 1. Sound, Music, and the Environment, 2. The Transformative Power of Music, 3. Music and Memory, 4. Transmission: Learning Music, 5. Rhythm, 6. Timbre: The Color of Music, 8. Texture, 9. Harmony, 10. Form: The Shape of Music, 11. Composers and Improvisers, and 12. Music and Technology. The brevity of each segment allows them to easily be integrated into a world music course. The programs are designed to be used with high school and college-level students.

The JVC Video Anthology of World Music and Dance. 1990. Produced by the JVC, Victor Company. Japan.

  • This collection features 30 volumes of videos showcasing music and dance from various regions of the world. Volumes are grouped together by region: East Asia (vols. 1-5), Southeast Asia (vols. 6-10), South Asia (vols. 11-15), Middle East and Africa (vols. 16- 19), Europe (vols. 20-22), Soviet Union (vols. 23-26), the Americas (vols. 27-28) and Oceania (vols. 29-30). The videos are accompanied by an additional 10 volumes of supplementary text material, which includes essays that provide information on the historical and sociocultural context of the music, glossaries and maps. Even at 30 volumes the set is not comprehensive in its sampling of world musics, but it provides more than ample material to supplement or enhance an undergraduate survey course.

Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders. 2010 (and pending). Produced by Stephen Talbot. PBS Home Video.

  • A documentary hosted by international radio host Marco Werman about discovering music around today’s world. Four hosts are followed as they interview and witness music in many different global cultures, covering everything from classical music to bluegrass, rock and roll, and Bollywood. PBS plans to expand and develop this documentary in to a six-part series.


Beijing Punk. 2009. Directed by Shaun Jefford. Los Angeles: New Ground Films, LLC.

  • During the 2008 Olympics in China, director Shaun Jefford followed the exploding underground movement of punk music and lifestyle in China. Jefford’s feature-length documentary explores the world of Beijing Punk, a movement nearly forty years behind the British punk rebellion. Members of the younger generation in China seem to be associating with this musical movement due to disagreements with the Chinese government, and this rebellion is holding strong on the outskirts of Beijing. Several punk bands are featured and songs in both Chinese and English are heard.

Big Drum: Taiko in the United States. 2006. Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum.

  • In 2006, the Japanese American National Museum hosted the Big Drum exhibition, which covered the culture of taiko drums in the United States. As a compliment to the exhibit, the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center of the museum produced a documentary of the same nature. The film features interviews with prominent taiko musicians, performances, and drum-making while discussing the development and growth of taiko in the U.S. There are also some extra features consisting of historical footage of taiko in the U.S.

Music of Central Asia. 2006-2010 (and pending). Smithsonian Folkways and the Aga Khan Music Initiative.

  • Nine of the ten volumes of this series have currently been published. The series consists of CDs that are published with accompanying DVDs covering various regions in Central Asia. The collection includes looks at both older and newer folk traditions, in addition to paying particular attention to a small group of musicians for each volume. This focus on individual musicians at once narrows the focus of each video episode while lending a personal touch to the films. Currently available volumes include: 1. Mountain Music from Kyrgyztan, 2. Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks, 3. The Art of the Afghan Rubâb, 4. Women’s Voices in Central Asia, 5. Song and Dance from the Pamir Mountains, 6. Spiritual Music of Azerbaijan, 7. Popular Classics from Bukhara and Beyond, 8. Rainbow feat. Kronos Quartet with Alim & Fargana Qasimov and Homayun Sakhi, and 9. Musical Encounters fom the Lands of the Mughals. Each video segment is approximately 24-25 minutes long, so they may easily be incorporated into a world music course.

Ritual and Music of North China: Volume 2 - Shaanbei. 2009. Directed by Stephen Jones. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

  • This documentary follows certain rituals, traditions, and folk music in Shaanbei, China - the life of a Chinese musician.

Genghis Blues. 1999. Directed by Roko Belic.

  • This documentary film follows the journey of American blues musician, Paul Pena, to Tuva to compete in the 1995 throat-singing festival and symposium in Kyzyl, the capital of this distant republic in the Russian Federation.

To Live. 1994. Directed by Yimou Zhang.

  • Directed by Yimou Zhang (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers, and Hero), this fictional epic film follows the life of a shadow puppeteer and erhu performer from before the communist revolution of the 1950s through the Cultural Revolution in China. While not focus on music, per se, it has many good scenes of shadow puppet performances and exposes the dissolution of traditional Chinese arts during the Cultural Revolution.

Middle East

Marooned in Iraq. 2002. Directed by Bahman Ghobadi.

  • The dramatic, fictional story of a Kurdish musician and his two adult sons crossing the border into Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.


Listen to the Silence: A Film About African Cross-Rhythms as Seen Through Ghanian Music. 1996. Produced by Peter Bischoff. Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Princeton, N.J.

  • This film explores the role of music and musical activities in the everyday life of Ewe, Ashanti, Ga, and Frafra ethnic groups in the West African country of Ghana. Examples of music of work, of play, and of ritual are all modeled in the film, including a look at postal workers canceling stamps at a Ghanian post office, women grinding a grain-dough, children playing in the streets, and traditional West-African drumming. The segments that focus on children’s games may be particularly useful for illustrating aspects of the concept of enculturation.

Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony. 2002. Directed by Lee Hirsch.

  • A Sundance Audience Award winner, Amandla! tells the story of music in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. This documentary contains many interviews with South African musicians and archival footage.


Folk Britannia. 2006. London: BBC Four.

  • A three-part series by the BBC covering British folk music from 1945 through 2006. Featuring artist interviews and perspectives on the folk music revival in England in the second half of the twentieth century. Part one, Ballads & Blues, covers politics, ownership, and the revival of British folk music in the 20th-century. Folk Roots, New Routes, part two discusses the explosion of British folk music in the 1960s, along with the consequent reworking of folk music to fit a more general audience. Finally, part three, Between the Wars, covers the constant reinvention of the genre throughout the dip in popularity beginning in the late 1970s, and the newest generation of folk musicians.

From Shore to Shore: Irish Traditional Music in New York City. 1993/2006. Cherry Lane Productions.

  • This documentary explores the history and influence of Irish traditional music as it migrated across the Atlantic Ocean in the twentieth century. Contains performances by and interviews with prominent Irish musicians in New York City

Gypsy Caravan: When the Road Bends. 2008. Directed by Jasmine Dellal. Fortissimo Films.

  • A documentary featuring folk music from the Roma Gypsies in Europe. The film follows five Roma bands on a concert tour through North America, while shedding light upon the culture and tradition of music in Gypsy life. There is also comparison of the Roma’s musical life versus daily life. Includes an exclusive interview with Johnny Depp.

Latcho Drom. 1993. Directed by Tony Gatlif

  • This film dramatizes the migration of the Roma from India to Spain, crossing through the Middle East and Europe, while simultaneously following the changing seasons from summer to spring. Absent of dialog, the film is presented through music and dance. I don't think this has ever been released on DVD in the U.S., but it is available on VHS.

The Last Klezmer: Leopold Kozlowski, his life and music. 1994. Directed by Yale Strom. New York: New Yorker Video.

  • After completing his Master’s degree, director Yale Strom travels to Eastern Europe in search of Klezmer music. In this documentary, Strom follows Leopold Kozlowski, a Polish Klezmer musician and teacher. Strom discovers Klezmer music that outlived the Holocaust - musicians, sheet music, recordings, tradition.


Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart). 1999. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bansali.

  • A classic Bollywood film, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam exhibits typical elements of Indian filmmaking, including music and song and dance numbers intermingled (perhaps even juxtaposed) with a common storyline involving issues in Indian society including apprenticeship of a student musician to a master and arranged marriages.

Indian Classical Music. 1994. Films for the Humanities & Sciences.

  • A compilation of performances of Hindustani music, this video features the artistry of the likes of Ali Akbar Khan, Amjad Khan, and Ravi Shankar. This provides a great opportunity for students to be able to see North Indian classical music being made, rather than simply listening to recordings.

South Indian classical music house concert with M. D. Ramanathan, vocalist. 1994. Aspara Media for Intercultural Education.

  • Similar to Indian Classical Music, this video captures the Karnatic (South Indian) tradition of music making. Performers include vocalist Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan, violinist T. N. Krishnan, and mrindangam player Umayalpuram Sivaraman.

Latin America

Buena Vista Social Club. 1999. Directed by Wim Wenders.

  • A commercially-available documentary, Buena Vista Social Club provides a window into the lives of the Cuban musicians that made the landmark album recording of the same name in 1997. That recording helped to revitalize interest in Latin music in the United States, and the video documentary gives insight not only into their personal lives, but also to their reaction to being in the United States for the very first time for their farewell concert. Interviews with the performers are juxtaposed with scenes of life in Cuba and the ensemble’s studio and concert recordings.

Orfeu Negro. 1959. Directed by Marcel Camus.

  • This Hollywood film is a remake of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the story incorporates elements of Brazilian culture, including the Carnival celebration and samba schools. Much of the soundtrack, which was composed by the influential Brazilian composer Carlos Antônio Jobim, is in the bossa nova style. The film played a large part in popularizing bossa nova in the United States. Conceived and directed by a French filmmaker, this Brazilian remake (in the Portuguese language, with English subtitles) of an ancient Greek story is rife with opportunities for discussing cross-cultural influences and transnationalism in the classroom.