The Olympics bring people together from around the world, not just to cheer on the athletes from their country and from other countries, but to witness profound moments of physical feats and team camaraderie, and to remember that a big world exists outside of our geographical boundaries. It’s also a reminder that a whole lot of music exists outside of our countries and languages of origin, and an opportunity to expand our musical boundaries.
To get yourself in a global mindset before the 2021 Olympics begin on July 23, we’ve put together a playlist of music from artists around the world. You can find the Spotify link at the bottom!
Considering that the Olympics will be held in Tokyo, let’s start with Japan. Yuta Orisaka is a singer/songwriter who was born in Tottori, and spent his childhood in Russia and Iran. His sound gives the impression of someone who has been influenced by sounds from around the world, and is executed with acoustic guitar and jazz rhythm. In 2021, he released the album Morning Glory, however his 2018 album Heisei is probably the best place to start in your Yuta Orisaka dive.
Listen to: “Sakamichi” from the 2018 album Heisei
Kinder is a music project by sisters Briony and Savannah Osei from Maitland, Australia. Their 2020 song “Come Along (feat. A.GIRL)” is a celebration of their Ghanaian heritage. At a writing camp, the sisters connected with R&B artist A.GIRL, who shared the same desire to celebrate her heritage from New Zealand through song. After starting out as DJs and songwriters, Briony and Savannah’s manager encouraged them to start singing their own music. Kinder was recently signed to Warner Music and is working on an EP.
Listen to: Their 2020 single “Come Along (feat. A.GIRL)”
Mertkan Özkan is featured on a Spotify playlist titled “Fresh Finds Türkiye,” and Spotify wasn’t lying when they say it’s fresh, because there is not much information about him on the English-speaking internet unfortunately. He has about five singles including his latest, “Aşşşırı Kaliteli Zaman,” and they’re all wonderfully retro and synthy. This tracks with his Spotify profile, which says he is inspired by British progressive rock bands and classic music of the 1970s and ’80s. His music, even though there’s not a lot available, is very much worth a listen.
Listen to: Özkan’s 2021 single “Aşşşırı Kaliteli Zaman”
Born in China, and now living in Vancouver, Yu Su is an electronic musician whose latest album Yellow River Blue is named after China’s Yellow River near her hometown of Keifang. Her music combines synth beats with traditional Chinese instruments and tones. In an interview with Pitchfork, she says, “When I DJ or make music and when I make sound installations it’s completely different stuff. I wanted to combine those things and blur the lines between those codes that were designed to separate people.”
Listen to: “Xiu” from the 2021 album Yellow River Blue
Zior Park is a South Korean singer and rapper. American hip-hop is his big influence, and after spending time in New York, chose to rap his songs in English. In an interview with HIPHOPLE, he says, “There’s a difference in pronunciation and mood in every language, so when writing in Korean, sometimes I lost my original meaning. Purposely trying to find the right word in Korean, it didn’t feel the same as what I hoped to deliver in English.” Park is inspired by the visuals of American artists like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, and the sounds of South Korean rapper Lil Cherry, who he says approaches rap from an unapologetically Asian perspective.
Listen to: The delightful and silly track “MODERN FOX” from the 2021 album SYNDROMEZ
A 16-year-old from Manchester, DellaXOZ is a singer/songwriter and producer. She describes her music as “the fluctuation of the teenage psyche; often shifting from edgy beats with irreverently badass lyrics to ambient instrumentals accompanied by thoughtfully melancholic lyrics, some songs highlighting her unwavering confidence and others boldly revealing her insecurities.”
Listen to: DellaXOZ’s 2021 single “AHH!!!”
After a two-year hiatus since their last single, the duo Burudu (with Sahil Bhatia of New Delhi and Nakul Sharma of Mumbai), are making new music with the release of their ambient single, “Vice.” Burudu’s 2017 full-length album Ditties illustrates their commitment to house music as well as trance music. Their new single leaves you wanting more. Let’s hope a new full-length album is in their future.
Listen to: 2021 single “Vice” by Burudu
Rodrigo Amarante is a Brazilian singer/songwriter, whose work you may be familiar with if you watch the Netflix series Narcos: his song “Tuyo” is the theme song. Even if you already know of Amarante’s music, you should get acquainted with his 2021 singles, because they show a different side of the artist than what you may already know, especially his song “Maré.”
Listen to: Rodrigo Amarante’s 2021 single “Maré”
Referred to as the Queen of Afrobeats, Tiwa Savage is just about as big as it gets. Her songs have millions of streams on Spotify, she performed with Beyoncé in Black is King, and she also happens to be a Berklee alum. If you have yet to check her out, now is the time to get on it! Tiwa’s 2020 album Celia received international praise. In an interview with the New York Times, she says, “I wanted my message to be clear. I have a platform now to encourage young African girls—and just young girls in general—how important it is to be true to yourself and be unapologetically strong as a woman.”
Listen to: “Dangerous Love” from the 2020 album Celia
Laila Al Habash’s music is climbing the global charts after three of her singles were chosen for the Italian Netflix series Summertime, which premiered in 2020. It’s easy to understand why her music was chosen for a show with such a name, as her songs evoke grainy images of the Italian coast in the ’70s, as do her music videos. This year at age 22, she signed to the Undamento label and released her first EP, Moquette. She has a packed summer tour around Italy.
Listen to: Her 2021 single “Ponza”
Google offered little help in trying to learn more about the Russian pop star DEAD BLONDE. But you don’t need to read or understand Russian to know that her music is worth a listen! Her synthy pop sound is upbeat and ’80s-inspired. Her new music video “Мальчик на девятке” dropped the same day I wrote a first draft of this article, and it had already garnered more than 200,000 views on YouTube. By the time we published it a day later that number had just about doubled.
Listen to: “Мальчик на девятке”
2ersitz from Leipzig describe their music as “Neo-Hippie-Pop.” The group, featuring six friends Django, Till, Micha, Joke, Bennet, and Anselm, have been playing together since 2013, and have been on Germany’s festival circuit for the past several years. Their 2021 album is Seifenblase, which if Google translate is correct means “soap bubbles,” which perfectly captures their light and groovy beats.
Listen to: “Unser Lied” from the 2021 album Seifenblase
COSMIC WACHO is comprised of Alejandro Dominguez and Franco Felici, both independent producers. In a recent Facebook post, they describe conjuring up a “Latin psychedelic universe” with their newly formed collaboration. Though they only have three singles out at the moment, they’re all worth checking out.
Listen to: Their 2021 single “NINFA DE LA VILLA”