Four Countries That Influence Modern Popular Music

Slightly Stoopid

imagesThere is no doubt that America has some of the most diverse musical influences and talent due to the fact that we are a melting pot of immigrants and traditions. A few of the diversities present in the US include: Creole music and jazz from Louisiana, African roots, blues, and gospel, Nashville country, contemporary R & B, rock and roll’s counterculture, and hip hop from the Bronx, to name a few. Do you ever wonder where these influences come from? To answer your questions, here’s a list of four countries that influence modern popular music, from Jamaica to Iceland.




Influences: Roots Reggae, Dancehall, Dub, Ska


Slightly Stoopid
Slightly Stoopid

Jamaica is known for its infectious rhythms, which include one drops, rockers and steppers; the three main known drum styles in reggae music. For example, the one-drop has the entire emphasis on the backbeat by dropping the one. Reggae originated in Jamaica in the 1960s and is associated with the Rastafari movement. Bob Marley is the face of Jamaican roots reggae and the Rastafari lifestyle. With the help of the Wailers, Bob started a cult following of the reggae movement in the American pop culture scene in the 70s.

Notable Jamaican influences: Peter Tosh, Ernest Ranglin, Joe Gibbs, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, Joseph Hibbert, Family Man Barrett

Modern Reggae Musicians: Sizzla, Capelton, Morgan Heritage, Midnite, Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Groundation, Easy Star All Stars, John Browns Body, Collie Buddz, Damian/Ziggy/Stephen Marley



Influences: Raga Sangeet, Hindustani Classical, Carnatic, folk, indi-pop, raga rock


Indian music has a lot of influence on present-day jazz. George Harrison from The Beatles studied with Ravi Shankar and brought Indian music to a new era of pop music. Indian influence can be heard in rocks groups such as The Grateful Dead, The Doors and Cream and jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

Notable Indian Musicians: famous sitarist Ravi Shankar, sarodist Ali Akbar Khan, violinist L. Shankar, guitarist Fareed Haque

Modern Indian Influenced Musicians: tabla player Zakir Hussein, Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar, Selena Gomez, M.I.A.

South AfricaSouthAfricanStub

Influences: Hip-Hop, Rave, Zulu, Afrikaan, Kwaito, JIVE, Drum n Bass



Yolandi Visser from South African rap group, Die Antwoord
Yolandi Visser from South African rap group, Die Antwoord

South Africa has unparalleled diversity and many musical influences including Dutch folk, as well as French and German. The Dutch, Germans and French largely colonized South Africa in the late 1680s and were mostly fleeing due to religious persecution. The hodge-podge of cultures that make up South Africa might explain the dynamic duo from Cape Town, Die Antwoord, who is known for their nontraditional antics and shock value.


Notable South African Musicians: John Bhengu (father of Zulu Traditional), Brenda Fassie, Lucky Dube

Modern South African Musicians: Die Antwoord, Bongo Maffin, TKZee, Krushed and Sorted


Influences: Folk, Islandsklukkur, electronic, experimental, Alternative, post-rock, Indie


Most people think of Iceland as an isolated and cold island nation, but it has proven to spawn some very talented and distinct musicians. Because of this isolation, much of their music has gone unnoticed, however, their musical history and style is unique and incomparable, dating back to their Nordic music roots. The creative talent out of Iceland has continued to develop throughout the 20th century. Traditional Icelandic music has evolved into progressive contemporary folk, pop, indie rock and electronic.

Notable Icelandic Musicians: Bjork, GusGus, Voces Thules, The Sugarcubes, Emiliana Torrini, Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, cellist Sæunn Þorsteinsdóttir and Daníel Bjarnason

Modern Musicians: Of Monsters and Men, Soley, Seabear, Leaves, Samaris, Lay Low, Thor, Mammut, KRAKKKBOT, Bang Gang, ADHD, Mugison, Sigur Ros












  1. This article is so fascinating! I don’t think many people every think of where our music really comes from and who our artists are inspired by. I also think a lot of people in America don’t realize that the music we listen to, didn’t originate in America. So many different countries in the world influence American music and vice-versa!

  2. This article is great! I love the tie in from around the world and how each country has influenced music around the world! Well done Katie! I would’ve like to see more information about European countries, as I know they too have had a large influence on the music industry as well! Overall, this is a great article, and I think she should come out with a second article about other major countries and their influences in the music industry!

  3. Cool article about how different cultures have influenced contemporary music. Growing up in Pueblo, CO. I learned a lot about different types of music. I have witnessed on several occasions a Native American music performance. I have also witnessed tons of Mariachi performances. Music is a wonderful bridge because anyone can like any type of music.

  4. Crazy to see where the roots of our music comes from! Very well written piece, fun read.

  5. Music will always be a massive part of my life whether it be listening to in the car, during homework, or at dance class, it is around me at all times, hence why I clicked on this article. I had no idea that Iceland had a major impact on American music. I listen to Of Monster and Men as well as Bjork and did not realize that the contemporary indie music was influenced in what seems to be an “isolated” area. I knew the Jamaican influence on the U.S. due to my liking of the reggae style and was very fortunate to see Stephen Marley perform live in Vail. I found it very interesting that The Beatles studied with Ravi Shankar and brought Indian music to a new era of pop music. I had not known this prior to reading this article, and would not have guessed it either. This put a new spin on music for me now, and I’m now wanting to investigate where more influences may come from. 

  6. This is a really interesting article! I liked how you gave us background behind the music that each country inspired. I had no idea that music today is inspired from so many unique countries, especially Iceland! I would have never guessed.

  7. As a music lover and DJ, I enjoyed learning where these influences come from. Die Antwoord is one of my guilty pleasures even though their music and videos take a unique ear to give it a listen. Thanks for writing this!

  8. I would have never thought to connect Jamaica, India, South Africa and Iceland in any kind of context but somehow you were able to do it (and do it well) with music. This article just goes to show how universal music is, it truly is something that can connect us all! Loved this piece! Goof job!

  9. Such an interesting article! I love the background and I loved learning about the South African rap group.

  10. I really enjoyed this article. Everyone has heard of Bob Marley but not very many know that George Harrison was so influenced by Ravi Shankar.

  11. SUCH an interesting article.  I love learning about music and musical influences, and it was so refreshing to learn about countries that aren’t thought of as “mainstream” when it comes to music.  I wish there was a way for the US to get up to speed on music!

  12. Love this! The list format is great, easy to read and you happened to list some of my favorite bands which makes me happy haha :]
    For those that like reggae like Rebelution and Slightly Stupid, check out Stick Figure, Iration, and The Green!

  13. I really enjoy thise article. I believe music has a huge impact on music. I highly like deephouse music and those artists are mainly from Europe.

  14. Die Antwoord’s music videos are a treat. I’ve always loved Eastern music too. Seeing music performed in India would be an experience

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