Top Ten Thursday: No Hable Ingles (Best Non-English Speaking Acts)

foreign flags languages songs and music

In honor of another great feat (some of us would say anyways) from everyone’s favorite Icelandic act (unless you like the other act from Iceland more, Bjork), we thought we would list out our other favorite acts in which we cannot understand a single word from. Before we get to list, I must say that this was a tough one to tackle. Due to our unfamiliarity with non-english speaking foreign acts, we had to do our homework. This entailed a lot of new listening, a lot of Rammstein jokes, some slight arguing, and overall much enjoyment. This list opened my eyes to some music I will now never let go of, and for that I am very happy. Hopefully you like it as much as we liked putting it together. Onto the list …

10. Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective
Andy Palacio singer musician punta
Native Tongue: Garifuna (Arawakan language mainly composed of French, Spanish, and Caribbean words)

Andy was a musician as well as a government official/activist leader for his Garinagu people living in Central America. Stylistically he was a master of a genre known as Punta. Upon first listen, you would think that Punta is just a combination of African and Reggae music maybe mixed with some Spanish sounds, and maybe even a bit of calypso in there. And upon first read, you may think that the last sentenced I typed was quite a descriptive sentence regarding Punta. The fact is, neither that last sentence, nor your initial comparisons, whatever they may be, are indeed enough to delve into the depths that make this beautiful genre what it is. Lots of technical instrumentation and political/social undertones make Punta what it is, and trust us when we say, Andy Palacio was a master of Punta.

9. Tinariwen
Tinariwen band musicians music
Native Tongue: Tuareg (From the Southern Sahara Region of Mali)

Incredibly enough, Tinariwen formed in 1979 while in refugee camps in Libya. They returned to Mali in the 90’s and recorded their first album in 2001. Their sound comes of as a sort of westernized Arabian rock yet instrumentally I would still compare them to the likes of Dire Straights. They sound incredible, I just have no idea what they are saying. From what I understand however, it is very politically charged and always messages of peace. They arose to popularity very quickly, especially after playing Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Garnering support from musicians like Thom Yorke and TV on the Radio, their career has been booming since 2007 and continues to be on the rise.

8. Manu Chao
Manu Chao musician singer music worldwide
Native Tongue: French (also known to sing in Spanish, Italian, English, Arabic, etc … sometimes in the same song)

Manu Chao is another great musician whose popularity has traveled far and wide, much like his influence. The man is incredibly hard to pin down to one genre, and manages to attract crowds in every country on the globe. I have been to festivals in which he has played, but unfortunately have yet to see him live, but due to his seemingly everlasting amount of energy, I’m sure his shows are very fun and very great.

7. Serge Gainsbourg
serge gainsbourg musician artist french brilliant man music
Native Tongue: French

Whether you realize it or not, you have most certainly seen or heard Serge’s work in one form or another through either pop culture or media references, soundtracks, covers, or at the absolute very least you have seen his beautiful daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg act in one of her many stunning roles. Serge is one of the more iconic worldwide musicians of all time, and his styles varied from the likes of electronic pop music, to reggae, to adult contemporary/jazz. The man was all over the map, and he was a master at everything he attempted, sure to leave his influence steadily stamped all over the evolution of music from 1958 to his death in 1991.

6. Neu!
Neu! neu music krautrock german band
Native Tongue: German

The first implementation of Krautrock into our list, but certainly not the last. Neu! was formed by former Kraftwerk (soon to appear below) members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother. They branched out to begin more of an experimental rock band, but didn’t totally leave the minimalist/dance vibes behind. They did completely revamp the sound of it though, and provided a much more raw, guitar and percussion driven sound. Personally, they fit my taste just a bit better than Kraftwerk does, but I understand it’s not a sound for everyone. Then again, neither is Kraftwerk. Neu! is more of an in-your-face, punk sound. Many bands such as Radiohead, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Television were greatly influenced by the band, which makes me a very happy guy that they ever existed.

5. Amadou & Mariam
amadou et mariam & blind musicians great worldwide santigold
Native Tongue: Bambara/French (Mali languages vary slightly across different regions)

This blind couple from Mali began making music together in 1974 and began recording music together in the 1980’s. Since the 90’s they have been making their mark all over the world, playing festivals like Lollapalooza in Chicago to the Latitude Festival in Suffolk. In more recent years, they have been gaining massive notoriety in the states, and their most recent album included guests like Santigold and TV On The Radio. They have been recently dubbed as genre-less because it is highly unlikely that you will find any amount of consistency in the type of music they play anymore. They have broken an incredible amount of musical barriers, and the romantical (<to all the Little Rascals fans out there) side of it all, is that they just started as a couple of blind love birds, singing their favorite Malian blues tunes together. 30+ years later, they are not only continuing to do so, but they are kicking more ass at it than ever before.

^Santigold Infused

4. Os Mutantes
Os Mutantes brazil brazilian music psychedelic
Native Tongue: Portuguese

Hopping on board with the psychedelic revolution in the 1960’s these Brazilian mutants (literal translation of their band name being The Mutants) also brought something new to the table, the Tropicalia (not like, but not tremendously unlike the brilliant Beck song from Mutations) movement. The Tropicalia movement was a Brazilian music movement that’s goal was to display art, poetry, and theatrics within the avant-garde music it was being performed in/with. They are quite a treat to listen to. I feel like they began in Brazil similarly to how The Rolling Stones sounded in the states. Then as they progressed further into the Tropicalia stages, they began getting much more whack, like the later stages of The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix if you were to add more of a South American/bossa nova vibe to them.

3. Can
can the band krautrock german band
Native Tongue: German

Crazy Krautrock at it’s finest. Some of it bluesy, some of it psychedelic, all of it groovy, and all of it weird. They began as a very experimental garage band, but developed into one of the finer bands of the 60’s/70’s and paved the way for a tremendous amount of bands from funk to punk. They were extremely innovative. One band member even pushed himself to the limit, creating sounds out of shortwave radios and morse code keys to insert into the recordings, somehow managing to make it sound incredible.

2. Kraftwerk
kraftwerk dance music electronic krautrock german
Native Tongue: German

Musical pioneers couldn’t be more of an understatement when talking about Kraftwerk. Their innovative technique in blending totally electronic sounds into melodic pop music was something of a joke in 1970. It took a few years to make its presence known, but it soon blew the roof off the music scene. Everything, even down to he vocals was electronically produced. They literally sounded like robots blended with melodies, hooks, and harmonies. Their impact on music is honestly comparable to that of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and if you think that is an understatement, then you’re not realizing that EDM is one of the top four genres in music right now. From Devo, to Daft Punk, to f#*^in’ Skrillex … it began with Kraftwerk.

1. Sigur Ros
sigur ros icelandic band music great
Native Tongue: Icelandic

Tough one to guess huh? Iceland doesn’t pump out successful acts in the states too often, but when they do, they do it well. They may not have had quite the influence over music that Kraftwerk had, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they were hailed as such. They were frontrunners of a new bread of european dark-wave music and have transformed into much more than they or their fans, could ever imagine. This band has blown up over the entire world despite the fact that 97% of the world’s population doesn’t understand a word that they are saying. They are a beautiful minimalist (I use that loosely) band, claimed to be the soundtrack to every good movie as well as all of heaven. Their sound seems classic but with a modern twist, very unique, incredibly inspirational, and they are truly breathtaking to witness live.


The “just missed our list” list:

Wes – Enrique Iglesias
Enrique Iglesias is a duetch gay latino musician
Native Tongue: Spanish

Wes still hasn’t really matured greatly from the pre-pubescent little boy who used to play with his dingy while watching MTV. He was especially fond when some sexy Enrique videos would pop on. It was at lest much better than the Snooky he gets now, which apparently is all MTV really has to offer Wes these days.

Austin – Dave Matthews
dave matthews band dmb guitar tab great music
Native Tongue: ???

Since the first time Austin’s ears heard the sweet sounds of “Crash Into Me”, he became a “Dave Head”. Now many albums, many concerts, and 18+ years later, he still has no idea what the hell Dave is saying when he sings. Austin loves every note and word that comes outta that man, but unfortunately, doesn’t realize that Dave is actually singing in English. I didn’t have the heart to tell him otherwise, so hear it sits on this list.

Todd – Deerhoof
deerhoof band japanese great avant-gard
Native Tongue: Super Great High Power Japanese Anime Awesome

This was tough to get on the list because they sing so much in English that they were hard to qualify, but Deerhoof is legitimately an incredible band. They are brilliantly super-charged instrumentally, super spastic yet very tight, and draw influences from jazz, metal, alternative music, ska, and psychedelic Japanese sounds. They have also been cited as being major influences for modern bands such as The Flaming Lips, Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, Sleigh Bells, St. Vincent, and Grizzly Bear. They have been around since 1997 and have always been very underrated. Perhaps that is because the lead singer’s voice is a bit much to handle. Nonetheless, they are very worth checking out if you haven’t already.

So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …

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Author: Todd

I dig musics ...

5 thoughts on “Top Ten Thursday: No Hable Ingles (Best Non-English Speaking Acts)”

  1. Oh man! The list of things you missed is huge – you’re talking about the non-English speaking world. Ali Farkah Toure, Angelique Kidjo, Cesaria Evora, Shubha Mudgal, Swaratma, Baaba Maal…you may not like all of them but the supply’s inexhaustible

    1. Thanks for the comment. We are definitely no experts when it comes to World Music, but we thought this list would still be fun to try our hand at. I will have to check out a couple of the artists you posted I am less familiar with.

      1. Wes, nobody is – the field is so vast. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and I think it’s important that more people get exposed to music from different parts of the world. Posts like this one help do that. So thank you guys for that.

  2. Watching Wes sing (scream) “Hero” to his increasing embarrassed prom date while they slow danced was one of the highlights of my high school experience.

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