The European Bands That Play Music with International Influences

Collaboration in music is not entirely unheard of. Musicians and bands collaborate with other singers, experiment with different musical instruments, and feature singers from different genres. That’s something every band does. Interestingly, there’s an entirely fascinating trend in music, especially in the European music scene. 

This trend has taken place within European bands, but its roots are global. We often hear the modern term ‘Global Village’, but historically, music has always been global. There’s already a historical influence of Arabic poetry on European music and the influence of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern instruments on European music

Similarly, many people have moved to Europe to flee war, climate change, inequality and for better economic prospects. So, the history and moving phenomenon have created a diverse and vibrant European musical experience with a unique fusion of sounds and perspectives.

European Bands

So What Is This New Trend?

What happens is these European bands entirely consist of or feature members from different cultures. These members, in turn, bring their rich musical traditions, rhythms, and melodies. Using their influences and cultural roots, these European bands are changing how we perceive music.

Moreover, whether through mixed-nationality lineups, these bands also create awareness about their inspiration and influences. In doing so, they create exciting new music that many West listeners may not know. 

But that unknowing now ends as I will share the list of the best European bands (with a few exciting exceptions) that are creating magic under the influence of different cultures, history and roots.

1. Yin Yin (Netherlands-Thailand)

Yin Yin is an R&B/Soul band from the Netherlands that draws inspiration from Thailand. The members, Kees Berkers and Yves Lennertz (who has left the band since), formed the band in 2017. Their shared passion for blending diverse musical traditions to create something unique brought them together. Now a quartet, they combine Thai funk and psychedelic rock with contemporary sounds.

They also draw inspiration from various Southeast Asian music styles. However, their main inspirational source is Thai music, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s. The band also uses traditional Thai instruments alongside Western instruments, such as the phin (a three-stringed lute) and the khaen (a mouth organ).

Yin Yin released their debut album, “The Rabbit That Hunts Tigers,” in 2019 and has since released two more albums. Their sound is full of groovy basslines, guitar riffs, and hypnotic rhythms that are persistent in all their music.

You can listen to their music on Spotify and other major streaming platforms.

2. Nusantara Beats (Netherlands-Indonesia)

Nusantara Beats is a musical collective of Dutch-Indonesian musicians from Amsterdam, Netherlands, that combines Southeast Asians with Western instruments. This diverse lineup creates a unique fusion of traditional Southeast Asian music with contemporary genres like jazz, funk, and electronic music.

The band’s instruments are also traditional. They use gamelan, angklung, and kulintang to blend them with modern electric guitars, synthesisers, etc. This innovation transforms their music into hypnotic rhythms and melodic scales of Southeast Asian roots.

They released their debut album, “Islands of Rhythm,” in 2020 and have since released many EPs. Their music continues to explore the diverse sounds of Southeast Asia. You can listen to their music on Spotify.

3. Ukandanz (Ethiopia- France)

Ukandanz is a multinational group that plays high-energy ethnic jazz/noise rock with melodies from Ethiopian folk and old Ethiopian music. The band was formed in 2006 and is based in France.  

However, the Ethiopian vocalist Asnake Guebreyes’s powerful voice brings a unique and raw sound to the band. The other members include Lionel Martin, Damien Cluzel, Fred Escoffier and Guilhem Meier.

Ukandanz features Lionel Martin on tenor sax, Damien Cluzel on baritone guitar, Fred Escoffier on keyboards, and Guilhem Meier on drums. They released their first album, “Yetchalal,” in 2012. They have released four more albums and regularly perform live throughout Europe.

4. Karpe (Egypt-India-Norway)

Karpe is one of Norway’s most prominent hip-hop duos, with members Magdi Omar Ytreeide Abdelmaguid and Chirag Rashmikant Patel. The members bring their multicultural backgrounds—Magdi, a Muslim of Egyptian-Norwegian descent and Chirag, a Hindu of Indian-Norwegian descent, to Karpe. 

The duo is known for their unique blend of hip-hop, pop, and electronic music. Their lyrics often explore themes of identity, politics, and cultural diversity. For these lyrics, they draw inspiration from their personal experiences and broader societal issues.

Karpe’s music is characterised by its innovative fusion of various genres, combining catchy melodies with socially conscious lyrics. They use traditional hip-hop, pop hooks, and electronic beats to make their music accessible.

Their debut album, “Rett fra hjertet,” was a commercial success in Norway. Since then, they have released many albums. Recently, they released a catchy and vibrant song, “Piya Piya Calling,” with Coke Studio Pakistan. The song also features singers from other countries who sang it in seven languages. 

5. Altin Gün (Dutch-Turkish)

Altın Gün is another European band based in Amsterdam that draws inspiration from Turkey’s rich musical traditions. They are very much like Yin Yin (discussed above), as they also use psychedelic and folk-rock sounds that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Interestingly, it’s the first Turkish-language act nominated for a Grammy. What’s more fascinating is that the lead guy of the band is Dutch, and no Turkish mind that.

After all, Jasper Verhulst had the unique idea of using old Turkish folk songs with modern instruments. But, it’s the band’s Turkish members, Dasdemir and Ecevit, who choose which songs to cover. 

Apart from Turkish members and tunes, the band also uses Turkish instruments in its recordings and concerts, especially the saz (a Turkish stringed instrument). It released its first album, ‘On,’ in 2018 and has released three more since then.  

Despite being a Dutch band primarily, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Altın Gün is a sold-out act in Turkey, especially in Istanbul. They were also about to perform at Coachella in 2019, but Covid-19 happened. This pretty much sums up their influence in spreading Turkish psychedelic rock across European and global borders.

6. Minyo Crusaders (Japan)

Minyo Crusaders is one of the most unique bands on our list in terms of successfully experimenting with multiple genres. They fuse many international music genres, including Caribbean, Latin, and African, with traditional Japanese min’yo folk music. 

If you don’t know about min’yo, it’s a Japanese folk music genre that reflects the Japanese people’s daily lives, work, and history. When guitarist and vocalist Katsumi Tanaka blends these traditional songs with modern rhythms and instruments, they create a nostalgic and innovative sound.

They have two albums, Echoes of Japan and MINYO, to their credit. The first album features classic min’yo songs, such as “Kushimoto Bushi” and “Akita Nikata Bushi,” that infuse Afrobeat, reggae, and Latin jazz elements.

When it comes to live performances, Minyo Crusaders are a considerable act. They have performed at numerous festivals, including WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) and Fuji Rock Festival, earning them a dedicated following in Japan and internationally.

7. Khruangbin (USA-Thailand)

Khruangbin is a musical trio from Houston, Texas. The name “Khruangbin” is a Thai word meaning “aeroplane,” which reflects their music’s global influences and international sounds. 

The band consists of Laura Lee, Mark Speer, and Donald “DJ” Johnson. Together, they create a unique, cross-cultural soundscape. Just like Yin Yin, Khruangbin’s music is an eclectic mix that draws heavily from 1960s and 1970s Thai funk, soul, dub, rock, and psychedelia

They are known for their instrumental tracks, which allow the music to speak without requiring lyrics. This reliance on instrumental music only means seamlessly blending a wide range of musical influences worldwide, including Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American sounds.

Their debut album, “The Universe Smiles Upon You,” was heavily influenced by 1960s and 1970s Thai funk. After that, their second album, “Con Todo El Mundo”, drew inspiration from Spanish and Middle Eastern music.

8. Glass Beams (Australian-Indian)

Glass Beams is the most exciting music band on our list from Melbourne, Australia. They are known for their distinctive psychedelic, cosmic, and traditional sound blend. Interestingly, the band is led by a mysterious figure, “Krakatau,” who has chosen to remain anonymous. This is very much like Daft Punk (now disbanded) from France.  

Rajan Silva leads the trio and draws inspiration from his father’s rich musical heritage. Silva moved to Melbourne from India in the 1970s. However, he hasn’t forgotten about his traditional Indian sounds. With the trio, he fuses these traditional Indian sounds with Western musical styles.

This fusion is evident in their debut EP, “Mirage,” which combines live instrumentation and electronica. This cross-pollination of cultures quickly gained them a dedicated following and sold-out vinyl releases.

A sold-out record also means sold-out concerts. In these concerts, the trio also played ‘unreleased tracks’. To the much anticipation of fans, they have released a new EP, ‘Mahal’, in 2024. 

9. Tamikrest (Mali)

Tamikrest is a Tuareg desert blues band from Mali. The band’s name means “junction” or “connection” in Tamasheq. It very much reflects their mission to connect traditional Tuareg music with contemporary sounds. Ousmane Ag Mossa is a force behind the band who writes songs to express the struggles and aspirations of the Tuareg people.

Mali was torn between the Civil War and the Tuareg rebellion between 1990–1995. In this Civil War, many of Tamikrest’s members, just like other Malians, had lost their loved ones. In fact, the Civil War shaped their youth. When, in 2006, the riots broke out again, Ousmane Ag Mossa thought of something new.

Instead of picking weapons, he and his friend Cheick Ag Tiglia decided to raise awareness of the Tuareg cause through music. Their debut album, “Adagh”, didn’t just introduce their unique sounds, combining electric guitars with traditional instruments like the djembe and tehardent. It also talks about the Tuareg people’s struggles, resistance, exile, and hope.

The band is known for mixing traditional African music from different African countries and African genres with Western rock and pop influences. Besides the Tuareg members, it also includes several European band members. 

I talk more about Tuareg artists and desert blues Tuareg music. You can also read Tamikrest’s interview with The Guardian.

10. Jembaa Groove (Germany-Ghana)

Jembaa Groove is an innovative Afro-soul band based in Berlin, Germany. Eric Owusu, a Ghanaian percussionist, and Yannick Nolting, a German bassist and composer, co-founded the band. Jembaa Groove’s music blends West African rhythms and melodies with jazz, soul, and funk elements.

These West African rhythms become more specific for Jembaa Groove, as they use the fundamental elements of Ghanaian Highlife from the 1970s. When German band members infuse Ghanaian Highlife with Jazz and Soul, something truly magical happens.

The band’s debut album, Susuma, seamlessly integrates traditional African instruments like the kora and djembe. Interestingly, Jembaa Groove sings lyrics in multiple languages, such as English, Twi, and Ga, to discuss love, unity, and social justice themes. 

If you like Afro-soul, you can also read my interview with Udulele, who plays soulful Benga, another fascinating Kenyan music genre.

11. Afro Celt Sound System

Afro Celt Sound System is a European and African group formed in 1995 by producer-guitarist Simon Emmerson. They are known for fusing electronic music with traditional Gaelic and West African music and have featured many guest artists. Their albums, released through Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records, have made them one of the label’s top-selling acts.

The band has performed frequently at WOMAD festivals worldwide and released five albums under Real World, with “Volume 5: Anatomic” being the last. After a hiatus in 2007, they regrouped in 2010 to play shows and release a remastered retrospective titled “Capture.”

A key aspect of Afro Celt Sound System’s music is its use of traditional instruments. These instruments include the kora (West African harp), uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), and bodhrán (Irish drum). This blend creates a cultural sound that bridges ancient musical traditions with contemporary styles.

European Bands

European Bands | A Recap

Music has always brought people together, but these bands are taking it to a new level. By mixing sounds from different countries and cultures, they’re creating something fresh and exciting. After all, music is not just about making catchy tunes.

One can also take these European bands as musical explorers, as they introduce us to instruments and rhythms we might never have heard. They’re showing us that great music can come from anywhere, and when different styles meet, amazing things can happen. It’s a simple idea, but it’s making the music world a lot more colourful and exciting for everyone.

Looking For More Music?

Sign up for our newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cultural Reads

Sign up for books, movies & music tips from all around the world!