Okay, I realise the ideas of "national" music and geographical bounding of music is probably fallacious. And that the concept of influence is extremely vague at best. But nevertheless I've often caught myself wondering: what countries in the world have had the greatest impact on today's popular music? And I mean that on a worldwide, decentralised basis, where Africa is the strict equivalent of Europe.
I think I've listened to a fair bit of the world's contemporary musical expressions, but obviously it's still a sisyphean task. So this will be my own subjective ranking based on guesswork and feel. Feel free to criticize it if you can think of any reasons to change the countries or the order.
1. The United States
For every obvious reason imaginable. The driving force behind every major worldwide genre from Blues and Jazz to Dance music and Hip-hop and the reference point for the very concept of "popular music" in just about the entire world. I'm not sure I need to delve deeper into this one. 2. Jamaica
Now it gets a tad more controversial. But if you count in the dancehall-derived reggaeton and its huge recent infleuce across the Latin world, I think it just edges it. That's obviously on top of being the main influence of most young popular music across Africa, very important in large parts of Asia, and a crucial background influence on both dance and hip-hop via dub and deejay toasting.
Now this one will take some explaining. Mostly it's this high because of its truly worldwide reach, just as the Indian diaspora is worldwide. Indian-tinged musics appear from the caribbean to indonesia and everywhere in between (across africa, the balkans, the middle east) and everywhere they feed back into the national traditions. Nothing else (except the western tradition) is so widely dispersed.
4. The United Kingdom
Obvious sparring partner for the United States throughout and a big part of worldwide commercial pop sounds, but the only truly british tradition to have a global reach is Heavy Metal.
Mostly its influence lies in the past but much of what we think of as "latin" music originates from here.
Main country in the extremely strong middle-eastern musical tradition which is important in african, asia and the balkans.
Okay, another controversial one as the music there is crap. But what would music stand today without the TR-808, the Technics turntable or the DX7?
8. The Democratic Republic of Congo
Soukous has been a huge influence on music throughout africa and the caribbean.
Two artists: Kraftwerk. Giorgio Moroder. Enough said.
Instrumental in the development of Zouk and a clear reference point for all Francophone countries.