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From Fela Kuti to Clifton Chenier: Mick Jagger's favourite 'world music' songs

Mick Jagger is, without doubt, one of the biggest stars music has ever produced. As the swirling and twirling frontman of The Rolling Stones, Jagger has rightly ascended to an untouchable position at the top of the rock pile and, with the deftest of touches, has been able to not only write and record some incredible tracks but cover some too. Jagger’s ear for a tune is not spoken about as often in comparison to his dance moves or general attitude, but the singer certainly knew a hit when he heard one.

Jagger has never been confined to his genre, either. Much like his partner in crime, Keith Richards, Jagger has always been able to enjoy the great and the good from across the world when it comes to music. When speaking with the Telegraph some years ago, a conversation shared between Mick and his brother Chris Jagger, the lead singer shared five of his most treasured songs from around the world, and it makes for an unstoppable rhythmic riot.

Such a list is always dreadful to pick. Firstly, what even constitutes ‘world music’? Secondly, how do you narrow down the vast volume of sounds to just five songs? Somehow, Jagger manages to do both and, while some of the choices may be familiar to you, the playlist below is still a refreshing and revitalising joy.

One pick of the list is perhaps not surprising, the astoundingly talented Fela Kuti. One of the most well-known names to come out of the African music scene at the time, Kuti’s presence on the world map was accentuated thanks to Cream drummer Ginger Baker championing the musician as an undiscovered saviour. “As far as I know Ginger was one of the first to get into these rhythms and travel to Africa to actually sit there and play them,” Jagger explains.

“He might have been influenced by Phil Seamen, the jazz drummer who pre-dated him, but Ginger went to play with Fela Kuti, which must have been a daunting journey in more ways than one. But then he always did want to push things that much further than most drummers who came from England. Fela always had great orchestration and an amazing horn section, as he played horn himself and liked to use two baritones, which is unusual.”

Another song that Jagger picks out is the brilliant ‘I’m A Hog For You’ from the great Clifton Chenier, about which Jagger said: “Clifton was a great influence on me. We first listened to him around 1965 when we went to the States. I love the way he just grabs a blues number and adapts it to his style.” It would be a similar feat that Jagger himself would employ, taking the Delta blues sound and giving it the spin of a fresh new decade and an unstoppable generation.

There are three more nods to the outer rims of the musical mainstream as Jagge offers up Salif Keita, the classical Indian musicianship of T Visvanathan and T Ranganathan, as well as Farafina to complete the list. While we certainly wish there was more of Mick Jagger’s favourite for us to get lost in, the below playlist should act as a jumping-off point to discover at least five great new artists from around the world.

Mick Jagger’s favourite ‘world music’ songs:

  • Clifton Chenier – ‘I’m a Hog for You’
  • Salif Keita – ‘M’Bemba’
  • T Visvanathan and T Ranganathan – ‘Sandehamunu’
  • Farafina – ‘Dounounia’
  • Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker – ‘Let’s Start’