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Live and loud: the best music cities around the world

Like a soundtrack for a city, the following places have seen the success of a genre of music that can be witnessed in some of their famous bars and venues, marking them historically as a breeding ground for future artists. Headbanging metal in Finland, or emotionally charged fado in Lisbon – the following music cities and our selection of local tracks you can play below each paragraph may well have you humming a tune that you can’t get out of your head!

(If you’re having trouble with the music players, find our momondo playlist here.)

Yé-yé and Chanson Française – Paris, France

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Serge Gainsbourg, an indispensable part of your Chanson Franςaise collection © Kinolamp

France has a personal style, a “je ne sais quoi” that makes you fantasize about Paris every time you hear a song by Serge Gainsbourg or France Gall. It might just be that you’ve fallen in love with the sweet sounds of yé-yé music, an interpretation with a French accent of the words “yeah, yeah”, often heard in British pop songs of the 1960s.

In the French capital, you can enjoy these tunes in kitsch neighborhood bars and cafés often unchanged since their opening. Chez Louisette, near the St Ouen flea market, serves a modest cup of coffee accompanied with oldies tunes, in a décor that will transport you back to its founding date of 1930s.

The Trois Baudets venue offers live music in Paris from a variety of genres so long as it is in French. Famous acts such as Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens have walked the floors of their stage. For a passionate show honoring a French yé-yé legend, head to Le Soixante Douze for an homage to Claude François. An Afro-Antillean influenced restaurant held by Ketty Sena, former Clodette, Claude François’ back up dancers, puts on a revival show that would make the late singer proud.

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Country – Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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Country legends in Nashville, Tennessee

Unleash your inner cowboy and discover the heart and soul of country music in Nashville, Tennessee, aka “Music City USA”. Landmarks such as the Grand Ole Opry House have hosted such artists as the Carter Family (considered to be the first group to become country music stars) and more contemporary artists like Carrie Underwood.

Inevitably, the name Johnny Cash will spring to mind while in Nashville. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and with a museum in his name in Downtown, his career and death in Nashville have marked the city’s history. For a Johnny Cash tribute, make your way over to the Exit/In, a historic alternative music venue opened in 1970.

Aching to discover new artists? Head to the Bluebird Café, a small listening room with acoustic open mic nights on the same stage that witnessed Garth Brooks’ and Taylor Swift’s humble beginnings. When the sun sets, follow the neon lights around Downtown Nashville for busy nightlife, or kick the dust off your best boots at the Nashville Palace. Certain nights of the week you can join in the do-see-do of some classic line-dancing or barn-dancing.

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Opera – Venice, Italy

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A gondola ride with an Opera singer? Welcome to Venice

For just the right performance of romance, elegance, and opulence, look no further than a night at the opera in Venice, Italy. Since its beginning in the 16th century with Florentine Jacopo Peri’s work Dafne, considered to be the first opera, opera has been performed in some of the most grandiose and beautiful theaters in Italy.

Although the representations of opera are all over the country, Venice completes the experience before, after, and during the show. After a day of strolling over the Rialto Bridge and the snaking canals with a singing canal captain, put on your fancy clothes: you’re going to the opera! The Teatro La Fenice, risen like the phoenix after multiple destructive fires, features 19th century aesthetics of gilded trim, angelic ceiling frescoes, and red velvet.

Only a few steps away, for an immersive experience, join the artists of the Musica a Palazzo as they perform a condensed version of famous operas wandering through the halls of Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. An intimate experience, true to the Italian tradition.

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Techno – Berlin, Germany

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Find your techno treasure at Tresor in Berlin

We know that techno isn’t from Berlin. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, the techno movement reached and rooted itself in Berlin in the 1980s. Like a mushroom, illegal party venues sprouted around the city in basements or abandoned buildings. Coinciding closely with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the question was no longer whether you were from East or West Berlin but rather if you preferred power electronics or hardcore.

The underground scene is still going strong in the legendary venue Tresor, the German term for vault, since 1991. First established in the vaults of an old department store, it was since moved and reopened in a renovated power plant in 2007. Detroit born figures of the techno movement such as Jeff Mills and Blake Baxter perform regularly under the club’s label.

With Berlin and techno, time is irrelevant. Open from dawn till dusk, Berghain/Panorama Bar is a temple for loud techno known for its music as well as its strict bouncer at the entrance. The hip Kreuzberg neighborhood is home to Chalet, a more mainstream venue with equally talented DJs. The sun is risen and Berlin offers you the possibility to continue partying come brunch time at IPSE and Club der Visionaere hosting outdoor waterside parties from 12 pm on.

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Calypso – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

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A band plays calypso for passersby in Trinidad and Tobago

Calypso is a genre of Afro-Caribbean music from Trinidad and Tobago. Often tinged with a strong political message, calypso music, originally a musical form of communication between slave workers, voices the struggles of the locals, their political opinions, and their successes. Played with a medley of folk instruments with a Caribbean flavor, it can be as passionately sung as danced.

Around Carnival in February, the streets of Port of Spain are filled with colorfully (and scarcely) clad partiers shaking their hips to calypso and soca music (a less politicized offspring of calypso music) making it one of the wildest music cities around.

Outside of Carnival season, the locally renowned Mas Camp, also known as De Nu Pub, greet local calypso artists, making it a hub to discover or rediscover your favorite musicians. Take a break from getting down and check out the Queen’s Park Savannah where you’ll find the Magnificent Seven, a set of impressive (slightly flamboyantly lit at night) Victorian homes.

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Metal – Helsinki, Finland

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Lordi captivates the crowd with their metal tunes

The cradle of metal may be Birmingham, home to Black Sabbath, but did you know that Finland is the country densest with metal bands? You might even know a few of these bands yourself – in 2006, the band Lordi won the Eurovision song contest, and the band Nightwish with chart-topping songs around Europe.

To see the scene for yourself, check out the concerts in Finland or head straight to Helsinki‘s metal bar PRKL Club where amateur as well as international metal bands play gigs in the basement. Waiting for warmer days? The Tuska Open Air festival in June offers three days of metal ideal for tanning while you mosh.

If you like your metal with a more satanic twist, you might enjoy the Norwegian black metal scene over in neighboring Norway, complete with tales of murder, suicide, and church burnings.

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Fado – Lisbon, Portugal

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Walk through years of history on the Escadinhas de São Cristóvão

Fado is deeply sorrowful song, recollecting lost loves, melancholy, and saudade (longing) that emerged from Lisbon around the 1820s. If the walls of the Portuguese capital could sing, they’d repeat the cries of famous fadistas like more contemporary Ana Moura or Maria Severa, regarded as the first fado singer. You can find her portrait painted alongside other Lisbon emblems on the mural at Escadinhas de São Cristóvão staircase.

Hop aboard the old tram to Alfama, the city’s oldest neighborhood, replete with tiny walkways, door frames, and roughed-up Moorish architecture. In rustic restaurants, you can enjoy a meal and the best fado in Lisbon, sometimes sung by the cooks or waiters themselves. Clube de Fado is a fado institution in Alfama with respected singers performing nightly. With the sorrowful sounds of fado still ringing in your ears, head up to the heights of Alfama to catch an equally emotional view of the Castelo São Jorge’s glowing ramparts.

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Rhythm & Blues – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

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Rhythm and blues at the Funky Pirate in New Orleans

If you stare long enough at local born Antoine “Fats” Domino’s bronze statue on Bourbon Street, you may hear the echo of rhythm and blues tunes that makes New Orleans an R&B mecca. The music venues in New Orleans here are endless, especially if you want to bar hop through the iconic French Quarter.

Don’t be deterred by its name or tacky décor, the Funky Pirate blues club has a performance every night often by local heavy weights like Big Al Carson. Within walking distance, enjoy a cocktail and live music in the oaky DBA New Orleans pub, in the heart of the Frenchmen Street area. Stick around on Tuesdays for the Treme Brass Band, although not playing the blues, this marching band will show you true New Orleans style.

Speaking of Treme, for authentic rhythm and blues and African heritage, this historical neighborhood knows where it’s at. At Ooh Poo Pah Doo, join Judy, the bar owner, for a far from fancy night of soulful and authentic music. Grab yourself a plate of red beans and rice, and enjoy the best NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) has to offer.

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Trip-hop – Bristol, UK

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The best of trip-hop with Bristol band Massive Attack

In terms of music cities, the city of Bristol has been leading the way for budding artists creating hip-hop, drum and bass, and reggae influenced beats. In the 1990’s a new genre saw the light: trip-hop, a slow drum beat with elements of hip-hop or reggae, and a form of electronic music or house. To get a better idea, listen to Bristol babies such as Portishead, Tricky, or Massive Attack.

During the day you might take a walking tour around Bristol to catch Banksy’s newest street art, but at night make sure to go to Stokes Croft area primarily for the music scene. At Lakota, you’ll find a variety of events dedicated to hip-hop, dub, trip-hop, and the list goes on. Mr Wolfs also has a tempting line-up of artists with regular trip-hop bands to keep you up till closing time.

The most recent cultural explosion in Bristol was dubstep which – while originating in London – is home to noted performers like Headhunter and Appleblim, plus excellent club nights here. The massive venue Motion, set in an old warehouse, will get you what you need with a solid dose of dubstep. Who knows what the cheery Bristolians will come up with next?

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Benga – Nairobi, Kenya

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Move to the soukous beat in Kenya

If you’re passing through Nairobi on the way to a safari, why not hang around for a little bit and discover a music to fall in love with: benga. Since the 1960’s band Shirati Jazz popularized the benga sound, an evolution from Luo music (folk songs) with a soukous beat.

To see what it’s all about, your best bet is to dine and dance at the club Kuche Kuche. Fridays can get packed with people moving to Luo benga music while sipping on local Tusker beer. For a more eclectic music scene, Klub House has got you covered with DJs spinning dancehall, R&B, or reggae or live acts of jazz and East African beats on weekends.

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Flamenco – Andalusia, Spain

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Follow the rhythm of flamenco all the way to Andalusia

You can get the sexy thrills of flamenco across Andalusia, but you’ll find it at its steamy best in the region capital, Seville. More than clicking heels and a snapping castanets, discover the passionate rhythmic pattern of hand clapping accompanying the toque (flamenco guitar) and the cante (singing).

Said to have originated from gitano music, flamenco takes on different forms from the purest to the more classic, best seen on a stage of a Tablao where flamenco is performed. El Arenal is reputed for its flamenco shows and hosts a number of well-respected artists in front of a dining audience.

If you’re feeling up to it, the Taller de Flamenco invites the curious to join a course to learn the art of flamenco music and dance taught by Spanish flamenco artists.

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Catch the best European music festivals this spring or get ideas for a night out in the best bars in Paris.
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