32 nations from around the globe have descended across all points of Russia with one goal in mind: lifting the glorious World Cup trophy and achieving the soccer world’s highest honor. While the US Men’s National Team failed to qualify for World Cup 2018 (I’m still suffering deep sadness from this) – Brazil, France, Germany, Mexico, England, Argentina, Spain, and other footy stalwarts will be taking part in one of the finest sporting and cultural spectacles we get the pleasure of witnessing. From the pride and passion of fans to the performances on the pitch, the World Cup is a cultural touch point that brings the global community together for one whole month.
To get you ready – KCRW’s finest world music and soccer aficionados – Mathieu Schreyer and Tom Schnabel (along with a little footy insight from me) have whittled down a must-see match from each group and highlighted ESSENTIAL music, featuring artists from the respective countries.
Enjoy KCRW’s World Cup x World Music preview.
Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Russia v Egypt (6/19) – The tournament hosts line up against the lovable underdog Egyptian team (featuring superhuman forward Mo Salah), who are making their first tournament in almost 30 years.
Russia – SunSay “Windsong” feat John Forté
SunSay is from a Ukrianian group call 5’nizza, but they sing mostly in Russian. It’s a personal Favorite of mine. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Egypt – Oum Khalsoum “Ala baladi el mahboub”
The great Oum Khalsoum (à mon cher pays—to my beloved country, aka The Voice of Egypt), charms with this love song to her country. (Tom Schnabel)
Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran)
Morocco v Iran (6/15) – For group B, all eyes will certainly be on Spain v Portugal, but that’s just too easy. Here’s a pivotal match up with two teams praying for points to help advance out of a difficult group.
Morocco – Simo Lagnawi “Aicha Kandisha”
I grew up in Morocco, so this track is quite special to me. I cannot recommend this album enough, it’s beautiful and traditional Gnawa music. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Iran – Arash “Iran Iran”
Arash is an Iranian-born singer and rapper who moved with his family to Sweden in 1987. This is his rousing ode to his home team. (Tom Schnabel)
Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
France v Peru (6/21) – France is one of the tournament favorites, bursting at the seams with talent. Peru on the other hand, makes their World Cup appearance following 36 years of exile. Both play open, skilled footy; this should be a fun one.
France – Gilbert Becaud “Mustapha Dupont”
Gilbert Becaud wrote this song after Jean-Marie Le Pen said the French team didn’t look French, a huge insult by the right wing politician. Becaud’s song paints a rainbow color for the French team. (Tom Schnabel)
Peru – Juaneco y su Combo “La Cumbia del Pacurro”
Here’s some beautiful Cumbia from Juaneco y Su Combo. Plus, I toleave you with another gift from Peru, with this odd Yma Sumac song produced by Les Baxter in London in 1972. You’re welcome. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)
Nigeria v Argentina (6/26) – The Nigerians (or Super Eagles) have the coolest jerseys at the Cup. Argentina has the coolest goal-scoring finisher in the entire world with Messi… something’s gotta give. *Should be noted that Iceland makes their very first World Cup appearance, stay tuned for the Viking Clap.
Nigeria – Tekno “Pana”
I am going with a modern track, overlooking thousands of the best and most sought after music from the African continent (I apologize in advance ;). This song has been an instant favorite since I first heard it in 2016 and it still makes me feel the same way when I hear it now. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Argentina – Astor Piazzolla “Libertango”
Astor Piazzolla re-invented the tango and without him it might have remained an insular genre only in Buenos Aires. Libertango is one of his most famous songs, so much so that even Grace Jones covered it. (Tom Schnabel)
Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Serbia v Brazil (6/27) – Neymar and his Brazilian teammates are expected to stroll deep into the tournament but this match could prove tricky. The sturdy Serbians have a strong squad front-to-back.
Serbia – Bebi Dol “Mustafa”
This was recorded in 1981 by Serbian pop-star Bebi Dol (Baby Doll in Serbian). I own this record and it’s the best thing I’ve heard from there, hands down. She is still around singing and performing; and with her entire nation, will be hoping the Serbian team makes it past the group stage. Good luck. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Brazil – Jackson do Pandeiro “O Rei Pelé”
Jackson do Pandeiro’s tribute to the immortal Pele. (Tom Schnabel)
There are so many great “Futbol” songs from Brazil, notably these 3 from Jorge Ben: “Fio Maravilha”, “Camisa 10 da Gávea”, and “Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)“
But for this occasion, I wanted to play a classic from Sergio Mendes featuring futbol legend Pele on vocals. The song is call “Meu Mundo e Uma Bola” (My World is a Ball) and is taken from the motion picture Pelé. After a shell-shocking defeat against Germany on home soil in the last World Cup the SELECAO will be hoping to at least reach the final or semi-final where they will lose against France 😉 (Mathieu Schreyer)
Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Germany v Mexico (6/17) – Germany are the current holders of the Cup, winning in Brazil 2014. They should get out of this group with little trouble but Mexico has a steeper road to travel. A lot of eyes on this match and the passion of Mexican fans might push ‘em over the edge. With the USMNT out of the picture, our friendly neighbors to the south will need to represent North America.
Germany – Can “Vitamin C”
Great team, great coach, and the defending world champion (even though I don’t think they will win this time around). Musically, there is so much to offer, but this classic will do for this occasion. I hope it’s what they listen to before walking on the pitch. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Mexico – Hermanos Herrera “La Bamba”
La Bamba—a new Veracruzano version of the classic by the Mexican son jarocho group, Hermanos Herrera. (Tom Schnabel)
Group G (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)
England v Belgium (6/28) – England is a prideful footballing country, featuring the most popular league on the planet (Premier League), but they haven’t won a World Cup since 1966. Belgium on the other hand, don’t wear the weight of great expectations and feature a generational talent pool that could be a dark horse to win the whole damn thing.
England – Harry J. All Stars “Liquidator”
Harry J. All Stars perform this from an old reggae album of the 1960’s. The song has been featured when all the English teams trot onto Wembley Field. (Tom Schnabel)
Belgium – Caballero & JeanJass “On est haut” (We Are High)
Always underachievers in these cup competitions – The “Diables Rouges” (Red Devils) – as they call themselves – do have a squad filled with top players. Is this year the one where they actually click as a team? We shall see. I must admit I’m a fan of Belgian Hip-Hop and I picked this one to rep the team. Apparently the squad picked this song as their anthem for the World Cup, from french Rapper Booba. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)
Senegal v Colombia (6/28) – This match will feature more swagger than Jagger. Senegal is happy to be here, after a lengthy break and Colombia dance around the pitch – literally and figuratively – with free-flowing ease.
Senegal – Sam Mangwana “Senegal”
Congolese superstar Sam Mangwana’s ode to neighboring Senegal. (Tom Schnabel)
Colombia – Systema Solar “Bienvenidos”
This song still bangs 8 years after its release. Love the energy of it and the singing is infectious. Makes you want to get up and jump around. Hope that’s how the Colombian squad is feeling when they step on the field. For more amazing Colombian music, dive into the Disco Fuentes catalog when you can. (Mathieu Schreyer)
Here’s Mathieu Schreyer and Tom Schnabel w/ Jason Bentley on Morning Becomes Eclectic