20 Obscure Music Genres You Should Listen to on Spotify
Spotify has 30 million songs in its library. Based on an average of three minutes per track, that’s 171 years of music. I think it’s fair to say you’ll never listen to all of that music .
That poses a problem: how are you supposed to find all those cool niche songs that are buried within the collection? Luckily, Spotify classifies all its music by genre. The classifications extend beyond simple denominations like “pop” or “rock” — there are more than 1,400 different genres logged in the system.
Join us on this journey as we navigate through some of the service’s most weird and wonderful genres. Be sure to check out the playlist at the end of the article that features a sample track from each genre we cover.
How to Access Spotify’s Music Genres
Once you have found one you want to explore further, you can browse them from both the web player and the desktop app. Click on the search box and type genre: followed by your selection (for example, “genre:Alternative House”). Make sure you don’t leave a space between the colon and the first word of the genre, but respect any spaces in the genre title.
Tip — If you search for a genre and have no idea where to start listening, order the results by popularity. This will give you a quick insight into which tracks fans rate as being the best.
No, this isn’t what your pet does when hunting for food. It’s actually a sub-genre of the wildly popular filthstep (!).
Canadian record label Monstercat is the biggest producer of catstep. Popular artists include TheFatRat and Tristam.
Who remembers the old Ecto mailing list? Unless you were already an avid music listener in 1991, you won’t.
Ecto is the name of an album by the American singer/songwriter Happy Rhodes — but the genre now includes music from artists who have a similar musical approach to the band. It covers singers like Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Jane Siberry.
Zouk emerged out of street carnivals on the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the early 1980s. It’s known for its tropical upbeat vibe and rapid tempo.
Jacob Desvarieux, Pierre-Edourad Decimus, and George Decimus made the genre famous, but its most prominent international band is French Antillean band Kassav’.
Fado has its origins in 1820s Portugal. The lyrics of the songs can be about anything, though subject matter historically focused on the lives of poor people. The music itself needs to follow a strict traditional structure.
Madredeus and Rodrigo Leao are some of its most renowned exponents.
This is one for the real hipsters out there. Spotify describes the genre as “solo laptop experimentalists” — and it’s everything you’d expect it to be.
The most popular artist appears to be someone by the name of Mystery Skulls.
I’m going to let Spotify do the talking here:
“Neurofunk is drum and bass that emerged in London in the late ’90s. It replaces breakbeats with backbeats and industrial timbres with funk harmonies, juxtaposing hard funk with influences ranging from techno, house, and jazz.”
Did you understand any of that? Neither did I…
7. Straight Edge
Straight edge can best be described as “anti-punk”. While the musical composition of the songs is in the punk mold, the lyrics focus on avoiding alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and caffeine.
If you’re into any of those things, give this one a wide berth.
This is probably the least descriptive genre name on the entire list.
Like Ectofolk, the genre spawned out of an album. In this case, it was a cassette compilation released by the British music magazine NME in 1986. The name of the album? You guessed it — C-86.
Jangling guitars and melodic power pop structures underpin the musical structure.
People refer to Soca as the “soul of calypso”, and it’s easy to see why. It takes its influences from cadence, funk, and soul, and quickly spread throughout countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Saint Lucia, and Barbados in the 1970s.
Also known as skramz, screamo is a sub-genre of emo that became prevalent in the early-1990s. While emo is known for its expressive and confessional lyrics, screamo takes its inspiration from emotional pain and human rights.
Hardcore punk heavily influences the genre’s sound.
Qawwali is a hugely popular form of music in South Asia, but it hasn’t really made its way to western shores.
It’s a devotional music dedicated to the mystical aspects of Islam and has a history that stretches back more than 700 years.
I’m sure you’ve heard of ambient music; it’s that incredibly dull and monotonous stuff that you hear playing in elevators and public toilets.
Lowercase takes it to a whole new level. It’s extremely minimalist, with typically quiet sounds being amplified to extreme levels.
Steve Roden is arguably the genre’s most famous artist.
Freakbeat isn’t something you listen to over Halloween , it’s the genre that links some of the early-1960s UK R&B music with the psychedelic rock songs that were produced later in the decade.
Musical experts have often described it as the British counterpart to 1960s American garage rock.
I take it back — C-86 isn’t the least descriptive genre. CCM is worse.
It actually stands for Contemporary Christian music, which isn’t too obscure, but we thought the name deserved a mention!
Enka is a type of Japanese music developed in the 1950s, though it gets its name from the country’s traditional music of the late 19th century.
Stylistically, it resembles traditional Japanese music — but lyrics focus on life in the post-WWII years. Prominent artists include Hachiro Kasuga, Michiya Mihashi, and Hideo Murata.
Gamelan is percussion music from Indonesia, and specifically, from the islands of Bali and Java. Despite its declining popularity in recent years, locals still use the music during formal occasions and in traditional Indonesian ceremonies.
Complextro is a sub-genre of electro music that has at least 128 beats-per-minute. It’s strongly influenced by the heavy basslines seen in dubstep and electro house.
It relies on using lots of different synth sounds in every two bar loop.
If this summoned visions of bopping around your living room to the Sonic soundtrack, prepare to be disappointed (though you can do that if you visit Spotify’s gaming portal ).
Sega is one of the biggest music genres in Mauritius. It has its roots in the music of the island’s former slaves and is normally sung in creole.
Soukous is dance music from the Congo Basin in Africa. It began in the 1960s before becoming popular in France during the 1980s. The best way of describing it is as a higher tempo version of rumba.
Popular artists and bands include African Fiesta, Papa Wemba, and Pepe Kalle.
Zydeco is a fantastic hybrid genre that sees Louisiana blues collide with music from the indigenous Louisiana tribes.
The accordion, the fiddle, the vest frottoir, and the washboard are the four most typical instruments, but there’s also plenty of guitar sounds.
The Playlist Featuring These Genres
I thought it would be useful to share a playlist featuring one song from each of the genres listed. Given the diverse range of content we have covered, it’s a really mixed bag — but it’s sure to get you thinking about all the obscure genres that you’re currently missing out on.
What Are Your Favorite Genres?
I’ve shown you 20 weird and wonderful genres from the depths of the Spotify library, but I’d love for you to contribute your own.
Has Spotify helped you discover any strange genres that you want to share with your fellow readers? Has this list triggered a new passion for Caribbean dance music? Or are you happy sticking with traditional categories such as rock and pop?
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credits: CREATISTA/Shutterstock