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The music of Belgiummarker is a cultural crossroads where Flemish Dutch-speaking and Walloon French-speaking traditions mix with those of Germanmarker minorities and of immigrant communities from Republic of the Congomarker and other distant countries.

Classical music

During the centuries Belgium produced several notable names in the field of classical music. In the 15th and 16th century composers like Guillaume Dufay, Orlando di Lasso, Josquin des Prez reached European acclaim. André Ernest Modeste Grétry was the most famous composer- born in what is now called Belgium- of the 18th century. The 19th century supplied composers like Henri Vieuxtemps, César Franck, Guillaume Lekeu and Eugène Ysaÿe. At the end of the 20th century the most notable Belgian composer was Wim Mertens.

In the field of opera, baritones Jules Bastin and José van Dam have become the most famous and internationally successful Belgian opera singers. In the lighter classical genre, Flemish singer Helmut Lotti reached huge international success with his interpretations of popular opera songs for large audiences.

Blues and Jazz

One of the most famous jazz instruments, the saxophone, was invented by a Belgian: Adolphe Sax.

Some known Belgian blues artists are Elmore D (who sings in English and Walloon dialect), the Flemish Roland van Campenhout (also known as Roland) and the Brussels band Tomahawk Blues Band.

In the 1930s, the Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt became one of the first important jazz musicians to be born in Europe, and one of the most important jazz guitarists of all time. In 1949 Toots Thielemans joined a jam session in Paris with Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach and others. He moved to the US in 1952 where he was a member of Charlie Parker's All-Stars. Toots Thielemans is often credited by jazz aficionados and jazz critics of being the greatest jazz harmonica player of the century. His music has been used in films like Midnight Cowboy and Turkish Delight, and television series such as Sesame Street and Baantjer.Other wellknown Belgian artists are Aka Moon, Bobby Jaspar, Bert Joris, Philip Catherine, Steve Houben, Octurn and René Thomas

Folk and other traditional music

Bobbejaan Schoepen has been a pioneer in Belgian vaudeville and popmusic since the late 1940s. Not only was he the first Belgian singer to manage an international breakthrough, he was also the first to use modern equipment, a personal tourbus and a system of artist sponsoring. He also introduced the first country & western recordings in the Low Countries and Germanymarker. In the 1950s Bobbejaan Schoepen recorded his own absolutely crazy folk music often singing in the dialect of his native Brusselsmarker. He is also a virtuoso whistler.

During the 1950s and following decades the most popular, enduring, commercial and critical successful Flemish singer was Will Tura, whose most well known hit in Flanders is "Ik ben zo eenzaam zonder jou" (1963) ("I'm so lonely without you").

The most popular and enduring artists in Flanders and the Netherlands who sing in either their Flemish dialect or standard Dutch are Eddy Wally, Raymond van het Groenewoud,Willem Vermandere,De Kreuners, Clouseau, Gorki , Noordkaap and de Fixkes.

Walloon folk music has not had as vibrant a revival as Flemish, but artists like Coïncidence, Remy Dubois, Luc Pilartz, Rue du Village and Claude Flagel have kept the folk traditions alive.


The greatest Belgian chansonnier was Jacques Brel, whose classic songs have been covered by several international artists such as David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, Scott Walker and Terry Jacks. Others like Salvatore Adamo, Pierre Rapsat, Arnomarker, Maurane, Axelle Red and Lara Fabian have also enjoyed some success in other French-speaking countries.

Pop and Rock

In 1959 the Belgian singer of Italian descent Rocco Granata scored a big European hit with "Marina". The singing nun Soeur Sourire had an international number one hit in 1963 with Dominique . When folk and hippie culture finally hit a chord around the world the groups The Pebbles ("Seven Horses in the Sky", "I Get Around") and The Wallace Collectionmarker ("Daydream") had considerable success in other countries. Due to a lack of real professional management these few pop groups failed to build out a durable international career, a trend which continued during the 1970s when the most successful artists sang in their native tongue. The only real new international successful artist was Plastic Bertrand. (See "Punk" below).

Real international success for Belgian acts began in 1980 with the rock group TC Matic They were quite popular in the rest of Europe with numbers like "Oh la la la" and "Putain Putain". Lead singer Arnomarker later started his own successful solo career. Many groups and artists had considerable success in other countries, but they usually didn't reach out much further than West Europe. Notable exceptions were Maurane, Jo Lemaire, Soulsister ("The Way To Your Heart", 1987) and Vaya Con Dios ("Puerto Rico", 1988).

Indie Rock

In the early 1990s many alternative rock bands finally started to achieve larger international acclaim and success. In Antwerpmarker, a lively indie rock scene sprouts where dEUS is probably the most famous, next to other people and groups like Zita Swoon (formerly Moondog Jr), Evil Superstars, Kiss My Jazz, Dead Man Ray, K's Choice ("I'm not an addict") and Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung. In the noise genre Antwerpmarker houses the pioneer band Club Moral. Ghentmarker also has a booming indie scene: Absynthe Minded, Das Pop, de portables, Millionaire, Zornik, Admiral Freebee, Awaken and the successful Soulwax bring indierock with a slightly rougher edge than their Antwerp fellows, while The Vogues (Brussels) have a British-influenced sound. Other popular artists are Kate Ryan, Gabriel Rios and Ghinzu.


The most well-known Belgian punk bands are Chainsaw, The Kids ("Fascist Cops", "There will be no Next Time"), Janez Detd, Funeral Dress and Plastic Bertrand who had a worldwide hit with "Ça Plane Pour Moi" (1978).


Hooverphonic a famous Belgian trip-hop band, who scored hits with "Mad About You" and "Vinegar and Salt").

Electronic Music

The earliest Belgian electronica act was Telex ("Moskow Diskow", "Eurovision"). Frontman Marc Moulin later moved on to pursue a solo career.

At the end of the 1980s Belgium started to play a very important role in the development of house music. A new genre, new beat was created and scored international hits with acts like The Confettis ("The Sound of C." (1988)), Front 242. The group Technotronic has a massive international hit with Pump Up The Jam.

In the 1990s acts, like the partially Dutch-Belgian 2 Unlimited ("No Limit") and the Flemish Lords of Acid and Praga Khan, were internationally successful. Other internationally renowned Belgian dance acts are 2 Many Dj's (a spin-off from the group Soulwax), Sylver, Milk Inc., Kate Ryan, and Vive La Fête. The 2000s saw a proliferation of experimental electronic Belgian artists. Acts like Köhn, Ovil Bianca & Tuk got international acclaim and pioneered in the area of experimental electronic music in Belgium around the turn of the century. Jan Robbe, Kaebin Yield and Sedarka are key innovators of the "flashcore" sound, and others including Sickboy of the Belgian Breakcore Gives Me Wood collective were crucial in the development of breakcore and Mashup.

African music

Since the early 1980s, African musicians have played an important part on the Belgian scene, especially those from the former Belgian colony of Congomarker. Congolese-Belgian Princesse Mansia M'Bila, Rwandanmarker-Belgian Cécile Kayirebwa and Dieudonné Kabongo led this wave that soon incorporated Argentine tango music, Moroccanmarker oud and other music from around the world. The 1990s saw the emergence of Zap Mama, a group of Congolese-Belgian women who played a fusion of Pygmy and other African music with European influences.

See also


  • Rans, Paul. "Flemish, Walloon and Global Fusion". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 25–30. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

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