You long to travel the world, but are stuck at home? Take a piano round-the-world trip with OKTAV! You’ll start in North America with jazz-inspired melodies, then samba on to Brazil. Europe awaits you with Mozart and a “Bath in the Sea”. A cheerful South African Song takes you there. “Surf at Bondi Beach” in Australia, and “Promenade” through Russia. Dance in the Middle East and finally arrive in Asia, where the “Almonds Blossom”.
There’s nothing like the real thing, we know. And we wish we could hand you a ticket for an actual round-the-world trip so you could pack your suitcases, put on your comfortable sneakers (and SPF 50+), and go see all the places you’ve ever dreamt of. Alas, we can’t. But we can help you dream yourself there! After all, few things manifest a culture’s spirit as its music does. At OKTAV, we are all about music – so join us on our piano pieces trip around the world!
Northern American music is mostly a reflection of the musical history of its immigrant population. Perhaps the greatest influence comes from the African American culture with many genres relying on strongly syncopated rhythms and forms like “call and response”. Geographically, the most varied musical development can be found in the east and west coast areas of New York, New Orleans, L.A. or Seattle, with its distinctly urban Jazz, Soul, Rhythm&Blues, Hip-Hop and Rap styles as well as Indie Rock, Grunge or Metal scenes. If you leave the coasts behind, you’ll find more Country & Western, Blues and Folk music.
We chose two beautiful pieces for you – both a bit of a challenge, but hey, it’s summer:
- Kyle Landry: Melodies of Summer (level 60):
Kyle is one of OKTAV’s exclusive composers. An astonishingly versatile pianist as well, he has gathered a large following on youtube. We have chosen a summery piece that features the beautiful arpeggios he is famous for.
Play Kyle Landry right now!
- George Gershwin: Summertime (level 61):
Originally written by Gershwin as part of his opera “Porgy and Bess”, this is THE most frequently covered jazz standard ever, be it in its instrumental version or arranged for voice/accompaniment. Interestingly, this quintessential piece of American music is inspired by a Ukrainian folk song – a wonderful example of music knowing neither borders nor boundaries. We offer several arrangements of this much-loved jazz standard. This piece is also on our list of 10 Songs Every Piano Player Needs to Know.
Play George Gershwin right now!
South and Middle American music is heavily influenced by Spanish and Portuguese traditions, but also by indigenous culture, and is almost always closely connected to dance. Each South American country has strong musical traditions: Argentine is associated with the Tango, Mexico with Mariachi styles, and Brazil with the Samba, for example. Salsa originated in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and we all know Reggae’s home is in Jamaica.
We chose two beautiful Brazilian pieces for you:
- Ary Barroso: Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil) (level 54)
Walt Disney used this “painting of brazil” in one of its movies in 1942, and it has remained popular ever since. Composer Ary Barroso was nominated for an Oscar for this wonderful piece of music!
I’d like to play Aquarela do Brasil right now!
- Antonio Carlos Jobim: Samba de Uma Nota Sò (One Note Samba) (level 60)
This Bossa Nova from 1959, which circles around one note for quite a while, has helped make the genre famous all over the world.
Yes, let´s samba now!
Don’t worry, we won’t lecture you about all the European classical composers you had to learn about in school. We do, however, claim that it was us Europeans who gave the world sheet music, as early as in the 11th century! And it was a European who invented the first piano in 17th century Italy. Just saying!
We have chosen two classical music pieces for Europe – you’re welcome!
- Eric Satie: Le Bain de Mer (level 55)
French-Scottish composer and pianist Satie lived a true artist’s life in Paris, Montmartre, mingling with Painters and always worrying about where his next gig would be. One of his mates, composer Claude Debussy, loved his music and orchestrated his simple, but beautiful piano “Gymnopedies”, which, in turn, made Satie famous (we hope it helped with his money issues as well!).
Help me with my money issues. Just kidding, I want to play Satie, please!
- Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 11 A Major, KV 331 (300i) Rondo “Alla Turca” (level 39)
How could we not include Mozart into our piano trip to Europe? I mean, come on! After all, we at OKTAV are based in Austria, and Mozart was Austrian, and his “Alla Turca” is not too hard to play. Have fun with Mozart. It’s what he would have wanted!
Yes, give me Mozart right now!
Ancient and diverse, African music is deeply rooted in its culture and religion, heavily relying on oral and auditive tradition. Rhythm and percussion are all-important and complex rhythmical patterns, polyrhythmical patterns, are found both in its rich musical expression and in dance. Improvisation plays an important part in developing individual pieces. Sub-Sahara Africa has also developed its individual polyphonic vocal music style. African music has had a huge influence on Latin American and North American music.
Since African music is often not available as sheet music, it can be hard to come by. But we found two pieces that capture the spirit of this wonderful continent quite well.
- John Barry: Out of Africa (level 50)
Yes, this is technically not music from, but rather written about, Africa, but it’s a beautiful piece of music that reminds us of the magnificent East African scenery.
I want to play the “Out of Africa” theme!
- August Msarugwa: Skokiaan (South African Song) (level 45/60)
This popular tune, written by Zimbabwean composer Msarugwa, refers to an illegally home-brewed beverage that’s probably detrimental to the brewer’s health. The music, however, is fit for consumption.
Hand me the Skokiaan, please (the music, thank you very much)!
We admit AC/DC aren’t exactly famous for their piano riffs and Kylie Minogue has been living in London forever. But we managed to get Australia covered in our piano journey – have a look!
Australia is all about the Great Outdoors, so we found two songs that take that into account – and then, of course, an Australian all-time favourite (and short-time national Anthem)!
- Lindley Evans: Surfing at Bondi Beach (level 45)
One of the most renowned pianists and composers of Australia in the 20th century, Lindley Evans music is always tonal and breezy.
I want to surf Bondi Beach on my piano now!
- Sia: Bird Set Free (40)
This haunting power ballad about empowerment and freedom really hits home. Australian Songwriter phenomenon Sia pitched it to Adele, Rihanna, and others before deciding to keep it for herself. We´re glad she did!
Set me free and let me play it now!
- Banjo Paterson: Waltzing Matilda (65)
Described as Australia’s unofficial anthem, the roots of this folk song’s melody originate from Scottish “The Craigielee March”, the text is attributed to Australian poet Banjo Paterson. Imagine a billabong (an Australian watering hole) and some drama…
I’ll come a waltzing Matilda with you!
Russian music is strongly influenced by both traditional folk music and the orthodox liturgy. Russian composers like Pjotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov or Sergej Rakhmaninov have given the world some of the most beautiful symphonies, concerti, ballets and other pieces of music, often based on folklore or popular tales. We bring you two special pieces, from Russia with love!
Russian piano music could easily have been the hardest in our entire list, after all, plenty of piano virtuosi have come from the Russian piano tradition. But we chose pieces that are easy and a joy to play. Like a promenade on a Russian lakeside!
- Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures of an Exhibition: Promenade (level 23)
This is the easiest piece of our around-the-world trip, but never boring! Even if you’re not a virtuoso (yet) you can handle this one. Have a go!
Yes, I want to play Mussorgsky!
- Wladimir Ivanovitch Rebikow: Oriental Dance, Op. 2 No. 5 (35)
Rebikow and both his sisters studied the piano in the late 19th century. He was an avid composer in Moscow, but kind of always felt that the likes of Igor Strawinsky stole the limelight. Let him shine here on OKTAV, and try his Oriental Dance.
I would like to play Rebikow – NOT Strawinsky – right now!
The Middle East
The music of the Middle East is influenced by the Jewish, Arab, Bedouin and other traditions. Music plays an important part in celebrations and rituals. The singing is often melismatic and nasal-guttural, distinct tonal scales are used for improvisation.
We have chosen two distinctly oriental pieces of music – enjoy!
- Unknown (Israel): Hava Nagila (40)
This popular piece is often heard at Jewish celebrations, bar-mitzvahs or others. The title translates to “let’s be happy!”, so let’s be happy.
I want to be happy and play this now!
- Aram Khachaturian: Sabre Dance (59)
OK, so technically he was a Soviet composer, because Armenia, at that time, belonged to the Soviet Union. However, we think the composer’s origin, the piece’s style, and the sabres, suit the Middle East theme very well.
Let me play Khachaturian now!
Eastern Asian music traditionally focuses on melodies, often on various stringed instruments. Chords are not widely used, and if, they are to provide colour to the main melody, not to create tension like in European music. But countries like South Korea, Japan and China are especially strong when it comes to early education in classical music – we’d like to drop the name Lang Lang at this point!
We have selected two songs that have a distinct Far Eastern flavour. And we’ve thought we’d end our around-the-world trip with a bit of a challenge.
- Yiruma: Kiss the Rain (level 54)
In his native South Korea, Yiruma is a superstar filling stadiums. His tune “River Flows in You” is in our list of 10 Songs Every Piano Player Needs to Know. Yiruma’s music is emotional and soothing at the same time, just like rain.
I want to kiss the rain and play this piece!
- Billy Mayerl: Three Japanese Pictures, Op. 25: No. 1 Almond Blossom (level 75)
This piece of music had us at “Almond Blossom”. Who doesn’t love the lush pink bundles that adorn the Eastern Asian trees in spring? But it is also hauntingly beautiful in itself. British piano virtuoso and composer Billy Mayerl named most of his pieces after flowers (his most famous is called “Marigold”).
Bring me my Almond Blossom!