As a French, I've heard many classical musics so far, as instance, among plenty others:

  • Symphony No. 40 In G Minor, K.550 — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Symphony No. 9 In D Minor, Op.125 'Choral': Ode to Joy — Ludwig van Beethowen
  • Toccata and Fugue in D Minor — Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Prelude In C Major, BWV 846 — Johann Sebastian Bach
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King — Edvard Grieg
  • Eine kleine Nachtmusik K.525, Allegro — Wolfang Amadeus Mozart
  • Le carnaval des animaux, R. 125 (Arr. for 2 Pianos & Orchestra): XIV. Finale — Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Piano Concerto No. 5 In E Flat major Op.73 - 'Emperor': 3.Rondo (Allegro) — Ludwig van Beethoven
  • etc.
  • The list is really lengthy and could last for so long...

As you can notice all those musicians come from Europe. So I was wondering if there were other extremely famous 'Classical' music that come from America, Asia or Africa for example. Some 'must known' musics that have also cross the centuries. Would the instruments be the same? Why haven't I heard any of them while we can access so many things on the internet. Tell me how to change that and let me discover such 'Non European' 'Classical' musics!

If this is too broad, I'm ok to focus my question on Asia only, as I have Asian origins :) I'm also ok to focus only on America or North America if this is more appropriate for StackExchange!


3 Answers 3


The Indian subcontinent and parts of east Asia have well developed historical musical traditions that are often called "classical" and share certain elements with European classical music that justify the name. These elements are largely social, however, not musical: patronage is an important factor, as is a history of written theoretical materials helping to perpetuate the tradition across the centuries.

Africa has some well developed styles of music as well, including those associated with prosperous kingdoms that served as a source of patronage, but these styles were perpetuated more orally than through writing, which perhaps explains why they're usually called "traditional" rather than "classical."

These kinds of music do not use the same instruments, though there are relationships between the instruments used on different continents. You will of course find "classical" music in all these places that does use the same instruments, but that is the European classical tradition as adopted by composers in other places and other cultures.

Of course, none of these kinds of music exists in isolation. There are all kinds of influences from one continent to another, so this answer is over simplified, but it should give you a starting point for your search.


Your question makes clear, that you consider classical not as synonym for the era of Beethoven.

  • For America, even at the beginning of the alphabet we have Barber, Bernstein and Copland.
  • I'm also not sure that one can consider the huge Russian schools of composers as European. More can be found in Wikipedia. There are really many in the 19th century and even earlier.

I recommend you these compositions from Mexico:

Juventino Rosas (1868-1894): Vals sobre las olas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2YvhEv7ykM

Manuel María Ponce (1882-1948): Estrellita: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbrLIe_l390 Balada mexicana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngeA5LGfhqc

Ángel J. Garrido (1880-1924): Cuando escuches este vals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lU8sPIsv_k

Felipe de Jesús Villanueva Gutiérrez (1862-1893): Amar... (Nocturno) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j0s6FICoS4

Genaro Codina (1852-1901): La marcha de Zacatecas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJX6WFyRbH8

Arturo Márquez (1950-): Danzón 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXeWiixwEz4

Belisario de Jesús García (1894-1952): Vals "morir por tu amor": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGYBVG9gYXw

And this song by Ignacio Fernández Esperón "Tata Nacho" (1894-1968): Quiero ver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x5637nNYD8

From other places I can think of this:

Astor Piazzolla (Argentina, 1921-1992): Adiós nonino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTPec8z5vdY

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