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I've recently been listening to a lot of John Williams' work, and one piece that stood out that I didn't know about prior was "Cantina Band" from Star Wars A New Hope. It is a very upbeat and fun piece that brings to mind the theme from Monster's Inc. as well.. My question is: what genre would this music be considered, and where would I find other music of similar style?

I've done a little searching and have seen it compared to Benny Goodman, which is a reasonable comparison, but I haven't found Goodman's music to be as upbeat, fun, or for lack of a better word, "bouncy".. I've also seen it described as in the "Disco" genre, but it just doesn't seem to fit, but maybe my subsequent searches were lacking in this regard.

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The reason "disco" came up in your search is there is a very popular disco cover of this particular song. You are correct, however, that the original style is not at all disco.

I've seen the genre of this song described as "ragtime," an early synthesis of African-American syncopation and sensibilities with classical musical structures --and you will find that ragtime does in fact have the "upbeat bounce" you are looking for. However, ragtime is primarily associated with solo piano. The adaption of ragtime to big bands created a genre later called "Dixieland Jazz" or "hot jazz," which is more directly what you are looking for.

As Bebs correctly noted, this is often called "New Orleans Jazz," since it was really the first style of what we now call jazz, and New Orleans was its birthplace. However, since New Orleans is known for many many different musical styles, "Dixieland" or "hot jazz" are probably your best bets for a useful search term. ("Gipsy jazz" does have a similar sensibility, but tends to focus on guitar and violin, not wind instruments, while "swing" --which is what Goodman plays --is a slightly later style featuring a swung beat, which "Cantina Band" doesn't seem to have.)

  • I'm not 100% agree when you say Gipsy Jazz mainly focuses on guitar and violin. I've seen very often wind instruments like the oboe. – Bebs Oct 3 '17 at 15:32
  • @Bebs True, there's a lot of overlap between these categories. And I'm not suggesting gipsy jazz never has wind instruments (just like ragtime isn't always just piano). But it's largely inspired by the work of guitarist Djano Reinhardt. I did upvote your answer, however, I think it's correct, I just wanted to expand on it a bit. – Chris Sunami Oct 3 '17 at 15:35
  • Been listening to a LOT of music from the sub-genres mentioned by you and Bebs.. The closest thing is I've found is "hot jazz", so I'm accepting your answer. Really though, I haven't found a single song that has the same general "feel" or "character" as "Cantina Band". Might be because almost all of the hot jazz I found was from the 20s, or it might be that "Cantina Band" is somehow different.. I'll still take other suggestions for similar sounding songs if anyone has thoughts. – daroo Oct 4 '17 at 16:54
  • @daroo - Well, it was meant to be an alien band, so it doesn't sound exactly 100% like any "real" song. It's basically a 1970s take on a roaring 20s sensibility, but with odd instrumentation, including steel drums. You might check out some of the Charleston songs or some of the 70s dixieland revival stuff. You might also enjoy this ditty by the prolific Kevin MacLeod... – Chris Sunami Oct 4 '17 at 18:28
  • Also of possible interest: "Music Music Music" – Chris Sunami Oct 4 '17 at 18:43
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I think you can search for Jazz, Swing music.

For these two particular songs, I also think of Gipsy Jazz or New Orleans Jazz.

I can suggest these two collections:

  • All of that is great music - listened to a bunch of it the past couple days, but none of them quite give me the same feel as "Cantina Band". I guess Williams describes it as "what it might sound like if aliens from the future tried to interpret some Benny Goodman music they found" (paraphrased). Maybe we just need a new genre called "Alien Jazz" or something. :-) – daroo Oct 4 '17 at 17:00

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