Home » Fun » How Music Travels – The Evolution of Western Dance Music

How Music Travels – The Evolution of Western Dance Music

Music tourism (visiting a city or town to see a gig or festival) is on the rise. But why stop at gigs and festivals? Why not visit the birthplace of your favourite genre and follow the actual journey various music genres have taken as one style developed into another.

To make it easier to trace the threads of music history, we’ve created an interactive map detailing the evolution of western dance music over the last 100 years. The map shows the time and place where each of the music styles were born and which blend of genres influenced the next.

How Music Travels
How Music Travels - The Evolution of Western Dance Music

Click on the image above to launch  the interactive version

Click here to view the static version

You may need to upgrade to the latest version of your browser to view the interactive map.


We hope the graphic will allow you to learn more about the music you love and discover other forms of music you’ll enjoy — as well as possible locations to add to your wish-list.

About the Research:

The map shows the evolution of top level dance genres only, and does not delve into all possible sub-genres.

It is often difficult to pin-point the beginning of a genre to a single year, so we have placed the birth of each genre within 5-year periods.

When the explosion of dance music arrived in the 80s, many genres arrived in the same 5-year period as the genres they influenced. In this situation, the ‘influencer’ genre starts to fade in on the map at the time the influencing line appears.

Non-dance music genres which influenced dance music are also included, but their own influences are not shown.

Often where a genre was first born was not the location it eventually gained most popularity.

The sources used to create the map include Bass CultureLast Night A DJ Saved My Life,The All Music Guide to Electronica, and Wikipedia.

This is a fairly complex subject and much debate exists not only around how you define various genres of music, but also where they initially came from. If you’d like to share your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

>>View the static version
>>Launch the interactive

To embed the infographic, use the following code:

You May Also Like

130 Responses to “How Music Travels – The Evolution of Western Dance Music”

  1. coco_bboy@hotmail.com' COCO


    • Leanne.myers@thomson.co.uk' Leanne @Thomson

      Hi Coco, Is there anything I can help you with?

  2. djaus10@hotmail.com' AreYouKiddingMe

    Funk? Soul? Where the hell is Motown? Seems like a big one to miss!

  3. blasted_pingin@yahoo.fr' matthieu


    So out of Africa and India, nobody ever danced before 1800?
    Good intentions but maybe some more serious sources than a DJ site and the US Wikipedia would have been needed i think…

    By the way, a good old waltz is far more practical to dance than carnatic music… 😉

    • blasted_pingin@yahoo.fr' matthieu

      Oh and let’s teach to this part of the world called Oceania and South America what is music & dance 😉
      Looking at the big names of countries on the map already reveal the biased point of the people who made it: UK, US, (Africa is much smaller than it should as on geographical map of course) and some former UK colonies…

      Nice try though!
      PS: i must admit my ignorance about any significant influence on dance & music coming from netherlands…

  4. hoekstraman@gmail.com' Neurosploit

    Great stuff you just missed a little detail called “The Netherlands”.

  5. upsfc+reuters@mindspring.com' Upsetter FC

    Bad, bad, bad. Dub and hip hop were convergent. Line should be reggae to hip hop. No hispanic music in North America makes the chart maker look clueless. And where is the soca, which is also a contributor to thump-thump-thump as it is today. Someone needs to turn down the bass and come up for air. You’d think after all the input here,

  6. vmbraga@live.com' vmbraga

    It’s a nice project but, it need refinements. Like for an instance, where is Samba, Bossa Nova and so many Brazilian genres…Cuba is missing too, have you ever heard about Buena Vista Social Club??? Not to mention Flamenco from Spain…and you definitely should break into pieces Traditional African Music…someone mentioned Tango, a genre immortalized by Astor Piazzolla, a genius from Argentina. And Rock’n Roll really needs to be branched. Just to finalize…you are underestimating Africa…the richness of rithms provided by the African continent is limitless. The same applies to India. To generalize the spectrum of Indian music calling in “Traditional Indian Music” is a serious misunderstanding of music history.



  8. leannebromley@ymail.com' mario

    i have gave you my wrong email adress and my e tickets have not com my booking ref is: the email i gave you was its 1 m not 2 thats y my ticket have not come through i travel to Jamaica on the 12th april for 2 weeks

    • Elaine.lea@thomson.co.uk' Elaine @Thomson

      Hi Mario, I’ve checked this for you and can advise that we have the correct email address. As advised over the phone you won’t be sent an e-ticket. With flight only bookings your confirmation doubles up as your e-ticket. In case you’ve not yet received this I’ve sent this out in the post for you. I hope this helps and if you’ve any further questions please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.

  9. agayle729@aol.com' Tony Gayle

    To be honest, absolute tripe. Jazz did NOT evolve from American Marching Bands and African Music. Jazz is African American born, yes, – but from Ragtime – most notable the works of Scott Joplin and Others.

  10. markus34mun@yahoo.com' Mark

    I really enjoyed seeing how music styles evolved and the work you put into this but I was surprised to see apparently NO music style evolved out of Europe originally.

    I know Americans can be a little ethnocentric sometimes but this goes too far. I’m willing to bet that every music style the U.S. “invented” has origins in Europe, as almost everything in the U.S.

  11. roamer808@gmail.com' Doozer

    Nice work.
    Has anyone ever come across a graphic showing the entire evolution of music genres?
    Love to have it on my wall.

  12. emilyolds1@verizon.net' Emily Olds

    I like the graphic illustration, but I have some points for you to consider if you update. Before that, I noticed that the title is The Evolution of Western Dance Music–so if you are serious about just including DANCE music, you can eliminate some of the criticisms above that relate to experimental music that was not inteneded for dancing. BUT, if you are serious about dance music, you cannot ignore the HUGE influence of Latin music on American dance styles. Mambo, Danzon, Son, Cha-Cha, Merengue, Salsa, etc. Now Bachata and Cumbia– Now THAT’s dance music!!! You seem to be focusing more on electronic, dub, etc. but there’s way more out there than that. Questions– why is “Western Folk Music” just hanging out in the middle of the ocean? What does that term mean? And as someone noted above, you can’t ignore the European influences on American dance music. New Orleans jazz wouldn’t exist without European musicians and composers– French Opera was very popular in New Orleans before jazz. So, keep researching and updating! It’s a cool idea and I’d love to use it in my classroom if it were more complete!

  13. hali@netmusique.com' Hali

    An important piece of lineage is missing. The substantial influence of Krautrock and experimental electronic music of Germany between the 60s to the 80s is missing. And this had far reaching influences on modern western genres including Techno, HipHop, New Wave, and Psychedelic Rock n’ Roll. Influencing everyone from Pink Floyd, to Bowie, to the Beatles, to Juan Aktins, Derrick May, and Grandmaster Flash and more. HipHop, Techno, and New Wave were not created in a bubble like your infograph suggests. It all came from Krautrock from Germany. Please update to correct the proper lineage. Apart from that, this looks fairly well done. Kudos for the work in putting this together!

  14. alpe_alex@hotmail.com' Alex

    sorry for the incomplete comment!
    *For example Indian or African or American folk music are obviously only historical influences and not considered on the same level as Acid House!

  15. alpe_alex@hotmail.com' Alex

    This graph lacks a far greater definition… It seems like there’s no “dance music” in Europe before 1965. And then New Age appears suddenly out of nowhere. But where is the European Jazz tradition, etc. Where are you locating the Europeans like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream? New Age that stands there alone without receiving or giving influence?

    There should be a legend that makes pragmatical the use of colors somewhere. For example Indian or African or American folk music, are obviously only considered on the same level as Acid House!

    It’s not an easy task, but it is obviously centered on the US music market’s influence on “Dance Music” of clubs and Dj’s and that should be made clear from the start!

  16. lamanoaqui@yahoo.com.mx' gabriel

    Evolution? Wouldn’t be better to say “development”? Evolution implies an improvement process (positivism) and you must agree no music genre is “better” than others. Apart from that, the graphics are nice but the historical facts are terrible. Somebody else said it already, but, really, how in earth could you exclude Cuba? And Spain! Do you think Spain is not part of Western culture? And Jesus, you have three british cities but no mention of countries like France, Italy, Ireland…!!! But big USA and big UK, the centers of western capitalism in the XX century. Are you a marketing manager or something?

  17. luna.edward@gmail.com' Ed Luna

    Osman, I applaud the effort to make this graphic. Naturally, you can expect to have lots of criticisms for the way in which you’ve framed it, but people should understand that it is merely a convention, a somewhat “artificial” way to look at the sweep of history that will inevitably omit things and upset those who see it in different ways. Try not to take it too personally; it’s your project, not theirs 🙂

    If you’re interested, I wrote something similar many years ago, a pamphlet called “Think.” (available here: http://www.ele-mental.org/ele_ment/think/original/think.html) that likewise tried to trace a similar history, and also had its own point of view. A good friend of mine back then recommended I consider framing it more as “a” history rather than “the” history of electronic/dance music, in order to avoid accusations of being essentialist or exclusionary. I thought that was great advice. There are many stories to be told about how electronic/dance music has developed, and I’m sure as you continue to hear from people, you’ll be eager (but perhaps a bit intimidated) to update it. Just don’t feel obligated to include everything.

    I’ll nevertheless go ahead and note that you should definitely consider rethinking the “synthpop” continuum, in light of the Moog and “Switched-On” craze of the mid-to-late 60s, which was arguably the first wave of electronic pop (though probably not technically “dance”) music. It was the sensitivity to those bleepy sounds, coming mostly from European and American recording studios (think Perrey & Kingsley and the hit “Popcorn” as perhaps the most representative examples), that really set the stage for the arpeggiated Eurodisco/synth-disco (Moroder, some West End, etc.). Similarly, it’s hard to underestimate the influence of the Kosmiche/Space music of Germany in the early 70s (Tangerine Dream, and so on), because it is so stylistically similar to today’s electronic/dance music.

    And while it seems you’d like to avoid emphasizing artist names, probably for the sake of simplicity, it’s simply impossible to imagine much of this happening without the singular influence of the band Kraftwerk, who were immensely popular as far back as their 1974 hit “Autobahn.” Indeed, if it were up to me, I’d say they deserve their own “line,” all to themselves, starting in the early 70s and continuing to the present. They remain, even today, a measuring stick by which to measure pristine electronic music production. (Plus some more bass, of course, haha.)

    Now, this one may start a minor turf war, but I’d also argue that house, as we know it, really owes its beginnings to NYC, and came unto its own in Chicago rather than really “starting” there. The whole sound of early house music was basically reduced disco with an electrofunk feel, for example (as the early 80s releases from the New York label Prelude will reveal; they were very electronic, and funky, but still very disco-oriented). When a New Yorker named Frankie Knuckles moved to Chicago around 1980, he brought that sense of music with him, and Chicago artists soon picked up on the sound and turned it into the house music we hear in the middle 80s. In other words, it didn’t come from nowhere.

    Lastly, I know it will be a gross oversimplification, but it’s really not right to leave Africa hanging for so long there without accounting for the return of American jazz, soul, and blues music (among other things) that influenced things like Afropop and the most obvious omission there, Afrobeat.

    Anyway, I am quite excited that you’ve gotten so much of this much right (including some connections I hadn’t considered before), AND made it so fun to watch unfold. Thank you! If I think of any other obvious things to add, I hope you’ll be willing to entertain their inclusion/revision.

  18. amcesena@gmail.com' Amctequila

    Mariachi, Banda, Ranchero and the Mexican variety of Polka are missing along with all the other genres listed above. Good start but please update.

  19. sirfunkytown@gmail.com' sir funkytown

    great project
    lotsa fun
    small comment, not trying to be terribly critical
    but, it seems you have missed the late 19th century , New Orleans Latin music influence in , well everything in the States after that.
    All the music that the 20th century produced is HEAVILY influenced by Cuban,Mexican and Puerto Rican dance music.
    All the rock and roll, the swing, the funk, the house….everything!
    still, great project!!

  20. smacks2u@msn.com' Aaron Monaco

    God! Most of the comments I read were so critical. Back off people.

    • henri.p.giovannetti@wanadoo.fr' Henri Giovannetti

      ??? The european traditional music (irish, english, spanish, italian, french…) was imported in USA with colinisation and is THE origin of all american music (in mix with african slave music…).
      Why no “ragtime” in the animation, who is a mix of classical european music with african swing ?
      About electronic music, the band “Kraftwerk” in 70’s was GERMAN !
      NO, the actual music has not been created in USA but in EUROPE !

    • mark@signalsfromsouthwark.com' MH

      Well, it’s hardly surprising if you publish something like this which comes across like it’s claiming to be the definitive “Evolution of Western Dance Music”, but unfortunately has massive holes in it’s authenticity. it seems to be very biased towards the US, and many influences or connections between many different sounds have been either ignored or overlooked. If you don’t want criticism, do your research properly and get your facts right.

  21. simon.boichot@gmail.com' Simon

    Not that I’m french but where are Giorgio Moroder, Pierre Henry and the first guys who experimented? Source : “Modulation: a history of electronic music throbbing words on sound”

  22. a12814995@nepwk.com' Afro_Rap

    Strange part being that Africans only once developed new stuff and still don’t import music ;). Probably a weakness of the “visual’s attitude”. Want to include Africa? YouTube: “Banjuka”

  23. john@johnmiszt.com' John

    hmm nice idea, however the evolution of EDM is far more complex than that graphic suggests, besides which its missing out allot of important parts.

    Where is Classical/Romantic?
    Where is Punk?
    Where experimental electronica which originated in BBC studios?
    ‘Christians Hymns’ should be located in Europe, as 16th century Pop

    the list of missing parts goes on…

    • h.auklend@gmail.com' Hanor

      There is no reason why classical/romantic and punk should be on the list. The graphic shows the development of dancemusic and does not include rock and pop. If that whould be the case, it would be way to complex with all the sub-genres of especially rock and metal.
      On the other hand, it would be nice to have one graphic for that too.

  24. dski@thephatcontroller.com' Dion

    I think it’s a fantastic graphical device. The best bit about it is that it really stimulates thinking and conversation, as is evident above.

    Maybe there could be a Mk II based on the new input.

  25. captbobalou@gmail.com' Capt. Bob A. Lou

    Cool graphic but the early data is incorrect, starts too late, and is far too simplified. Two examples: I, IV, V progression in blues did not come from West Africa (as implied in the early graphic), and a lot of techno/trance has far more similarity to polyphonic arrangements from pre- and early Renaissance composers than the blues/jazz/motown/disco legacy.

  26. bill.obermeyer@gmail.com' Bill Who

    This is a nice start, and a good presentation. You might want to rethink the composition of those “top levels”, though. As others have already pointed out, the fact that most of the Caribbean and all of South America is completely missing is remarkable (six varieties of house music and no rhumba, samba, salsa, or tango!). That’s a pretty big blind spot, but if you are talking about the history of western dance music since 1800 there are more blind spots of the same size. Set dance music (quadrilles, square dances, contredanse, contradance and English country dancing) was an important influence on other genres, though it was largely supplanted by couples dances. Speaking of which, I do not think that it makes any sense to ignore waltzes and polkas: arguably the most influential western dance crazes of all time. Still, it’s probably better than I would have done as a first approximation — and it’s fun to look at.

  27. jmaher@mcdia.com' John

    I’m surprised to see Rock & Roll is a dead-end in the graphic. I think there are a lot of forms of music that were influenced by Rock & Roll, including Funk and Disco, etc.

  28. nuggabamsen@gmail.com' Mr. Asbjørn Loua

    I agree with maurice – I think that a lot of Electronica had is origin in central european countries. Also The greek artist Vangelis had a lot to say about the development of electronica, but I don’t see greece anywhere around?

  29. tavernier.mj@gmail.com' tavernier marie

    What about Tango ? South America,from °1919, came from traditional African music as wel and other influences too , until today traditional even electronic as wel, every where in the world !

  30. lephranc@googlemail.com' phranc

    Nice animation, but come on: who seriously reckons synthie pop in europe was originated by u.s disco… are you kiddin ? It doesn´t take an expert
    to know that synthie pop in Britain came right after post-punk and new wave… Tzzzzztzzzz 🙂

  31. mason2042@gmail.com' Tom Bingham

    Am I missing something? Where is Cuba on this graphic? The rumba, mambo, cha cha cha, etc, had a tremendous influence on American music. It would be nice to see an arrow pointing from Africa to Cuba, and an arrow going right back from Cuba to Africa (Congolese soukous), an arrow from Cuba to Spain and southern France (rumba flamenca), arrows going from Cuba and the Dominican Republic up to New York City. Without these, this graphic is only a part of a much bigger story.

    • beatsbits@aol.com' gabriele

      That’s a very quick breakdown, even though a bit geographically skewed, and missing in parts…… agree with Tom re Cuba … also: Christian Hymns seem to come from nowhere ! Divine intervention ?

  32. jeremiahtrue@mac.com' Jeremiah

    I think that there should be a more direct link between Hip-Hop and Breakbeat/Hardcore and Techno. If you look at early techno groups like the Chemical Brothers, they have very strong Electro and Hip Hop influences leading them to Breakbeat.

    Aside from that, this is a very cool graphic and I really enjoy seeing sub-genres that I might have previously overlooked.

    • rfmerrill@berkeley.edu' Robert Merrill

      Um “early techno groups like the Chemical Brothers”? Techno predates the chemical brothers by almost a whole decade. And their music is not techno.

Leave a Reply