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World Music with Ethnic Wail

Updated on February 2, 2012

World Music with the Ethnic Wail

This lens is for the subset of world music that has that "vaguely ethnic wail" in it, often a female voice wailing, it is very popular in movie soundtracks. I have compiled a list of many of these "wail" songs and soundtracks pieces, and will provide some mini reviews for others who like this style of music.

Lisa Gerrard / The Gladiator Soundtrack - The movie that started the trend off

gladiator ethnic soundtrack
gladiator ethnic soundtrack

The Gladiator soundtrack was responsible for starting the ethnic wail trend in movies, and features Australian singer Lisa Gerrard.

Notable tracks are;

The Wheat - this forms part of the opening of the soundtrack, a melancholy wail set first to plucked string instruments and later militaristic drums.

Sorrow - A very haunting wail, set to a continuous note in the background and violins. It builds towards the end.

The Might of Rome - a heavy militaristic piece with drums and a heavy beat, the wail comes in about halfway through with a wailing chorus and then a solo wail as the track settles and becomes slower and more uplifting.

Reunion - Another slow haunting wail

Elysium - a slow track with uplifting tone. With wailing and lyrics.

Now We Are Free - a famous song, uses mostly lyrics but with a few wails in between, a positive and uplifting song in all.

Rome Is The Light - a positive upbeat piece with wail.

The Mob - A frantic, choppy piece. Lots of chorus shouts.wails, along with a solo wail towards the end. Builds up lots of tension as it goes.

Not Yet - a deep wail, follows the lyrics of Now We Are Free but is a slower piece.

Gladiator Soundtrack - Reunion

Video of the track Reunion from the Gladiator soundtrack.

Passion of the Christ Soundtrack

This is a great album for fans of wails! It is very wail-heavy.

Tracks include;

The Olive Garden/Night Sky Medley - a mysterious haunting tense piece, a female singer wails to ethnic instruments. A very rich piece of music and one of my favourites.

Bearing the Cross - this piece plods along with a lot of choral wailing, and a male wailer in there as well, it builds up towards the end with rapid drums and wails all coming together in a climax.

The Stoning - a little wailing at the start, some deep throat singing too which could also be considered a wail by some I guess.

Flafellation/Dark Choir/Discipline - some male wailing, mostly chorus though.

Mary Goes to Jesus - a solo female singer.

Peaceful but Primitive/Procession - this has some classic wailing, solo female wails powerfully throughout.

Raising the Cross - wow this one has it all going on, choirs, male wails, drums, they all go at it. Gets gentler about halfway through.

Jesus Is Carried Down - Female singer wails gently towards the end.

Resurrection - powerful emotive song, lots of action, wails, choirs, drums, gets into quite a frenzy.

Passion of the Christ Soundtrack - The Olive Garden

A video of the track The Olive Garden from Passion of the Christ.

Troy Soundtrack - A movie that saw the ethnic wail bandwagon and jumped right on

troy soundtrack
troy soundtrack

I didn't care for this movie much, and the soundtrack was not too great either, but it has wails so it makes it into the list.

3200 Years Ago - this piece sounds "sparse" to me, a choir wails with occasional drums in the background. A solo female comes in later.

The Temple of Poseidon - Beautiful, gentle, quiet piece. A solo female wails sadly to a constant note in the background.

Hector's Death - Heavy drums with a solo female, she wails as if in grief. A powerful song on this soundtrack.

Remember Me - Solo female wails along to lyrics sung by Josh Groban. This is the main theme for the movie.

Troy Soundtrack - The Temple Of Poseidon

The track The Temple Of Poseidon from the Troy Soundtrack.

The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack / Ofra Haza

prince of egypt soundtrack
prince of egypt soundtrack

This was a Disney movie so the songs will be very Disney/musical style oriented, but they do contain some very nice ethnic wails sung by Israeli singer Ofra Haza. I will write another section focusing more on Haza's work later, this section covers her work for this film only.

Deliver Us - A dramatic song, goes on a rollercoaster ride through many emotions, Haza sings lyrics and wails some too.

Goodbye Brother - Mostly an instrumental piece, but some gentle melancholy wailing towards the end.

The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack - Deliver Us

The track Deliver US sang by Ofra Haza from the Prince of Egypt Soundtrack.

Black Hawk Down Soundtrack - Some male wailing

black hawk down soundtrack
black hawk down soundtrack

This is a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, one of my favourite composers, and it delivers on wails for sure.

Some tracks;

Hunger - A male singer sings in foreign language to open the piece, movies into instrumental later.

Still - Another male singer, lyrics and wailing.

Synchrotone - No wailing here, but it gets a mention for being the best world-ethnic-techno-industrial-soundtrack song I have heard

Of the Earth - Male singer wails lyrics gently.

Black Hawk Down Soundtrack - Still

Still from the Black Hawk Down soundtrack.

Queen of the Damned Soundtrack

Only a couple of wails here, not so ethnic with more traditional instruments, but very nice still.

Queen of the Damned - Solo female wails along with other instruments, in this heavy spooky song.

Maharet - Ethereal choir, with solo powerful wail towards the middle, a mellow spooky piece.

300 Soundtrack

Some might say this soundtrack by Tyler Bates went a little overboard with ethnic wailing, but I do not believe there can ever be too much wailing!

To Victory - Energetic, frantic song, with a solo male wailer to be heard in places.

The Agoge - Some very classic female wailing here, powerful female vocals to a dark foreboding score.

Submission - A very dark song even when compared to the rest of the album.

The Ephors - Pounding militaristic drums accompany a solo female wailer on another dark track.

Cursed by Beauty - Another personal favourite of mine, a hypnotic, other-worldly track with some very entrancing wailing by a solo female.

The Hot Gates - Starts out with hypnotic drum beat with wailing, moves into instrumental electric guitar, and why not.

Xerxes Tent - Another rich and hypnotic track.

Message for The Queen - Sorrowful but uplifting piece with solo female, reminds me of the Gladiator soundtrack a lot.

300 Soundtrack - Cursed By Beauty

Cursed By Beauty from the 300 Soundtrack.

Alexander Soundtrack

What was going on this movie with the accents, I had no idea. At least this is not a movie review squidoo.

The Drums of Gaugamela - A totally military piece, pounding drums with several females wailing for victory.

Gardens of Delight - A female wailer sings an enchanting wail to introduce us to this enchanting and strange piece, with ethereal wails throughout.

Chant - Deep male vocals, sounds kind of like a Gregorian chants, were Gregorian monks around in Alexander's time? Hmm.

The Hulk Soundtrack

Why there were ethnic wails in this movie's soundtrack is a genuine curiosity.

Captured - A frantic piece, wails with traditional instruments and brass with some more ethnic drumming.

Hulk's Freedom - More drums with a little wailing.

Tears of the Sun Soundtrack

The Jablonksy Variations On A Theme - This epic nine minute piece really runs the gamut of all possible soundtrack wails.

Tears of the Sun Soundtrack - The Jablonksy Variations On A Theme

The Jablonksy Variations On A Theme from the Tears of the Sun Soundtrack.

Azam Ali / Niyaz

Azam Ali is the ethnic wailer of all ethnic wailers, this Iranian born singer is probably the best singer in this "genre" of music I have ever come across.

She has worked with bands Vas and Niyaz, and also has done solo work. Niyaz produces music that is hypnotic, entrancing and mystical, a great band to relax to or meditate to if you are into that sort of thing. Their albums are Niyaz by Niyaz and Nine Heavens. Some stand out tracks for me are Nahan, Allahi Allah, Dunya, In the Shadow of Life, Golzar, Feraghi, Ishq, Iman and Sadrang.

Her solo work goes even further into the mystical and the ethereal, and includes albums Portals of Grace, Elysium for the Brave and From the Night to the Edge of Day.. By far my favourite for wails is From the Night, it has so many deep, rich and emotional tracks there is really not any single stand out songs, but my personal favourites are Dandini, Neni Desem and Faith (reprise).

Niyaz - In The Shadow Of Life

Ofra Haza

Another middle eastern singer Ofra Haza from Israel, her music is more modern and pop-oriented but she has produced some brilliant traditional wail music as well.

Im Nin'Alu - Her most well known song, combines traditional style lyrics with a pop beat in the background.

Love Song - An a cappella song, the lyrics are powerful and strong.

Galbi - Another pop style song with some wailing.

Shaday - A beautiful song, with an uplifting and enveloping melody.

Temple of Love - A collaboration between Haza and Sisters of Mercy, 80s rock song with Haza providing female vocals.

Ofra Haza - Love Song (Halev Remix)

A trance remix of this song.

Other Notable Examples

There are too many wails to list in total, and many of them are made bespoke for TV and film production companies, so may be heard when watching the film or program, but hard to find or buy for personal listening. I do not know why they do not release them as a commercial album, as they would make millions from people like me who love to listen to ethnic wails, so take note any music producer reading this.

Other notable artists include;

Tanja Tzarovska

Dead Can Dance

Lisbeth Scott

Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares

Sarah Brightman


Sarah Mcachlan

Natacha Atlas

Link List

Here are some others who are talking about the wail phenomena.

Vote in the poll!

Are you a fan of the "ethnic wail"?

See results

Tell us your favourites tracks, or any not already listed on here.

The Ethnic Wail Guestbook

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you so much! Have been searching for references and artists to listen... your list was such a Godsend :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love this subgenre of music, and I've spent a lot of time researching different examples. This is the website I have been looking for! Thank you! Awesome examples, enough to keep me busy for a long time.


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