A brief summary of Belgian music
In the 16th through 19th centuries several Belgian composers gained international fame. Arguably the greatest of these was André Grétry (1741-1813) from Liège, known for his many operas.
The most notable Belgian composer today is Wim Mertens. This is his Struggle for Pleasure, which features heavily in advertisements for Proximus, the largest telecommunications operator in Belgium.
Folk music has a strong tradition in Belgium. While traditional folk lives on through bands like Kadril, Urban Trad and Laïs, the music scene also offers the concept of kleinkunst. Originally a term describing Dutch cabaret entertainment, it is also applied to Flemish artists and groups in the singer-songwriter and folk genres who perform their songs in Dutch. Some examples are Yevgueni, Jan de Wilde, Bart Peeters, Eva de Roovere, Johan Verminnen, and Louis Neefs.
"Als Ze Lacht" ("When She Laughs") by Yevgueni, my fiancé's favorite Belgian group:
And here's Laïs' recording of "Min Morfar", a traditional Swedish song:
Jacques Brel (1929-1978) from Flanders was arguably the greatest Belgian chansonnier, and one of the biggest artists to come out of the country. His songs have been recorded by international stars such as David Bowie, Frank Sinatra and Terry Jacks. Jacks' 1974 monster hit "Seasons In The Sun" was an adaption of Brel's "Le Moribond" (1961). Both songs can be heard below.
Blues and jazz also live in Belgium. Small wonder, considering that the saxophone was invented here, by Adolphe Sax, in 1846.
Toots Thielemans was born in Brussels in 1922. He was likely a great influence on a young John Lennon, and is hailed as one of the greatest jazz harmonica players of the 20th century. In 2009 he became an NEA Jazz Master, the highest honour for jazz musicians in the United States.
Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) is perhaps the most widely known of all Belgian musicians. Although his left hand was partially paralysed from a fire, he became one of the most renowned jazz guitarists in history. If you don't know what gypsy jazz is, go watch a Pixar movie.
I'm less familiar with the pop and rock scene in Belgium, but here are a few names if you are interested: Soulsister, Noordkaap, dEUS, Zita Swoon, Malibu Stacy, Hooverphonic.
If you feel more like electronica, techno, house, dance or trance, check out Kate Ryan, Technotronic or 2 Unlimited.
If you like rap, go to the Netherlands.
Got some more suggestions? Tell me in the comments section!